“The Changing of the Guard”

I don’t really like much “warm-fuzzy” teacher stuff (which makes it hard for my mom to shop my birthday), but I love this episode of The Twilight Zone. I don’t think most casual viewers realize just how sentimental that show often got. This episode is basically It’s a Wonderful Life, for teachers. Especially as an English teacher, I love the idea that what we do actually matters.

First is the best copy I could find on YouTube, which still isn’t great, though I’m sure you can find it on Netflix and Hulu–it’s the last episode of season 3. Below that is a very cool all-female-student remake a school did. Enjoy.

The Twilight Zone: The Shelter

This is the only episode of The Twilight Zone I can think of where there wasn’t anything even remotely supernatural.  No aliens, no psychics, no monsters; just scared, powerless people in a panic and feeding off of each other’s fear.  As we all know, that’s the scariest thing of all. 

Astute nerds will recognize this plot from its parody in The Simpsons’ epsiode “Bart’s Comet.”


Two Thoughts About “V”

Yesterday afternoon I told my oldest son about the rebooted series V, and how much I enjoyed the original version as a kid.  When I explained the plot to him–aliens show up and solve all our problems, pretending to be our friends, so they can win our trust and then eat us–he said, “Hmm.  Sounds like that Twilight Zone episode, ‘To Serve Man.'”  He’s only ten.  I was so proud I could have cried. 


After watching the show last night (truly excellent, by the way), I was struck by just how silly, impossible, and outrageous the story was, though.  I mean, c’mon, an attractive leader shows up out of nowhere, promising to magically solve our problems with little more than broad bromides about hope and peace, and everybody just goes gaga and falls into line?  Why, this leader even has a simpering media quickly trained to jump through hoops!  And I refuse to accept that this leader’s minions could be actively recruiting young people to subversively carry on their work.   

Seriously, who could ever buy into a story that crazy?  Clearly, clearly, this is some pretty far out science fiction.  Luckily, nothing like that could ever actually happen in real life.


Happy Golden Anniversary, Twilight Zone!

34375698I’ve been looking forward to today for months—it was 50 years ago, on Friday, October 2, 1959, that the first episode of The Twilight Zone aired.  

It’s unbelievable how good these were, and still are.  They are models of perfect pacing, creating suspense, framing and lighting shots, developing a theme, and dialogue that moves a stimulating story forward but never condescends.  There are no short cuts or cheap shots in The Twilight Zone, just flawless exposition and social commentary.  Rod Serling was a genius—besides the bulk of the great TZ episodes, he also wrote the original Planet of the Apes screenplay, including the best shock ending ever.

Who doesn’t like the monster of the wing of the plane, or Shatner getting addicted to fortune telling, or the nearly endless classic twist endings: the “deformed” girl in a conformist world,  the broken glasses, or the alien cookbook!

I use a few episodes in my classes each October, actually, to help teach literary concepts, like identifying themes and commentary.  

Should you invest some time on your date night to watching several classic episodes free online?  Yes.  Yes, you should.

Twilight Zone Anniversary

There doesn’t seem to be much fuss out there yet about the upcoming 50th anniversary of The Twilight Zone, which premiered on October 2, 1959.  Amazon lists an anniversary book, but that’s it.  I know the Definitive Collection is already available on DVD (and which would make a great Christmas present for me, hint, hint), but doesn’t this landmark deserve more fanfare?  Are there TV specials planned?  Another movie?  Nostalgic segments on news shows?  Massive, emotional vigils at Rod Serling’s grave?

Quotes, Pics, And Clips II

ARTS:  One of my favorite songs is Peter Gabriel’s “Book of Love.”  The singer here grumbles about the confusing various faces of love, alternating between praise for the bracingly ennobling nature of romantic love (“some of it’s just transcendental”) and the heartbreak of disappointment and disillusionment (“some of it’s just really dumb”).  The chorus, however, proclaims the singer’s ultimate devotion to the mature relationship that produces this weird magic.

I’ve read some purist critics say they prefer the original by indie band The Magnetic Fields, but two things make Gabriel’s cover superior.  First is the addition of some understated strings, which can add to a song that’s already reflective a profoundly nostalgic dimension (case in point: R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming”).  Second, Gabriel’s voice.  It sounds weary throughout, perhaps from being burdened by intense emotional experience, but in the choruses it climbs into a realm of subdued power that sounds like sandpaper soaked in whiskey. 

Surprisingly, there aren’t very many good videos for this song on YouTube.  One decent version is set to scenes from 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.  Most every melancholy love song has a YouTube video made of scenes from this movie.  Also available are a few amateur covers, most of which are actually quite good.  Below is one set to some well chosen companion images. 

EDUCATION:  “Everyone ought to have the opportunity to transcend the limitations of his linguistic environment, if it is a restricted one–which means he ought to meet a few schoolmarms in his childhood…It is fatuous to expect that the most complex of human faculties, language, requires no special training to develop it to its highest possible power.”  -Theodore Dalrymple, “The Gift of Language,” City Journal, Autumn 2006

HUMOR:  excerpted from “Anticlimactic Twilight Zone Episodes,” by Jim Stallard, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, 8/5/05:

Eye of the Beholder

In a hospital, her head completely wrapped in bandages, a young woman waits for the result of a last-ditch operation to alter her disfigured face so she will not have to be sent to live at a reservation of outcasts. Throughout the episode, the viewer hears the voices of the doctors and bedside family members but never sees their faces. When the bandages are finally removed, they reveal a plain-faced woman with several visible scars. The woman’s father says the surgeon probably did the best he could under the circumstances and sends his daughter to Sarah Lawrence.

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE:  “No man can write well who thinks there is any choice of words for him.  The laws of composition are as strict as those of sculpture & architecture.  There is always one line that ought to be drawn or one proportion that should be kept & every other line or proportion is wrong, & so far as it deviates from this.  So in writing, there is always a right word, & every other than that is wrong.  There is no beauty in words except in their collocation.  The effect of a fanciful word misplaced, is like that of a horn of exquisite polish growing on a human head.”  -Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal, July 8, 1831


LIFE has loveliness to sell,
     All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
     Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup. 
Life has loveliness to sell,
     Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
     Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night. 
Spend all you have for loveliness,
     Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
     Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

               -Sara Teasdale, “Barter,” 1917

POLITICS AND SOCIETY:  “Human beings love freedom much less than equality.  And they love it much less because, flowing into collectivism, equality relieves the individual from the burden of responsibility.  Because equality does not demand the sacrifice that freedom demands, does not require the courage that freedom requires.”  -Oriana Fallaci, The Force of Reason

RELIGION:  “To be redeemed is to be atoned. From this it should be clear what kind of onenessis meant by the Atonement—it is being received by the Lord in a close embrace of the returning prodigal son, expressing not only forgiveness but oneness of heart and mind that amounts to identity, like a literal family identity as John sets it forth so vividly in chapters 14 through 17 of his Gospel.”  -Hugh Nibley, “The Meaning of the Atonement,” Approaching Zion (see also here)