Tuesday, October 17, 2006

EDUCATION: Kill all the Shakespeareans

Not a day doesn't go by that I don't have to stop and repeat something I've said, usually in plainer, less accurate terms, because some high-school educated person I'm talking to doesn't get what I am saying.

I'm hardly William F. Buckley, but for comparative purposes, my level of language is akin to Elizabethan English to too many 'educated' youngsters and young adults. It makes me wonder WHAT we are teaching in English class in high school today. I hear lots of Shakespeare and I shudder.

Shakespeare wrote in a dialect of English that no longer exists. It bears only a passing resemblance to what is spoken today and is taught as a sop to the teachers that educated our teachers. It's almost like an initiation process. "I had to put up with Shakespeare and for the one of You in this class that will become an English major and eventually a teacher, You are going to have to go through this too". Better they be stripped naked and be forced to run a gauntlet of their peers with tomahawks. Less florid speeches that turn off most students and more attention to getting all students to communicate effectively in today's workplace would be a giant first step in repairing education.

Before you scholars take to your keyboards in righteous anger, let me point out that I have NO problem with teaching Shakespeare in history. I think it would be boring there too, but it has a place there. It's relatively entertaining prose from a language that became that, that we speak today. The EVOLUTION of language is a historical subject. And it should make up a section in some year's historical curriculum. ONE SECTION. Not a semester's worth in each of three or four years.

Was ol' Will a wonderful wordsmith? Leaving aside the slight chance that his authorship was a fraud, I'd say yes. Some of the tropes we are ALL too familiar with today in our entertainment, seem to trace back to Shakespeare. But then again, there really are only seven different stories, and choice of language and/or dialect doesn't change that. Our educational system's devotion to Shakespeare has blinded the educators to the fact that student's don't read it, if unforced. Save for the one future English teacher in the student body.

Contemporary literature might be a minefield of mediocrity and modern magazines and newspapers a monument to short attention spans, but it IS the reading material students WILL be buying and consuming. Teaching good from bad, literate from eubonic pablum, honest from deceitful ... wouldn't THAT be a more effective use of the time we USED to call Language Arts?

TV: The New Tuesday - Are you ready for some FOOTBALL!!

Nope! Not a mistake. Tuesday night is Football night redux, at least as far as the new TV shows this fall go. I might have been looking forward to CBS's Smith, but I stayed for NBC's Friday Night Lights, the small-screen version of the movie of the same name.

Bluntly, it's the only new show Tuesdays will continue to bring into the house. Even if I have to tape it to watch House and NCIS. It's like The OC with a purpose and a Texas twang. Forget the football, it's a teen soap opera with believable parents (faves Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton). Too many people see the SF label and bypass Battlestar Galactica. This one's stuck with the pigskin outline on its rear. Get over your dislike for sports shows that ain't for real. This is one for the VCR while you watch your REAL Tuesday at 8 favourite.

One of the VERY BEST SHOWS ON TV ANYWHERE (have I got your attention?) is Hustle, the British caper show, shown on this side of the Atlantic in hacked apart one-hour shows (it needs 90 minutes to show the full British episode). It's through three (regrettably short) seasons and coming back for more. Just about every other theft-inspired show over 'ere seems to die part way through the first season. Well, at least since It Takes a Thief. I had high hopes for Smith. Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, a moody movie approach, some appealing secondary characters given life by Amy Smart, Simon Baker and Frankie G. And it plopped. Big Time. No chemistry between the intense Liotta and the expressionless Madsen. Smart's character wasn't very smart. And it wasn't the little things that set the authorities onto the caper crew, it was a spot-on ID by a child-hood friend that Smart's character neglected to mention to the rest of her high-end team. It was the first casualty of the year, although I watched it to the bitter end (okay, it WAS only three shows).

What should have been the first casualty was the show I could only watch a half of. ABC deserves a bad chastising for releasing Ted Danson's dreadful Help Me, Help You on to an unsuspecting viewership. When the clean freak he's treating reaches into the garbage can for a partially eaten something or other as part of her aversion therapy, I reached for the remote. Just horrible. Won't subject myself to it again.

I sort of liked Standoff's first show. Even liked the second. Started hoping they'd start losing hostages by the third show. A show about hostage negotiators needs a LOT of time away from the job to have any legs. Otherwise, it becomes like a Superman comic where you KNOW nobody's in real jeopardy. Super Clark will always arrive in time to save Lois Lane. Takes the dramatic kick completely out of the show. But this is a work-place show. And losing hostages isn't really part of the romantic comedy the two negotiators have set up by becoming lovers as well as partners. It's like corn chips. Easy to overdose on, and slow to come back too. Ron Livingston's fine as one half of the team, can't say I'm much impressed with Rosemarie DeWitt as the distaff partner. But even Billy Connelly and Charlize Theron couldn't make this work.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

TV: The New Monday ... I Need a Hero

Let's face it, I watch Monday Night Football and tape whatever else I'm going to watch. That said, Monday night does house the best of the new shows this season and not the worst of the rest. In other words, an okay grade.

The best show is NBC's Heroes, a show that appeals to the comic book reader (hey, I've got close to ten thousand of them in the vault and downstairs. I AM A COMIC BOOK READER). But like other fantastical shows, this has cross-over appeal and a shot to compete in its time slot. The pilot was incomplete and the addition of Greg Grunberg, ex of Alias, in the second episode is a good sign this will be a good show.

Heroes is followed to the screen by Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, one of the more disappointing shows thus far. It's okay, but more was expected from Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford, playing riffs on their characters from Cheers and West Wing respectively. Not surprising, since West Wing came from the same fertile minds of Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme. Unfortunately, there is a truth in show biz. Viewers at home couldn't care less about writers, whether they be newspapermen, crusading magazine stars or TV Shows. Murder She Wrote was a detective show. And The Mary Tyler Moore Show was set in a newsroom about as often as Mary enjoyed long-lasting relationships with men. In Studio 60, we get more of Sorkin, and maybe you CAN get too much of Sorkin. Still, I will watch the show if only for the pairing of Jack & Jill survivors Amanda Peet and Sarah Paulson.

Fox's Vanished is one of the two kidnapping shows this year (NBC cutting right to the chase by calling their show, Kidnapping). Lots to like about the show, which is the DaVinci Code tossed into the blender with 24. BUT, and it's a BIG but, the behaviour of daughter Marcy, played by Margarita Levieva, is preposterious. Marcy has to act impossibly stupidly in key sequences to further the plot. And everybody has to ignore her while she's making the bad decisions. Levieva IS quite cute, but I can't get around that.

The new network CW, runs Runaway against Vanished. It's a Canuck-content extravaganza. Competent, but blah. As a serial, it asks too much to get interested in the Rader family on the run, sort of The Fugitive on steroids. Would be surprised if it lasted til Christmas. I said the same thing about a comedy from ABC last year and it went the whole season. So it got a whole half-season more than I projected. My revenge is that I can't remember its name.

Which brings me to Class, the best of a woeful lot of comedies I've seen this year. Class gets a failing grade, and it's STILL the funniest of the new comedies. It depends on faux gay humour to a great degree, brings in suicide as an ON-GOING plot device, repeats the same punch line ad nauseum “Your party,” and features a philandering wife. I did laugh three or four times in two episodes. Time well spent? Not anymore.

It's time for some FOOTBALL!!

Monday, October 02, 2006


Having not discovered a way to pawn off my work and still get paid for it (like my current external facilities manager, GRRRRRRR!), I haven't had time to do this thing.

But I will over the next few days. The BBL season came to an end with the usual result, the Mug Shots are Brampton Beisbol League roto champs again. The OOPS (the hockey roto) draft is tomorrow night with the Mug Shots and Pool Division cousing Bugaboos as defending champs. And even though the Mug Shots won the SNAFU (football roto) title last year, I decided to skip pigskin operations this year. That will leave me with some spare time to fit more work in ... or work here.

I hope.