IMO: Feeding the Gators

Have you ever read Stephen King‘s essay “Why We Crave Horror Movies”? The one where he explains watching scary movies is a way to test ourselves, similar to rollercoaster rides and going to haunted houses? Inside we are monsters living in a world that rewards pleasantries and virtues while it sanctions misconduct and malicious acts of violence. I agree with him. BTW, if you missed the essay, just google it, and you can read the short essay in its entirety.

We are violent by nature. What’s popular to see and discuss today has been so since our human predecessors gathered around stones or looked at the stars for answers: good spirits, evil spirits, the battles of kingdoms and empire. The gore and the disgusting intrigue many, why? Is it to test oneself to see if we can handle the state of fear? To imagine the pain and compare oneself to the aggressor and the victim? We are both. Horror movies give one a chance to experience that violence vicariously since we are bound by the mores of society to behave ourselves.

I rented a horror film last weekend and broke it up over two days watching it during the day. Pathetic, I know, but there you have it–I am a scaredy-cat. I have read Hereditary reviews and everyone seemed to think it was well made, so I tested myself to see if I could handle the fear.

credit: Reid Chavis/A24

 

It is a psychological film about a woman’s inability to handle grief like The Babadook. And then the house was possessed like the Amityville Horror, complete with flies and window-like eyes. And then Annie Graham (Toni Collette) turned into something out of The Conjuring/The Grudge.  And then the story turned into a Wicker story. Poor men. And then the last scene came with some slasher elements thrown in,  and I laughed. I don’t think I was supposed to do that. People criticize ambiguous endings, but this ending was predicted a long time before the last scene played out. In other words, Hereditary wasn’t sure what kind of horror movie to be. I loved the front half of the film full of fine tension and enough scary scenes to keep me biting my nails. By the time the moronic husband (Gabriel Byrne) finally realizes his wife is mentally ill, I wasn’t scared anymore.

I loved the score. I loved that the setting was beautiful–nothing better than the ironic twist of a fall setting with evil lurking in the gorgeous home. I loved the symbolic little house Annie Graham (Toni Collette) made. What a perfect vocation to illustrate she had an obsessive need to control her environment. Toni Collette‘s performance was outstanding. She showed a robust range of emotions and body language.  Milly Shapiro as Charlie Graham stole the show with her creepy expressions and clucking.  I just wish writer-director Ari Astersh stuck with the genre of psychological thriller.  I’m sure if I had watched it at night in a dark theater in one setting, I would have been scared shitless. 4/5.

Stephen King ended in his essay by asserting we like to be scared because it feeds the alligators inside, that is, it keeps the balance between the good and evil in us.  Personally, I think we watch horror movies because we are bored. It is a peculiarly effective way to recharge ourselves and feel the adrenaline rush as a result. What do you think? What was the last good scary movie you watched?

IMO: Vivaldi’s Winter, The Four Seasons

Except for a small lamp, I am sitting in the dark and face the computer screen. It is four in the morning. I’m grading college English composition papers where students compared and contrasted Ulysses S. Grant to Robert E. Lee. After the fifteenth one, my mind wandered and entered that zone where it splits–one side hears music while the other grades. I lose myself. On Pandora, Vivaldi’s “Winter” from Four Seasons begins.

It occurred to me that it has been twenty years since I last listened to Vivaldi’s “Winter.” It was four in the morning. I lived in the wasteland of Illinois during winter. Icy, bitter below-zero cold. The stars flickered, the air crackled, and the sun rose and changed the black into a powder blue sky. The sun teased, but the hope of warmth would not come that day.

I drove ninety minutes from my hometown to Illinois State University. My teenage kids still slept. They would get themselves up and eat breakfast and cross the street to school without my orchestration. Excited was I to be in college, and I fell in love with academia. I was in my thirties at the time and amazed by how little I knew about everything–history, literature, classical music, art, architecture, foreign languages, philosophy, and geography. I was starving and ate it up.

There is nothing to look at during the winter in central Illinois. The corn fields have been harvested. The expanse and flatness and dingy colors combined with the cold temperatures–well, that’s why I live in Arizona now. Two decades ago, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played in the car. The first cup of coffee had worn off, and I was in that lull where one part of me heard the music while another part drove.

How wonderful then, today at four in the morning, that a time warp occurred. “Winter” by Vivaldi began on Pandora and triggered that long ride to campus. I was that non-traditional student traveling distances to learn. This morning, I am the instructor on the other side of the desk, that is, the other side of the computer who grades the paper I once wrote. Tied by Vivaldi, the music became a mirror, and I sat on both sides and said “Hello.”

IMO: Life Cycles

I was surrounded. It was creepy.
Graduating students “bombed” my room.

Very few jobs offer a conclusive beginning, middle, and end to the year. The rhythm of the academic calendar is psychologically beneficial, and if I hadn’t made a career within it, I would have jumped off the plank a long time ago. Let me explain by showing you an excerpt by me right before a holiday break (Here’s the whole post if you missed it) :

“. . . I never wanted to be a high school teacher. I wanted to be a college teacher. I’m tired that I have to work in the trenches, dealing with obnoxious teenagers, to be politically correct, inspirational, and compassionate to all students every day no matter what inappropriate thing they say or do. I am that sergeant in war movies who answers to officers, some idiotic, some great, always a revolving door, the principals, and superintendents who come and go and meanwhile, my responsibilities compound, the acronyms multiply like rabbits. I can’t believe after 19 years, I have to do this for eight more years before I retire. What’s worse, the classes I created, devoted my heart and soul to were taken away and given to younger teachers. I’m supposed to be a good sport, but I am resentful. I already paid my dues. I feel unappreciated. I am steaming, and the bitterness takes root. Why didn’t my dream come true? My trajectory was the moon. What strange star is this?  And the dark irony in it all? I’m really good at what I do.” 

Today, I reread the words revealing my dour attitude and I’m embarrassed. When you are a teacher, it is like jumping off a high cliff into the riptide. To endure, the veteran teacher learns how to breathe underwater and ride the current. Obviously, in the quote above, the stress was getting to me. Just in the nick of time, a holiday break occurred. Whew!  I could regroup and adjust my attitude.

Most schools in America, especially on the East coast, resume in September after a healthy summer break. Out here in Arizona, we just went back to school. This past week was full of professional meetings, inspirational pre-service gatherings, getting organized, meeting the students, and beginning instruction. For me, a new year has begun. I’m happy to report I’m very excited to begin again. I have hope and ready to inspire and rock and roll. By winter, I’ll start to drag. After the winter break, I’m recharged. Pretty soon it’s spring break, and then after a month, I’m looking ahead at the calendar wishing for summer break at the end of May. In this profession, the pendulum swings back and forth and the force conditions my mood and my worth ethic. Students and teachers wonder if they can make it to the end of the school year. Of course, we can. Faster than we thought. Now the best part comes. Time. To reflect and consider and indulge in the hobbies of my life. The year is over. What’s done is done. Students graduate and move on. When the new year begins, you start with a clean slate. This is the cycle that runs my life.

One of the complaints I had last year was the indignancy I felt for key classes I had worked so hard creating the curriculum and then they were “taken away” and given to others to teach. That’s a problem when you give a lot of emotional sweat and brain cells to a project; you feel a sense of ownership. During times of reflection, I’ve learned I had to get over myself, let go of the ego, or the roots of resentment grow and I risk becoming a bitchy co-worker. My patience and tolerance falter.


Wir werden backen.

Anyway, I changed my situation and it changed my attitude. After securing my endorsement, I’m now the new German teacher. I’m having the best time setting up the best class ever. We have started to speak it and see it and say it and write it. We’re going to make homemade pretzels and have a proper Oktoberfest with kraut and wurst and (root)beer. We’re going to Bavaria in 2020. It’s going to be the best class my students ever had.  Ha!

The cycles of a year. Is yours measured by the seasons? By your job? By your family? By imposing your own cycle?

I opened my classroom and found this note. Lucky, aren’t I?

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