2.5 hours after The Final Countdown played over our PA system to celebrate the end of the school year, I was done. I had cleaned my room, boxed my stuff. Many students left me lovely and thoughtful notes in my yearbook and on my white boards. A few gave me nice gifts, as well: a travel photo album, a copy of Maphead by Ken Jennings, and a generous gift to Barnes & Noble, to name a few. But what I was really leaving with as I walked out of that building was a stomach full of butterflies. Half of the butterflies were flitting around, anticipating the incredible journey that was about to begin; the other half felt like stone in my belly, weighing me down with the anxieties that could have kept me there for next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. Driving out of that parking lot provoked another What have I done!? moment, truth be told. But I knew, too, that what my coworkers had said was true, and will continue to be: Don’t be sad! You’re moving forward!
I had the privilege to work with some of the most caring and dedicated teachers on the planet, and to teach some of the most thoughtful and motivated students. If any of you are reading this, thanks. For teaching me about how to be a better person, a better teacher and a host of other valuable lessons. I will miss you.
I’m starting my huge clothing purge. I intend to keep only the things I really want upon my return home. It’s amazing how many items of clothing I own that I rarely wear! So far, all the stuff I want to keep fit into 2 drawers. Still have the closet and shoes to do, but I think I’m going to be in good shape for my packing…everything I don’t keep will be sold at a mega yard sale I plan to have in June, which is coming right up!
Other things I’ve checked off my list include making doc appointments, ordering a credit card (amazingly, my very first–bring on the rewards programs!) and talking to my bank and car insurance company. Productive week!
I read the Hunger Games for a few different reasons.
1) I love young adult books. This passion doesn’t even have anything to do with my job teaching young adults; I just have always loved young adult literature, and when a new series comes out that all my kids are reading, I try to check it out.** I could rattle a list of some of my favorite books ever written,*** and a number of them would be targeted at around the age of 12. I’m not going to worry too much about what this says about my intellect. That may be for another reflection.
1a) As an added bonus to part one, I have to admit: it allows me to connect with my students in a different way.I guess it’s cool or something when I can answer whether I’m Team Peeta or Team Gale (answer: at first, Team Gale, but eventually, Team Peeta won my heart).
Okay, I guess that’s only one-and-a-half reasons, but whatever. They’re good ones.
The thing that I really liked about Hunger Games was how political it was. There was a lot of exploration as to how and when a revolution starts, and what kind of message the people in power have to use to obtain their goals. Katniss is a BAMF, sure, but more than Katniss, I liked that she was part of something bigger than herself. I loved the symbolism, especially. The Games symbolize something. The mockingjay symbolizes something. But so much of that symbolism, and the protagonist’s feelings about what’s going on around her, are all internally written in the book (for those of you who haven’t read it, it’s written in a first person narrative). So when it came down to watching the movie, I felt that the adaptation neglected a lot of weighty themes that the book was much more clear about. (For a really hilarious read about someone else reading Hunger Games, I highly recommend going to this blog post. I laughed out loud so many times, and wished I were as clever.)
Considering my complaints, though, I realize that it must be so difficult to adapt a book to screen, especially books with such a following. It always helps to have the author on hand to consult, as many successful adaptations do, but sometimes that doesn’t matter, either. And to be fair, I did enjoy the Hunger Games movie mostly. I really liked the Gamemakers’ depictions, and Seneca Crane had some sweet facial hair. Also, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman was GENIUS. Love that man.
So, below you’ll find my short list of well-adapted movies from heartily beloved books in no particular order.
Pride & Prejudice. I think for a feature length film, the recent version of P&P did a pretty good job. Not necessarily as brilliant or comprehensive as the BBC version, but hey, they only had 2 hours and had to deal with Kiera Knightley and her dumb fish mouth that she can’t manage to fully close 98% of the time.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts 1 & 2. I’m a huge HP fan. Sirius Black’s wanted poster is hanging in my classroom. I frequently refer to the Latin in HP when I teach. The first few HP movies were pretty painful. As much as I loved Chris Columbus’ direction of Home Alone, it didn’t seem suited for Hogwarts, and the first Harry Potter film I enjoyed was Prisoner of Azkaban. But I can definitely get on board with the 2-part finale thing, so that that directors and screenwriters can cover more ground and stay truer to the books. Also, by the time they were in their early 20’s, Rupert, Emma and Daniel (yes, we’re on a first-name basis) had grown into their element. So had Neville Longbottom, but we won’t expand on that…
The Phantom Tollbooth. Amazing book. Wonderful cartoon. The end.
The Witches. Another young adult book, originally written by Roald Dahl. I saw this movie as a kid and was slightly traumatized by the fact that Anjelica Huston apparently had no toes, but eventually got over it.
Fight Club. In my Literature & Film class, Chuck Palahniuk’s frenetic and violent book was on our syllabus. The movie was already on my list of greats, despite my general avoidance of overly violent films. So this was a scenario of having seen the movie long before reading the book, and loving the movie all the same. Reading the book lent a better lens to a lot of the film, but David Fincher did an amazing job capturing the rawness of the book, as well as the little details about the characters. The casting was spot on, too. It was nice to see Helena Bonham Carter not act in a Tim Burton film for once.
To Kill A Mockingbird. This has got to be a no-brainer. Not only is this one of the greatest books ever written by an American author, who has somehow managed to remain a recluse for the past forty or so years, it is also one of the absolute greatest American films ever. In fact, in 2003, Atticus Finch was voted #1 movie hero by the American Film Institute. That restores my faith in humanity a bit. I teach parts of this book in my class, and I am always so moved by the truths the film and book both exhibit so flawlessly.
My favorite movie adaptation of all time, hands down, is A Room With A View. Anyone who knows me well knows that this is one of my top five favorite books probably ever. The fact that I was a young woman changed by experiences in Italy, just like Lucy Honeychurch was, has little bearing on this (false). The script’s dialogue stays sharp and the writing is clean. It sticks to the story. Helena Bonham Carter here is a delicate, naive young woman, and this is possibly one of Daniel Day Lewis’ best roles, as the horribly annoying and pretentious Cecil. Dame Judy Dench plays the outrageous novelist, Eleanor Lavish, who flaunts lines like, “A young girl, transfigured by Italy! And why shouldn’t she be transfigured? It happened to the Goths!” And Maggie Smith, doing her best prudish chaperone impressions. So. Good.
**For the record, I highly recommend the Percy Jackson series.
***The Phantom Tollbooth and The Westing Game will forever be two of the greatest books ever written. Period.
Never have I visited a place where boating is such an important form of travel. We took a high speed boat to Hydra and back, we took a huge ferry to Santorini and back, and those ten-hour-long day ferries can certainly be a challenge. So, these are my recommendations of what to do (i.e. things we did both on the way to Santorini and back) to keep from getting too bored on a ferry boat:
a. explore your floating hotel
b. stay hydrated
c. nap on the floor of one of the lounges
d. dry your socks (at least, until a porter tells you to move them)
e. rehash adventures
f. brainstorm short stories
g. eat a snack, preferably of ice cream
h. stain clothes with said ice cream, which, of course, is chocolate
i. chat with fellow passengers! Especially the ones with cool but nearly unintelligible Scottish accents
j. purchase a Borges story on the Kindle
k. translate and discuss said Borges story
l. if options j. and k. are unavailable, READ A BOOK for heaven’s sake! I hope you brought one.
m. ALWAYS, when possible, WATCH THE SUNSET
n. (N is for Necessary) keep good company. Time will fly. 🙂
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave/O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, yes it does.
Another Fourth of July away from home. As I’ve grown older, I’ve understood better the importance of this holiday. In childhood, we had our annual block party. Typical neighborhood gathering, we kids would decorate our bikes with streamers and wear our red, white & blue colors. We’d parade around the park as a community, singing the national anthem, Yankee Doodle and lots of other traditional patriotic songs. A gathering to read the Declaration of Independence followed, and every year, my mother would dutifully enlarge our own version of the Declaration so we all could sign it and write our places of birth. I always had fun, but as an adult (I guess) I’ve learned to treasure the meaning behind the ritual more than the ritual itself. I was so glad that I was able to spend time in two cities that were so instrumental in our history and continue to be important in the American fabric.
We celebrated the Fourth from the top of a hill, overlooking the entire Hudson River Valley. I have never seen fireworks like this: we could literally see the fireworks shows for every town. And they were tiny! I tried taking a video, but it was practically useless in the dark. It was like miniature versions of fireworks, just for us.
If I hadn’t lost my will to blog about this, since it’s not as timely as it was about 2 weeks ago, I will give nutshells of my wonderful trip to Concord & Boston to visit my dear friend and former roommate, Ploy.
- Walk to Minuteman Park. Ah, America, I love to be reminded of your courageous and revolutionary roots.
- Lots of eating. Seriously, lots. Macaroni & cheese & hot dog & huge ice cream=delicious but wayyyyy full.
- World Cup! Soccer! Yay!
- Cooking and evening dance at Endicott College in Beverly, MA, which hosts the annual Beantown Camp. Had some really stellar dances.
- Sunday all day in Boston! Aquarium, Duck Tour (yay! I recommend it for those of you who go to Boston!), pizza & a movie.
- Shopping! (Holy crap, $10 Anthropologie slacks. TEN DOLLARS. IMPOSSIBLE. I thought I was riding the Heart of Gold and taking advantage of the infinite improbability drive, seriously.
- More eating: awesome lobster bisque, crab cakes, fish, dessert, etc.
- Toy Story 3! If you haven’t seen it, go. for real. Especially if you grew up loving those movies, or if you have kids, or just love Pixar and excellent animation. Superior.
Really, though, it was wonderful to visit Boston. I feel like that’s another city I need to spend more time in, since New York has stolen my heart, I feel like I didn’t give it as fair a shot as I should have. American history really resounds on the East coast, and even though our history is not quite as…well, old…as the history I am used to studying, it is mine. It is ours. So, being there where battles had taken place, where great men and women had died for the beliefs that founded our country, was humbling.
This week was full of exams, but Wednesday was a treat. We went to Tivoli to see the Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa. When we got to Hadrian’s Villa, the workers were striking in the morning so we had to drive to the other villa, where we saw the most incredible series of fountains that were inspired by other old antiquity-related stuff. One was once an organ fountain that played, another has owls and birds run around it, another has a mini replica of Rome and its monuments…and it was all powered by natural water pressure.
Hadrian’s Villa was basically the most ridiculous set of ruins I’ve seen other than the Roman forum. It was HUGE. There were baths and a little oasis-like islandy place where Hadrian would go to get away from it all, etc. etc. And he designed it, which is quite a feat, although its construction took just as long as his reign as emperor.
Tomorrow we go to Perugia with Dr. Soren, awesome UA prof who rocks. This weekend is a food festival here in Orvieto.
I hope all is well and know that I miss and love you all!
Our trip to Bratislava went like this:
1: arrive at the train station
2: look around and wonder, “why the heck did we decide to come here?”
3: check into our hostel and meet some other travelers who seemed nice
4: begin exploring the city and continue to think “why? why bratislava?”
5: find parliament and its beautiful gardens
6: receive help from a few friendly slovaks
7: begin to like bratislava
8: find the castle and an artisans festival
9: begin to really like bratislava
10: explore old town and decide bratislava is beautiful and quaint
11: eat dinner at a highly-recommended restaurant but have to wait 1.5 hours for food, which makes bratislava go down a few notches. however, the food is good.
12: back to the hostel and go out with a huge group of brits and aussies (and one italian)
13: go to a shopping mall the next day and find some cute things
14: receive misinformation about train times, but finally end up in vienna where i took my train to frankfurt and traveled the next day to arrive safely with my bags in mulhouse, where i am until friday, at which point i go to rome to start school!
overall it was a blast traveling with jess, we had a few hours here and there where it was rocky but it could have been much, much worse. i should be getting skype as soon as i get to rome, as well as a new phone number. right now i do have access to aim, so ill be on that a bit for the next few nights.
love to all.