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Posts Tagged ‘john mayer’

Last night, Ahmed and I arrived late at Gareen Balaza (Green Plaza) to see Avatar. It was Friday night, and the place was absolutely packed. I mean, whoa. Crazy, crazy people. The front doors of the movie theater looked like a drain clogged with coffee grounds. Avatar, incidentally, has been here for weeks, and apparently the time hasn’t done anything to calm anyone down about it.

Needless to say, we didn’t get seats (Egyptian films have “reservations” bought at the front of the cinema, to which an usher escorts you once inside the theater), but decided to stick around for the 10 PM showing (the Green Plaza Mall is wicked deep in Smouha and a pain in the ass to get out to). We walked around, headed over the bridge across the Mahmoudiyya Canal, and found an ahwa at the foot of some rather ominous looking Soviet-esque buildings that reminded me too much of ‘umarat al-zabaat.

We talked for hours. I mean, hours. It was pretty awesome, and though the whole thing was a painful reminder of how my Arabic needs to stretch a little bit more while I’m here. I’ve been so caught up in the “teaching English” mentality that I’ve pretty much forgotten to use my Arabic sometimes.

Thank God for Ahmed, then.

And whoa, the things you talk about: the main topic on the table was cultural difference — which is always fun — but we touched on sex, drugs, alcohol, homosexuality, losing one’s virginity, first kisses, the word “slut,” the and the philosophy of live and let live. Refreshing, to be quite frank. I really want to write it all down, but I was just so

We met Kareem (one of Ahmed’s friends) for the movie and got in the theater about five minutes after the start of the film. It was hilarious to look across the theater and see a packed cinema with every single person wearing white, cardboard glasses, but man oh man, what a film.

Much has already been said about Avatar, so I will confine my remarks to a few: the plot was shit. So was most of the dialogue. And that whole “video narrative” thing that the Marine does is a cheap excuse for a voiceover, which (thanks to Melissa) I’ve begun to detest as a cinematic device (that doesn’t sound pretentious). But I have never walked out of a film and looked around in confusion at the outside world. The movie is just an experience, and it really carries you away; I don’t really think I’m going to look at fantasy films in quite the same way, unless they do that. Not just the 3D thing; make me believe that the aliens are actually legitimately real. Crazy stuff.

We ended the evening on Port Said Street (how I love that little avenue!) in Camp Shezar, where we found this hole-in-the-wall that Ahmed knew sold fantastic sandwiches: these finger-thing sandwiches of shrimp and onions and sausages with a kind of spicy, creamy cheese I’ve never tried before. Holy mackeral, talk about hitting the spot.

Before I end, as the title promises, some literary follow-up, for which I redirect you to an article by The Daily Beast:

John Mayer’s Terrible Week, by Rob Tannenbaum.

In brief, JMay decided to toss out the N-word (something that, incidentally, I hear a lot here) during one of his interview with Playboy. His remarks throughout have provided Internet fodder for the past week, bloggers and New Media-types alike, though not without taking the remarks completely out of context. If you don’t mind a girlie-picture sidebar, you can read the interview transcription here, which I think is actually pretty fantastic, and you can decide for yourself.

What does this have to do with yesterday’s post?

Here is Tannenbaum’s relevant point:

Milan Kundera, who cherished novels as paradoxes of instability in a finite world, in 1988 cited “Rewriting as the spirit of the times.” Can we alter that now to “Retweeting as the spirit of the times”? The Internet has loosened the definition of writing, and now the online world is a limitless, unstable fiction. Per Kundera, tweets and blogs translate every link, adding ideology in the guise of summation. The reaction to Mayer contains many truths about race and celebrity, though nothing that fits in 140 characters. The Web is a series of filters, many of which narrow a story until it’s a negligible number of bytes.

For those of you with an acute sense of irony, you will note that I am doing precisely that by copy-and-pasting a section on my blog; the democratization of the written word — the availability of it to everyone, instantaneously — hands the Word over to people to be judged, changed, altered, and fitted to a different agenda at each turn. Imagine if Playboy were only still a magazine subscribed to by older, white men — one kept hidden under mattresses in college and in the back shelves of college; would this have done just as much damage to Mayer as it’s done in this week? Or would it simply have taken longer?

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Yesterday’s classes went swimmingly: students were engaged, laughing, and took a lot from it. I started off with the first eight minutes or so of Guy Noir from Garrison Keoller’s Prairie Home Companion– the episode is here, if you’re curious:

Guy Noir meets Mel. F. Lewis (October 18, 2003)

I was trying to hunt down episodes that had little sexual content (and weren’t too complicated). I found one, though it deals with regional stereotypes (New Yorkers coming to Minnesota)– more easily explainable to the class, as most of them come from the country and have had some personal experience in the matter.

I did have to explain dating, though, which was a riot– I felt myself falling back on Tom’s 1950’s version of the dating scene (guy asks, guy pays, both are serious about potential romantic involvement, good-night) just for the point of clarity. It’s impossible to explain the idea of “hooking up” even in English– and I suppose even I don’t understand why we do it anyway. The ’50’s dating description at least is accurate in that outlines at least what most people think most people are doing “out there”– or at least aspire to in a healthy, bourgeois relationship (can’t believe I wrote that).

We followed up Guy Noir with a round of increasingly difficult pronunciation exercises– mainly th and sh/ch/j. You never really realize how difficult English is to pronounce (at least if you’re a literary nut) until you teach enunciation; to the Egyptians, shoe, chew, and Jew all sound painfully close. Also: Egyptians tend to turn th into a z or s when it’s at the beginning or the end of a word– so path becomes pass— practice with which I think put a few of the more vocal students in their place. Drills seem more in line with their traditional university classes, though to me they seem a little ridiculous with me at the front of the class.

My “reward” for this rather boring exercise was a song– this time, mercilessly chosen by me (Celine Dion specifically excluded). To slowly (but gradually) bring them out of the atrocious-pop genre, I chose John Mayer’s rendering of “Message in a Bottle” mainly for its clarity– it’s just him and the guitar at most spots– and had made a sheet with the lyrics and missing words. Students did relatively well; at the third try they got most of the lyrics. They liked the song, too.

Melissa suggested improv skits, so I brought along an empty tea tin filled with “situations” that they had 5-7 minutes to prepare. I split them up into groups and they ran with it. It was fantastic; one of the groups did a rather dull three line exchange, but the last two tried to make it funny and made every effort to speak as much as possible– they also had funnier situations, as well. Students were supposed to have been mistaken for a celebrity, discover their boyfriend had a secret fiancee, or have been left in the middle of nowhere by a taxi.

Next couple of days off because of eid and the end of (alhamduLilah!) of Ramadan. Going to use that time to type more depressing e-mails.

Are they ready for Ella Fitzgerald yet?

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