Why I Love My Job

Seriously.

Did you ever start thinking about something, and then discover, five minutes later, that that thinking led you to someplace COMPLETELY different but entirely connectible?  The other day, for example, I started thinking about Mr. Chili’s impending month-long trip to New Mexico for another instrument launch.  That started me thinking about what we can and cannot bring on airplanes.  THAT thinking led me to thinking about water bottles, which got me to these (which my sister hooked me on to and which I love, despite their hefty price tag.  Honest to Goddess, People; black flask in a black car in a parking lot in August for two hours while I watched a movie.  I came out and the tea inside was still refrigerator cold).  I went from Mr. Chili’s trip to my favorite beverage in three steps.  Kinda like six degrees of Kevin Bacon

So, here’s the scene, okay?  I’m on a lunch date this afternoon with my boss, whom I call Carrie here.  She’s awesome; smart, funny, and fiercely passionate and committed about what we’re doing.  She’s a truly amazing boss – the best I’ve ever worked with – and she’s also a dear and trusted friend; we know, almost instinctively, how to balance the friend relationship with the work relationship in a way that makes both relationships better.  We have a blast every time we’re together, and I’d been looking forward to this lunch for a couple of weeks.

ANYWAY, we’re having lunch and talking alternately about home things and work things.  At one point, we started talking about the fact that I’ve got Mac now, which means that I can teach electives this year.  We’re trying to decide which elective I should teach when, and we got around to the fact that my colleague is teaching his film appreciation class this term, so I’ll teach my Film and Lit class in second semester.  What, then, to teach starting in September?

Somehow, the conversation came around to the fact that Carrie and her daughter sat down to watch Interview with the Vampire the other day.  It seems that her kid was quite ticked off at Claudia’s fate, and Carrie spent a good bit of time explaining that her daughter felt that Claudia’s death was completely unfair.  That somehow led to a conversation about who the villains really are, which led me to observe that our villains change over time; when we were kids, all the bad guys were Russians.  Now, they’re all Arabs.  We go through phases in our entertainment; we get a bumper crop of football movies, then a run of mobster movies, then we get the alien invasion flicks, then we get the supernatural, ghost-and-vampire films, and so on and so on.  What is it, I asked, that makes a certain genre of film so accessible at a certain period of time?

As I was making my case for the cyclical nature of our entertainment choices, Carrie’s eyes got big.  “I KNOW!” she said, “YOU need to teach a seminar on aliens and vampires!

I swear to God, that’s really what she said.

Do you see now why I love working for/with this woman?

We spent the rest of the meal discussing what that course would look like.  I rattled off a bunch of stories that could be the foundations for the course – Dracula, of course, and War of the Worlds – and things like Contact, Alien, Men in Black, and Star Trek set up alongside Dracula, The Lost Boys, Buffy, Blade, and I am Legend.  The objectives would include an investigation of the stories’ history in popular culture and possibly some investigation of some of the earlier treatments of the genres, some critical analysis of the parallels (if any can be found) between the number of pieces in a genre during a particular time and the sociopolitical climate during that time, and some sort of creative component in which the students fashion a story (or a play or a skit or a mini-series) that uses one of the genres to interpret a current issue, like immigration, civil rights, or international diplomacy.

You should have seen us, geeking out over dessert, imagining how much pure FUN this class will be.  I’m off to write a course description; I’ll post it here when it’s ready.  Any thoughts, suggestions, or advice you can offer are, as always, gratefully accepted.

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Filed under admiration, book geek, colleagues, critical thinking, Dream Course, film as literature, fun, I can't make this shit up..., I love my boss, I love my job, lesson planning, Mrs. Chili as Student, popular culture, success!, Teaching, winging it

15 responses to “Why I Love My Job

  1. Pingback: Thursday Love « The Blue Door

  2. My brain just vomited information while reading this. I’ll try to clean off the bigger chunks so you can see them.

    Alien but not Aliens? I really have always felt the 2nd one was the better movie, same with Terminator movies.

    What about Twilight Zone? X-Files? Outer Limits?

    Buffy the series not Buffy the movie, right? And if so what other Joss Whedon ventures are also relevant? Angel? Firefly? (FIREFLY!!!!!!!!)

    OH GAH NOT I AM LEGEND PLEASE NO MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!!!!! (heh, but true)

    Are zombies included here? If so then Walking Dead (series) is near compulsory.

    What about things like 28 Days Later? The Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series?

    Will Twilight ever be allowed into discussions except to say, “This is how not to write a book. Any book. Ever. Well, except you should start with a compelling plot like this did.” ?

  3. I love this!! :-) Don’t forget the Twilight saga; so much for the kids to relate to, and the interesting twist of Bella wanting Edward to make her a vampire, and Edward abjectly refusing. “A Discovery of Witches” takes the vampire world to a different place, too: that of segregation. In summary, it is not okay for a vampire and a witch to be in relationship with – and certainly not to marry and beget children – with each other. When that happens, all sorts of hell breaks loose.

  4. Kizz, I meant Aliens – at least, that’s the one in my Amazon cart right now. I already have all the Terminator movies and I agree; the second one was great. I was just talking to Bob about the Outer Limits because, as the Universe would have it, I was watching this episode of Rachel Maddow JUST this morning (the Universe takes good care of me) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU__olXx7fw
    Buffy the series not the movie, yes. I WILL, in fact, mention Twilight, mostly because all the kids are so violently opposed to any kind of reasonable discussion about it, and I contend that there must have been SOMETHING compelling in the story to compensate for the generally bad writing. I will also teach I Am Legend, both the short story and the film, because I think that they approach the vampire story in a way that few other stories have, and I really like the thinking that I did after both reading the story and seeing the film.

    Ellen, is Discovery of Witches a book or a film? You have me intrigued!

  5. DoW is a book, possibly a series. Pretty new I think or maybe simply newly popular.

    I haven’t read the short story of IAL but suspect that it’s pretty good since the introduction part of the movie is so compelling. I will never forgive them for how ridiculously bad the ending of the movie is. I almost don’t want to read the short story because for now I’m banking on it making the ending work in a way the filmmakers totally fucked up. SO. Angry. That movie made me.

    I try not to diss Twilight to my younger friends who are reading it because I, too, was compelled by the plot and for over 2 books was able to overlook the complete lack of craft. I do, however, try to gently point things out like, “You know that part where each page is just the name of month? What’s that about? Does it seem a little, I don’t know, lazy to you?” So far we’re able to agree that it’s fun but it’s not filling.

  6. improbablejoe

    You’re so privileged. I don’t mean to be a downer, but you might want to look into your privilege before engaging students in the fall.

    You’re good people, so you’ll want to consider privilege before the next class session.

  7. Joe, tell me more about what you’re saying here.

    I try to be very conscious of my privilege; it’s something that I make a point of recognizing whenever I’m investigating cultural issues in class. I’m interested to hear your take on this, though; what have I said here that prompts you to remind me to be mindful?

    • improbablejoe

      You know… I had something specific in mind when I posted that, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it is. I think it was more about something you’ve said about teaching other movies in the past, but it is all lost in the haze of my poor stressed-out brain.

      • If it comes back to you, let me know.

        I’m always looking for advice and suggestions for materials. I recognize that, for all the stories I have access to and experience with, mine is still a limited list. There are a lot of really great resources that I haven’t encountered yet, which is part of the purpose of this blog; expanding out my resource base through my readers is a huge part of how I keep my own prejudice and bias under some semblance of control.

  8. Terry

    Don’t forget District 9!!! The director’s commentary is also amazing, but I’m sure you could make the connections he points out yourself. : )

    • District 9 is a Pandora’s box, Terry! It would be a hoot to teach that; the implications of that film are pretty freaking far-reaching. I only saw it once, on video and late at night, so I’m sure I didn’t get the full impact of what it was trying to say, but I remember very clearly coming away from it with my head buzzing about ghettos and concentration camps….

      • Terry

        DEFINITELY watch it again–I watched it twice, once right after the other–I was so amazed by it on so many levels. THEN I watched it with the director’s commentary. He definitely makes a lot of points about the stratification of society, rich vs. the poor, all over the world. I think the movie would fit in great with your curriculum in general! : ) I am just a total fangirl for that movie.

  9. Terry

    This is probably stretching the definition of “alien”–but have you ever seen the South Korean movie “The Host”? I think it would fit neatly into some (future..?) class, if you ever wanted to look closely at the 1950s-era “mad scientist/alien/monster” films of the United States (and even post-war films and especially animated films from Japan, full of allegories about Hiroshima). “The Host” has a bit of an anti-imperialist/American slant, so that might provoke some discussion too…

  10. Each year, I’m supposed to teach a mystery unit in my eighth grade GT English class. So obviously I teach it in October (although my colleagues teach it in May so they can “end the year with something fun”…as opposed to all that other lame crap we teach all year…?). I speed through the mystery stuff we’re required to cover and take my students instead to the juncture where mystery led to Gothic. I have them read a bit of Gothic lit and then, right before Halloween, I show Dracula in class – the 1931 version with Bella Lugosi – after amping them up all month that I’m going to show a horror movie at the end of the mystery unit. I bring this up because – aside from being full of tangents, evidently – you mentioned using Dracula for this class (which I totally wish I could take!) and I didn’t know if you meant the book or the movie. If you were to do the movie, it has a really interesting history (much of which I gathered from imdb) and connections to the book. I like to show not only that 1931 version, but I also show a clip from Nosferatu – the illegal German silent film loosely based on Stoker’s novel – as well as a clip from the most recent version of Dracula and a clip from Twilight (where Edward reveals his sparkly self on the mountain top). We talk about the evolution of the vampire a little bit and his role as villain and what, culturally, prompts him to be more or less scary looking – and the fact that it’s more than just better makeup artists and special effects.

    Anyway, don’t know if that helps at all, but that’s just what your post prompted for me. Happy planning to you!

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