By Claude Tate
Movies are great tools for those of us who tell the stories of humanity’s past and present. Consequently, throughout my career I have constantly been on the prowl for movies I could use in my classes. I first became acquainted with “Raise the Red Lantern” in a MALS class I took here at UNC-G under Professor Tony Fragola. Besides being an excellent movie in and of itself, I’ve found it to be a valuable addition to units I’ve taught on both China and on Confucianism. When I taught World History, I used it on numerous occasions to introduce my unit on China. I do not use it in any of my BLS classes. But when we do our lesson on the Confucian approach to organizing the state in my “Self, Society, and Salvation” course, students sometimes want to know what a society built on Confucian principles would actually look like in practice. I haven’t hesitated to recommend this movie. I can think of no other resource that bring those age old principles to life to the degree that this movie can. Zhang Yimou portrays not only the force and oppressiveness of the culture that evolved in China in which everyone has a clearly defined role, but also how people cope within this highly structured society, and what happens to those who rebel.
One note…Many people avoid movies that are subtitled, but Zhang Yimou is so effective in telling his story with the lens of his camera that one can understand the movie completely without reading a single subtitle.
Click here to read a 1996 review of this movie by James Berardinelli, and the trailer is below:
One more thing…I love this movie. It is well worth your time even if you are not viewing it for academic purposes.
By Claude Tate
Life is full of milestones. And for parents, the most important milestones are those that involve our children. A friend of ours recently sent us a video that brought back memories of one of those parental milestones for my wife and me. Our son had graduated from high school and gone off to college. After graduation he moved to a nearby town and found a job. Yet, it never felt like he had left home. His room was still there, we saw him often, and when he had a problem, we were close enough to help. But then he announced both he and his girlfriend were quitting their jobs and moving to Nashville, TN. He had visited Nashville a few years before with a friend, but neither of them knew anyone there or had any job prospects. They had found a house to rent, but that was it. He had sensed the same thing that we had. He was not really “living” at home, but had not left home either. He needed to truly be on his own. Even if he wanted to, in Nashville he would not be able to call on me to solve his every problem. My wife and I were worried, but we told ourselves we must trust his judgment. So we and his girlfriend’s parents helped them move. After helping them move in, we ate lunch at a nearby restaurant and said our good-byes. It was then that it hit my wife and me. A major chapter in our lives was closing. Our son was leaving home. We were happy for him as his excitement was obvious, but we were also sad to see him go. We had prepared him for this moment all his life. He was ready. But we had not prepared ourselves.
If you’ve never had a child leave home, you may see something entirely different in the video clip I’ve included in this post. And even if you had, you may still see something different. But my wife and I loved it and I hope you will at least find it enjoyable.
Robins: 4 Eggs, 4 Weeks from Fred Margulies on Vimeo.
Postscript. Things were not easy at first, but he eventually found a job and his girlfriend found part-time work. After several months in Nashville, they moved to Murfreesboro where his girlfriend went to graduate school. He continued to work in Nashville for a short period, then found a job with Middle Tennessee State. The Nashville area really is a great place for young people and they loved it. But my wife and I continued to remind my son that Asheville rhymed with Nashville and was a pretty cool place too. They were married, she finished school, and the “Tennessee Tates” (their name for themselves at the time) moved back to NC. They settled first in Asheville and now live in Hendersonville. Much like the little robins in the video, our son and his wife proved they were ready to fly. And also much like the mother and father robins, it took a little time for us to fully accept that we had done our job and our nest was empty.
By Claude Tate
I’m not signed onto Facebook. I don’t “tweet”. And I’m not a blog kind of guy. I created a blog several years ago for a class assignment and when the class was over it rapidly died from extreme inattention. I just don’t get into social media. So as I enter into my participation in our BLS Blog, I do so with a great deal of trepidation.
Coming up with something to say that someone will read voluntarily is really my biggest hurdle. There’s an episode of “Seinfeld” in which Jerry and George are trying to sell their show about “nothing” to NBC executives. When asked what the show would be about, George said “nothing”. When they asked why people would watch such a show, he replied because it was on TV. I hope that reasoning applies here. It will be my experiment in “if you write it in a blog, someone will read it.”
These things always evolved, but at least for now, my intention is to just focus on things that I find of interest, and not necessarily connected to my classes. In fact, while there may be some references to things I discuss in class, I hope to use it to write about things I normally would not discuss or at least discuss at any length in class. So be prepared for the mundane as well things that may be a little different. Just please do not set your expectations too high.
And for my first post, I can think of no better place to begin than with my grandchildren. And forgive me if I get a little “preachy”. I have a tendency to do that from time to time. My wife and I have two grandchildren, Mason, who is two and a half years old, and Adeline, who is 4 months old. It was difficult for us to finance our son’s college education. We can’t imagine what the cost will be when Mason and Adeline are ready to go to college. Not only will the cost be exponentially higher, but they will have two in college at the same time. Private institutions have always been expensive and getting more so each year. While state schools are and probably will remain the cheaper option, they too are getting more and more expensive. State supported schools across the nation are doing the best they can to keep education affordable, but still the raising of tuition and fees has become almost an annual rite as federal support dwindles and state legislatures are unable to keep up with rising costs on their own. (An Associated Press article in the News and Record this morning reported that in-state tuition at public colleges rose 8.3% this past year. California led the way with an increase of 21%) And to make matters worse, money for assistance in meeting those rising costs is also being cut back everywhere. Across the nation, large numbers of students are dropping out of college because of the expense. This is not only detrimental to the individuals involved as their dreams are dashed, but wasting potential talent is detrimental to our future as a nation. I know our economy is not performing as we would like, but we must find a way to keep higher education affordable for the average person. We must keep those doors of opportunity open.
But back to my son and his family….The one saving grace is that while we do not yet know what Adeline’s dreams for the future are (she can’t talk), Mason said the other day that he wanted to be President. I had suggested to him earlier that being an existential philosopher might be a good career path, but evidently it went in one ear and out the other. And maybe that’s a good thing. To be President, a person only needs be a natural born citizen, 35 years old, and a resident within the United States for 14 years. No college required. At least he’s chosen a job with cheap requirements.