Sep 222013

Teacher ProofI recently tried yet again to read The Globe and Mail. Before deciding that the web version of their paper was terrible, I stumbled over a review of a new book about the shortcomings of recent educational science. I recognized all of the concepts mentioned and the review was positive, so I grabbed a copy from Amazon and dove in.

The book is a publisher trolling: rush a book to print hoping to incite outrage among teachers who will scream bloody murder and thus generate free publicity. Sell tons of copies. It’s Gutenberg’s version of link bait. And the review played along. In fact, I wonder now whether the reviewer even did anything more than skim the book or worse, simply read the promotional material and sample reviews offered by the publisher and worked from there. The review was that poorly done and that complicit. (It says something about my opinion of the Globe that this confirms rather than challenges my opinion of the paper.)

The book doesn’t earn much attention to detail. It reads like Billy O’ set loose with a word processor. But here are a sample of my problems with it:

  1. The author displaces his argument to fields he can’t navigate. He is no philosopher. So to make his criticism of methodology in educational research about (to list only a few things) British v. Continental philosophy or Evidence v. Theory, is to move his subject beyond his depth. He doesn’t do the heavy lifting such an argument would require and lacks the tools to make it even if he wanted to try.
  2. Questions of depth aside, arguing that Aristotle is wrong as a philosopher misses the point of the argument at hand. The problems of educational research are not about context.
  3. Most of this feels like padding. It’s as if the book wants to avoid being a polemic for letting teachers do their job–because they know how to do it–and wants instead to appear to be something grander. It isn’t though.
I jumped at this book because I’ve seen how shoddy educational research can be and often is. I was eager (if I’m honest) to see it take a good beating because at work, it operates as if its letters are still warm from being cut into the stone by holy fire. I was primed to agree with him and enjoy a bit of fish-in-a-barrel pot-shotting. But even still, I’m not willing to read a pompous teachers’ lounge rant printed up and sold for 20$.
I got suckered.
 September 22, 2013  Book Logs, Teaching
Sep 202013

I proclaim that Shakespeare and Raphael are higher than the emancipation of the serfs…than nationality…than socialism…than the younger generation…than chemistry, higher than almost all mankind, for they are already the fruit, the real fruit of all mankind, and maybe the highest fruit there ever may be! A form of beauty already achieved, without the achievement of which I might not even consent to live…

–Stephan Trofimovich, Demons

 Beauty Achieved, Dostoevsky  September 20, 2013  Commonplace Book Tagged with: ,
Sep 192013

Venus au visonThe Beav and I went to see an adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs at the theatre in Place-des-Arts. We had never really liked anything we’d seen there, so expectations were low, but the tickets were free. And surprise surprise: it was great. Hélène Bourgeois is one of my favourite Quebec actors and was very good here. The production was simple but effective: a table, some folding chairs, a chaise longue, a fauteuil.

The story is a frame narrative. A writer about to leave the studio after a long day of auditions, despairs of ever finding an actor to play the female lead in his adaptation of Venus in Furs, when suddenly a woman arrives late and wants to read for the part. She begins to read and the action of the play plays out in the frame simultaneously. Power, seduction, control. These are the issues fought over in terms of modernity and sexual equality. The frame space and story space are marked out by changes in lighting–fluorescent for the frame, incandescent for the story–that are made explicitly by the actors using light boxes on stage. A small touch that I really liked.

The epub and kindle versions of Masoch’s book are at the Gutenberg Project. A video of the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” is here.

 September 19, 2013  Theatre Logs

Sep 172013

Many things we affirm and deny, because the nature of words allows us to do so, though the nature of things does not. While we remain unaware of this fact, we may easily mistake falsehood for truth.


 Permalink  September 17, 2013  Commonplace Book Tagged with:
Sep 162013

This show received a lot of attention when it was released simply because it marked Netflix’s entry into production. When the show led the Emmy nominations, there was additional talk about how it signalled a shift toward online distribution away from cable. All of these stories are interesting but they also strike beside the main point: the show is very very good. The plotting is generally tight, the photography is often beautiful, and the acting is simply great.

Favourite aspects:

  • the relationship between Claire and Francis. This is a marriage as something more than love and sex. And the “more” makes it better. I came away thinking that we have traded in a strong imagining of the marriage feast for a thin Romantic (and romantic) gruel.
  • I love the cigarettes by the window. A perfectly pitched image.
  • Claire’s character is mysterious and powerful. Her confrontation with the dying bodyguard captures a large part of what I’m fascinated by. I side with her completely in that moment. He sends his wife out of the room and confesses his desire for Claire as if his desire were something special. She points out that it isn’t special, it’s cliché and an imposition, a claim to power that she’s dealt with over and over her entire life. She then points out how blind he is to the reality of her marriage: she wants and has something more than desire with Francis. And she does this while turning his desire against him. A pinnacle moment in the series.
  • the tracking time-lapse photography in the opening sequence is very beautiful and the music grew on me. I appreciated it by the end.

More generally, I realize I like political drama. One of the best things about the second season of Deadwood is that it’s so explicitly about the struggle to see and gain power. Movies like Ides of March and All the President’s Men are also great. House of Cards can stand neck and neck with them.


 September 16, 2013  TV Logs Tagged with: , , ,