Monday, February 21, 2005

Six degrees of quantum mechanics

We had lunch with Dave and Tracy today, as promised. Since the University Club menu was so-so, we splurged and went to Chef Geoff's. (Mmmm.) Among other things, we chatted about some of the "weird student" stories that all of us professors have. Tracy mentioned the stigma of being "that girl" at Wellesley (as in "Who is that girl?" and "Why doesn't that girl ever shut up?") and I relayed the story of the student who fell asleep -- drunk, snoring loudly -- during a screening of Hitchcock's Notorious and who wouldn't wake up even when I started hitting him in the chest with some papers.

Dave had the story that had me in stitches for a while later. Dave is officially a faculty member of the Department of History of Science at MIT, but occasionally teaches in the physics department. (This is important information.) I was telling them about the bad movies I've forced upon my students over the past couple of years. Highlighted among these are two disco musicals which effectively killed the genre for almost 20 years in 1980: Can't Stop the Music, where the Village People are (brace yourselves...) straight, and Xanadu, where Gene Kelly gives his swan song performance on roller skates. "You realize, however, why I was fully justified in loving that film as a kid," I told them, thinking about my major crush on Olivia Newton-John. (It was 1980. I was 8. And she was on roller skates! How could I resist?)

"Sure," Dave said, "because Olivia Newton-John is the grandaughter of physics Nobel Laureate Max Born."

I thought Dave was kidding. But no, apparently it's true: she who was hopelessly devoted to me is apparently descended from the guy who theorized what an atom was. Who knew? This is the best part, however. He says that he mentions this is his undergraduate physics lecture all the time and that graduate students sit in every so often. Last year, one grad student -- remember: MIT, grad student physics, not your generic slacker -- just burst out from the back of the class upon hearing about Newton-John: "That is the best thing I've learned in this class all year." Uproar of laughter, followed by a heartfelt apology after class by the grad student to Dave. It completely tickled me, though.

This of course makes me wonder what's the fondest memory other people have of what is otherwise a horrible, forgettable movie. For me, oddly enough, it's a predecessor of Xanadu that I remember seeing in Lima while on vacation there as a kid: Roller Boogie, a 1979 vapid fantasy featuring Linda Blair on -- roller skates! You know that it's good if everyone's on roller skates. I remember being absolutely entranced, but the movie couldn't have possibly been good. (It has a rating of 2.5/10 on imdb.) I would love to see it again now with new, critical eyes, just to be properly horrified. Leave a comment below if you'd like relating the most horrifying movie you're just dying to see again.

1 comment:

Emily said...

wow can't stop the music. I am forever scarred by that film. I blame my night terrors on you, you crazy film professor.