Saturday, April 3, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 03/29-04/02/10: No Night School, Middle East Lit. and Movies, Studying the Middle East

1. The most encouraging and uplifting event of the past five days has been the experience of not teaching in the evenings. I have taught night school off and on at LCC for most of the nearly twenty years I've taught full time. Until about a year and a half ago, teaching at night worked really well for me. Now it doesn't and I finally scheduled myself out of teaching at night, starting this quarter. (Why doesn't it work for me? I think it worked when our courses were three credits and my evening classes met once a week. Now, with four credit courses, the classes meet twice a week. That started to wear me out.) This past week I went to bed early to rise early, I watched movies in the evening, and I began doing some reading. It's been good for my physical and mental state of being not to drive back out to school after coming home. That's enough. It's just good.

2. In the late stages of the spring quarter, in ENG 109, I'll be assigning my students poetry and stories from Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and other sources from the Middle East. Much literature is not explicitly political or polemical. Reading poetry and stories from the Middle East acquaints a reader with the human dimensions of everyday life in this region. I'll also be showing movies made by Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers. I wish I could also fit some Iranian movies into the course, but there's not enough time. This week I watched "Paradise Now" (a story about two Palestinian suicide bombers) and "Divine Intervention", both Palestinian movies, very different from each other, and deeply illuminating about what it feels like to live in the West Bank. "Divine Intervention" views the Arab experience in Nazareth as well as the West Bank, with special attention to the Al-Ram (a district of Jerusalem) checkpoint. It views life in these places as surreal, so the movie portrays fantasies, dreams, and absurdist vignettes of despair, all in darkly comic ways. If you'd like to see one of the movie's most famous scenes, go here. It's a fantasy.

3. I've thrown myself once again into reading about and trying to understand the history of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. It's hard. The most difficult challenge is to read and study this history with some sense of dispassion. As I'm inclined to do, I'm trying to understand the many contradictions of this part of the world. It's hard. It's haunting. It's all haunting.

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