Stuff I'm Thinking About On the First Day of School

Classes start again today. That wailing and gnashing of teeth you hear is probably coming from our apartment. Don't get me wrong-- I love my job and I'm excited about the classes I'm teaching this semester. But the first day of the spring semester is never as exciting as the first day of the fall semester. Oh, sure, there are similarities-- the computer network can't support everyone trying to get on and register for classes, traffic will surely be a nightmare as students and faculty try to find the lots closest to the buildings their classes are being held in, I will likely wear a tie for the only time the entire semester. But you don't get the wide-eyed, overwhelmed freshmen who are so charming in their confused excitement. You don't see people hugging on campus 'cause they haven't seen each other in three months. In general, the first day of the spring semester just isn't the event that the first day of the fall semester is. Plus, that break between semesters was just too darn short, what with MLA and the holidays and then prepping the new syllabuses.

Oh, well. At the beginning of last semester, I posted some back-to-school videos. Here's another one-- Emily's all-time favorite.

I will say that I expect that my classes will be pretty damn awesome this semester-- I'm teaching the undergraduate nonfiction workshop once a week on our Davie campus, on Monday afternoons. And then I'm teaching a special topics course on "The 20th Century American Experience in Memoir," which is going to be awesome (though, potentially, a lot of work for the students. And me, I suppose). Two classes that totally play to my strengths as a creative nonfiction guy. Plus, I get to read This Boy's Life again for the first time in years, which is a big plus.

Anyway. What else is on my mind today? Glad you asked-- I had an interesting conversation with my father last night (who turns 60 today, by the way). My father, to my knowledge, has never voted for a Democrat. He even registered as a Democrat one year so he could vote in the Democratic primary, just so he could vote against Mondale twice. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to hear that-- like a lot of people-- he really dislikes the current crop of Republican presidential contenders (though he would vote for McCain, he said), and plans on voting Democrat for, like, the first time this year. Now, to be fair, it's not just that the Republicans suck ass this year-- my father (though he'd be loathe to admit it) has become a lot more liberal in recent years as a result of having a grown daughter, a wife who's pro-choice, and an out-of-the-closet gay son (it was this last one that had the biggest impact on him, I think-- my dad never disliked gay people before my brother came out, but gay marriage is now a big issue for him in a way it never would have been otherwise). Still, it was odd to hear my father say, "I think Obama's going to be a terrific president-- like FDR or Reagan." For a few reasons, actually.

Other thoughts? You're soaking in them!

One of my favorite things to do last year was go on message boards devoted to pop culture, movies, comic books, etc. to read people's responses to news about The Transformers movie as information leaked out. I didn't see the movie, but I understand that it was kind of a train wreck (to be fair, though, it's the kind of train wreck that turns into a robot wreck). Still, it was always funny to read grown men complaining about all the changes being made to their beloved action figure franchise. People kept talking about Michael Bay "raping" their childhoods. I read one commenter lament that the filmmakers were taking an awesome idea and "dumbing it down and gaying it up." I even read one guy who claimed that you couldn't possibly make an effective Transformers movie with anything less than an R-rating-- the premise just didn't lend itself to a film suitable for children.

Um... yeah.

Anyway, I bring this up because director Stephen "Van Helsing" Sommers is directing a film version of G.I. Joe for release next year, and I think the irrational online hatred is already threatening to overshadow the goofy rage hurled at Transformers. To be honest, I'm not all that enthusiastic about seeing a movie from this guy starring Sienna Miller and Marlon Wayans either (if this report is to be believed). But come on-- it's G.I.-fucking-Joe. I'm not the target audience, as I am not:

a) a child
b) entertained by simple-minded war narratives aimed at children
c) a 38-year-old ninja enthusiast who still lives with his parents
d) totally stupid

Not that there's anything wrong with those things, of course.

Anyway, if you click on the link I provided, check out the comments section. These people are pissed. If we could channel that rage into doing something about a problem in the real world, I think we could make the world a better place. But it's not just would-be film critics with terrible taste and a DSL connection who are furious. Although I hate to kick a man when he's down (no, I don't), check out Glenn Beck's response to the news that the film version of G.I. Joe would feature Americans working side-by-side with an international cast of heroes. "We all know that the U.N. is a toothless bunch of pansies," Beck said in his best Comic Book Store Guy voice. "They don't deserve somebody like Joe, even the little plastic version." I believe he went on to say "Worst. International Peace Keeping and Anti-Terrorism Unit. Ever."

Anyway. What a rambling, directionless blog post. I must be preoccupied thinking about Montaigne and Lopate and Baldwin and Didion and all those other people I haven't thought about in a couple weeks. Though speaking of nonfiction, I've begun updating my nonfiction blog, The Ethical Exhibitionist, again. New poll is up too, asking for your favorite online literary magazine. So stop by, if you have any opinion.

And now, I guess, I'd better get in the shower, then see if I can still fit into my "teaching khakis" after the past few weeks of holiday eating and avoiding the treadmill.

Happy first day of school, Amy, Brian, Shannon, Emily, SJ, and anyone else returning to campus today.

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