Getting Back Together with the X: Reactions to the X-Files Miniseries – Prologue

thexfiles

Almost 14 years after it ended its original run, The X-Files is returning to the small screen with a six-episode miniseries this winter. To welcome it back, Jeff (of Slazenger1) and I will be writing responses to each episode. Here’s the hook: Jeff is a pretty hardcore X-Files fan and I haven’t seen a single episode of the show. How we’ll respond is anyone’s guess, but as always: The Truth is Out There.

This post covers our personal relationship with the series thus far and our expectations for the miniseries.

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Jeff
I was in elementary school when The X-Files premiered, and was probably a bit too young to watch it, understand it, or really know anything about it at all. I remember seeing the original broadcast of Season 1 episode “The Jersey Devil” when I spent the night at a friend’s house and his dad was watching it. I don’t think I watched another episode until I came to the series on my own, late in Season 4. I’m pretty sure the episode was “Unrequited” because I specifically remember being intrigued by promos advertising an invisible assassin. I also remember the Fox “next time on” promos for the rest of the season counting down the number of episodes remaining until what turned out to be a pretty great season finale, “Gethsemane.” From that point, I was hooked. Continue reading

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Knapsacking Up Introduction

I remember the exact moment I became a feminist.

I was a junior in college, taking Human Relations a year early because the terrible professor who usually taught the course was on a sabbatical. The professor brought in several excellent speakers who told their story, and in doing so, shared with a bunch of White college kids what it was like to be Black or female or homosexual or Native-American or Asian-American in our society.

In preparation for one speaker, we were asked to read Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Although the version we read for our Human Relations course dealt specifically with race, the connection with sex and gender was not difficult to make.

From that day(ish) forward, I have been a self-described feminist. As a high school educator and coach, I deal with high school students every day, teaching American History and American Government. Most of them think that feminists burn bras and seek to set up a matriarchy in America.

Me? I like bras. They’re fun to take off and keep boobs from getting droopy later in life. (Is that science or am I just making that up?) I really just want two things. First, I want American society to perceive women as worthy of the same basic respect as men. Second, I want women to receive the same opportunities as men.

See? That’s not so much, right?

Once upon a time, a friend of mine set up a feminist website and I was set to contribute. My plan was to provide a male perspective on the inherent advantages we have in America solely because we are men. I would have “unpacked” items in that knapsack through my experiences deep in the heart of BachmannLand, the most terrifying place on earth.

Unfortunately, life happened and the website collapsed after I worked ahead and finished several posts. So, over the next eight weekdays, I’ll be burning through my planned series “Knapsacking Up.”

The Fog of War Introduction

War. War never changes.

Or so says the introduction of every game of the Fallout series. Whether fighting other nations, groups of bandits, or our merciless existence itself, the concept of war remains unchanged.

Except that war has changed.

War has always destroyed lives. War has always destroyed families. By the 1800s, war destroyed cities. However, when Leslie Groves, Robert Oppenheimer, and others worked their magic, war has had the potential to destroy our world.

Enter Robert McNamara, officer of the US Army Air Corps, President of Ford Motor Company, Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and President of the World Bank. Filmmaker Errol Morris conducted over twenty hours of interview with McNamara. The result is the Academy Award-winning documentary film The Fog of War.

As McNamara states seconds into the film,

Any military commander who is honest with himself, or with those he’s speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes in the application of military power. He’s killed people unnecessarily — his own troops or other troops — through mistakes, through errors of judgment. A hundred, or thousands, or tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand. But, he hasn’t destroyed nations.

And the conventional wisdom is don’t make the same mistake twice, learn from your mistakes. And we all do. Maybe we make the same mistake three times, but hopefully not four or five. They’ll be no learning period with nuclear weapons. You make one mistake and you’re going to destroy nations.

The Fog of War is, in many ways, McNamara’s swan song, the culmination of twenty-five years of public service. The film takes us through Morris and McNamara’s eleven lessons of war, a rubric to minimize death and destruction in the 21st Century.

Jump to a lesson:
Introduction
Lesson 1: Empathize with Your Enemy
Lesson 2: Rationality Will Not Save Us
Lesson 3: There’s Something Beyond One’s Self
Lesson 4: Maximize Efficiency
Lesson 5: Proportionality Should Be a Guideline in War
Lesson 6: Get the Data
Lesson 7: Belief and Seeing Are Often Both Wrong
Lesson 8: Be Prepared to Re-examine Your Reasoning
Lesson 9: In Order To Do Good, You May Have To Engage in Evil
Lesson 10: Never Say Never
Lesson 11: You Can’t Change Human Nature
Conclusion

A Documentary a Day

“Is this a real movie or a documentary?”

Welcome to my second least favorite question students ask me, right after “Did we do anything important yesterday?”

Documentary films are awesome, whether used in a social studies classroom or for the expansion of one’s own learning. Since I wasn’t finding the time to read, I recently began making a conscious attempt to watch more documentaries.

The plan is to post short, two-paragraph reviews of videos I watch, explaining and reviewing each film under the “A Documentary a Day” tag. My hope is that this will force me to think about the films I watch and give you some insight as to whether a particular film is worth watching or using in a classroom.

My scoring system is explained below. More posts will follow as I finish several films on any given topic, so come back whenever you feel like checking out what’s new. Might as well read the rest of the site too?

Happy learning.

1 Star – Poor. Would not recommend.
2 Stars – Okay. You could do better.
3 Stars – Solid. Does its job. Nothing more. Nothing less.
4 Stars – Great. Goes above and beyond.
5 Stars – Excellent. Mandatory viewing to speak on the subject.

London Reflections

To say that I learned a lot during my trip to London and Edinburgh last summer would be an understatement befitting the people of that island. For years, my internationally-oriented friends urged me to get out of Minnesota. Desire and opportunity finally intersected when my friend Dylan began a masters program at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland.

In a sense, we can only understand what we have compared and contrasted. A broadened horizon expands our knowledge and understanding, allowing us to better know what we have already experienced.

The idea can be summed up by the T.S. Eliot stanza shared by Robert McNamara at the end of The Fog of War:

We shall not cease from exploring
And at the end of our exploration
We will return to where we started
And know the place for the first time

This is the purpose of these London Reflections. Hopefully, I can share some of the gifts that London, Edinburgh, and the people of those cities gave to me.