25 February 2009

Clipping: "The Class" passes with flying colors

Most films concerning the educational system suffer from a lack of subtlety, usually featuring troubled students in impoverished schools miraculously attaining their potential or tragically falling short. It is precisely because "The Class," a new film by director Laurent Cantet, avoids this failure, that it is such a pleasure to watch.

The film, also known as "Entre les Murs" or "Between the Walls" in French, is based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Francois Begaudeau who stars as a version of himself teaching French at a Parisian high school.

Viewers are never offered more than a glimpse of the characters outside the school's confines. This allows the entire film to pass with a few of the audience's questions never being addressed, particularly a nagging one concerning Francois' sexuality.

Instead, the plot strictly revolves around the French teacher's relationship with a single class, which is illustrated through snapshots of pivotal episodes during the school year. These episodes include the first day of class, student rivalries, in-class readings, the entrance of a new student mid-semester, parent-teacher conferences and staff meetings.

Although the seemingly mundane quality of the events portrayed and the film's slow progression may cause some to deem "The Class" pointless and even a bore, more astute viewers will find a sincere and nuanced criticism of one of society's most central institutions. Some of this criticism is particular to France's school system, such as the practicality of French liberal values applied in the classroom and the problematic integration of immigrants into mainstream French culture.

But many of the issues raised by the film are universal. The film examines race relations, the shortcomings of democratic bureaucracy, the application of laws and the teacher's responsibilities to students.

One of the film's biggest questions is raised towards the end. On the last day of class, Francois surveys his students regarding what they have learned throughout the year. Some reply with predictable answers such as the Pythagorean Theorem and Spanish, while one particularly smart-mouthed student unveils that she had read Plato's "Republic" on her own.

At the end of class after all the students shuffled out, a student the audience has not heard from or seen much of throughout the entire film approaches Francois. The student claims that she hadn't learned anything all year, a sentiment that Francois dismisses as untrue.

The student persists, reiterating that she has not learned a thing. She then ponders her own experience while seemingly questioning the role of schools within society when she simply says, "I don't know what we're doing here."

- printed in the February 16th edition of The Ticker

23 February 2009

India Takes a Large Step Sideways

Taken straight from the "In the News" section on Wikipedia's front page:

- Slumdog Millionaire wins eight Academy Awards including Best Picture.
- An outbreak of hepatitis B (virus pictured) in Gujarat, India, kills at least 49 people and infects over 125.

Transmission from Cuba:

"fidel is alive."

18 February 2009

Courtesy of my ethics textbook...

"Most people believe, in a vague way, that while the slaughterhouse might be an unpleasant place, animals raised for food are otherwise treated well enough. But, Singer points out, nothing could be further from the truth. Veal calves, for example, spend their lives in pens too small to allow them to turn around or even to lie down comfortably--but from the producers' point of view, that is good, because exercise toughens the muscles, which reduces the "quality" of the meat; and besides, allowing the animals adequate living space would be expensive. In these pens, the calves cannot perform such basic actions as grooming themselves, which they naturally desire to do, because there is not room for them them to twist their heads around. The calves clearly miss their mothers, and like human infants, they want something to suck--they can be seen trying vainly to suck the sides of their stalls. In order to keep their meat pale and tasty, they are fed a liquid diet deficient in both iron and roughage. Naturally, they develop cravings for these things. The calves' craving for iron becomes so strong that, if allowed to turn around, they will lick at their own urine, although calves normally find this repugnant. The tiny stalls, which prevent the animals from turning, solve this "problem." The craving for roughage is especially strong, since without it the calves cannot form a cud to chew. They cannot be given any straw for bedding, since the animals would be driven to eat it, which would affect the meat."

13 February 2009

V-Day Jams

Doesn't that just make you horny? I was going to write a post urging you all to purchase fair-trade, organic flowers this Valentine's day, but I'm sure Vanguard will do a better job. So instead I bring you music to make love by. I'd like to think there's something for everyone on this playlist.

Starfucker - German Love

Spank Rock - Put That Pussy On Me (Diplo remix)

Lykke Li - Little Bit (Death to the Throne remix)

Bonnie Tyler - Total Eclipse of the Heart

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps (acoustic)

02 February 2009

New Artist Alert: Justice's Proteges

Amidst destroying dance floors across the world, releasing a documentary about their American tour and designing their own clothing line, the two Frenchmen who combine to form the electro juggernaut, Justice, have somehow found time to collaborate with other artists. Here are three acts that Gaspard Auge (the Mustache) and Xavier de Rosnay (the China) have recently worked with:

I. Poney Poney
Poney Poney are a French garage rock trio who teamed up with the China on "Cross the Fader." Although Xavier's influence is ostensibly limited to the tight drums, crisp guitars and liberally applied sound bites, it's interesting to see his take on a new genre. The end product isn't half bad either.

Poney Poney - Cross the Fader (feat. Xavier de Rosnay)

II. Birdy Nam Nam
Just ignore the ridiculous name because beneath it are four prize-winning French turntablists, who over the course of their careers have churned out a variety of different music and have recently set their sights on electro. Birdy Nam Nam handed Justice a song that was recorded mostly live, which they didn't intend on adding to their latest album, Manual for Successful Rioting. Justice worked their magic and handed them back something akin to "Waters of Nazareth" and "Planisphere." The Justice influence is obvious: a heavy kick and dramatic synthesizer build-up that gives way to a distorted bass line and glitch-y melody. But it's Birdy Nam Nam's samples and turntable work that make this song more brutal than anything Justice would have produce alone.

Birdy Nam Nam - The Parachute Ending (feat. Justice) (mp3)

III. Midfield General
Midfield General is a producer from the U.K. who moved to Paris and befriended Ed Banger Records, Justice's label. He served as an executive producer on Justice's single "D.A.N.C.E." and, seemingly to repay the favor, the China worked alongside the General on the first single off of his new album, General Disarray. The bass line has a similar ring to "We Are Your Friends" (it's also strangely similar to Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust"--I smell a mash-up!). It also features Vila from the Bumblebeez rapping pretty damn well for a little white girl. I feel like this song would be on dance floors everywhere if only people knew about it.

Midfield General - Disco Sirens (feat. Vila, Xavier de Rosnay) (mp3)