THINGS I LOVED/HATED THIS WEEK #242

LOVE:
Bad Education:

I have been spending an absurd amount of time watching telenovelas lately, something that I am absolutely not ashamed of. I have learned so much more Spanish than before and I can’t wait to get back to Mexico City at some point and try out all the latest dramatic phrases I know about the cartel, cheating husbands, devilish siblings, and the Colombian drug trafficking network. These shows are really and truly a major passion of my life. If I die and I don’t have a doctorate in Egyptology, look like Joan Rivers, and was not in some way connected with a telenovela, please let everybody at my wake know that I lived in vain and that they must work hard to do better than I did. Life goes by so very quickly, reader. Over the Labor Day weekend, I got back into an old passion of mine, British comedy, and it was well worth the time I devoted to my Netflix account. I watched quite a few programs, and I’m going to discuss at least two of them on this blog at some point. First up: Bad Education. This program, which consists of three seasons and a movie, is absolutely hysterical. It’s about Alfie, who could be considered one of the most ineffectual teachers ever hired in the history of public education, but that wouldn’t be a totally apt descriptor for him. He has a heart made of gold and he wants his students to succeed in life, even if that doesn’t always translate to academic success. The characters are WILD but if you’ve ever spent any amount of time in a school, you’ll be forced to chortle over how true to life so many of the seemingly absurd plot points are. One of my favorite episodes of all was the season two Christmas special — a delightful tradition of English television that I don’t understand why we don’t do. Wouldn’t it be great to see some of your favorite characters return from a hiatus for a half hour special that is inevitably heartwarming? Our programming could take a few pages out of the UK’s book. Also, the shows are only six to eight episodes which forces them by necessity to be high quality. Anyway, I’m off on another one of my tirades. Sorry. The Christmas special involves a robotic version of the nutcracker and it is the very height of absurdity. It’s wondrous. And as an educator, this is such a wonderfully funny program. Like the excellent film, Bad Teacher, starring the inimitable Cameron Diaz, this kind of entertainment allows us to live out our silly daydreams without risk of firing, and also, it gives us some exceptional ideas. For example, in Bad Education, Mr. Wickers — Alfie — has a procedure called “CLASS WARS” where the students reenact famous battles. It’s a terrible idea and has the disastrous consequences that you can well imagine, but there’s a spark of genius there. In my student teaching yesterday, I emulated this to help students understand the differences between presidential and radical reconstruction following the end of the American Civil War. They seemed to get a lot from it, and I felt like a British success. Get on Netflix, reader.

Nespresso Aeroccino:

This summer I had to spend considerable time in a school to fulfill the requirements of my teacher education program. I was placed in a school an hour away, and I couldn’t dream of driving there and back every day for three weeks, so I settled myself into the luxurious and dreamy Baymont for $50 a night. I was living the high life, reader! And the Baymont was much nicer than the Best Western across the street. They allow snakes and monkeys as pets at the manager’s discretion. And I just find that too odd. What is happening over there? I did manage to meet former vice president Joe Biden at that hotel, which was just as odd, though, now that I’m thinking about it. But this has nothing to do with this installment. I was going to be in a hotel for nearly a month, and there are certain necessities that I needed to bring with me. So, to prepare myself mentally and convince my brain this was a vacation, I went to Target to buy some supplies. I got some gorgeous copper cups and plates and bowls, and a suit, but the crème de la crème was a new Nespresso machine. I didn’t need this, mind you, because I had one from work, but I was so enchanted by the design of this new one that I couldn’t resist. It’s my third Nespresso machine and it’s absolutely the best. Normally, the pressure of an espresso machine makes it sound like a ship taking off for the moon, but this one is so quiet that I would almost call it silent. It’s not, but it’s amazing. And it’s cute. And it’s chic. And it’s everything I ever dreamed of in a Nespresso machine. But this little post is not about that bit. Bundled with the machine was a milk frother, something that I had no interest in, but the machine didn’t come without it, so I found myself the reluctant owner of an Aeroccino. Reader…my life changed. You pour milk into it, hit a button, and then the little thing gets to work. It whips the milk into a perfect foam and heats it up…and it’s flawless. I was so pleased. It’s a bit much to clean, but the result is so creamy and dreamy and I’ve never made such a good latte or cappuccino in my own home. Or my own hotel room, rather. Get one today reader. It will make life worth living again.

Student Teaching:

Student teaching is the last hoop to jump through to get a teaching job. It’s hardly the final hoop of the entire process, but it’s one of the bigger ones. It’s been on my mind a lot over the past few years because I’ve been in a teacher education program and my friends in the program have been disappearing to go be student teachers. Finally it’s my turn, and reader, I have to be honest with you…I’m having the absolute time of my life. Instead of working and going to classes and doing endless work and being a theoretical teacher…I get to actually live my life. I have to talk straight to you: going to college sucked. I’ve complained about it on here many times and I’m so glad that I don’t have to do that anymore, but I’m going to go again for old time’s sake. It absolutely blew. I didn’t have time for anything at all. I didn’t have time to cook, to clean, to wash my hair on a regular basis. I didn’t have the energy to do anything at all for myself so my health became an absolute joke. I was becoming better educated but my life was in SHAMBLES. I’m being dramatic but I’m not lying to you. Now all the classes are over. They’re over, y’all! I will take classes again I know because if I don’t die as an Egyptologist, as I’ve said before, my life will have been lived for naught. But that’s beside the point. Now that I don’t have to go to classes and slave away online at other classes, I get to focus solely on student teaching. This has been a joy and a delight, reader. I just go to student teaching and then I can go home and live my life. I’ve been going on walks again. Last night I actually cooked food that wasn’t out of a box or a quickly tossed salad. It has been insane. I’m almost finished with my first month and it seems like just a moment ago I started. I’ll have a classroom of my own before long. And now that I’m teaching lessons and getting to know the students better, I know that this was a good move for me. I needed a change and this is the right one for me. Today, we made social media posts about the Transcontinental Railroad and it was a hoot. The kids are clever, who knew they could make a VSCO girl/hydroflask meme out of a cattle drive? It’s a hoot.

My Vineyard:

From a very early age, I have been enchanted by France. I have wanted to speak French, wander around with a baguette tucked under one arm, be unbearably thin while swaddled in black, and stare off into the distance with a look of enlightened disdain for mankind on my face. Largely, I do all of those things. I used to be thin, but other than that, I speak French, eat too much bread, wear a lot of black, and go through an existential crisis a few times a year. I’m as French as it’s possible for me to be at this point. One thing that always captivated me about the nation was the wine, but more than that, the vineyards. I thought it was marvelous that there should be sprawling acres of ancient, gnarled vines loaded to bursting with sweet and delicious grapes, begging to be squished and fermented. A little over a decade ago, I decided that I simply must have a vineyard all of my own, and so I set out to create a wonderland of sprawling vines. Almost all of my projects end in failure and few and far between actually come to completion. The vineyard was never exactly finished the way it was originally envisioned, but of all my projects, this is the one that I’m truly the most proud of. I repurposed old fence poles and dug holes for fourteen posts in rows of diminishing length. I took ancient fencing and nailed them to the posts, then I went out and bought four different varieties of grapes. There were Concord, Niagara, Catawba, and Edelweiss. It took ages for them to get established, and it was a fight to the death to succeed. The Edelweiss couldn’t stand the winter. Two of the Concords were hit by farming chemicals. One of the Catawbas was ripped out of the earth by some villain. The Niagaras shockingly survived, though they have been rather pathetic. Now, ten years later, I have five plants with thick stems and they seem to be thriving. I couldn’t be happier. Years later, I am finally having enough grapes ripen on the vine to actually bother with. Then a new foe arrived: birds and bugs. I am still traumatized by the birds. A few years ago, I was waiting for the grapes to reach their peak ripeness, and the day before I decided to harvest, they were absolutely ambushed by birds. They didn’t leave a single rotting grape. The year after it was a Biblical plague of grasshoppers. The year after, I literally put every single bunch of grapes into a brown paper bag and sealed them away before wrapping the whole of the vineyard in bird netting. This was exhausting, but it at least gave me enough fruit to try and make wine with. I still haven’t tried the stuff, but I doubt it’s going to be any better than earlier efforts. This year, though, I decided I didn’t give a crap and just set out to enjoy the serenity of the spot. It’s very secluded and relaxing, and I love nothing more than lounging out there in the sun with a book. For whatever reason, probably to drive me absolutely insane, the grapes thrived. They ripened beautifully. They are gorgeous. Last night, I harvested them and could hardly carry the baskets inside. The fruit isn’t cosmetically perfect, but they are something I’m so proud of. I’m using it to make jelly this year. I want to be able to enjoy it for months and months and months. Making jelly is exhausting, but reader, I’m so pleased.

IT Chapter Two:

I don’t think Stephen King intended for his massive book about a murderous clown to be the funniest movie of the year, but for me, that’s what it turned out to be. I’m reading lots of reviews of the movie and this is quickly becoming a consensus. The movie was an absolute hoot. It wasn’t at all scary. Some moments were disturbing, truly and deeply, but these moments came from very real characters. Sexual abuse, spousal abuse, suicide, gay bashing, and more were all awful, but all of these horrible things stemmed from living and breathing humans. The antics of the clown, while murderous as ever, were not nearly so bleak or grim. If anything, it was funny. Like for real. I mean…a little girl getting chomped by Pennywise under the bleachers of a baseball game isn’t exactly cute, but the exchange between the clown and his victims plays out like a stand up routine. In this conclusion of the narrative arc, the Losers, who are now adults, find out that they don’t really have a lot to fear anymore. Life is scary enough and they already beat the clown once, so they can surely do it again. What follows is a series of absurdist vignettes where a statue of Paul Bunyon comes to life and an old woman dances nude like she’d been electrocuted and a pharmacist grabs a mole and wonders if its cancerous and Stephen King himself plays a crotchety antique dealer. None of it was scary. There were jump scares, and there was excellent CGI, and there was an odd moment where a zombie had a knife, but largely this was a laugh. Bill Hader stole the show, and led the humor through the ridiculously lengthy film. And the ending, y’all…the ending was so absurd that nobody in the audience could take it seriously. Pennywise is an alien…or something? And the Native Americans were in on it and failed to stop him? And there’s a leather box for some reason. None of it made any sense, and the feeling of confusion filters throughout the entirety of the movie, robbing it of even more tension. In the final moments, the Losers decide they need to make Pennywise small, so they make fun of him, and he shrinks and shrinks until he is the size of a doll. Then they squeeze his heart and it’s over. Wild. Hilarious. And nonsense. And a hoot. Go see it for a good laugh, don’t go see it for a scare because you will leave disappointed.

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