Friday, July 27, 2007

Platypus Observant

I teach high-schoolers. It's a rewarding, but difficult job. High-schoolers' minds haven't calcified yet, so they're frank, open, and teachable at their best. However, their personalities haven't hardened either, nor are they fully mature or socialized. It's a lot easier to get forty year olds to hide their boredom in public. High-schoolers let you know when they're bored in the most blatantly rude and obnoxious ways. So it was of great interest to me to be able sit in on several sessions of Wheatstone Academy this week. At Wheatstone, high-schoolers are subjected to hour long, highly technical lectures given by distinguished college professors, visit a world-class art museum (The Getty), listen to 16th and 17th century church music (which they gave a standing ovation), attend community theater, and read and discuss four dialogs from Plato. Their reaction? Unbridled enthusiasm, wrapped attention, and excellent questions! So it was a week, and not ten months and the only homework was reading the dialogs: that's still amazing! So what's the message? Don't give up on high-schoolers; FEED THEM! Feed them to bursting, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Make what you're giving them so deep, rich, and "tasty" that they'll push through all the pain and discipline to get more. You want to improve education? Put a copy of Plato in their hands. Is Plato baking their brains? Let them start off with Homer. Homer's to hard? Slog with them through "The Lord of the Rings." Don't show them movies just to get them off your back for a period. Show them Citizen Kaine and talk about it with them. Citizen Kaine too much of a stretch, how about "Batman Begins?" You'd be surprised to see how much mileage the students at Wheatstone got out of that one this week. Sports are great, but make sure that there are opportunities where everyone can be involved, not just the best. Bring back theater, music, and the arts. Oh, and let them talk about religion in school, because the most important questions in life SHOULD NOT BE BANNED FROM THE PUBLIC SPHERE. Besides, how can you teach them civil discourse and tolerance if they're never given an opportunity to really and truly disagree about something that matters?

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Platypus vs. the Conqueror Worm

So, for anyone who's read "Hellboy: Conqueror Worm" out there: do you think there are any references/similarities to Lewis' "That Hideous Strength?" I know the main inspiration is Edgar Allen Poe's poem of the same name, but just think: macro-beings who want to destroy mankind, neo-fascists, floating head-in-a-jar, attempts to breed a new race of men, evil scientists trying to contact said macro-beings in space via a collection of severed heads in a cabinet hooked up to machines, the veneration of a space-worm with weird chanting ... At least we get spared "Fairy Hardcastle," and we do get a homunculus!

(P.S. -hope the links are helpful and not a superfluous annoyance!)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Return of "Thus Spoke the Platypus" Part IX

As Utnapishtim stood at the crossroads, a man came by driving an ass. Now it chanced that, because of the rains, the ass became stuck in the mud. The man drew out a stick and began beating the ass and it cried after the manner of an ass: "yeah! yeah!" As it was beaten, the ass struggled forward, nor would the man for an instant let the animal back up or himself lead it back, and so it sank deeper and deeper into the mud. Even as the mud rose above its shoulders and filled its nostrils the man continued to beat it and the ass continued his cry of "yeah! yeah!"

The sun traveled across the sky, and at last the ass was overcome with exhaustion and died. Utnapishtim spoke to the man and said: "Surely, if you had led the animal back or around or had given it its own head it would have lived!"

At these words, the man grew incensed and struck Utnapishtim with his stick saying: "It cannot go backward! It shall not go backward!"

Then the man went off in a rage, but Utnapishtim with his own hands took dirt and stones from the road and buried the poor animal in the mire where it lay. The people saw this thing that Utnapishtim did, and were divided in their hearts toward him.

Thus did Utnapishtim.