By definition, adjunct means, "a thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part." So, we know what we're getting into. Still, it sucks to be nonessential when you do essential things pretty well. There are 2 or 3 weeks before any given semester begins when adjunct instructors get to feel entirely essential. Today alone I've had two phone interviews and gotten no fewer than three other email inquiries about whether or not I can teach at X institution. Some of these are schools that I approached 6+ weeks ago, when I was putting my schedule for the fall together. I've played this game many times. So! Onward! I'm preparing to teach a class of all men (boys?) business majors at a private college. I'm teaching Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams. I planned this syllabus weeks and weeks ago, before I knew I'd have a class of all men, but now, it seems even more essential. Everyone needs to learn empathy. But maybe especially men. Maybe especially men, empathy toward women. Not that that's what this book is about. It's more about just seeing other people for who they are. Understanding lives that seem entirely different from your own. Jamison investigates super weird communities: people with obsessions and diseases, and biases. She writes beautifully about them. She becomes them, in a way. Someday I'd like to become a real teacher, with a living wage and reasonable benefits; but until then, I'll do my best at being essential, in a supplementary way.
Waiting in line to see Pixar's Inside Out on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Harlem, yeah, it was mostly filled with kids and parents. Tired, tired parents, and kids who smelled like sweat and rain. But this is an important film. We all know about the voices in our heads, but sometimes we forget that everyone is struggling with the same emotions. Pete Doctor, one of Pixar's animators, got the idea for the film when he was trying to figure out what went on inside his 11-year-old daughter's head. This isn't one of Pixar's silly/sarcastic films--it's actually quite sweet from beginning to end. And its overall message centers around the importance of being sad. Welcoming all of the emotions: really feeling them. This film sticks with you because it forces you to think about how your own mind works. Why do we remember every detail from one childhood day but not the rest? Why do we sing the ice cream truck song at random when we're trying to think seriously? There's so much about the brain that even the experts don't know, so why not give personality to our feelings and imagine a whole team helping us each out?
NBC bills American Odyssey as a thriller, but that makes it sound less sophisticated than what it is. This is entertainment, just a step away from reality: a scary thing, which is what keeps us anxious for where it goes next. It becomes clear that a US company is funding Islamic terrorists; it becomes clear that the public doesn't have any concept of what they don't know. Sergeant Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel) is the only surviver of an attack in North Africa: her biggest challenge (besides staying alive) it to try to convince people back home that she is alive. There are several threads to this story: plenty of questions to ask, plenty of characters to like, and then despise. Also, parts of it were filmed a few blocks from my apartment in Harlem: true rough meets TV rough. Watch this show.