Where the Wild Moon Hungers

Last week Mike & I went to a theater on Camp Foster to see Where the Wild Things Are. I had pretty mixed feelings about it — I was mostly frustrated with how uneven the film is. I’m glad it’s not a “kids movie” and I’m glad it’s devoid of both moralism & paternalism. Yet Where the Wild Things Are never quite finds the momentum needed to turn it into a truly great film. There are dazzling bits in this film — exciting, hilarious, creatively genius bits… but at the end you’re left wondering, “Is that all?” There’s no disguising the fact that the runtime is too long and the script too thin. I kept wishing that Charlie Kauffman and/or Michel Gondry had had a hand in this, no matter how much I respect Jonze & Eggers. If someone told me they loved this film (my sister), I’d totally understand… but I’d likewise understand if someone said they hated it (my brother).

I did see two movies recently I’d really recommend that both seem to be flying under the mainstream radar. The first one is Hunger, which I saw a few weeks ago. It’s an unconventional picture of Bobby Sands‘ agonizing last days that is quietly brutal. It’s occasionally difficult to watch (the hunger strike, prison abuse, etc) but honest and pays off if you stick with it. Other than Michael Fassbender’s painful physical transformation for this film, the real highlight is an epic 17-minute unbroken medium shot. It’s supposedly the longest shot in film history and simply features Sands and his priest talking & smoking. Only one of the reasons that makes this movie a must-see.

Lastly, a couple nights ago I watched the indie sci-fi flick Moon, starring Sam Rockwell. It centers around Sam Bell, an employee working in solitude on the moon harvesting energy for use on earth. With two weeks to go until his three-year contract is up and he jets home, Bell starts (or continues) going a little batty in the head and, as a result, accidentally wrecks his moon-buggy. After that… I can’t say. But don’t get me wrong: it’s not a “thriller” per se, with crazy surprises and mega-twists in the plot — but I don’t want to spoil all the fun. It’s just that the real strength of Moon lies with Rockwell, who delivers an Oscar-worthy performance, and the atmospherics (cinematography and great soundtrack by Clint Mansell). Since I’m not in the USA I don’t know if this in theaters or what, but check it out if there’s an opportunity.

Gaeilge for Fun & Profit

Step 1: Learn Gaeilge
Step 2: Move to Ireland
Step 3: ????
Step 4: Profit!

Today we had our last session on Gaeilge (it was about 4 hours over 3 days), and I have to say how impressed I am with this pedagogical tool. It conclusively proved the effectiveness of the school’s methods, and it was very eye-opening to start learning a language from scratch (unlike Spanish, for example, which has a lot of overlap with English and bits of which — “adios” etc — are known by millions of non-speakers).

I like being able to walk most places, but today was rainy, about 50 °F, and kinda miserable. I’ve gone to the same confiteria for lunch the past two days: carne empanadas the first, and an enormous ham/cheese/egg/mayo/lettuce sandwich for today. The place is cheap and very close to the office so it’ll probably be a frequent stop. I went with Arbi, an Indian chap from Britain with a masters in applied linguistics. He’s spent the last 8 years teaching ESL in China and recommended I do TESOL in Asia if I want to pay off my student loans. We’ll see.

Yesterday we got BA International Student cards which should get me a few decent discounts in addition to a whole new support group with options for plenty of activities. They’re arranging a trip to Iguazu Falls next month which I’m definitely interested in. A few BAIS reps have been coming by to talk with us, and tomorrow they’re actually taking a few us apartment hunting. Dorm living is getting shittier by the day so moving out ASAP is a huge priority (if GIC will refund some monies, that is).

What a Sick Rollercoaster

On the bright side:
My TEFL class, unlike almost everything else so far, has been more or less just like I imagined it. On Monday I woke up just before 9am ready to meet the taxi by 9.45am… only for Rosie, the dorm mama, to come grab me at 9.30. Lo and behold, who should be waiting for me in the taxi but a fellow GIC-er from Chicago. At the TEFL International office, there were — hallelujah — more gringos just as overwhelmed as myself. There were 10 of us total, but a mother/son duo dropped after the 1st day. We range from ~21 through ~61, but the contingent of twentysomethings is obviously the majority. Three of us are Midwesterners, and all three of us live in the same student residence.

The office/school is about a 30-minute walk from our dorm, but I think we’re going to stick with taxis in the morning — because it’s ~$1/ea/day & only 10 minutos — and then walk home when we quit around 4.30 or 5pm. We start at 10am and lunch is from 1-2pm. I’ve discovered that GIC is basically an optional intermediary between prospective students & TEFL International — I’ve had zero contact with the former, but have found the latter nothing but professional. The classes have been suitably rigorous but not overbearingly difficult. Among our class I feel comfortably average: not the most educated or well-traveled, but not the least; not the best at Spanish, but not the worst; not the best teacher (so far), but not the worst, etc etc. All of us have some previous cross-cultural experience — some quite extensive — but only one of us isn’t a U.S. citizen (he’s British). I will post photos later because our school (just one floor of a perhaps 3-storied place) is really nice — I love the central patio/garden that all rooms encircle & look out upon.

Surprise-of-the-week has been our sessions learning Gaelige, the language mainly spoken on the far west coast of Ireland. One of our teachers is an ex-hitchhiking, globetrotting Irishman so over three days he’s modeling, via Gaelige, how we’re supposed to teach English to speakers of other languages. It’s intended to simultaneously (and perhaps this is the main goal) help us feel what it’s like to try to learn a language cold. So this builds empathy with our future students, demonstrates our school’s preferred teaching method/paradigm, embarrasses all of us… ie, a rollicking good time. Unbelievably frustrating though.

So far I’ve mostly laid low and done homework, etc but last night I went with a couple TEFLers + random expats to a La Bomba de Tiempo show at Ciudad Cultural Konex, a place that resembles (formerly was?) an enormous warehouse. The show was basically like a percussion rave, though occasionally with other instruments — last night featured a sick flautist. It was pretty crazy to see hundreds of BsAs hipsters dancing like mad to just drums + flute. Glad I went, even though I actually left after about 80 minutes or so in order to a) do my homework [LOL skool] and b) get to bed on time and c) preserve my hearing. God I’m old.

On the dark side: (more…)