Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hypocrite? You say that like it's a bad thing

I think hypocrites have gotten a bad rep. What's the deal? If we all tried to behave as we expect others to, we'd hemorrhage. It's good to have high standards, but let's be realistic. Me? I'm a born again hypocrite. I embrace it. When people point accusing fingers and utter that word, I beam and embrace it. Hypocrite. Yes.

If you explore the etymology of the word you'll find it to be Middle English derived from Old French. According to the online dictionary, it means someone pretending to be something he is not. Another source added that it came from the Greek hypokrites, meaning "actor on the stage, pretending".

So ultimately, the greatest hypocrite is the greatest actor, and quite frankly, the best hypocrite is he who goes undiscovered. Perhaps the vile reception given to hypocrisy is that people don't like to be deceived. Really? I mean, Really? I think people adore deception, it frees them from responsibility and allows them to continue along a path without confronting behaviors and issues they might otherwise deal with. So perhaps they should embrace the hypocrite. Or perhaps they should embrace their inner hypocrite.

As Groucho Marx once said: "These are my principles...if you don't like them, I have others."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer's Drought

Have you been enjoying your summer film fare? I would wager that if you compare this summer to summer's past, you're probably finding it coming up short. Want proof? Look at this last weekend's fare, the weekend before Independence Day. What smash hits were released? A Sarah Bullock chick flick called "The Proposal" and a lame comedy "YearOne." Really? Really? Last year this time contenders for box office receipts were more promising: "Wanted", "The Incredible Hulk", "Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull","Get Smart" and "Kung Fu Panda" and "Wall-E". Not great films, but perfect summer fare. And waiting in the wings? "The Dark Knight", "Hellboy" and "Hancock".

So why is this summer so different? Why are there so few films out there vying for your popcorn money? Because of last year's writer's strike. Consider the decision to move "Star Trek" from winter 2008 to this summer, or the decision to do the same to "Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince". Without these two blockbuster titles, your summer would have been dominated by Michael Bey's new Transformer movie and that thing which is an adaptation of G. I. Joe.

Me? I don't plan on seeing many films this summer. Instead I'll smile and do a psychic fist bump with the screenwriters out there, too long taken for granted for what they provide. A bare summer? Yep. It's probably good for us. It's a chance to play in the sun and to revisit a more active vacation.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

An Introduction

In the past when I've used the term 'genre', I've used it to refer to fiction targeted at a specific audience, writing with its own set of rules and conventions. However, in my current school work I am being forced to re-examine and to broaden this concept. According to several scholars in language arts, 'genre' writing refers to the use of text to reflect or express a culture or a social value. For instance, an editorial in a newspaper would be considered a subgenre which seeks to convince a readership; its structure is based on a rhetorical model. Another example of genre based on this broadened definition would be journal writing.

In a past post I referred to the works of certain authors who produce "high-brow" literature as being part of their own genre. The above definition would support this view. Like the horror writer, the "slice of life" writer has his own conventions, visible as the work attempts to mirror the sort of writing one has come to associate with something called authentic writing. Authentic writing, a term I hate, is writing which is primarily autobiographical and often gives the reader a good deal of inner conflict as opposed to externally driven action.

For those who write, I look forward to your feedback. Fellow teachers, I am interested in your own take on this. How do you teach writing? Do you spend time on syntax and grammar as part of some metalanguage approach, or do you teach genre, focusing on genre specific rules and conventions, forsaking any attempt at formally advancing understanding of grammar for the sake of grammar?