Seven Quick Takes No. 77

It's Friday, so that means Seven Quick Takes! @emily_m_deardo

I.

Next week there won’t be a 7QT, since I’ll be in D.C. and attending ordinations that day, so I won’t have time to write! I’ll be churching. 🙂 But I am so excited to be heading to D.C. since I haven’t been in so long, and I’ll be with some great friends. Plus, our hotel offers free homemade cookies–hot–for all visitors.

Really? Can I just live there forever?

II.

Let’s talk about some season finales of TV, shall we?

I love The Middle. Sue Heck is an awful lot like me, from her love of Disney World Planning to her academic endeavors. Last night’s season finale really struck a chord with me.

Sue has been trying, all year, to have the Best Year Ever. It’s her Senior year of high school (AKA, The Year of Sue), and she tries to win one of the class superlatives (best smile, etc.), get accepted to a great college, have the most school spirit, and generally be all around awesome.

But leading up to graduation, everything goes wrong. She loses her yearbook–and her name is misspelled under her photo She’s not eligible for any honor cords because  her activities “don’t count”. She misses getting the perfect attendance award because she snuck of campus to eat lunch. Her graduation motorboard is way too big. She doesn’t even want to go to graduation now, because she feels like nothing she did mattered. She has left no legacy. She feels like a loser.

But her mom convinces her to go to the ceremony. At the ceremony, her yearbook is returned–full of notes from people who did notice her, and appreciated her, even if she didn’t get any honor cords or win any Senior Superlatives. She sees the impact she had on the members of her class, and she had no idea they even felt that way.

I feel like Sue sometimes, like everything I do is just passing and I won’t have any lasting legacy anywhere. But The Middle reminds us that people do notice those little things, even if they don’t write about it in our yearbooks.

III.

Another TV finale wasn’t quite so satisfying, and that’s Bates Motel.

Now, I love Bates Motel on a lot of levels, as I’ve previously discussed. But this year it started going off the rails, relative to actual CF/transplant things, and this makes me Displeased.

Emma’s been on the lung transplant list the entire time the show has been on the air, so three years. She hasn’t moved up the list in all that time–her condition has been pretty stable. But this season she started to deteriorate a bit.

Now, the way lungs are allocated is something called an LAS score. Basically, it takes into account how sick you are. The sicker you are, the higher up you are on the list. Emma, actually, probably isn’t sick enough to be first in line on the list. Yes, she’s on oxygen, but her condition is pretty stable.

However, on the show, her dad tells Dylan (Norman’s brother) that the reason Emma hasn’t gotten her transplant is because they don’t have $20,000, which they apparently need to bribe someone to move her up the list.

Um, no. No no no no five thousand nos.

The only way you move up the list is by getting sicker. When I was called for my transplant, I was the top person on the AB+ blood type list, because I was the sickest person that was also the best match for the lungs I received. It’s sort of a complicated process. Organs have to match blood type, tissue type, body size, etc. Emma could only move up by getting sicker, or by people passing on the chance to have the operation, or being removed from the list.

So anyway, in the season finale, Emma gets her call (this is after Dylan has come up with the money and given  it to Emma’s Dad). Emma then proceeds to have a crying jag/meltdown in front of Dylan. Now, I know this makes good TV because it’s cathartic and all that, but you have to talk to social workers and therapists about this stuff before you can get listed. You have to be totally on board. You can’t be sort of wishy-washy. Now, yes, I understand that Emma’s a little freaked, but by the time you get the call, you are about to die, normally. Dying on the operating table doesn’t really phase you, because you are going to die without the surgery very soon.

So anyway, this is all so wrong, people. So, so, wrong.

However, she is right about lungs being tricky, in the transplant world. They are. Lucky us.

IV.

A few reading notes:

The Royal We: Totally based on Prince William and Kate Middleton (right down to Kate’s fashion choices and wedding dress), only the girl is an American, this story of the future King of England meeting his fiance at a British University is well-told and charmingly written. Nicholas and Rebecca meet cute, break up, and finally get engaged–but will they make it to the altar? Nicholas’s brother, Freddie, is hysterical, but Rebecca’s twin is sort of annoying. But this would definitely make a great beach read. If you’re a fan of the British Royal Family, then give this one a whirl.

Made In the U.S.A.: I found this on the remained table at B&N, read the first chapter, and was drawn in to the story of Lutie and her brother, Fate, who are left alone after their stepmother dies of a heart attack in the local North Dakota Wal-Mart. Intent on escaping Child Protective Services, Lutie and Fate drive to Las Vegas, the last known address of their ne’er-do-well alcoholic father, sure that if they find him, he will take them in. But things definitely do not work out like the pair plans, and they’re finally rescued by Juan, a Mexican immigrant who takes the children to his family in Oklahoma.

The book had a pretty dark first half–Lutie does a lot of things to survive and to heal some serious wounds in herself–but the final pages give the characters chances for redemption.  I don’t generally mind dark books, and I’d probably read this again, but reading it the first time had me going “are these kids going to be OK? Because they better be, or I’m going to be really irritated.

The Happiness Project: This is one of my must-reads, and I’m reading it again. It’s a great kick in the pants for self-motivation to Do Better and Achieve Goals.

V.

And since we have book notes, let’s have some movie notes:

Still Alice: The movie that won Julianne Moore her elusive Oscar is much better than I thought it would be. The book is good, but the movie is better–this falls into a small category of books and movies where this is true, for me (some of the others are The Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix).  Moore plays Alice, a linguistic professor at Columbia who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Moore’s performance is realistic and sympathetic, but the other best part of the movie is Kristin Stewart’s role as Lydia, Moore’s “black sheep” daughter, who comes home to take care of her mother while her father (Alec Baldwin) moves to Minnesota to run a study at the Mayo Clinic. Stewart and Moore could be mother and daughter in real life, and they play beautifully off one another here. I loved how their relationship evolved throughout the movie.

Panic Room: Yes, another Kristin Stewart movie! This time she plays Jodi Foster’s daughter in a thriller that places both of them at the mercy of three robbers. This is one of Stewart’s earliest film roles, and she and Foster are a believable mother daughter pair, complete with the sass and eye rolls. It’s a tidy thriller that ends somewhat predictably, but it’s a good movie to watch if you’re not up to following a complicated plot.

 VI.

CCD winds up this weekend. I’ll miss this class, which was much smaller than my previous class of 35 kids. But each year’s class has its own plusses and minuses, and this has been a pretty good group. I’m curious to see how many we have next year, since that affects the “arts and crafts” aspect of the curriculum. With a group of 35, you really can’t do too many art projects, but with 20, you can.

VII.

Can you believe we’re halfway through May already? I can’t. I swear things move faster as we get older.

Seven Quick Takes Vol. 73

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I.

Happy Easter Season, everyone! He is Risen, Indeed!

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II.

Yesterday was also my thirty-third birthday!

The Google Doodle you get for your Birthday. I mean how awesome is this, people.

The Google Doodle you get for your Birthday. I mean how awesome is this, people.

I love birthdays. I love getting older. Really, I do, people. Never discount how awesome it is to grow older.

III.

We celebrated yesterday with dinner at Longhorn and then Red Velvet cake at the house, followed by presents. It was a tiny celebration but that’s OK, since I’ve gone out with my friends a few times pre-birthday, so there’s been lots of little celebrations, which make me happy. Like I said, birthdays rule.

(And yes, I like to celebrate everyone’s birthdays! in my last office I was sad that no one wanted their birthdays celebrated!)

IV.

In the tradition of April and my birthday, it rained. A lot. The day I was born, it was a blizzard, so I guess it could be worse, right?! But I still managed to get in a nice one mile walk around my neighborhood before the heavens opened and the rain went nuts. The grass is exceedingly green, already.

V.

Part of my birthday gift to me was watching Interstellar. People. Please see this, post haste.

VI.

I’ve also been working with the AMAZING Cristina on blog revamping and my author page. Please, please, please go to the page and sign up to follow? This is hugely important as part of my “book package” that will be going out soon. There will also be free goodies and fun writing content that will be over there only.

http://emilymdeardo.wordpress.com

Please and thank you! 🙂 A free way to help me celebrate my birthday! 🙂

VII.

CCD resumes this week. I hope the kids didn’t forget everything in the two weeks they’ve been off.

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Seven Quick Takes Vol. 71

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I.

I’m watching the tournament with my mom–she just had surgery so I’m here to help out around the house and answer the door for packages that may come. 🙂  We’re both rooting for Kansas to wi! Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

II.

The knitting comes along splendidly. I’m on washcloth two and I’m really liking this project. As Ginny says, it’s easy comfort knitting. 

III.

I’m also finally catching up on my reading. I’ve been so behind lately, I don’t know what is going on. But I’m back to Pilgrim’s Progress and Out Mutual Friend, and I’m also reading The Noonday Devil for my spiritual reading bit. It’s actually amazingly good so far. I’m a nerd for things like this. Also, if you haven’t read Acedia & me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life, do it, because it’s great.

IV.

I tried, in vain, to watch No Country for Old Men. I’m at a loss as to how people not only like this movie, but think it’s a great  movie. After the shoot-out at the motel, I was done. I can’t stand movies with no redeemable characters, and there was not a single one like that in this movie, except maybe Carla, but I didn’t watch the end of the movie, so I dunno if she’s redeemable or not (But Kelly MacDonald was by far the best thing about the movie). Ugh. It made me feel like I had to take a shower after watching it. I do not understand it. I guess these movies aren’t for me.

V.

 However, I did see the new Live Action Cinderella this week and really liked it.Lily James and Richard Madden were great together (and I was glad to see that Robb Stark survived this movie :-P), and Sophie McShera was a scream. This is actually better than the animated version, in my opinion. So go see it and be happy.

Kit (Richard Madden) and Ella (Lily James) meet at the ball.

Kit (Richard Madden) and Ella (Lily James) meet at the ball.

Also the music is great! Go Patrick Doyle!

VI.

I played Scrabble with my Dad last night and I won. My first Scrabble win ever. You know why? Because it was Disney Scrabble. Which means that things like “Zurg” are acceptable words, and worth bonus points.

So really, I can only win Scrabble when I can use my crazy Disney knowledge.

VII.

This week in CCD (the last until after Easter–we get two weeks off), I’m teaching the kids about Holy Week. Let the fun begin!

Seven Quick Takes No. 69

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I.

Welcome, y’all, to another edition of Quick Takes, brought to you by coffee, coffee and coffee. 🙂

II.

It’s not that I’m tired, it’s cold. Yeah. We had some fake outs earlier this week but I think it’s 0 outside right now. But this weekend it’ll be warmer! Rejoice! I just sort of want it to stay around, oh, 30? Could we do that, weather? 30 would be good!

So anyway….coffee. 🙂

III.

The Oscars came and went, and I was right about Birdman winning Best Picture, but wrong about Michael Keaton. I’m OK with that because I love Eddie Redmayne and he did a great job in his movie. Also, if you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, do it. It’s  really cute, touching, and the animation? BAZINGA, people. The colors are amazing.

IV.

Last night I was playing an ancient dice game called Kismet with my mom. This game is a perennial favorite in our house, because you can play it with anywhere from 2 to…I guess 8 or so players (probably more), and my hyper-competitive self doesn’t mind losing so much, because, as the name attests, you get what you get when you roll the dice. You can’t really strategize your way to victory.

So, this game has been in the household since my parents first got married in 1979. Last night, mom and I were rifling through old score cards and found several of note: one from my dad’s best friend, dated Dec. ’82; one from my Aunt and Uncle who were dating when they were playing (they were dated pre-wedding); several from when me and my siblings were kids; and one that says “Mickey {my mom} and Baby, Feb. ’82”.

Yeah, the baby is me. 🙂

So basically I’ve been playing this game since I was in-utero. 🙂

(If you’ve never played it, it’s fun. Give it a try.)

V.

I finally saw the movie Watership Down this week. No, I wasn’t traumatized unduly, but I bet if I was a wee child watching it, the sight of bunnies clawing each other and blood-drenched fields might have put me off sleep for a few nights. As a kid, the movies that scared me the most were Snow White (that witch. Holy cow.) and Pinnochio (the whole kids turning into asses? Yeah, not so much. TERRIFIED me. And then, oh, let’s throw in an enormous whale that wants to eat us!).

However, the moral was pretty clear, in both cases: Don’t take apples from strangers, and DO NOT SKIP SCHOOL.

(Wizard of Oz didn’t scare me until I got a bit older, around 7 or so, and then it was Auntie Em turning into the Witch in the crystal ball. Then I’d just excuse myself and come back when that part was over.)

VI.

I’m also finding myself hard-pressed to read any new books so I’m re-reading Outlander. Yes. Again. I’m on Fiery Cross. I’m also re-reading a variety of other books, but that changes from hour to hour. Outlander is pretty consistent, though. 🙂

VII.

Speaking of books, I’m about to do some nitty-picky editing on the manuscript, as one of my March goals. I need to go through and do a timeline and general note taking about what I’ve included already and how things are structured. No point in writing good bits if they don’t make sense, oui? 

Oscars 2014: The Theory of Everything

Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne and Stephen Hawking.

Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking.

When I first heard that this was going to be a movie, I got pretty excited. I love both Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, and the concept seemed pretty awesome: the life of Jane and Stephen Hawking. Most people know of Stephen Hawking (if only from his Simpsons and Big Bang Theory appearances), but a “major motion picture” (as they like to say) about his life and his wife? Sounds good to me. (There were other movies before, notably the BBC’s Hawking, where Benedict Cumberbatch played the physicist.)

The film is based on Jane Hawking’s Traveling to Infinity: My life with Stephen. Jane is an accomplished academic in her own right, having earned her PhD in Spanish poetry while she was married to Hawking. When she met Stephen he was at Cambridge working on his PhD. In real life, she knew about Stephen’s ALS before they started dating; in the movie, she doesn’t (Stephen doesn’t know either–it’s diagnosed later).

The one flaw this film has is that it’s pretty abrupt. It has a two hour running time, and I think it could’ve been longer, if only for the sake of exposition. We move from scene to scene pretty quickly, and there are montages of time passing that are treated to look like 60s “home movies”, where important plot points speed by: the Hawkings’ wedding, the birth of their first two children, family vacations, etc. I’m not saying we needed to spend endless time on these things, since the point of the movie is his relationship with Jane, but I would’ve liked to have seen more about their early married life, especially the birth of their first child, in order to lay the ground work for what comes later.

The early scenes are very well done. Redmayne plays Hawking as a sort of dashing, witty nerd, which is very close to Jane’s description of him in the memoir. Jane falls in love with him pretty quickly, and even though he tries to push her away after the diagnosis of motor neuron disease (it wasn’t called ALS in the 60s, apparently), she is persistent.

The movie speeds through their early married years, then focuses on Stephen earning his PhD and some of his work with his doctoral advisor (played winningly by David Thewlis of Harry Potter and The Lady). There’s a dinner party, celebrating his work, with his friends in attendance, but where Hawking’s feelings of isolation and disability becomes quite apparent.

It’s at this point that Jane determines she needs help–she can’t handle three children and Stephen. Her mother suggests she get out of the house and join the church choir. Well, the choir director, Jonathan Jones (a great Charlie Cox), is willing to give piano lessons to Robbie (their eldest–their children are Robbie, Lucy, and Timothy),and Jane invites him over to dinner. Stephen gives his assent to having Jonathan help around the house. Eventually he becomes almost another member of the family–going on vacations with them, helping Stephen in just about every capacity, etc.

Of course, people start to talk. At Tim’s christening, Mrs. Hawking corners Jane in the kitchen and asks whose son Tim is. Jonathan overhears this, and leaves the house–after confessing to Jane that he has feelings for her, and Jane telling him that she has them as well.

At this point, Stephen is confined to a wheelchair, but he’s giving lectures, winning prizes, and is traveling quite a bit. Stephen’s work is only briefly explained, and there are two scenes of him giving lectures. If you’re interested in his work, you’re going to have to go elsewhere–this isn’t A Beautiful Mind, where the work is explained in some detail, with fun images (like the women in the bar, in that movie). It’s only briefly sketched.

The turning point in the movie is when Stephen takes ill during a trip to Bordeaux. He’s gone with some students to see an opera (he’s a huge opera buff, particularly Wagner), and Jane and Jonathan are taking the kids camping in the same area, Jane still obviously wrestling with her feelings for Jonathan. Stephen is rushed to the hospital during a performance and is diagnosed with pneumonia. A ridiculous French doctor asks her if she should just let him die. Jane fiercely resists this, and says he will be transferred to England, where he receives the tracheotomy that removes his ability to speak.

The scene after the procedure, where Jane is trying to teach Stephen how to use an alphabet board, is amazingly good acting. From this point on, Redmayne doesn’t use his voice at all. Everything is conveyed in his face and posture. It’s really brilliant work. You can feel the agony he’s in at having his voice taken from him, at the existence he’s now living, and you can also see how much it tears Jane apart, to have done this to him, although she knows her husband wants to live.It’s a really crushingly emotional scene (and probably more so for me, because I have a huge thing about trachs. I never ever want one unless I absolutely have to have one. So I totally sympathized here.)

This brings in the introduction of the computer that becomes Stephen’s voice to the world, and also his nurse/second wife, Elaine. This is where I got a bit muddled. It is obviously that Jane is jealous of Elaine. It’s obvious she still has feelings for Stephen. But yet she doesn’t…I don’t know. Try to stop the relationship? I don’t know if she could, really. She might have been so emotionally drained. But when Stephen tells her than Elaine is traveling with him to America, Jane starts to cry. It’s as if she knows that their relationship is over (and in actuality, Stephen did ask Jane for a divorce and married Elaine, whom he also later divorced).  The scene is well done, but it muddled me and made me sad, because obviously these two still have deep feelings for each other. But I guess that wasn’t enough.

The movie ends with Jane, Stephen, and their children at Buckingham Palace, where Stephen has received an honor from the queen (He does refuse a knighthood). At the end of the movie, they watch their children play in the gardens, and Stephen tells Jane: “Look what we made.”

Jane does marry Jonathan, and is still married to him. She and Stephen have three grandchildren and remain good friends.

The movie itself has a lot of strong points, the biggest being the performances of Redmayne, Jones, Cox, and Thewlis. But like I said above, I wished we’d have had more actual scenes, instead of montages, to depict Jane and Stephen’s relationship. I think that’s why I don’t think it will win Best Picture, because there are a few flaws in the storytelling. But the acting is just gorgeous (as are the costumes, lighting, and set design).

Redmayne does a tremendous job showing emotion without saying anything in the latter bits of the movie. You can tell he’s still the same Stephen, even though he can’t talk: his humor, intelligence, wit, etc. are all still in tact. The scene where he’s essentially ending his marriage to Jane is done without him saying anything (his computer does the talking), but you can just tell from his face how hard this is for him. Actors are often told to use their entire body to portray a character (I know directors who are fond of saying that emotion doesn’t stop at the neck), and this is a master class in it.

Felicity Jones truly deserves Best Actress for her work here. She’s stubborn, fiery, massively intelligent, and loves her husband fiercely. This is a great role for her and she inhabits it fully. She does justice to Jane Hawking. Charlie Cox is just a fantastically warm and sympathetic actor.  And Thewlis is just great in everything I see him in.

So we bring the Best Actor race back: I really think it’s a coin toss. The Academy loves to reward actors who change their physicality for a role (Nicole Kidman in The Hours, etc.) But Keaton has been in the business a long time, he’s never been nominated for an Oscar, and he never may be, again. So there may be that in consideration, as well. Eddie Redmayne is my age (yes, we’re in our early thirties), and he’s going to do more things–we hope. 🙂 (I hope!). I’m not saying this is a good way to give Oscars, but it’s often done. Jimmy Stewart won his Oscar for The Philadelphia Story, when it wasn’t really his strongest performance. The ways of the Acting Oscars are strange, indeed.

Both actors give strong, textured, impressive performances. Either one would be a well-deserved winner. I’m going to bet that Keaton wins, though, because of the above. But if I’m wrong, I’d be OK with that. (Assuming Redmayne wins. 🙂 ).

Oscars 2014: Birdman

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So, the first Best Picture nominee I’ve seen thus far: Birdman.

I was predisposed to like this, because of Michael Keaton. He’s from Pittsburgh (a suburb near my dad’s hometown, actually), and he did sit next to my mom in church one time (so I’m, what, two degrees from Michael Keaton?). And Mr. Mom is one of my favorite movies, ever.

But the concept of this film was sort of evading me until I saw it.

Birdman is the story of actor Riggan Thompson (Keaton), who was the face of a (apparently?) very successful action movie franchise called Birdman. But since the end of the movies, his career has petered out, and he wants to revive it and bring some gravitas to it by directing, writing, and starring in a Broadway play based on a Raymond Chandler novel. When the movie begins, the play is just about to go into previews, and things are sort of falling apart. His ex-wife is in town, he’s having problems with his fresh-out-of-rehab daughter (Emma Stone), there’s no money, and one of the other actors (Edward Norton) is making his life very difficult with his constant “improvements” to the play (including changing lines, trashing the set during a preview performance, and attempting to have sex with his wife (Naomi Watts) onstage before the play’s climax [while the characters are supposed to be ‘in bed’ with each other, they’re not supposed to, um…well, you know]).

The play was shot on location at the St. James Theater, which is right across from the Majestic, where Phantom has been playing for 25+ years, so I enjoyed all the exterior shots. I also enjoyed the inside look at a Broadway theater, because I’m a theater nerd like that. The movie itself has great cinematography–the much-lauded “one shot” idea (meaning there are very few obvious scene cuts, like there are in other movies)–and production values.

Michael Keaton and Edward Norton give the best performances here. They play off each other really well and their scenes are fun to watch. Norton is a cliche of the actor who wants to give the audience “real life”, who lives entirely for the stage, and, in the process, really screws up his off-stage life. Keaton’s Riggan is trying to keep it all together, and isn’t doing it very well. We can see the frayed edges of his character get even more tattered as the movie progresses.

Keaton does a great job with the character, creating a desperate, Hollywood -has-been who’s trying desperately to reinvent himself, while shunning overt manifestations of that idea (his daughter shouts at him, “You don’t even have a Facebook page!”).  The play, to him, is truly THE THING: if the play is a success, then Riggan can remake his life. If it’s not, then his life is over.  There’s so much riding on this show, it’s crazy.

The movie is hard to talk about since it’s pretty unconventional. It really needs to be seen. As far as the Oscars go, conventional wisdom is saying that it will probably upset Boyhood for best picture, and I wouldn’t say it’s undeserved. It’s about actors being actors, doing Broadway, so it has a built-in cache anyway (A movie about actors acting? Sure!). There’s a nice mix of comedy and pathos happening, it’s an unconventional film style (but not as much as Boyhood)  and it has a strong plot that is nicely brought to life by a dedicated cast. Edward Norton certainly deserves to win Best Supporting Actor for his work here.

The Best Actor category is hard for me, because I like both Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne (and I’ve also seen The Theory of Everything, which I’ll talk about next). So I’ll write more about that race in the next entry. One of the big things, though, is that Keaton is creating a character out of whole cloth. He doesn’t have anything to model Riggan on, like Redmayne had Stephen Hawking. And yet you root for Riggan. You want the play to do well. You want him to have a good relationship with his daughter and current girlfriend. You basically want him to get his life together and be better. So that’s strongly in Keaton’s favor.

“It’s a warm summer evening in ancient Greece”: How to get kids excited about math and science (using Snape’s method)

Or: What would’ve made me excited in math class; and Snape’s teaching methods! 

Note: I’m not a teacher. I have no idea how math and science is taught now–so maybe some awesome teachers and school districts are doing what I suggest. This is based off my educational experience and discussions I’ve had with others. 

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above: a still from Interstellar

As a kid, I really liked science. I thought dissection was awesome. I loved learning about the solar system and the stars. Learning about the human body was super-cool. Volcanoes? Sign me up! In the elementary school I attended, we had a good science curriculum that started with the basics early. We did experiments in class that I thought were interesting. I never really had the “ew” factor in science that some other kids did.

Math was another story. I was really bad at math. This is sad, because my dad is a mathematician. (Well, he’s a computer scientist. But that uses math. His Masters in his math. So he’s a mathematician in my world, OK?) I should’ve been better at basic math than I was. I have the personality type that if I don’t find something interesting, and I’m not good at it, I don’t want to learn it. In math, I wanted practical applications. Now, granted, in the beginning, there’s plenty of them. You need to know how to add, for pete’s sake. Figuring out sales tax and sale prices has served me well. The basic four skills–multiplication, addition, division, subtraction–I’ve got no qualm with, on the “real world” scale. I just wasn’t really good at any of it. No one was ever going to praise me for my math skills.

In elementary school, science and math are treated as separate disciplines. They really don’t–in the beginning–have much to do with each other, in practice. That changed when I got to high school, especially when it came to chemistry and “physical science” (as we called physics).

As part of earning an honors diploma in Ohio at the time (1996-2000), you needed a certain amount of science credits, which included a semester of each of the four “main” types (physics, chemistry, biology, and geology), and an additional semester of chemistry and biology. I liked biology and geology, so that was fine. And I even liked chemistry. Or I thought I did. My chemistry teacher was sort of evil.

Also, chemistry and physics required…..math.

yeah. We see how Emily feels about math, yes?

But here, we could’ve solved the problem by introducing real world applications.

That–right there–would’ve been excellent.

After I read The Science of Interstellar, I began thinking about this. Why are our science classes so boring? Why do we give kids “the basics” without telling them how awesome the applications could be? Why didn’t my physics teacher start with stuff like wormholes, singularities, and event horizons? Or the opposite–subatomic particles? Why don’t teachers begin with the awesome–like Snape does–and then teach basics with an eye to these things?

When I saw Interstellar, I thought about the movie for days. I went over the science in my mind, thinking How did they do that? I knew that a major physicist had been an advisor to the movie, so I knew a lot of it was stuff that was possible.

Physics is a great example because here, math and science intersect. You need both skills to be successful. But instead, I remember trudging through physics class being told “memorize these formulas”, doing lots of math, and working on a mousetrap car, where we were supposed to use “physics principles,” but neither me or my partner really had any idea how to apply them. Critical thinking was not really emphasized here. We were given formulas, and told to compute them on tests.

When I asked people why we teach this way, the answers I got were “you need the basics” and “kids can’t understand astrophysics.” That’s what Pres. GW Bush would’ve called the soft bigotry of low expectations. Most kids love space. They think it’s super-cool. AT the local science museum, the space section is always full. Kids love that stuff. Heck, adults love that stuff! The basics of astrophysics isn’t something kids won’t get. If you read The Magic School Bus book where the kids go into the solar system, you see that they’re dealing with different gravities, the time difference in space, light-years, the physical make up of planets, etc. Most kids get the basics when they study space in their early years. So why aren’t we attaching the higher math and science to something that’s exciting? Why aren’t teachers doing a Snape and telling kids how to brew glory and stopper death?

I understand the notion of being able to walk before you can run. When I was learning to play the clarinet, I didn’t start with Mozart’s clarinet concerto. I started with “Go Tell Aunt Rhode”. But the idea was that eventually, I could play more complicated things. No one wants to be playing “Up On The Housetop” forever, if they love music. You want to play the more difficult stuff. The basics serve you as you go higher; but the “higher” is always there. When you learn to write letters, it’s with an eye to being able to write entire pages. When you learn to read, it’s so you can read those big fat books at the library. But with science, it’s “oh, you need the basics. And then once you have those, maybe we’ll talk about the cool things.”

But I never took another physics class after my basic one. I could have. My school was well-stocked with math and science classes in the upper levels. But there was no way I was going back to physics after that first class.

It’s the same with math. In my experiences with respiratory therapists, I’ve seen the math they do. They still have to work out formulas by hand some times to get results. In the infant PFT lab at Children’s, there are often math notes scribbled on the white board. There’s a practical application if I ever saw one. Math to save lives.

We should be showing kids Contact and Apollo 13 and saying “this is the kind of stuff you can do with math and science.” (Especially Apollo 13: What to do when the computers fail!) “This is where we want to take you. And even if you never use math again after this except to balance the checkbook, and even if you never do anything else with physics other than watch Big Bang Theory, we can give you some knowledge that you can take further, if you want.”

Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge.” We are sorely missing the imaginative quotient in how we teach his subjects.