Friday, March 16, 2012

The Media Review Edition

James Receiving his Yellow Belt
I enjoy working here, but a few months ago I came to the realization that professionally I had kind of plateaued. For a middle aged guy with a Master's in Teaching English as a second language, I wasn't going to find a better gig that what I have now. On the one hand it made me grateful for the opportunity I had, on the other, it caused me to view most future professional paths as inevitable steps back, and that was a little discouraging to me. As I talked with people, it seemed that if I wanted to open up new opportunities, I would need to go back to school. This wasn't a new revelation. I had resisted going back to school for years because I honestly couldn't think of anything that I wanted to study at the doctoral level and I had met too many people with PhDs that ended up spending so much time and effort in their field that they became almost sick of the thing that was once their passion. It wasn't until I started looking at the field of Education Technology and curriculum design that I started getting excited about school again. After a number of discussions and a fair bit of research, I decided that the best program for me was being taught at the University of Florida. (Their education program was just ranked 34 in US News and World Report)

 I was a little intimidated at the application process and did not relish the prospect of taking the GRE (it has been over 20 years since my last real math class, and despite all they tell you in school, apart from basic addition, subtraction and multiplication, you really don't use much of the rest of the stuff in day to day life unless you're my brother-in-law Doug). But the program was something I wanted enough that I was willing to overcome present anxieties and insecurities. Well, after months of hard work and hand-wringing, I just found out that I was accepted into the program for this fall. It's basically going to consume my life for the next 4 years, but the potential upside is too great to be anything other than excited. It's what's called a blended form of study which means I'll be doing a large chunk of it online with some time each summer in Gainesville. And, even though I don't follow the sport, I am excited to go to a school with a football team worth rooting for. Go Gators!

 In other news, all that good stuff I said about Downton Abbey, I'm on the verge of taking it all back. We just wrapped up season two and where the first season was about being both noble and petty towards the insignificant (sentiments I can relate to because I'm surrounded by so much insignificance), the second season devolved into melodrama that completely crowded out the insignificant. War, debilitating injury, scandalous affairs, mortal Spanish flu outbreaks and, of course, murder. It's all too much and were it not so well acted, I would turn my back on the thing completely. It used to be engrossing the way a good book could be, inviting you into a fully realized world. Now it engrosses me the way an extra large serving of ice cream does, a heady rush of flavor and sugar followed by a tinge of regret and nausea. Proceed at your own caution.

For almost a year my kids have been awaiting the return of the Voice. A lot of people have written about the differences between this show and American Idol. I never followed American Idol because I felt that at its core it was mean spirited and degrading.  Even when the judges were trying to be kind to the contestants, I often felt like there was a level of condescension that was unmerited. Though I don't always agree with some of the decisions the coaches on the voice make(especially this season), I feel that there's a real generosity towards the performers that is uncommon in popular media today. It's easy to be snarky and critical of those around you, but it takes real work to find the good in another and nurture that goodness to excellence. Now, if only we could find some way to persuade Christina of the merits of modest fashions, the show would be just about perfect.

This is Woola. Never has their been a more loyal companion
to man!
Last week, I took Liam and Lucy to see John Carter, the only condition was that the had to read "A Princess of Mars" to prepare themselves. I have to say that it was the most fun I've had at the movies in a while. It's silly, but it's so committed to its silliness that it achieves a level of genuine earnestness. This is the movie experience I hoped for from both the Star Wars prequels and Avatar. Though both of those were visually spectacular, they lack heart and humor. The kids loved it. I think I primed them well for it. The only problem now is dealing with their inevitable disappointment over the fact that we won't be seeing any sequels due the high price tag and poor marketing. Fortunately, we have the books to take us back to Barsoom for more adventures. Liam's on the second one now and Lucy just finished the fourth. When you have such good readers for kids you don't have to depend on the whims of Hollywood to make great entertainment.


Christina said...

Congratulations - Go Gators!

I'm going to check out those books for Joshua :)

Sarah said...

I don't know if I can read this blog any more. Gators are of the devil! We just drove through Gainesville last week. I'm sure your program will be awesome. Congratulations!