Reflections on writing, teaching and TV

Found via Jay Lake: Jim van Pelt reflects on the similarities between writing and teaching and how both can eat your brain.

I totally agree with this. Most of time, my brain is either engaged in plotting and character development or planning lessons or wondering how to deal with this or that difficult student or class or preplanning the email I have to write regarding the difficult student/class and so on. Add in thinking about the PhD thesis and other academic issues (and I’d include most of my reflections on books, films and TV shows academic musings) and you’ve pretty much got my day.

While on the twin subjects of writing and teaching, one of my students this year is a budding writer. At the moment, she’s writing wild mash-ups of Twilight and three dozen different animes, but that’s not much different from what I wrote at her age, though with me it was wild mash-ups of Star Wars and three dozen different 1980s cartoon shows. But she’s definitely got talent (for example, she’s got a pretty good grasp of POV for someone who doesn’t yet know what POV is) and I’m doing my best to nurture it a bit. Today after class, we discussed the dangers of Mary Sueism.

And now for something completely different: I don’t rarely watch German-made TV drama, because most of it is not to my taste. However, I’ve really come to enjoy Lasko – Fist of God. It’s utterly batty, the unholy lovechild of an Asian martial arts flick and The Da Vinci Code.

Our hero Lasko is a member of an order of Roman Catholic martial arts monks named “Pugnus Dei” (fist of God). The Catholic church doesn’t have martial arts monks, you say? Who cares, it’s fantasy. The Pugnus Dei monks are the sworn enemies of a secret order named Ares who are planning to take over either the Catholic church or the world or both. Why would a secret Catholic order name itself after a Roman god? No idea and neither, I suspect, do the writers. At any rate, Lasko and his pal Gladius – who is not a martial arts monk, but has talents of his own, most of which likely stem from a not quite so saintly past – struggle with the temptations offered by a succession of attractive female guest stars entranced by Lasko’s muscular abs, square off against the operatives of Ares week after week and always manage to foil their dastardly plans, which include everything from stealing a top secret fifth evangelium in order ton destabilize the Catholic church to releasing a deadly contact poison in various subway systems throughout Europe, passing the deaths off as a mysterious new disease (because forensics obviously haven’t been invented) and then making millions by selling an antidote as a cure against the new disease.

Though the plots are utterly batty, the show is actually very well made. The action sequences are great, but then the RTL folks know how to shoot great action scenes, as proven by more than ten years of Alarm für Cobra 11 (cop show made by the same team that is slightly more realistic). The characters are likable and the whole thing is just great fun.

Oddly enough, my students adore Cobra 11 and hate Lasko, though both shows are actually very similar: A formulaic mix of batty plots, furious action, humour, likable characters and the rare bit of genuine emotional depth. Okay, so Cobra 11 focusses more on explosions and spectacular car crashes (the show is about the adventures of two highway cops on the most unlucky stretch of highway in all of Germany), while Lasko focusses more on martial arts. And of course, the religious angle might be a turn-off for some of the students, though religion is not really played up.

BTW, Alarm für Cobra 11 was the first German TV show to star a Turkish German actor playing a Turkish German character.

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One Response to Reflections on writing, teaching and TV

  1. I don’t always agree with you (thank God, that would be boring), but I have to tell you you are a great writer.

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