I am really proud of the people behind the scenes at the school where I work.
There's frequently a high B.S. factor when some school tries to dress up their brochure with a paragraph about how "every kid is special" or "we teach respect". The blather drives me up the wall. It's obvious where many school creeds originate. Someone at the top notices a gaping hole in the promo literature and then an assistant or, worse, a committee of teachers, has to write something to make the school literature look good. These mini essays inevitably sound made up, insincere, and insulting to whatever true, warm, beautiful, honest humanity drives the place.
So I read the WCS codification of our values and almost shed a tear because it shows how lucid and clear our founders are and I have to say, in Year Four of the school, the staff pretty much reflects every word in the statement. Morals and direction weren't an afterthought here, they were hardwired in, part of the ground up design of the organization. Because of that, all the people in our building, from freshman to faculty explicitly know the points of this creed. I'm really really happy.
I am pretty damn old compared to my students so trying to remember what it feels like to be them is nearly impossible. That me died 20 years ago. Once in awhile teen rage in a movie or song sweeps me up and gives me the punch-in-the-gut return to how bad it can feel to be that age.
Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia did it to me today, made me cry even. I need that more often, a view into their emotional landscape. Exact same thing happened 5 years ago, crying, sitting behind a museum in Taiwan, listening on headphones to Modest Mouse ‘Trailer Trash’, crying because it washed over me in a wave of sympathy for some of the guys that sat in the back of my class, failing.
I’d quote some JoS lyrics but it would seem dead and cold in print. To cry to you should: 1. Listen to the American Idiot album for a year or so 2. Get curious about the lyrics, 3. Look them up while you copy them to the Lyrics folder on your iPod, singing along, and crying.
I listened to the 9 minute JoS 3x just now...
On a lighter note, I think I am the first person on the internet to notice that there is a great big cough in Jesus of Suburbia. Someone in Green Day coughs at the 4:19 time mark during tom tom rolls. It's clearly audible on headphones. It is totally a smoker’s cough and I’m guessing the drum mic picked it up. You heard it hear first!
Turns out that the gulf between ruminants' ability to digest cellulose and our own is large but not infinite. According to a nutrition site, the human large intestine contains oxyphobic bacteria that do the same thing that a cow's extra stomachs do, convert cellulose to accessible energy. Some of this nourishes the cells lining the large intestine and the nutritional benefit of high fiber diets is partially due to the fiber nourishing the anaerobic bacteria in that part of the G.I. tract.
Final score: Horses get 70% of their calories from breaking down grass via bacteria, humans get 10% of their calories from it. So grass would at least stave off starvation, if not prevent it.
As the lights came up, I got to chat for once with the person sitting in front of me. This was partly because she had sobbed all through the credits. In between sobs I could hear her saying “That’s why we insisted we buy him a phone”.
Into the Wild was a very satisfying movie for me. In ticket price terms I would pay up to $60 to watch it.
I was on the edge of my seat, heart beating for the first hour and a half. The sequencing of the real life events and the pacing of the editing made a good dramatic arc. Into the Wild gets down to business on his semi-suicidal Alaska bivouac in the first ten minutes of the movie. At which point I started to cry. I kind of cried several times in the movie.
As travelogue, ITW sells the idea of the road strongly. Even North Dakota looks good. Kids will notice. The trickle of Supertramp pilgrims that had previously mimicked Alex’s travels will surely now be a flood. The power of this movie on youth should be at least as “corrupting” as Keruac’s was in the 50’s.
They made Chris McCandless a more sympathetic fellow in the movie than he was in the book. Sean Penn, unlike Jon Krakauer, makes Chris very likeable, though stops short of making him seem heroic or even smart.
Thoughts on converting a book to a movie: A) Filming it transforms Into the Wild into the cultural reference point that it couldn’t be as a book. No post-Twain book can become part of the culture at large, not in an age without readers or a country with as strong an anti-intellectual streak as the US. B) This will surely lead to spinoff rentals for Werner Herzog’s spin on naïve Alaskan adventures, Grizzly Man C) How did Penn get the parents’ permission to show the family from the sons point of view, including wife beating, adultery, and Dad keeping a second family on the side? As a teacher I have to say I’m hesitant to film adults based on the observations of kids.
I watched this movie with a Manhattan audience of older people, most were 40 or 50. Some had read the book obviously by their reaction to onscreen depiction key visual images from the original story. The downtown audience had a serious disconnect with real life in the woods. A lot were shocked and disturbed by the hunting scenes, especially Alex’s tragic attempt to single-handedly dress a moose in a place that probably has more flies than anywhere in America. The guy behind me clucked his tongue, vocally upset when anti-materialist Alex burned a pile of paper money in the desert.
At the end of the movie people charged out at the sight of the first credit. I was like, huh? For me, this was more a movie where you couldn't help but sit afterwards, stunned, contemplative, sad, or at least studying the extensive list of locations in the credits. Sidenote: Into the Wild was the first movie I saw where the credits has to extensively catalog the original Tolstoy and Thoreau sources.