because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Why I Love Me Some Bad Boys

Posted on

I’ve always had a thing for bad boys. There was the guy with the motorcycle. There was the dude with the tattoos. And there was the fellow who supposedly “did it” with a sheep. Maybe this weird attraction to naughty explains why I have a thing for prison movies.

Cover of "Escape From Alcatraz"
Cover of Escape From Alcatraz

One of the earliest prison movies I remember seeing was Escape From Alcatraz (1979). Based on a true story, Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) is a cunning bank robber who gets caught and is told upon his arrival at Alcatraz that no one ever escapes. From that moment on, Frank is pretty much hell bent on getting off the island alive. I knew I was supposed to reject Frank, but I found him handsome, persistent, creative and intelligent. I wanted him to get off the island. Honestly, I didn’t care if he went back to the streets of California and continued his life of crime. Weird how movies can get you to do that, n’est pas?

Cover of "The Silence of the Lambs (Full ...
Cover via Amazon

I remember seeing Silence of the Lambs (1991) in Buffalo, New York. A poor graduate student, I rarely had money enough to go to the movies but saw this one on a date. Newbie FBI agent, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) has to earn the confidence from the brilliant but wildly psychopathic Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) so that she can stop a serial murderer. What makes SOTL so dang delicious is that there are two hideous bad boys. We have a whack-job sociopath living on the outside with his moth collection, constructing a “skin-suit” out of plus-sized women’s flesh. Then there’s the maniac in a cage: good ole Hannibal Lecter—brilliant, intense, well schooled. And so thirsty for blood. We know they are both crazy as loons and unremorseful. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Cover of "The Shawshank Redemption"
Cover of The Shawshank Redemption

In The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a talented banker, is in prison after being found guilty of murdering his wife and her lover. But as the movie unrolls, we see the real bastard is the warden who finds a way to use Andy’s accounting prowess to doctor the prison books for his personal gain. Like Frank Morris in Escape from Alcatraz, Andy spends every day in prison focused on getting out. He dreams of a life by the sea in a place called Zihuatanejo, and he is able to develop deep friendships while in prison. And we find ourselves rooting for Andy, praying for him to get out of there however he can.

Sidenote: In 1994, I had been dating the same man for nearly three years and knew we would one day marry. After seeing The Shawshank Redemption, we decided that we would travel to Zihutanejo, Mexico for our honeymoon. Yes, our honeymoon destination was based on our shared love for this movie, which was based on my love of bad boys. It should be noted that we arrived in Zihutanejo, we realized the movie had probably not been filmed on location. True story.

Cover of "Dead Man Walking: The Shooting ...
Cover via Amazon

In 1995, my (new) husband and I had been living in New Orleans for two years, so you can imagine my delight when Dead Man Walking came to the big screen. I was excited because there were bad boys and also because there were names like Delecroix and Prejean and Poncelet: names I knew how to properly pronounce and spell. After all, a Robichaux, a Boudreaux, a Naquin, and two Biguenets had sat through my classes. I had driven on Tchoupitoulas, and I just had seen a rodeo at Angola State Prison.

In the movie, Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) admits to being guilty of his heinous crimes. And while the good nun (Susan Sarandon) tries to guide him to salvation, I wanted him to stay bad. Why? I have absolutely no idea. At the time, New Orleans was a dangerous place. Friends had been robbed at gunpoint; my students had been car-jacked; two of my most beloveds had been stuffed in the trunk of a car and almost murdered. There were nightly news reports of tourists being fatally stabbed. And while I loved living in New Orleans, Dead Man Walking reminded me that life was not all about Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, sugar magnolias and crawfish boils. Danger lurked there too. And I liked it.

The Green Mile (film)
The Green Mile (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When my husband and I saw The Green Mile (1999), our son was a newborn. I was emotional. Tom Hanks played Paul Edgecomb, the most-seasoned prison guard at the Louisiana Cold Mountain Penitentiary, the fictional setting loosely based on death row at Angola, Louisiana in the 1930s. I knew nothing about this movie going in. I was expecting a bad boy and didn’t expect John Coffey. Eight feet tall and accused of killing two little girls, viewers immediately recognize that John Coffey is gentle as a lamb and possesses an amazing gift: the ability to take away others’ pain. The real bad guy is not the man behind the bars but prison guard Percy Wetmore, the evil and spoiled nephew of the governor’s wife. I was unprepared for the true horror of The Green Mile: that innocent people can die hideous deaths at the hands of “stupid and mean” people with strong political connections, folks who do things because they can. This movie unnerved me, and I sobbed even after the lights came on in the theatre. Hormones.

Which is the best movie? For me, they’re equally excellent and I can’t pick. In each of these films there is a hope—for escape, redemption, salvation, relief. Sometimes that hope is realized; sometimes it is squashed. All I know is that if the television is on and I hear one line of dialogue from any of these films, everything stops. I stop and sit on my chocolate brown couch, box of Kleenex at my side, to inspect the invisible, thin line where naughty and nice collide.

Who is your favorite bad boy from the movies?

tweet me @rasjacobson

 

Channeling Atticus Finch

Posted on

Nearly 13 years ago, I was very pregnant. And as my 9th grade English class watched a scene from the film To Kill A Mockingbird, I got all weepy. It was a scene in which Atticus, the perfect father, sits on his front porch swing, instructing his daughter, Scout, about something or other, and it occurred to me in that moment – in a very real way – that soon I would be a parent, instructing my own child about life, its soft places and its hard edges.

I started to sob.

How would I ever do it?

Atticus had all the answers.

He had the right words.

Even after the movie ended and somebody had turned the lights on, I kept sniffling while conspicuously chomping on potato chips.

Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but I had a soft spot for one of my freshmen boys and, as my shoulders heaved and I wept hysterically, he pondered aloud:

“I wonder what she needs more: tissues or a salt lick?”

I choked on my snot.

Everyone laughed.

Class ended, and I went to the bathroom to pee pull myself together.

As a parent, I’ve always channeled Atticus. A defender of justice, he fought for it even if he knew he would be beaten in the end.

Atticus argued for big principles like equality and duty, but he never lost sight of the fact that, in the end, it’s human beings and their choices that make equality stand or fall.

And he tried to instill the values in which he believed in his children.

These days, I watch my son and his friends walk to school, and I swear they come home taller each afternoon.

I have done the best I can do with Tech, who just six months ago asked me to stop calling him Monkey.

Lord, give me strength because his questions are becoming harder.

And I am no Atticus Finch.

As I look outside my window this morning, I’d like everything to stay. The trees are undulating softly, and the light reflecting off the leaves is making me squint. Right now, everything is green with possibility. The sun fills me with hope and reminds me of the goodness to come.

Is there a particular scene from a movie that stays with you? That you associate with a time in your life? That has helped you to parent?

Tweet this twit @rasjacobson

SAVE FERRIS from Westley’s Awful Mustache in #MMM2

Posted on
Look Who is Chillin' With Ferris & Cameron

Where have I been all day?

What do you mean?

I’ve been out having a fabulous day, that’s where I’ve been.

Just like Ferris would have wanted me to.

First, I went to Victoria’s Secret and tried on underwear.

It’s true.

Then I had an iced latte.

Then I danced for a while. Afterwards, I took a shower and gave myself a cool hairdo.

I looked a lot like this.

I did.

Seriously.

In case you haven’t heard, Ferris Bueller has made it to the Semi-Finals of Clay Morgan‘s March Movie Madness tournament.

Now Ferris needs your support (again) to make it to the finals of this Best Movie Protagonist competition.

Ferris is up against some stiff competition, namely Westley from The Princess Bride. I can hear you moaning now. Some of you are bound to love The Princess Bride. I know. It’s a great flick, but I have serious reasons as to why Westley needs to go down.

  • Westley has a mustache that looks like a third eyebrow.
  • Westley has a decidedly un-sexy ponytail.
  • Westley is “mostly dead” for much of the movie.

Seriously is this the kind of hero you want to come out on top? Don’t get me wrong, Westley has some witty lines, but I don’t think he is really an epic hero.

So why should you vote for Ferris Bueller?

  • Ferris is always alive during the entire movie. He is never even partially dead.
  • Ferris is always there for his friends and his love.
  • Ferris is never attacked by Rodents of Unusual Size. In fact, Ferris would have been able to charm the rodents and make them love him.
  • Ferris is able to do something to the time/space continuum so that he was able to do more than any one person could do in a single day. That’s because Ferris is magic.
  • Ferris does everything we wish we could have done but were too afraid to do — and he never gets caught.
  • And of course, there’s the whole joie de vivre/seize the day/live life to the fullest because you might not be here tomorrow thing.

So this is (almost) it.

Click over and SAVE FERRIS one more time. You have until noon EST Saturday to do it.

Should Ferris win the whole thing, I will sing a song with all the names of the people who helped bring me to that final victory. So if you’d like to hear your name in song… SAVE FERRIS.

Enjoy this clip my family helped me make to show you how much I am in it to win it.

On an unrelated note, what are you wearing right now?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

Vote Bueller for March Movie Madness 2.

Posted on

I’m in an airplane.

Seriously.

I’m stuck on an airplane right now as Clay Morgan opens the polls for Day 4 of his Second Annual March Movie Madness Contest.

Cover of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off Buelle...
Cover via Amazon

I picked Ferris Bueller as the movie protagonist that I am prepared to fight for.

Because Ferris knows how to be a friend.

He knows how to sweet talk his parents, the lunch lady, and the school nurse.

He always has a Plan A and a Plan B and a Plan C.

Because he is smooth.

He knows how to work the system.

Everyone loves him.

Only Principal Rooney, Ferris’s nemesis, doesn’t appreciate the gifts that Ferris bestows to the world.

Even his sister, who claims to hate him, comes through for Ferris in the end.

So why does everyone love Ferris Bueller?

Because he is on a universal quest to have fun.

He takes risks: not dangerous ones.

He does the crazy, silly things we wish we might be brave enough to do.

It is that kind of ethos that will always triumph.

Sure, Ferris is a rich kid who has almost nothing to complain about.

And guess what? He doesn’t.

He helps his friends overcome their fears.

He shows them love.

And a good time.

He reminds us all to cherish every moment of every day.

And this is why you have to go over to Clay’s blog and vote for me Ferris right now!

The polls open at noon.

I don’t even know who Ferris is up against.

But VOTE FERRIS BUELLER!

Do it for the little, geeky rebellious part of you that aspires to do something a little naughty.

Like sing Danke Schoen in public.

On a float.

And say something nice to Clay while you are there!

Look at the brackets. Who do you think is going all the way? IYKWIM.

Tweet This Twit @rasjacobson

Dirty Movies For Tweens

Posted on
Dude, Where's My Car?
Image via Wikipedia

It’s summer. We’ve had a lot of 11 to 12-year-old boys hanging around the house. When it’s raining, they become basement dwellers playing ping-pong or Legos and K’Nex or Wii. I hear their mutterings.

Not long ago, one of Monkey’s friends was over. Let’s call him Steve-o. (Note, Monkey’s friend’s name is not Steve-o, but he was trying really hard to be cool, and I find that when you add an “o” to anyone’s name, it sometimes achieves that affect. Not always, but sometimes. Try it.)

So Steve-o’s talking about movies he’d recently seen. He announces that he’d just seen Dude, Where’s My Car?

Monkey had never heard of it.

Dude, Where’s My Car? is about two dudes who get totally wasted and forget where they parked their car.

That’s pretty much it. That’s the basic premise.

How do I know this? Because hubby and I once rented it.

(Let the judgment begin. I can take it.)

I feel compelled to tell you a little more about this flick, so if you had big plans to rent it, this is your chance to skip the rest of this post and just answer the question in blue at the bottom.

Monkey’s friend forgot to mention that during the course of the movie, things get a little sci-fi. Not my favorite genre. So, it’s kind of hard for me to recall all the details of the movie because I got up a few times to wash dishes and organize the condiments in the refrigerator, but the stoners meet these gorgeous, large-breasted, female aliens. And honestly, I have no problem with that. Especially when they are wearing really tight, black jumpsuits. Because seriously, that’s hot and what else would gorgeous aliens wear?

That said, I’d imagine this part of the film is probably a lot steamier if one has experienced puberty.

Anyway, the stoners also run into these weirdos who have some kind of Continuum Transfiguration machine cleverly disguised as a Rubik’s cube that accidentally gets activated and, of course, can potentially destroy the universe.

Ninety-six percent of women reading this are rolling their eyes.

This is when I started folding laundry.

Hubby was digging the flick.

At the end the movie, the stoners (of course) save the universe, and they even find their car. Oh, and the aliens erase everyone’s memories (of course) but leave gifts for the stoners’  girlfriends which are actually for our young slackers’ enjoyment: breast enhancement necklaces.

Okay, fine. Whatever.

As we ate our respective salads, I asked Monkey’s pal, “So Steve-o, do you think that movie is appropriate for people your age?”

Steve-o hesitated. “I’m not really sure. I mean my parents didn’t know my little brother and I were watching it. We just downloaded it from Netflix to the Wii.”

I didn’t even know that was possible.

(Note to self: Figure out how to not make that happen.)

Steve-o continued, “It did have a transsexual stripper in it so maybe it’s not for really little kids. But it sure was funny.” He smiled to himself. Then he looked up at me in all earnestness and said, “At least it was funny until my dad caught us. I’ll probably never know how that movie ends.”

Realizing he’d never know the planet was saved, I felt kinda bad for Steve-o.

I wondered should I tell him about the Breast Enhancement Necklaces.

Instead, I stuck a big forkful of salad in my mouth. You know, to silence myself.

What is the most inappropriate movie you have ever caught your children watching? Or you watched (or tried to watch) as a kid?

Guest Post by Sarah Giarraputo Fischer: How Zombieland Helps Folks Survive an Educational Job Search

Posted on
Job Search Inspired By Zombieland

Today’s guest blogger is one of my former students from my days at Metairie Park Country Day School. The daughter of two educators, Sarah Giarraputo Fischer is now all grown up and working her butt off really hard, trying to land a teaching position.

Sarah & her son Gibson

A wife and mother, Sarah offers hope to wanna-be teachers who find themselves praying for old teachers to retire, get fired or die so they might take over their classrooms. Okay, maybe kindhearted souls like Sarah aren’t hoping for old teachers (like me) to shrivel up and die, but she is definitely eager to get into her own classroom, and she has some great tips to offer. And, wouldn’t you know, like Clay Morgan (my last guest blogger), she found inspiration in  Zombieland.

So you want to be a teacher…

Well get ready for the roller coaster ride of your life. Oh, I am not talking about teaching; I’m talking about the job search! Cliché but true, my friends. If you are in the market for a teaching job, you need to have a thick skin, be creative and – when necessary – be a bit, well, ballsy.

After I graduated college, I spent a year in New York City (2001) trying to make it in the non-profit sector before setting out to look for a teaching position at an independent school. Without very much effort on my part, I was scooped up by a boarding school to teach English, run the dance program, serve as a dorm parent, and spend 24/7 on the campus. I was willing, able and ready to work for what seemed like a great deal – (after that year in New York City, a job that included room and board was basically impossible to turn down).

Now almost ten years after my first teaching job search, I am ready to go back into the classroom, but I am no longer a spring chicken. With a Master’s degree under my belt, four years of classroom teaching experience, and over four years non-profit management experience, I have a lot to offer. But I also expect decent pay and benefits plus time to spend with my family. I can no longer sell my soul to the school for nothing and, in many ways, that puts me at a disadvantage in this market.

Like most people, I hate the job search process. In fact, I feel the whole system is set up to make candidates feel like they are less than competent.

So how do I survive and why might you care what I have to say? Well, first of all – like you – I am in the thick of it. And second, I recruited, interviewed and placed AmeriCorps members for the past three years as teacher and tutors in Adult Education and ESL programs, so I have had the “privilege” of being on both sides of the job search.

In order to stay positive and engaged in my job search, I looked to the soon-to-be classic Zombieland for inspiration (trust me the similarities between scenes of the undead in Zombieland and one of the larger search firm’s job fairs are numerous). And so I give you my three top rules for surviving the educational job search:

Rule #1: ENDURANCE. Just like characters in the film needed solid cardio to out-run zombies and other undead creatures, a person needs endurance to survive the job search. In Zombieland, all the fat folks were the first ones to get eaten – and the same can be said of those who expect a job to come easily and quickly. If you are not ready for some long days, hard work, and serious emotional ups and downs you might as well get eaten. Regardless of your teaching field (even the math and science folks are facing steep competition these days), the process seems to be a long one this year. There are simply more candidates with a variety of backgrounds on the hunt.

Rule #2: IF YOU HAVE MULTIPLE TALENTS, USE THEM. In Zombieland, people need to be ready to kill the undead with whatever implement is handy at the time. This can range for a pair of hedge clippers to a piano. In the job search, you never know what will get an employer’s attention, so do not be afraid to show off your unique qualifications. I have landed interviews because of my experience with community service, my ability to coach soccer, my experience running a Dance program and – most importantly this hiring season – because I have taught English and History. As more schools are striving for a more interdisciplinary approach, I am looking good.

[WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!]: That being said, be wary. The more you do, the more schools will ask you to do and if you happen to have a life or want one outside of work, you need to be careful about the contract you sign. You do not want to land what seems like the perfect job only to realize you have sold your soul. Engaging in a school community is a variety of ways is important (and I think the best educational practice for reaching students), but in order to be your best you need some balance in your life. This may be obvious to many, but when the market gets tough, I find myself trying to please to the point that I end up being unhappy.

Rule #3: ENJOY THE LITTLE THINGS. This rule is straight out of Zombieland but, hey, they got it right. Just like you have to let off a little steam in Zombieland in order to deal with battling the undead everyday, I encourage job-seekers to make the search more fun. This is not to say that you should not take the search seriously, but rather that you should not take yourself too seriously. This is especially if you have registered with one of the big teacher search agencies and have to attend one of their job fairs.

Personally, I dislike the impersonal corporate style of many of the big search agencies. Sitting at a conference sending little colored slips of paper and emails to perspective schools while having weird somewhat stilted conversations with other candidates who happen to be your competition is not my idea of fun, even if I have multiple interviews lined up. However, it is exactly this situation where Rule #3 is most practical. While sitting at a table of experienced teachers, take time to strike up a conversation and poke a little fun at the fresh-faced newbies. After all, they are willing to do more for less and might be taking your job so you might as well get a laugh out of it. If you are new to the scene, use the job fair as a networking event. You never know you might just find you true love sitting across the table while you both wait anxiously for an interview.

Also, do not forget to get out of the building and take some time off to enjoy whatever city you are in. This will make you much happier and more engaging when you return. Remember, no one wants to work with someone who does not have a sense of humor and, while the employer cares about your credentials, they also need to know that you would be a good colleague.

So those are my thoughts and rules for what they are worth. To those of you out there looking for a job, any job, keep up the good fight! We can do this! We can survive! And with any luck, eventually we will one day look back on the whole process and smile.

So how did Sarah do? What other tips can people offer to wanna-be teachers in this market?

Guest Post by Clay Morgan: Lessons From a Pop Teacher & a Few Zombies

Posted on

Today’s guest blogger is Clay Morgan from EduClaytion.com. Besides being one of my very first cyber-friends in the bloggersphere, Clay is an amazing educator. He is a revolutionary. You know that game six-degrees of separation? Well, in the world of bloggers, it seems nearly everyone knows Clay. He gets around. Today he is sharing his thoughts about using Pop Culture in the classroom.

As a teacher, I’m often amazed at what pools of knowledge I must dive into in order to effectively communicate with my students.

Just the other day I was giving a lecture on Europe after World War II. Many of the students were fading and staring blankly in my general direction. I was about to explain one of the most important parts of the entire course and needed them alert and free of mental paralysis.

Good thing I know so much about zombies.

I’m not referring to the students although any teacher doing the job for a while knows what it’s like to stand before a room of pupils imitating the undead. I’m talking about the zombies of culture, specifically movies.

See, I needed to explain the crisis of Germany after Hitler’s death in 1945. Nations like America and England recognized the importance of a strong German nation, strength that was critical to European recovery. At the same time, someone had to keep an eye on nasty Joe Stalin and the Soviet Union.

But those pesky Russians and their nervous cohorts in France were sick of Germany. They despised the nation that had brought war on them twice in a quarter century. Tens of millions had already been killed. They thought letting those Germans come back again was just asking for global destruction. Plenty of folks wanted Germany turned into a parking lot surrounded by fields.

History as Yawnsville

So I’m teaching this anti-German plan named for U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau. Students must understand these events to get a grasp of the Cold War, our centerpiece for the rest of the semester. They didn’t seem too enthused. Then I remembered Zombieland.

Most of my students haven’t seen the greatest films ever made about WWII such as Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, or Life is Beautiful.

But they have seen Zombieland, a 2009 flick in which Jesse Eisenberg (the guy from Social Network) plays Columbus—a college student trying to survive in a zombie dominated world.

Columbus lives by about 30 rules, the most famous of which is probably #4: Double tap. You might not know what that means, but my college students do. It means shoot twice when the walking dead want you to join them. It means be certain that the monster you just defeated doesn’t get back up.

History that Pops

Do you see where I’m going with this?

My class was alive and kicking when I told them that the Morgenthau Plan was the 20th century attempt to double tap. Germany was the zombie. This analogy led to a great discussion on world power and how we should handle those responsible for human atrocities. My students will never forget the stakes of the post-war world with such a powerful visualization. Based on past experience, I have a feeling I’ll get an email in a couple years thanking me for a good class and joking about double tap.

Some education types say that movie references have no place in an academic setting. My question to them would be whether or not they want to connect with students or not. The past couple generations have been saturated in culture. It’s long been in our heads and now it’s in the palm of our hands.

Students live and breathe this stuff, so why not make it work for us? The best way to teach someone what they do not understand is by using what they do. You wouldn’t walk into a Chinese classroom and expect the students to understand your English. Same thing goes in Western classrooms. If you fail to speak their language, you will not be heard.

Applications for using pop culture in educational settings are only limited by our creativity. That’s why a bunch of us started PopTeacher.com, to pool together the best ideas out there so we’ll have a nice reservoir of ideas to dive into.

I expected opposition and ignorance from naysayers. I was even prepared to double tap their arguments. I did not expect such a fabulous response so quickly.

Clay Morgan, Superstar

PopTeacher.com has already been featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and I’m now being asked to speak at collegiate conferences about these ideas. That’s pretty funny because my pedagogical strategy consists of a) showing up for work and b) being myself.

The best response has come from dozens of teachers—grade school to higher ed—who are eager to share their experiences and ideas. More email comes in every week.

Teaching as a career is a grind that can wear us down. Then we risk getting tired and disconnecting. We lose effectiveness when that happens. Why not have some fun and dive into our bountiful culture? You never know where the interests of others will lead a discussion. You might even find a way to bring a group to life by talking about the undead.

So what do you think? Do you like the way Clay thinks? Would you want to be a student in his class? Have you ever been in a class where the teacher used Popular Culture references? What do you remember? Or do you think this kind of approach dumbs down our educational system?

Clay will field your comments today.