May 31, 2005

race in the movies

Back in 1989 I saw the definitive movie about the late 1980s operation of race in America, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. Yesterday I saw one of the first truly powerful post-9/11 movies about race in America, Crash. Here's the IMDb summary:

Several stories interweave during two days in Los Angeles involving a collection of inter-related characters: a black police detective with a drugged out mother and a car-thieving younger brother, the brother and his partner-in-crime who is constantly theorizing on society and race, the distracted district attorney and his irritated and pampered wife, a racist veteran cop (caring for a sick father at home) who disgusts his more idealistic younger partner, a successful black Hollywood director and his wife who must deal with the racist cop, an Iranian-immigrant father who buys a gun to protect his shop, an Hispanic locksmith and his young daughter who is afraid of bullets, and more.
At first glance, one may think that the movie has too much going on to convey effective stories and lessons about race, but it all comes together very nicely. Each character has nuances that prevent her/him from being typecast as Good or Bad. That in itself is a reason to check out this movie....

Posted by wrjacobs at 3:52 PM

May 26, 2005

start of summer

When does summer start? Officially, it's June 21. Unofficially, many regard Memorial Day (May 30) as the beginning of summer fun. Those affiliated with the U of Minnesota may think summer started either at the end of the spring semester (May 14) or at the start of May term classes (May 23). For me, it's today, May 26. Why? Yesterday saw the end of the 2004-2005 broadcast TV season, with finales of popular shows on Fox and ABC. I watched Alias and Lost on Fox; the former was surprisingly more engaging than the latter, as the two-hour Lost was long on filler and short on answers to season-long mysteries. Oh well, at least I have my summer shows to enjoy now, starting with the premiere of The 4400 on June 5....

Posted by wrjacobs at 2:00 PM

May 24, 2005

conclusion of Star Wars

Like a million other people, over the weekend I saw Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I liked it, of course (since the 1977 original launched me into a life-long love for sci-fi). I also found myself in line with the general reception of the 6-episode series: people who are over 30 generally prefer the original trilogy (eps. IV, V, and VI), while those under 30 like the post-1999 entries (eps I, II, and III) better. Perhaps a third trilogy should be attempted to unite the two groups?

Posted by wrjacobs at 1:41 PM

May 18, 2005

road rage, Minnesota style

The time: Tuesday, May 18, 2005. 8:45 A.M.

The place: Downtown Minneapolis, MN. Rain-slicked 2nd Ave. at 7th St.

The participants: Two White men, one in a station wagon and the other a UPS driver.

The action, part I: As the UPS truck was coming to a stop at a red light, the station wagon cuts in front of it and the driver slams on the brakes. UPS driver honks and brakes.

The action, part II: UPS driver gets out and walks to the front passenger side of the station wagon. He makes eye contact and yells, "Did you just get your license today!?" He then gets back in the truck and waits for the light to turn green.

The analysis: There was no cursing, no wild gesturing, no car ramming. "Minnesota Nice" is alive and well.

Posted by wrjacobs at 10:56 AM

May 17, 2005

public art silent rally


Yesterday I was a first-time participant in a public art display, where supporters of General College held signs of "the faces of GC." It was supposed to be a silent rally outside of a public hearing about The U's strategic positioning plans, but several people stopped to chat with us. Then at the end of the rally one supporter started yelling at departing administrators, which was not so cool. Aside from that, though, it was a very positive atmosphere!

Posted by wrjacobs at 10:35 AM

May 16, 2005

the first Narnia movie has posted a trailer for the first movie adaptation of a book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. These are my favorite children's books of all time, ones that I've read half a dozen times (at least). It was very strange watching the trailer today, as -- of course -- the actors and sets don't match my imagination at all. I'll adjust eventually, and will probably love the movie; I already think that Tilda Swinton will be smashing as Jadis the White Witch!

Posted by wrjacobs at 3:49 PM

May 12, 2005

teaching as extortion

Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum's short story "Accomplice" contains an interesting argument:

Teaching...[is] a form of extortion; you [are] forever trying to extract from your students something they [don't] want to part with: their attention, their labor, their trust.

The main character -- Ms. Hempel -- is a 7th grade teacher, but her thoughts are also applicable to students throughout the educational spectrum...even in higher ed. One of the nice things about receiving tenure is gaining more freedom to experiment with ways to work with student resistance. Hopefully after the strategic positioning battles end GCers will have a positive space in which to do that.

Posted by wrjacobs at 4:20 PM

May 10, 2005

May TV sweeps

May is traditionally the wrap-up month for network TV, so all sorts of interesting stuff is happening with my shows. Yesterday, for example, on 24 the terrorists launched a nuclear missle inside the U.S., and tomorrow on Lost the castaways will open The Hatch. It's a fun week for the most part, but then Friday marks the end of 18 years of continuous Star Trek programming, as Star Trek: Enterprise airs its series finale.

Posted by wrjacobs at 9:36 AM

May 7, 2005

strategic positioning

The president of the University of Minnesota has released his strategic positioning recommendations to advance a goal of becoming a leading public university (top 3 in the world). He pretty much followed the recommendations released in March by two strategic positioning task forces. The only new idea was a proposal to establish a vice president for diversity. Of course, this person will probably not have any real power, but it'll look good on paper....

Posted by wrjacobs at 12:56 PM

May 5, 2005

save GC sit-in

Efforts to save the General College reached a new level when 9 students were arrested after staging a sit-in at the President's office yesterday. For more 411, see a Minnesota Daily account of the events, and the "Take a Left" blog for pictures and commentary. The student organizers of the protest also have a web page that's starting to take shape.

Posted by wrjacobs at 10:20 AM

May 2, 2005

Twin Cities hidden places

The latest TV commercial in the "searching for Mr. Goodwrench" ad series is supposedly set in Minneapolis-St.Paul, but there is a mountain range in the background. Since moving to the Twin Cities in 1999 I have never spotted any mountains, but today I rolled over to St. Paul to look for some. No luck with that, but I did discover a cool hidden neighborhood in the Summit Hill area. I'm calling it "hidden" because I've driven past one of Summit Avenue's unnamed side streets (it actually looks more like an alley) hundreds of times, but today followed it down a steep hill to a few houses that are barely visible through dense foliage. I've got to get some more 411 on this place!

Posted by wrjacobs at 1:09 PM