The Love Connection

A couple of weeks ago I started writing about a high school English teacher of mine and ended up writing about how I got into theatre (pretty much accidentally). That post turned into the story of finding a completely new direction I never knew existed. In one way or another, that new direction has been part of my compass ever since. At first it was an intended career, but it turned out my career followed a direction discovered much later.

In that post, I mentioned that I would write about the intended subject another time.

It is now another time.

Before I start, an update. The first high school English teacher I wrote about was Mr. Wilson. A friend from high school recently let me know that he died earlier this year. So the memory post is now a memorial post. RIP, sir! You touched many lives.

As I mentioned in the post about Mr. Wilson, he was my English teacher in both sophomore and senior years.

For freshman year, I had a teacher named Mrs. McGee. That was the name we called her, but her original name was Phyllis Love, and she was an actress before she was an English teacher. [Here’s her IMDB bio.] She had success on the Broadway stage, appeared in television shows from 1950-1970, and she was in two movies. Her biggest movie role was as Mattie Birdwell in Friendly Persuasion.

Unfortunately, this post is also a memorial post. That makes two more people who were important in my past that have washed off the sandbar.

My high school English teacher the movie actress!
(The movie is Friendly Persuasion.)

If you read her bio, you’ll see that she went to high school in Des Moines, Iowa, with Cloris Leachman. They remained good friends from then on, and that’s why she was able to get the cast of the Mary Tyler Moore show to come present at our high school theatre awards show. (Except for Mary herself, of course.)

[Wow! That just hit me. My first high school English teacher has a Wiki page and an IMDB page. Whatever else, I have managed to have an interesting life!]

Freshman English with Mrs. McGee was about what you would expect for first year high school students. Her acting background didn’t come up often then. Two years later, she took over the role of drama teacher; that was during my last two years. (The teacher I mentioned, our director “Jack,” had left to pursue Hollywood dreams.)

From left are Richard Eyer, Phyllis Love, Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire and Tony Perkins.

I’ve already told you about the drama awards show. I wanted to write about Mrs. McGee because—as with Mr. Wilson—I wanted to commemorate these people who helped shape my life. And in this case—also as with Mr. Wilson— I have a very small, very old bone to pick.

In the Brain Bubble posted recently, I mentioned I was digging through old boxes looking for a science fiction short story I wrote in high school. Specifically, I was looking for the one I wrote in Mrs. McGee’s class during my freshman year. She gave me a poor grade for it.

Even at the time I knew I didn’t deserve the low mark. A classmate, another science fiction fan, supported my contention to no avail. The grade stood. And the thing is, the element for which she down-graded me was an element I’d adapted from existing science fiction . (Adapted, borrowed, emulated, played homage to, stolen… it’s all a matter of degree.)

Thing is, Mr. Wilson was arguably right about “nearly unique,” but I know I was right about my story. I’d written a hugely long-range tale about civilization advancing to the point of travel between galaxies. And war between galaxies.

My story ended far into the future when the universe got so old and tired that, “one by one the galaxies simply faded and went out.”  (I’m quoting from memory, so the wording might not be exactly right.)

Mrs. McGee objected on the grounds that galaxies don’t just go out.

Apparently she’d never read Arthur Clarke‘s Nine Billion Names of God. In that short story (one of my all-time favorites), monks with computers are attempting to calculate the nine-billion names of God. Two computer techs who helped set this up are leaving, and as they do they wonder what will happen when the computer run completes. They look up, and “Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.”

What’s even funnier is that we now think the eventual fate of the universe is something somewhat along those lines.

Until almost 100 years ago, we thought the universe just was; it existed in a steady state. Then a guy, named Edwin Hubble, figured out that all the galaxies we can see are receding from us. That means they all started in one place and exploded outwards. We call that the Big Bang. One question we’ve had since then is whether there was enough mass in the universe to eventually cause it to collapse into the Big Crunch. If not, then the universe would keep expanding.

We’ve discovered recently that not only will the universe keep expanding, but a thing we call dark energy is pushing the expansion faster and faster.  (When you hear the term dark energy you should substitute in your mind: not a clue, so we made up the name dark energy.)

So the ultimate fate of the universe (we now think) is not the Big Crunch, but the Big Rip. Eventually galaxies will be torn apart, then solar systems, then planets and stars, and eventually all matter will be ripped into its basic components (leptons and bosons and quarks, oh my).

So… I was right in the metaphorical poetic sense.

I was right in the narrative precedent sense.

And I was right in the literal, actual, physics-based, factual sense!

So booya onya, Mrs. McGee!  We loved ya dearly, but ya got this one wrong.

I want my grade upgraded!  🙂

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

24 responses to “The Love Connection

  • Jo

    I had no idea Mrs. McGee had moved on to a better place, (at least let’s hope it’s better.) My memory of her as my freshman English teacher (were we in the same class?) was her frequently tap dancing across the room. Shuffling off to Buffalo. She was a sweet woman. Hat’s off to you, Mrs. McGee, (Top Hat, of course).

  • Annie

    I just read an article on Mrs. Mcgee and she lives near me in Murrietta. Did she just pass recently???

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yep. You can find the details if you follow the link to her Wikipedia page.

    • Annie

      Oh, I saw that…she did die last year..and it is Menifee, Not Murrietta. How sad. They had interviewed her last year in the local paper…but I saw on the obit that she had Alzheimer’s. She was a great English teacher..she gave me an A+ on some paper I wrote that was rather controversial. She told me I had a future in writing! HAHA- who knew?

  • Chyina

    A tap dancing teacher? I would have liked to seen that.

    I thought the universe both expanded and contracted, then expanded and contracted, and so on. So in the end we all are living our lives over and over. Or maybe that’s just my fantasy of a Groundhog Day. O_o

    • Wyrd Smythe

      As I wrote in the post, once we discovered the Big Bang, we wondered if there would be a Big Crunch once gravity finally won and pulled the universe back in. The answer to that question has always depended on how much mass exists in the universe; above a certain amount, collapse is inevitable; below it, won’t happen.

      Recently we’ve discovered that the expansion is speeding up. We don’t know why, so we made up the term “dark energy” (which is completely different from “dark matter,” another thing we had to make up to explain what we see but can’t explain). The current general thinking is we keep expanding and expanding until eventually the very atoms are ripped apart.

      And I’m afraid that even if things did work less bizarrely, and the universe did do a repeating cycle of Banging and Collapsing, that wouldn’t imply it’s like a film being run forwards and backwards. Each cycle would likely result in a completely new universe.

      • Chyina

        I forget where I heard the “repeat” theory to be honest. It was some show or doc, but not sure which one. I thought it was a bit strange that if it did start again that it would all be the same thing over, but still I find it fascinating what ideas can stem from theories.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’ve heard it before, too. IF the universe was fully deterministic (which some believe it is), it is possible for it to work like film running backwards and forwards. This, of course, makes us nothing more than gears in the machine with no free will. We are, like any machine, merely performing our programmed actions.

        One supposes that quantum physics makes the universe non-deterministic (although that’s a debatable point), at least at the quantum level, and that should make utter repeats impossible (although as I said, there is some wiggle room).

        It’s all a moot point, since we now believe the universe will continue to expand (due to “dark energy”) until the “Big Rip.”

      • Chyina

        The “Big Rip”. This may sound like second grade, but I can’t help but to laugh at that. All I can think of is that it’s one big fart joke. 😛

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The Big Bang, The Big Crunch, The Big Rip… Physicists have a sense of humor, too! (British and Canadian physicists have a sense of humour, of course.) I always liked John Wheeler’s line about black holes having “no hair.”

        But clearly the universe farts! 😀

      • Chyina

        Don’t forget Aussies are humour as well. 😉 (still getting use to some of the different spellings here)

        I don’t think I’ve heard the “no hair” line, but I like it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Ah, yes, and I do try to remember my south-of-the-equator friends!

        Physicists can be fun and interesting. The fifth and sixth quarks were originally named Truth and Beauty (to go along with Up, Down, Charm and Strange). For some reason they changed that to Top and Bottom. I miss the old names.

      • Chyina

        I’d have to agree that the old names sound better.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I wrote a little poem about the LHC and quarks a while back:
        https://logosconcarne.com/2011/07/28/sideband-19-lhc/

        [Quick test of pop culture: what movie am I referencing in the last line of the post?]

      • Chyina

        I would have to say “Jurassic Park”. 😀 Am i right? *crosses fingers*

        First thought was Westworld, but then JP popped into my head just after. So going with JP.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        They’ve apparently discovered that human first instincts turn out to be amazingly accurate. And here we see a good demonstration of that apparent fact! 😀

        It was the tag line on the poster (with that misspelling). Just one of those pieces of jetsam and flotsam that sticks for some reason and you carry it ever after.

      • Chyina

        Lol, yeah, so I was right! Sort of, but still, I’m counting it as it was my first thought.

        Flotsam and Jetsam are cute little evil eels! I remember them, lol. And for some reason I only just now make the connection with their names. O_o Well it has been a few years since I’ve seen The Little Mermaid”.

        Okay, admittedly, that was a bit random, lol. It’s been a long day.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Drat, shoulda taken you through a round of, “Is that your final answer?”

      • Chyina

        Lol, yep, but you didn’t sooo 😛

  • ldixon007

    Phyllis Love McGee was a good friend of mine, from 1967 until she passed – one of my very favorite people. ~ R.I.P.

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