Rebirth of Reason

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Post 40

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 8:51amSanction this postReply

I love that movie.  It speaks to the lively, healthy spirit every child should be trying to keep and assert as they mature - not just as a good thing to do, but as the very purpose of life.  It was great that it was about thinking for themselves, but, to me it was deeper than that.  It was about taking on life for the shear personal joy of it.  It was the opposite of self-sacrifice - not on a didactic moral level, but on a personal experiential level.  It show-cased a most benevolent and exhuberent view of life as not a place that a person needed to fear or shrink from.

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Post 41

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 3:40pmSanction this postReply

I still don't hate the film like the following writer does, but it certainly lost a lot of it's luster for me since my first viewing.  I read this this past Winter and thought it was an excellent critique (thank you, Robert T.)


Dead Poets Society is a Terrible Defense of the Humanities.  

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Post 42

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 8:41pmSanction this postReply

I'm sorry, Teresa, but I hated Kevin Dettmar's review as much as he hated the movie.


He so badly missed the mark that it is sad. He criticizes Dead Poets' Society for not getting the details of literary criticism right?!?!?!  Would he criticize Moby Dick because they used the wrong length of harpoons?  Or Atlas Shrugged because of the color the locomotive was painted?


He was terribly upset for how it portrayed his profession! I'm so glad that I didn't have him for a professor, and would so have enjoyed having Robin William's Professor Keating instead.  I'll grant that a degree of literary license was involved in the movie, and that there are things that needed to be taught at the humdrum level of literary analysis in a real class, but this wasn't Introduction to Poetry 101 - IT WAS A MOVIE! And why would anyone want it to be a docudrama that faithfully registered each little squib of information on the day to day details of teaching poetry?


That film was about waking up and living life. About finding your energy, your boldness, your joy - and he is concerned with a split infinitive!


Why should we find ourselves in the position of having to tell a phD in English lit about themes and storylines and plots? And someone needs to tell Dettmar that his accusation of "anti-intellectual" doesn't hold water.

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Post 43

Saturday, August 2, 2014 - 7:26amSanction this postReply

I requested this from the library to watch it again. From my memory, I have to agree with much of the criticism from Kevin Detmar. But mostly, it seems irrelevant.  Another excellent movie about writing that also had problems was Finding Forrester.  The author was fine; his acolyte was a tough sell.  Take it or not.  


I saw Gravity in 3-D with a friend and, of course, I saw some problems with it.  The next day, I emailed a friend of mine who teaches science on the Space Coast and she replied that it was old news and I had not even scratched the surface.  So, I googled it.  Tons of problems...  Some I "should" have known but it is not my daily work and others I just missed.  It was still a good movie about one person overcoming a series of accidents.  


The Edge (Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin) was another excellent film with the same theme. Millionaire Charles Morse wants to do "one unequivocal thing." An avid reader, he puts all of his knowledge work not only saving himself but even attempting to save the man he knows is trying to kill him.  "People die in the wilderness from embarrassment for not doing the one thing that would have saved their lives."  


Dead Poets Society is not really about kids and it is not a movie for kids.  You don't need to sell teenagers on the value of emotional  exuberance. When I went back to school and made the dean's list, my brother was not to be outdone. So, he finished a degree in English literature.  He really enjoyed being in class with kids dressed in black and tortured by angst and weltschmerz.  Theater was even better than poetry.  Dead Poets Society re-ignites the passions you forgot about.  


... at least that's how I remember it...  When I watch it again, I'll let you know...

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Post 44

Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 2:19amSanction this postReply

I watched it again last night. Prior knowledge removed some of the tension. Of course, it was easier to see the disaster forming.  For me, the defining scene was as Keating was packing, he looked out the window and saw the Latin teacher, peripatetically leading his students along the path, identifying the plants, the stones, the building in Latin.  At the beginning of the movie, Latin was the classroom chanting of the declension of agricola - not once but twice.  Keating had shown another teacher how to bring his subject into the living experience of the students. 


The story by Tom Schulman (Wikipedia bio here) is "semi-autobiographical" (Wikipedia Dead Poets Society here).  Critic Kevin Dettmar missed one point: the film was shot at St. Andrews in Delaware, but was based on Schulman's life at Montgomery Bell Academy in his hometown of Nashville.  (He later attended Vanderbilt and finished a BA in philosophy.) Schulman has several screenplays to his credit.  Dead Poets Society is as much a writer's story about writing.  


That is no country for old men. The young

In one another's arms, birds in the trees
---Those dying generations---at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.


An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 8/10, 2:22am)

Post 45

Friday, March 1, 2019 - 5:56amSanction this postReply

In a scene in The West Wing, when speech writer Toby Ziegler says that words must have blood in them, he means that they must be alive. A President's speech must make people want to stand up an applaud. I feel that way about technical writing. In The Fountainhead, two scenes frame that intention. In the closing third, Gail Wynand mentions to Roark how pleased he is to discover the many conveniences in the home Roark designed (for Dominique). That was one of the intentions of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, to create homes that served their owners. For me, my focus is on what in retail we call "the ultimate consumer."  As important as the devops team is, my focus is on the $20 per hour clerical whose world consists of home, family, kids in daycare, bills, things to worry about. She does not need any more grief. In point of fact, she should find the information system so useful that she does not even notice its many conveniences. The other scene from the The Fountainhead is a brief exchange I think with Kent Lansing, where he laughs and says to Roark, "So you do care about your clients!" and Roark replies, "I'm not designing mausoleums." To me, an information system is a living system to serve the lives of others. It is never set in stone, never immutable, but always adapting to change initiated by the needs of the ultimate consumer.


I just finished a project back in November with 13 other technical writers. For most, it was an easy job that paid well. For a couple, they fell into it and stayed employed for their children. As far as I could tell, I was the only one building a temple to the human spirit. Or the only one in a cave beating a drum.

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