Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why and How I Saw Pearl Harbor

It was recently revealed on Twitter, to my everlasting shame, that I paid full price to see Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor. Let me explain. First off, gym teachers are to blame.

As the Woodman once said in his infinite wisdom, those who can't teach, teach gym. Often held in ridicule by both the studentry and faculty, the gym teacher was given, at least in my school system, a special power to compensate for the complete lack of respect afforded to him or her: "the zero for the day". Often given as punishment for forgetting one's sweatpants, the Zero for the Day adds an empty grade each time it is given.

Say, for example, that the gym teacher gives twelve grades through-out the semester, each one worth ten points. Your final grade for said semester is arrived at by dividing your total-- let's say you're some sort of athlete and you got all 120 points-- to reach your percentage. 120 divided by 120 is 1 or 100%, an A+.

But let's say you forgot your sweatpants or swim trunks or what-not: you've got two zeroes for the day. So your 120 points is divided not by 120 but by 140 (ten for each empty grade) and your final grade is 85%-- a B.

But at some point in the history of this twisted saga, the other teachers got jealous of this sexy status symbol and soon they, too, were given the power to award empty grades, thus regulating gym teachers back to their sad existences of disrespect and alcoholism. These academic empty grades (as opposed to their athletic counterparts) are up to a teacher's discretion, and can be awarded for any number of reasons-- tardiness, smarting off, et cetera.

And in my final year of high school, my history teacher had this astonishing power at her disposal. My history teacher also had a pretty lousy grasp of history, often saying things that, well, weren't true. And when I corrected her on areas that were up for debate, she gave me a zero for the day. When I corrected her on areas of fact, she gave me a zero for a day. When I brought in evidence to support my assertions, well, you can see where this story is going.

I think I accumulated something like 160 empty grades, which basically ensured failure no matter how highly I scored on anything. There is a lesson to be learned here about the value of keeping one's tongue, et cetera et cetera, and the necessity of compromise to get along with others, et cetera et cetera, but I was eighteen or nineteen years old and was renting a room in Detroit instead of living at home and thought I was smarter than everyone, et cetera et cetera. While I still get furious when I think of history teachers disseminating lies as facts, I also think I made some very bad decisions. Probably 160 of them.

Since I did want to graduate from High School, I asked my teacher if, in all honesty, there was anything I could do to salvage my grade. Some kind of extra credit that could somehow bump me up from an E to a barely-passing D-. And there was. Since I liked pointing out factual errors so much, she suggested I see both Tora! Tora! Tora! and the newly-released Pearl Harbor and do a compare-contrast.

And that's why I went to see Pearl Harbor. But that's not why I'm telling you this story. I'm only telling you this story so I can share this one with you.

So, I go to see Pearl Harbor. And there's this guy in the theater, a veteran of World War II. Old dude, wearing the little pointy hat and uniform, with a walker. And for whatever reason he decides to sit in the top row; it's one of those big slanted theaters. And during the big bombing of Pearl Harbor sequence, this little old dude says at the top of his voice, so everybody can hear: "This is bullshit."

Then he slowly, arduously walks down the aisle and makes his exit. I did the same, bullshitted my way through my compare-contrast, and ended up with a D-.

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