I think that the young science teacher for whom I subbed today will find somewhere in the stack of classwork and notes I left her a paper on which I wrote something like:
I have observed that students are more likely to do their work quietly if I sit at the front of the room writing ("Is it a note to our teacher?") than if I sit there with a good book.
And on that strategy, along with my usual one of demanding silence -- yet actually letting some muttering go unnoticed -- we got through the day. I didn't mean to leave the paper, of course; the absent teacher had the 4th block off and I was ready to leave. I hope nothing more incriminating (kids names I didn't really need to Report to her for behavior problems; curses about how messy her desk was).
The book I refrained from reading today was Donna Tartt's The Secret History. (Note to self, when CNB recommends a book, read it right away.) Though I feel like Tartt made fall and spring in New England too warm, and that she used a few random words ("hoarse" comes to mind) too often, I find it well-written and compelling. It reminds me of The Virgin Suicides (Eugenides).
As for Spirited Away: wow. It swept me away, dazzled me. I watched it twice on Tuesday, the day I borrowed it from Maggi. The painterly backdrops took my breath away. The villain Yubaba lives in exquisite rooms at the top of a bath house. The light, the radish spirit (so creepy! yet, apparently benign!) the train journey (as an article in the NYer points out; that's what started this), and even Chihiro's car trip at the beginning just knocked my socks off. I expected a bigger cultural chasm than I felt. I imagine that certain characters or their forms would speak to me on a deeper level if I had an understanding of Japanese myth and iconography, but I never felt befuddled. Actually, I did for a moment, but Chihrio says of the funny, snakey squiggle in the sky, "Haku's a dragon." Miyazaki's dragon has a feline (or canine per the New Yorker piece) head and long snake-like, though maybe fur-covered, body. Maybe all Japanese dragons look like that? Would you all agree that in the west dragons appear more reptilian, and often seem chunky, like a Brontosaurus?
Searching for pictures makes this a cruddy bit of prose -- and reminds me of bits I forgot: Yubaba's weird head henchmen (they remind me of the head of Jebadiah Springfield in an old video game); her sister's enchanted lantern that meats Chihiro and her friends at the train; and the scene where Chihiro runs along the drainpipe, smashing together Charles Sheeler, classic American cartoon antics, and an Eastern asymmetry.