Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Synecdoche is a town in New York

I'm preparing for my AP English test. I've got my flashcards. I'm learning all the terms. Even the ones whose definitions are about a word different from each other. And yet, as I do this, I begin to ask myself...

So what?

Well, not exactly, but for Dr. Issen's class, it's an appropriate question. See, what I've always liked about English is that it has some relevance in the real world. I can actually argue that in any field one goes into later in life, English is a necessity. It's something you actually need to use in all aspects of life.

But when the hell am I going to have to know what a zeugma is? Or anaphora? A tetracolon, perhaps? When will my knowledge of polysyntedon become a lifesaver in my career?

The answer is never, unless I become an AP English Language teacher (*coughyeahrightcough*).

This is really one of my fundamental problems with higher education anyway. Many of the subjects we must take are simply useless in most fields. Calculus, for example, has absolutely no real-world application beyond engineering, certain sciences, and mathematics. The same could be said for Chemistry. Or even some languages.

Last year in World HIstory, Ms. Dilley (now Mrs. Morrison) taught the idea of the "Renaissance Man"; that is, someone who is well-versed in all subjects and can talk intelligently about anything under the sun. She mentioned that higher learning is designed to enforce this kind of man: supposedly "well-rounded".

I dare any man to talk about every subject under the sun and succeed. It's just impossible.

Does that mean that we shouldn't learn about anything outside of our field? No. I would still take Spanish and Statistics, possibly even History. But forcing us to take three sciences, three maths, four histories... it's pointless, really.

The alternative is a free-curriculum system. No courses are forced to be taken; of course, there would still be a required number of courses to take. (Though a 6 Study Hall, 1 English course sounds fun...) Amherst College supports such a system, as Adrian Gomez can tell you about. The only disadvantage to this system would be for students unsure of what direction they want their lives to go in. Of course, the solution is simple enough: take a course load similar to the current system.

So as I sit here studying for AP English, wondering why a city in New York is one of my vocab words, I wonder why we're in need of Renaissance Men.

Me, I'd rather just be damn good at one thing.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Obsession with Mad Men

I blame my mother.

I was perfectly happy hating Mad Men, AMC's huge Emmy-winning hit set in the early '60s at a big-time ad agency. It existed, I ignored it. All was right with the world.

But then, my mother started watching the Men every Sunday night. She didn't even think she liked the show; she was just addicted. I ranted and raved, but nothing could stop her.

Then, one Sunday night, with nothing to do, I was flipping through the channels when I saw it. Faced with either watching my mortal enemy or staring at the ladybug on the wall, I watched an episode entitled "A Night to Remember".

From that moment on, I was hooked.

I hated the not-all-there set design. I thought the writing was slow and poorly done. I believed the direction sloppy and tired. Most of all, I wanted to despise all the characters.

But I didn't. Instead, I liked them. I liked former model Betty, protagonist Don Draper's wife trapped in a loveless marriage. I liked Peggy, once a receptionist, now a copywrighter. I liked Sterling Cooper, Don's slimy boss. But most of all, I loved Joan. (See her? That's Christina Hendricks, the actress who plays Joan. She's so pretty...) The bombshell office manager was given the duty of reading soap opera scripts to look for advertising opportunities. She did it so well they made a full-time position out of the job, then made her train her male replacement. The pain and resignation Hendricks managed to portray was stunning.

So, unfortunately, now I like Mad Men. I watch it every Sunday. I catch reruns. I think I'll buy the first season on DVD. It's a sickness. It's even more embarassing than being hooked on phonics.

The finale is tonight at 9. Where will I be? Right in front of the TV, hoping to find out what happens when Don's perfect, manufactured life finally falls apart. And I may even record it.