Thursday, February 10, 2011

Update From Snowy Memphis

I basically took the month off from this blog in January, so I hope I haven't lost too many of you. Making the transition from sabbatical life back to full-time teaching was more formidable than I had anticipated, and before I knew it, this blog had lapsed a lot. My apologies for that. For whomever may still be reading, here's some quick bullet-list coverage of the last month, which I hope can serve to bridge the gap and allow me to get back to regular, real-time blogging.

•>It's been SNOWING in Memphis! Four major snows in as many weeks here has been strange to say the least. Throw in a few days of almost-70 degree weather with that and the strange only gets stranger. Because of my teaching schedule and my College's refusal to declare any "snow days" (despite the fact that practically everything else in the city was closing), the winter weather hasn't affected me as much as it could have... but I did have to break down and dig through my old life-in-the-Northeast boxes to try to find a pair of gloves.

•>Football season is over. Auburn won the BCS championship, which made me very happy. But for the first time in a long time, I couldn't have cared less about the Super Bowl. All of my favorite NFL franchises got knocked out in the playoffs, leaving only the Steelers and the Packers, both teams I like but don't love. Oh, if you didn't see the complete DISASTER that was the Super Bowl halftime show, consider yourself one of the lucky few. Ah well. On the upside, this year's game did feature one of the greatest Super Bowl ads I've ever seen. Here it is:

•>Major stuff has gone down in Tunisia and Egypt. Like most people, I've been watching the revolution on YouTube and Facebook. Considering how many wonky politico-bloggers I have for friends, I'm surprised that not many of them have written much about Tunisia or Egypt. (Then again, I haven't been blogging about it either.) There was this from Anotherpanacea, which is thoughtful and reflective as always. But one of the best things I have seen so far is the video below from a protest in London, in which an Egyptian ex-pat speaks about and to his compatriots in their struggle for freedom and democracy. This is one of the most moving declarations of solidarity I've ever seen:

•>I won the Student Lottery in two of my classes this semester! For the last several years, I've incorporated blogging into all of my classes. This semester, I've got a really impressive group of students in two of my courses, as evidenced on their course blogs. Check out what smart students thinking hard about difficult things looks like on the Philosophy of Race course blog and the Humanism and Human Rights course blog.

•>"True Grit" should win the Oscars, but won't. Every year, I try to see all of the films nominated in the Academy Awards' "Best Picture" category. This year, there are a few worthy contenders (among which I count "The Social Network" and "The King's Speech"), but the Coen brothers' remake of "True Grit" is one of the best films I've seen in a long, long time. Unfortunately, it won't win, but it should.

•>My already high-tech classes are now SUPER high-tech. As readers of this blog know, I'm a big fan of utilizing new media in the classroom. This semester, in my Advanced Topics seminar on "Humanism and Human Rights," I'm having my students make documentary films about some human rights issue to accompany their seminar papers on the same topic. I'm both excited and terrified to see how this turns out. More updates to come.

•>The Avett Brothers are amazing. Fellow blogger Scu recommended the Avett Brothers to me a little while ago in the comments section of my 2010 Year in Music round-up, so I downloaded their album I and Love and You (which sounds like an Irigaray-inspired title). After only one listen through, was absolutely IN LOVE with this band. I've since downloaded all of their albums and can't remember the last time I've been so excited about new music. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Scu!

That just about brings us up to date. Re-mark this site on your web browsers, as more regular updates are forthcoming soon.


Brian said...

True Grit was quite good. I'm not sure why it isn't getting more love this award season. I guess the combination of being a remake AND a Western hurts it too much with the voters. I've seen most of the best picture nominees, 127 Hours and Winter's Bone are still on my to-do list, and I'm hoping either True Grit or Inception pulls off a successful dark horse run and takes home the top prize. (Side note: Even though it won't win, I don't really get why The Fighter keeps getting so many nominations apart from some of the acting noms. And what's with the Town getting hardly any love this year?)

Wow, I start perusing through your current class's Philosophy of Race blog and I'm jelly. Barely a month into the semester, right?!?!? I thought my group was pretty good, but it's looking like this group may put us to shame by the end. But,I suppose, that's ultimately a good thing. Too often people don't seriously engage these topics, which, unfortunately, has very serious consequences for everyone. I'm just sad I can't get in on their dialogue. Oh well, bookmarked.

Scu said...

Wow, I don't think any has appreciated one of my music suggestions since I made someone go see Arcade Fire live. I am trying to see the Avett Brothers when they play in Augusta, GA.

Also, I was looking through the philoSophia conference, and I noticed you will be there. You are moderating a panel at the same slot of when I am speaking, but still, we should still say hello sometime. That vegetarian Indian restaurant that is catering one of the meals is amazing. The whole conference looks amazing.

DOCTOR J said...

@Scu: Have you heard The Felice Brothers? I think you'd like them.

engl243 said...

I disagree with you and Brian about True Grit and wonder what other movies you saw last year that you're comparing it to. I like Westerns, and I'd agree that it's a good movie, though I got a little bored, and it's only slightly different than the original. I'm biased against re-makes unless the re-make does something interesting. Better acting in the Cohen bro's version, for sure, but that's not saying much since John-I-can't-act-cuz-I'm-a-friggin'-fascist-Wayne is in the original. I watched the original a week after watching the Cohen bro's version.

I would say "The Fighter" should get best picture, out of all the stuff I've seen. It's very smart, very well-made, and communicates a very complex idea to a very diverse audience. "Black Swan" should get best director in addition to best actress (and it will get best actress, that's a given.) And "Social Network" should get nothing, but we all know it will get something because the Academy is dumb like that.

I haven't seen "King's Speech" "The Kid's Are All Right" or "Winter's Bone," but I hear they are all excellent.


Scu said...

I haven't! I will go check them out. Suggestions of where to begin?

Brian said...

I haven't seen the original True Grit, so I can't comment there. I was surprised to read your comments though, since every other person I've talked to who has seen both has said they were notably different. And the few people who had seen both movies and read the book claimed the remake was much closer to the book.

The Fighter? Really? I was incredibly underwhelmed with this movie. Perhaps I should give it another shot. In the meantime, I might as well justify why I didn't think too much of it on my first viewing, since it has been getting lots of awards season love, so I guess burden of proof would be on me.

The film's main flaw, imo, is that Wahlberg's character is far too passive. I don't know the extent that portrayal is Wahlberg's fault, since it seems very plausible that the character was written that way judging by most of the events in the film, but it's a glaring issue considering how the film is largely about personal redemption.

Bale's performance was fantastic. Melissa Leo's...I'm not sure. It'd be hard for me to find fault with her acting in most of the individual scenes. To me, something about the performance as a whole didn't hold itself seemed too much like a greatest hits collection or something.

Also, in critiquing the film, I have to single out the scene in the car where Dickey starts to sing to his mom. It just screamed "Hollywood" and fake. I literally was drawn completely out of the movie, felt like I was watching a movie (in the worst sense), and felt the urge to face-palm right there in the theater. I don't really blame the actors too much for it. The direction of the scene was horrible. Leo might have actually given a brilliant performance at the time. But Russell shot and edited it in a way that makes it impossible to tell. (Bale actually got a decent shot and did reasonably well, but the scene's success really depends on Leo's character's reaction and interaction with Bale's character.) Amazing acting being allowed to play out and develop is the only thing that possibly could have salvaged that scene.

Anyway, /rant.