Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I've gone a bit too long commenting rather than authoring, so its time to write about what a professor can learn from the Rolling Stones.

We saw "Shine a Light" (2008) some time ago on IMAX. (I'll put review notes down below the fold.) FYI, this is a combination documentary and concert film, with the bulk of it devoted to brilliantly edited film of a live performance in NYC (and possibly elsewhere). They open the set with "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1968), and I couldn't help notice the wide smile on Keith Richards' face at one point during this joyous song.

That's when it hit me: He's played this song countless times for almost 40 years, and it looks like he is having as much fun as he did the first time. No, he is having as much fun as the first time.

And that is what I try to do every day in the classroom: put as much into it as I did when it was all fresh and new.

I've taught exactly the same topic (let's say, projectile motion) lots of times, but not nearly as many times as Richards has played Jumpin' Jack Flash. If he can do it, so can I.

I shared this observation with one of our younger faculty, one who brings Jagger-like intensity and enthusiasm to the classroom. She teaches several sections of the same gen-ed class every semester, and I can tell that the frustrations of some of our students are getting to her (as they sometimes get to me). It hit home, so I am sharing it with you. We have to remember that each semester's crop of students is new (OK, most of them are new) and they have never seen us Live and In Concert. They deserve the same fresh new show, but new and improved with the riffs added as we learn more about how to teach certain parts of it and improvise in front of a live and (sometimes) responsive crowd.

Review notes:

I think it is safe to say that Martin Scorsese is in total control when he directs a movie. Except for this one. You can see the frustration on his part during the initial documentary part of the film, when he is begging for information about the song list for the set and not getting it until the band settles on it just before going on stage.

To see the organization of the stage come out of the chaos of preparation really makes it clear just how professional these guys are.

When I say you can't help notice the smile on Keith Richards' face, that is because his face is 30 feet tall on the screen. It would take a major geological expedition to find your way down into those wrinkles.

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