odds and ends: back to school, totoro, more dune

As you read these words, I am back in school. We have two days of training/classroom prep both today and Monday… and then it begins again! I’ve never had a problem getting excited for a new school year, although I will freely admit that this summer seemed to go by a lot more quickly than others. I guess I’m just getting older.

I was excited to find out yet again that my high school’s English department has met all the requirements for the Ohio Graduation Test in the 2011-2012 school year. That’s some nice news to come back to. I’m proud of my department’s performance over the past four years and I only see us continuing to provide well for our students in the upcoming months.

For newer readers, I suppose I should mention: Although my classroom will be in full swing by this time next week, I hold off on posting teaching comics until after Labor Day. I like to give myself a couple of weeks to get to know my students and get a feel for the group dynamics before I get started. I’m also going to pull back on Thrift Store Finds and these Odds and Ends posts until that point.

That being said, I may just pop up with a comic strip or two between then and now. I have several “summer journal comics” on the drawing board and I reserve the right to be inspired.

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My sons are now Studio Ghibli obsessed! Earlier in the summer, I rented The Secret World of Arrietty for Elliot but I found myself surprised to find both he and Henry enraptured by the flick. Ditto Kiki’s Delivery Service… but man oh man, my kids reserve the majority of their love for My Neighbor Totoro.

I had never seen My Neighbor Totoro until we started working our way through director Hayao Miyazaki’s library of films, but I was familiar with the character. Sort of a giant, rotund bunny rabbit, Totoro graced a lot of tee shirts and dorm room walls when I was in college. I’ve never been a great study of anime so the flick was easy to skip… but I wish I had seen this movie when it came out in 1988. I would have been as obsessed as Elliot and Henry are now.

One of the things I love about the majority of the Miyazaki films I’ve seen is they lack antagonists. There’s no big bad villain in My Neighbor Totoro… it’s almost just a series of imaginative, whimsical vignettes connected by a small narrative. Plot heavy, this film is not.

Another thing that’s fantastic about the movie is Totoro himself. I just mentioned I wished I had seen this movie when it came out in ’88, because when I watch it now and I look at Totoro objectively… he’s kind of frightening looking! He’s gigantic, he’s got claws for hands, and that gigantic smile! At the same time, I’m projecting an adult’s POV on the character; my children LOVE him, as evidenced by this picture Elliot drew.

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Last thing: After something like two months, I FINALLY FINISHED READING DUNE LAST NIGHT! I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a book that so stymied me in finishing. I enjoyed the book quite a bit, but usually enjoyment like that is carried over into being able to complete said book in a short amount of time. Not so with Dune; I know I started it at the end of June and here we are, mid-August.

I will not be reading Dune Messiah… at least, not for awhile.

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