Ascension of Christ Salvador Dali

I do not believe that I have posted anything by Salvador Dali on this blog.  I do not know exactly how I feel about his work; it is certainly very challenging.

Ascension Salvador Dali

According to WikiArt, this painting is in a private collection and was painted in 1958.

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Films About Women 27

1 Juno

Juno tells the story of a sixteen year old girl who discovers that she is pregnant. At first, she contemplates having an abortion, but she decides to put the baby up for adoption instead. With her friend’s help, they search the penny savers for ads for potential adoptive parents looking for babies to adopt. The film follows her through the course of her school year and pregnancy as she tells her parents, carries her child, finds love, and wonders if couples can truly stay together forever.

Juno

This will probably be a controversial addition to my list. Many people loved this film when it was first released, only to turn against it and hate it. I don’t care. I like the film. I never considered Juno to be the greatest film ever made, but I do enjoy the film’s quirkiness and heart.

2 Princess Kaiulani

Over one hundred years ago, a young girl was princess in the Kingdom of Hawaii, an island paradise and a very modern country. The Hawaiian palace had electricity before the White House would embrace the new technology. Her name was Kaiulani, and she spent time studying in Britain. While she was there, she received news that her country had been annexed by the United States, and her people subjugated. Kaiulani, still a young woman, was forced to leave her school life behind and fight for the rights of her people.

Princess Kaiulani follows the moving story of a young girl placed in a seemingly impossible situation. Her country is irreversibly destroyed. The Hawaiians are in desperate need of an advocate to demand that their rights be respected. The odds were very much against her. She was young, she was a woman, she was a person of color. This film brings to light the story of a young woman unknown to most Americans.

3 Yentl

Women can often have a complicated relationship with religion. On the one hand, they can find religion comforting and empowering. At the same time, it can be frustrating and limiting. Yentl tells the story of a woman who finds her religion to be both empowering and limiting. Her father recognizes her love of her faith and her intelligence and teaches her the Torah and the Talmud. When he dies, Yentl disguises herself as a boy and seeks to further her education in Jewish law.

This is not a perfect film; the last third of the movie became a little silly. Even so, I appreciated the dilemma of the main character. I also couldn’t help but feel that the film also has an elegiac quality to it. I was moved by the artistic depiction of a flourishing Jewish community in Poland, well aware that in two generations, their community will be destroyed and everyone will be dead. I don’t know whether this was a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers or something that I projected onto the film. Barbara Streisand also proves herself to be a very capable director, as well as actress and singer. She had her hands full with this film!

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Unemployment, ie What I Did Not Write About Part 1: The News

I received the news that I was being laid off on a Friday.

It was at the end of a terrible day, undoubtedly the worst day I had ever spent in a classroom. I could tell the story, and I did tell the story to friends and family members. However, I am not going to share the story online at this time.

I was called into the office of the principal. He wasn’t really called the principal; I can’t remember what we called him. I was terrified; I was convinced that I was going to be in trouble, and I could see my world spiraling out of control. At that moment, I did not feel that I could bear another challenge.

When I went into the office, the principal assured me that I was not in trouble. He had spoken to the dean of students (I had related the whole incident to her) and he assured me that I had not done anything wrong. He continued to talk about how enrollment in the school was far lower than anticipated. This was especially true at my grade level. I only had ten children in my classroom. He continued that they had tried for over a month to boost enrollment in the classroom without success. At this point, I could sense what was coming. He seemed hesitant to say it, he paused, struggling to find the words. At that point, I said it for him. “You’re laying me off.”

He responded in the affirmative. To be honest, I was so relieved.

Why did I feel relieved?

I was not being fired or disciplined. That was a big, big fear for me. (It still is.) Plus, I was exhausted. At that point, between teaching, lesson planning, grading, laminating and cutting out the laminated items, I was working seven days a week. My friends were in Cleveland so I had not seen friends in almost two months. To me, being laid off meant I was going to have a break, a break I desperately needed. I also felt that I could have a better future if I was laid off. I know that sounds difficult, but hear me out. Teaching is very competitive in Ohio, and if I had been fired, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to find another job. I figured that being laid off was different. Mostly, I was relieved because I was just so miserable. (There was also a strong element of denial in that moment.) Every day in the teacher’s lounge, I would look at the teachers eating lunch. They were exhausted, frustrated, and deeply unhappy. That frightened me. It was only September. I know that September and October are very difficult months for teachers but I intuited that the exhaustion and frustration would not improve over the coming months; it would only get worse. I remember thinking, slightly panicked, “If this is how people feel now, what is it going to be like in a few months?!?!”

My principal explained that he had never had to lay off a teacher before. At that point, he apologized for the inconvenience he was causing me. After all, I had moved several hours away from home, signed a year lease, just for that job.

“I know this is a huge inconvenience for you,” he stated apologetically.

After a moment of silence, I responded, “That’s putting it mildly.” I did not want to be vindictive, but I was not letting them off the hook either.

He explained that he was giving me two weeks notice, essentially. My last day would be two weeks from that day. He volunteered that he had actually been advised not to give me any notice at all; he was instructed to simply lay me off and tell me that day was my last day. I emphatically replied that I would have been very upset if he had done that. (There would have been no way to clean out my room in an afternoon.)

I will always be very grateful for him for that extra two weeks. It gave me two extra weeks of work and a little extra money. I also had the opportunity to clean out my room in a more thoughtful way. No matter how angry I am at many members of the charter school, and the school itself, I will always be thankful to him for that.

We thanked each other and were very cordial and professional throughout the entire discussion. I left feeling shocked, but as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I also felt sympathy for the other teacher in my grade level. Her classroom was about to go from 18 students to 28 students. I also wondered if she would be given any warning.

I walked back to my classroom and saw my mentor teacher. We had a scheduled meeting so that I could talk about organizing my classroom and classroom management. We sat down and I immediately started by telling her that I had been laid off. However, I wanted to still meet with her because I wanted to learn from her. We talked about organizing the classroom and different management strategies. At one point, another teacher from next door stopped by and wanted to see how I was doing. (She knew I was having a difficult day.) I told her I was feeling better. She opened up about a charter school where she used to work and the difficult students that she had in that school. At some point, I turned to my mentor.

“Should I tell her?” I asked?

“I think you have to tell her now,” she answered.

I told the other teacher that I was being laid off. She expressed her sympathies and offered advice.

“You know what you should do? You should sub and see if you can get into public schools. I so want to go public. I am sick of charter schools. Same shit, different school.”

We mutually complained and then we all had to leave. I was having dinner with a friend of mine from the high school. I told her she would not believe what happened to me that day. I told her the story of my awful day and ended with my being laid off.

“I can’t believe you’re getting laid off!”

She asked me if I was going to go home to Cleveland or stay there. I stated that, at that point, I felt that I was going to stay there. I had signed a year lease and I felt, to a certain extent, that I meant to be there at that point. I consoled her to a certain extent; I was still in denial about what being laid off really meant. The last chapter of The Help came to my mind, where Aibileen has been fired from her job. She tries to figure out how she will support herself now and she sits down at the bus stop and begins to laugh. I felt a bit like that in that moment. My friend nodded in understanding. She knew it was bittersweet.

That night proceeded as I had planned. I went out to a Meetup event to a corn maze and made pleasant conversations with strangers. When people asked me what I did, I told them, “Well, I teach, but I just found out today that I’m being laid off.” People were dismayed but supportive. Surprisingly, I still had a great time at the event. I do not remember much about the rest of the night. Most likely I passed it watching videos online, nothing unusual in that. (I did not have a TV.)

I also thought about how I was going to tell my mom the next day.

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Anna Netrebko Meine Lippen sie Kussen so heiss

Anna Netrebko sings beautifully and has more fun than any soloist should be allowed to have singing classical music.

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Unemployment, ie What I Did Not Write About : Prologue

I realize that before I start talking about my time being unemployed I have to talk about what I was doing before I was laid off.

Back in August, I was hired to teach elementary at a charter school. It was my first job as a teacher and I was hired less than two weeks before school began. It was not an ideal start, and it was made even less so by the fact that my new job was a couple of hours outside of Cleveland. This meant that I eleven days in which I not only had to prepare for a new school year but also to find a new apartment and move to a completely new city. On top of that, I had meetings for the first three days and then open house for two days before school began. The free time that I might have had to plan for my school year I spent finding an apartment, packing my belongings, and moving.

My time was also made even more difficult by other circumstances. My classroom was not ready for students. My white board was sitting on the ground instead of on the wall. Another elementary teacher interceded for me the day before school began and the custodial staff put my whiteboard on the wall. (It was a pleasant surprise. I went to class on the first day completely prepared to have my whiteboard sitting on the ground. )

I also did not have copies of the teacher’s book and my students had to share textbooks and workbooks. I know people bemoan teachers who teach out of the teacher’s workbook, but I would also like to point out that the teacher’s workbook does have a purpose, especially for young teachers. Young teachers, neophytes, often feel that all they have to do is plan fun activities for their students. (I was very much a neophyte.) A teacher’s workbook can ground young teachers and remind them that there is far more to teaching than that. (It’s also invaluable for substitute teachers.)

The lack of math workbooks was especially difficult. I still had to give the students worksheets to do (obviously) but I had to copy all of the worksheets to give to them. This was frustrating because I had to spend time making copies, time that I could have spent planning lessons. I also did not have my own code to use the printer. I had a dummy code that worked on one of the two printers. (I should also point out that our school was K-12, so there were two printers for the elementary, middle school, and high school. I frequently went to Office Max and paid to make copies.)

I also began to sense that the school would not back up teachers if students misbehaved. One of the kindergarten teachers had a student who tried to choke another student. I believe this happened more than once, but I know he did try to strangle his classmate. The dean of students was reluctant to punish the student. The dean was worried about the low enrollment at the school and feared that parents would withdraw their students if they were punished.

I don’t want to blame the school for my own difficulties and failings. I had plenty of those, believe me. I was a first year teacher and I had only been teaching for a few weeks. If I could do it over again, I would do things completely differently. (Of course.) I am sure that all teachers would say that about their first year of teaching. Great teachers are made, not born. I struggled completely with classroom management. At the beginning of the year, I had minimal classroom management skills. (Minimal might be overstating it.) I really wish I had the opportunity to find my footing before the year started.

I could go into specifics, but to be honest, I am still unable to do so at this time. It is still too painful. (I will likely come back to those stories over the next few months.) Even writing what I just wrote was very difficult.

This is the prologue to my layoff. Next, I will talk about the day I received the news.

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Fire Screen By the Herter Brothers

Another example of home decorative art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. It challenges the idea that art=painting.

Fire Screen Herter Brothers

When I was a child, I lived in a house with a fireplace. I miss it. For me, a firescreen was a part of my childhood. I love this because it shows the human drive to embellish objects; to turn a purely functional object into a thing of beauty.

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Films About Women 26

1 Elizabeth

It was in this film that I first discovered Cate Blanchett. It was love at first sight, and that love has never waned. Cate plays the young Virgin Queen as she rises to power. Long before she established herself as one of England’s most beloved monarch, Elizabeth was young and vulnerable. Cate Blanchett perfectly captures both her frailty and confusion as well as her growing sense of self possession and authority. The best example for this is a scene in which she rehearses her speech before Parliament to ask for the establishment of the Church of England. In her room, she paces and grunts and stumbles over words. Among the members of Parliament, she is witty and poised.

movies_20_memorable_movie_queens_4

The film has tremendous cinematography and creates a tremendous sense of suspense. Everyone is plotting and spies are everywhere. It is difficult, if not impossible, to know who to trust. There are plenty of scenes of murder and torture in which civil blood makes civil hands unclean. One reviewer once said that Elizabeth I makes Elizabeth II’s “annus horribus” look like a slightly annoying case of indigestion. And of course, in the center, is Cate Blanchett.

2 Alien

This is one of those films that I am putting on the list even though I did not enjoy it very much. It Alien’s defense, I think the film suffers from, for lack of a better term, “The Hamlet problem.” I call it this because of a joke about a woman who sees Hamlet for the first time. When asked what she thought of it, she replies, “It was a terrible script. Just one cliche after another.” I felt as though I have seen Alien a number of times, and in a sense, I have. However, just like Hamlet, that is not Alien’s fault. If anything, that is a sign of how influential and powerful this film has been.

Ripley

Plus, even though I have seen imitations of this film many times, there were still scenes that were genuinely scary. I am thinking specifically of one scene where one of the characters is in a crawl space and the Alien is approaching. The music, the lighting, the special effects are all perfect. I watched this film on my laptop and this scene was still completely chilling.

3 Frozen

At long last, I feature Frozen on my blog. This film came out over a year ago and became a phenomenon. The story is loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson story The Snow Queen. In this story, there are two princesses, Elsa and Anna. Elsa has magical powers to control snow and ice but an accident with her sister forces her to hide her powers from the rest of the world. When she is exposed, she flees her kingdom, which is plunged into a deep freeze in her wake.

I love that this film is ultimately about the love of sisters. I do not have a sister, but I can imagine the complicated, powerful bond that must exist between them. This film belies the idea that the only significant relationship for a woman is the relationship she has with a man (her husband.) I don’t deny the power and significance of the bond between a woman and her husband, but women exist in a wide web of relationships of varied significance. It’s great that this film chooses to celebrate one of those bonds.

Oh, and I know we’re all sick of this song, but I’m posting it anyway. I still like it.

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