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we've got a drive-in down the road

I can’t remember if i’ve mentioned that or not…but it’s true.
Kids under 10 get in free.
We first went when Evie was about three months old and it was great…she slept in our arms and we watched something light and fluffy, all about happy, childless marriages (Mr. & Mrs. Smith…which, though full of very nice, witty spousal repartee, of the kind you only get in movies from the 40’s, the hand-to-hand combat that ended in a love-making session was more than a little much. Domestic violence, even when supposedly humorous—and you should’ve seen the force and glee with which Brad kicked the stuffing out of the feather stand in for Angelina—is still domestic violence and I found it disturbing).

We haven’t been to a real movie theatre since she was born…but with Starlight Six we don’t mind. The image might not be as close; bird poop might obscure some of the action; the lack of tympany bursting HDVX, or whatever it is, might not let us feel the rumbling of intergalactic space cruisers (yes, we saw the laughable 3rd prequal there as well); but, getting to go with the daughter and watch a movie while she sleeps is truly priceless.
Today she turned nine months. Today the new Harry Potter came out. Today was a whole ‘nuther pot of jumpin’ beans.
About a month ago we went and saw a double feature of claynimation mania: Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Corpse Bride, one right after the other. We were able to put here in the bed of the station-wagon (actually, our’s isn’t that vintage) and she slept and we watched the magic of stop-animation.

Tonight, however, she was soooooooooo very glad not to be put down at 7 like she normally is after the evening bath. How glad was she? She positively sang, giggled, cooed, and clapped her hands the 2 miles from our house to the drive-in. Once it came to light’s out night-night, she would have nothing of it. She kept turning around to look at the big screen. She bounced back between us several times…dropping her passy in the night, causing us to feel for it, more times than I care to remember. Finally, she quieted down and was placed in the back. Soon, though, you could hear the clapping and the laughing…little miss-proud-of-herself sitting up and watching the movie. Back to the front, the trading off, and the lost passy routine…at long last, she fell asleep in mom’s arms.

Still, Harry was a nice movie…the special effects are getting better and better…and much like the books, as the movies progress and directors feel less need to follow every little detail of the book, the movies become more and more cinematic. Only the cinematism of the post-MTV generation. Though the movie was an expansive 2:30 (which it didn’t feel like it) the scenes were never more than a minute or two long. Which is the exact opposite of where movies were 20 years ago…case in point The thirty minute wedding scene of The Deer Hunter.

In this one, of course, Potter is berated by the evil persons for being dimwitted and all that…for never being as good as the others…for not “getting” magic…for not studying hard enough. Which leads me into education…

Humanities have found themselves defending their existence as the purveyors of, the sole traders in the commodity known as Critical Thinking. What is more, Critical Thinking is a skill set that indeed can and should be imparted and tested for. Or, at least, that is what my motivational mouse pad tells me. It tells me that graduates of my institution will, or should, (and it’s up to me that they do) leave our institution (after four years or several more) able to deploy something called Critical Thinking Skills. Somehow they will acquire these tools and neatly place them in the tool-chest (I do hope it’s a red one with wheels) of their mind, ready to hand whenever a potential employer needs their Critical Thinking Skills to fine-tune whatever the task they have before them.
The biggest problem, for me, is that I don’t know what Critical Thinking is. And, if it is something, I wonder if it can be taught.
Rhetoric and argument can be taught…but even these seem to be modeled more than taught. Which, I think, is why education from Socrates to Nietzsche relies on rhetorical imitation…the patient copying down of stellar turns phrases to learn eloquence…the slight altering of a past expression as it is applied to a new situation. Education and Literacy, in the Latin sense of the word, go hand in hand. That is, the ability to read does not a literate make; instead, it is knowing what to do with that reading, knowing where and how that reading fits into the scheme of things. And this can only be acquired through reading widely and vastly. And, unless one is Evelyn Wood, leisure is a necessary requirement. That is why students have always been starving, baggy-eyed waifs…unless they come from money.

At times, I dispair teaching the humanities to working, urban students, though I don’t know if I would want it otherwise. They come into class (many being the first of their family to attend college; some, though fewer and fewer, being non-traditionals) firmly believing that education will lift them up to a higher plain (in very real concrete socio-economic terms) and that all classes will work towards that wonderfully utilitarian goal. That in each class they will pick up a tool for their box. And, this is what the University tells them…education will help you make something of your life.

When, in fact, the study of the Humanities, though it does offer benefits, does so only in circumlocuitous ways.

and i will end here, i’ve not said much that’s new and i’m sleepy and avoiding preparing for this monday…when i go and speak to a private in-town HS about liberation theology in the poetry of Ernesto Cardenal, Spanish treatment of the indians, and the chronology of Spanish exploration as told through maps.

 

Comments

from Robert H. Ennis, “Conflicting Views on Teaching Critical Reasoning,” in Critical Reasoning in Contemporary Culture (1992), Ed. Talaska, which is btw, a pretty useful book if you’re thrown into a rhetoric classroom and exactly told what your goals are supposed to be:

“Perhaps the most controversial issue within the critical thinking movement these days is whether critical thinking should be taught separately (the general approach), be infused in instruction in existing subject-matter areas (the infusion approach), result from a student’s immersion in the subject mater (the immersion approach), or—an oft-neglected possibility—be taught as a combination of the gneral approach with infusion or immersion. . ..

“One significant unresolved theoretical aspect is whether critical thinking is subject-specific, that, [sic] is specific to subjects. Subject specificity is a confusing idea that has not received adequate attention. . ..” (5-6)

Sound familiar?

We intend to see Harry Potter tonight, but not, unfortunately, at a drive-in.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was a story told with no sense of suspense, but which needed suspense more than anything to tell the story. No time spent between tasks; no sense of what needs to be explained for a movie-watching (rather than a book-reading) audience [e.g. Dumbledore whispering, “Priori Incantatum! You saw your parents that night, didn’t you Harry?” without explaining why Harry saw his parents]; no real thematic thread to grab onto and exclaim, this is a good story! Ralph Fiennes was a good Voldemoort, but left me wishing he’d been the whole movie. What was to me the second-best book (Half-blood Prince is the best to-date) is I fear the least of the movies—It doesn’t come close to Prisoner of Azkaban.

I may change my mind with more reflection. But I think what the storytelling needed, anticipation, will probably stand as my major critique.

It should have been told as a story of fathers and sons. To have emphasized Mr. Diggory’s and Cedric’s love and to have brought out similar bonds between say Krum & Karkaroff, or even to have given the Weasley family more film time as a family could have opened Goblet of Fire up for the ages: let that happen, and then you give yourself the chance to show HP as outside this world—no father, only a neverending supply of substitutes which in fact include Voldemort since Voldemort in part made HP what he is. This, too, could be built upon for Sirius & Dumbledore.

This would, of course, have to have been done at the expense of the action. But so what? The dragon scene was overlong and made it seem like HP’s success at it was dumb luck rather than a bit of bravery and flying skill. (There are plenty of other opportunities in the story to show Harry succeeding due to dumb luck just by flying about willy nilly—why take that brief glory from him?) I mean, that test was a timed one anyway, and HP was supposed to do it quickly.

What’s more, Newell shows himself to be capital at depicting social life. By far the best sequence was the ball beginning with McGonagall’s dancing lessons. There was a warmth and an interaction between the characters that was allowed to build here. Why not bring that warmth to a sequence around the Weasley table, for example, or a scene which invites Mr. Diggory back into the story and reveals his pride more fully? Or Harry really commiserating with Ron and/or Hermione about why it is that he and Voldemort have some psychic link?

i think you’re right.

they did a good job editing out the requisite beginning and ending…but they failed to tell a story.

it was an accumulation of events from the book and only someone who’s read the book could get the meaning of the story. despite showing some independence from the material…it actually is the most dependent on audience knowledge.

most importantly, the teen angst…freaks and geeks was left out, and shouldn’t’ve been