Monday, February 19, 2007

Americanized

Pat Sullivan was tardy. Again. Not by much, but still, late for Mrs. Rose's Algebra class. He wasn't a bad kid. In fact, he was a fairly good student, and a good athlete.

Unfortunately, when it came to classes that began after lunch, he was over-casual with regard to start time.

It was hot. It was always hot. However, Traweek Junior High had ample air conditioning. So, we sat, steam rising from exposed skin, as the near-retirement age math teacher, with the stern demeanor and dry humor, smacked Pat on the head with her ruler, all in good fun, and in blatant disregard for the anti-corporal-punishment laws of the State of California.

Smack!

"Patrick!" She hissed, (she was the only person who ever called him by his full name...) "Certainly a bright young mathematician such as yourself should know how to tell time!"

"I was testing you to see whether you missed me." He responded.

Smack!

Apparently, she didn't. Mrs. Rose reared back for another swing at his head, (they both thoroughly enjoyed this game) when suddenly the door opened and in-stepped the Honors English teacher, Mrs. Rodgers, with amber-tinted glasses and over-permed hair.

"Don't let me stop you, Barbara, he was late to my class too."

Smack!

"What brings us this honor, Alice?" asked Mrs. Rose, while she wiped Pat's head sweat from her measuring stick.

"I'm looking for Brian."

"Which one? We have so many..."

"Brian R____," Said Mrs. Rodgers, which was odd, since I was not in her class.

Everyone looked at me. "Oh good lord," I thought to myself, "What could I have possibly done now?"

Mrs. Rose pointed her long bony finger at me. Mrs. Rodgers followed the wrinkly appendage and looked right at me. "WHY WHY WHY are you not in my English class?"

"Huh?" I was perplexed.

See, I was in the English class that the school put me in. As certain commenters to this blog will explain, I went to the elementary school on the wrong side of the tracks. Our Junior High was fed by matriculating 6th graders from several elementary schools. Most of the brighter students had been tracked at an early age out of the other feeder schools, into the GATE program at Grovecenter Elementary.

While I had started at Workman Elementary, I had actually tested into the GATE program in the first grade. However, I strongly resisted changing schools because all of my friends went to Workman. This was, of course a fallacy, since no one at Workman liked me, but that's another blog...

Anyway, this simply meant that when I graduated up to Junior High, I was tracked with all of the "non-GATE" kids, except for in Math. Math had a placement test, and that was my first exposure to those GATE bastards from Grovecenter, such as Deuce and Dr. Brian...

All of this explanation is unnecessary for the shocking turn to come later in the post, but I just wanted to make sure I wasn't accused of posting filler...

So, Mrs. Rodgers was inquisitive how I, a likely GATE candidate, wasn't in her super-special Honors English class. I explained that I didn't know, but that I felt I was doing fine in Mr. Sanchez's English class.

She then grabbed me by the arm and physically dragged me to the Principal's office. (Note: While I often embellish these torrid tales, this is an actual fact.) By the time we got there, Mr. Sanchez had been summoned. Vice Principal McClane looked confused.

My ego, substantial as it already was, got the added boost that day as I watched two teachers argue with the administration over who got to have me in their class. Truth be told, Mrs. Rodgers didn't really need me. She was just a maniacal power-hungry control-freak.

Mr. Sanchez, on the other hand... Let's just say, I WAS his class participation. I enjoyed his class, but I may have been the only one. Picture a male Hermione Granger in a grey hoodie, and you get the idea. He was a good teacher, though, and made 8th grade lit class interesting.

I remember that he used the western novel, Shane, to demonstrate plot lines, sub plots, protagonists and antagonists. While Mrs. Rodgers eventually won the argument, it is Mr. Sanchez's simple, yet well-illustrated, lessons that I remember to this day.

Which brings us, with no surprise, to this day. Like I said, it is the Sanchez diagrams, and discussions about plot-lines and plot-elements that I still see in my mind when I read books, or watch movies.

It was those very lessons that wandered around my head on Thursday as I watched The Office, and by that, I mean the Americanized Office on NBC. It is a show that I started to watch at the end of its second season. It is the only half-hour comedy that I have been able to watch in many many years.

As the missus pointed out this morning over breakfast, Thursday's episode was both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. With due respect to fans of House, I love The Office for the very same reason I dislike that doctor drama.

On House, no one is likable, particularly the protagonist. On The Office, however, Everyone is likable, even the antagonists. Everyone has a redeeming quality, and on Thursday, that theme was brilliantly displayed. True to Mr. Sanchez's teachings, the plot-line, sub-plot-lines, and plot elements were clear, but in the resolution, the antagonist saves the day.

And while I generally detest the "Americanization" of anything (it usually means "dumbing down..."), in this case it meant adding the exact good-natured elements that I enjoy.

My only regret is that I was tardy in coming to watch the series. Perhaps someone should smack me in the head with a ruler.

25 comments:

  1. My first thought was to just say that I liked the post. But then when I went to comment, everything on the comment page is in Chinese except the words Google, Blogger, Gin and Tonic Lounge, and "Americanized."

    Directly under "Americanized" I see: "还没有评论。 - 显示原始文章"

    And for what it is worth, "显示原始文章" roughly translates to "Demonstration primitive article"

    Go figure.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have a pencil I can stab you with......(I had to say it).

    And I'm glad you didn't shy away from pointing out the huge size of your ego back in the day.

    Mr. Sanchez's class was the best. I still use tons of this lessons in my every day life - from Greek Mythology, to concept spelling, to plot line notes from Shane - even still remember the definition of a novel - "A fictional pros narrative of considerable length." Oh and I got to play Anne Frank in that class. Which was probably the main reason I drama and got to do the Breakfast Club with you all. Didn't you use a grey sweatshirt to play the criminal?

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  3. Anonymous8:56 AM

    Wait. Brian did The Breakfast Club? Snorting coffee out my nose laughing so hard.

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  4. familytrain9:21 AM

    my blood has ants in it. on some occasions, my blood is ants and the ants have blood on them. who knows why? I pet a cat the same as I pet a rosemary bush, as they say, but still can't forget Mr. Sanchez and his one-armed man servant, "El Borrachito".

    "Swing me up onto your lap, Mr. Sanchez. I want to tells you something"

    El Borrachito pokes me with a chalk holder while Mr. Sanchez strokes his chin thoughtfully.

    "Mayyy-be what this child needs is the Axolotl of Joy/Hope...", he muses aloud. El Borrachito glances up, surprised, and Mr. Sanchez nods decisively.

    The little one-armed drunkard searched with all of his heart for this mythological reptile of salvation, even tearing apart all the desks and the supply closet in his fervor.

    But it was nowhere to be found, and I lost my chance at everything.

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  5. Brian played the same character as Molly Ringwald in the Breakfast Club.

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  6. El Borrachito9:40 AM

    Perhaps you can hook me up with Daisy

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  7. What the hell is GATE? Is that one of those hippy dippy educational experiments that were so popular in the 70s that turned out to be bubkis?

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  8. Not to feed Brian (or Brian or others') already prodigious egos - but I believe it stands for: Gifted and Talented Education.

    Yes, they had it in the school district I was in...
    And while I did not get to enjoy Mr. Sanchez's class, I did have the distinction of being in the Gate program with our English teacher...
    ... wait for it....

    Mrs. Cox.

    ReplyDelete
  9. a co-worker10:24 AM

    The true ironies here despite Brian's GATE English placement are (i) his bad grammar, poor spelling and diarrhea of the mouth (or keyboard, as the case may be) and (ii) the fact that he essentially makes his living by reading and writing.

    In fairness, Brian has long owned up to his poor spelling and only passing familiarity with grammar. Put another way, you can put a man in GATE English, but you can't make him lern nuthun.

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  10. Gifted and Talented Education? So, it wasn't actually education for the gifted and talented, but a gifted and talented education program with the hopes of teaching you all something. That explains a lot of the comments here if there are quite a few of you who were in this program.

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  11. Mitch, that's a coincidence. Cox was also my mother's maiden name, which, when you take into consideration my first pet's name, makes my generated pornstar name: "Sargeant Cox."

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  12. Fred:

    The California Board of Education, in the 1970s, was a sucker for acronyms. Still is for all I know. Acronyms and standardized tests. I blame the Board for all of my problems today.

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  13. I didn't realise you actually got educated in High School in America.
    I thought it was all cheerleaders and quarterbacks against geeks and arty types. Oh,and Proms

    Yes it's a British Stereotypical view of High School but blame American TV for giving it to me

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  14. Pat Sullivan actually came in as a new patient about 2 years ago. I had to convince him that I went to school with him back in the day. I had to use your name to jog his memory... Sent the bastard to collections for not paying his bill.

    Way way back in the early 70's they called the educational program "MGM". (Mentally gifted Minors) I think it was a way of separating the cheerleaders and athletes from the nerds.

    By the way, Mr. Sanchez touched my pee pee. Family train touched my pee pee too.

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  15. Brian - Every bureaucracy worth its weight in paperwork and regulations is a sucker for acronyms.

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  16. Just for the record, my kindergarten teacher's name was Mrs. Fagg. First grade was Mrs. Booze. Ahhhh the lovely state of Virginia!

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  17. Anonymous12:33 PM

    My school called it PACT: Program for Academically and Creatively Talented. My 8th grade English teacher accused me of plagiarizing my book review of The Pearl. My parents actually had to go to the principal's office to tell them that they watched me write the report. And then I got an A-. Bitter, bitter, bitter.

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  18. Dr. Bri, the fact you sent Pat Sullivan to collections just made my day.

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  19. I went to school in Virginia and I didn't have a Fagg or Booze. I was always a deprived child.

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  20. Im trying to work out how many 30 cm rulers I would need to join together to cross the 5000 miles needed to smack Brian on the head

    any of you big egoed GATEys care to help?

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  21. 26822400

    inog is correct...

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  22. Big Bri - i can't get sued for nasel burns for making someone snort out their coffee, right?

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  23. Mrs. G&T11:48 PM

    Thanks for making breakfast. It was very tasty.

    ReplyDelete

Be compelling.

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