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Magicke Moste Foule – October Threads

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DeltaRae

It’s the season of suspenseful storytelling, with an emphasis on imaginative yarns and wanderings through folklore.  Here are some of the videos from class, by your request, that captured through digital wizardry (a most mysterious magic) the senses, tales, and spine-tingling thrills of the school year in October.

Intro to Literature: “The Bottom of the River” by Delta Rae

The song you can’t escape from, no matter how far the river takes you.  Perhaps one of the greatest music videos out there, not least of which in the terrible joy of ambiguity.

Brit. Lit – The Middle Ages: “The Canterbury Tales: Part I”, from Christmas Films, Pizzazz Pictures, and Right Angle.

These episodes aired on the BBC in 1998-2000, excerpting highlights from Chaucer with inventive animation swings.  Not for the faint-hearted or tidy-minded, but then, a lot of the fun stuff from different historical eras isn’t.

Part II: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep6tvT3NQ_o

Part III: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCq6117mYqg

 

ENGL 1010: Facundo the Great! from StoryCorps

The now-epic story of a stand-up guy who made room for others to stand up.  Keep checking out the StoryCorps animated features and other site items.  The Great Thanksgiving Listen is coming up soon! https://storycorps.me/about/the-great-thanksgiving-listen/

Thanks for reading/watching.  Now, get to work!

Reading Picks: The Martian by Andy Weir

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The Martian. Andy Weir. 2011. Cover Art: Eric White. Crown Publishing 2014.

The Martian. Andy Weir. 2011. Cover Art: Eric White. Crown Publishing 2014.

One of the best-reviewed books of 2014 is now one of the best movies out this year.  It isn’t hard to see why: astronaut Mark Watney, botanist on the third manned-mission to Mars, is presumed dead after a fierce storm forces the emergency departure of the rest of his crew.  Watney’s not dead, however, but he soon will be if he doesn’t figure out how to solve his food crisis, find a way to contact NASA, plan a way to leave the planet’s surface, and basically survive in an environment incompatible to human life.  It’s a suspenseful read, made more invigorating by Watney’s gallows humor and MacGyver-like acumen.

Author Andy Weir is a former software engineer and NASA junkie, and it cannot be emphasized enough how authentic the depictions in the novel are.  Except for the whole “we-haven’t-gotten-to-Mars-yet” thing, this book is one of the most realistic science-fiction books available now.  It’s so realistic that it’s only sci-fi by technicality – I would file it next to the survival skills handbooks in your library.  Truly, one of the best aspects about this novel (and the movie adaptation) is the free PR it provides for a mind of scientific inquiry.  Not to knock my beloved field of English, but if I was on Mars I wouldn’t stand a chance with only HG Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs as my “experts” .  This book is good enough to make you pursue a career in STEM, if only to increase your livability as a Martian.

The movie is also impeccable, directed by Ridley Scott with Matt Damon starring as Watney.  Both the film and the book earn a PG-13 rating, for scenes of peril and the use of mature language (being trapped in life-threatening situations can do that to you).  You can pick this one up at any bookstore, the county library, and my now-treasured class copy.  Earthlings might be setting foot on the Red Planet sometime this century, so read this book: it may save your life.

October Playlist (2015)

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blogpick_octdancegif3

Here are 31 spirited songs for the 31 days of October.  Listen to one a day, tell me how mine plays in full (just over two hours), or shuffle your own!

  1. Delta Rae – Bottom of the River
  2. Tom Waits – Little Drop of Poison
  3. Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad
  4. The Coral – Dreaming of You
  5. The Avett Brothers – Paul Newman Vs. the Demons
  6. Disney’s The Haunted Mansion – Grim Grinning Ghosts
  7. Mannheim Steamroller – Rock & Roll Graveyard
  8. Queen – Killer Queen
  9. The White Stripes – Little Ghost
  10. Meat Loaf – Bad for Good
  11. Hunters & Collectors – Holy Grail
  12. Laura Marling – Ghosts
  13. Ron Sexsmith – Comrades Fill No Glass For Me
  14. Tears for Fears – Mad World
  15. The National – Anyone’s Ghost
  16. Bright Eyes – We Are Nowhere (And Its Now)
  17. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – People Ain’t No Good
  18. KT Tunstall – Girl & The Ghost
  19. Van Morrison – Moondance
  20. Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London
  21. Ella Henderson – Ghost
  22. Shakey Graves w/ Esmé Patterson – Dearly Departed
  23. Jack White – That Black Bat Licorice
  24. Holy Ghost Tent Revival – Alpha Dogs
  25. Sweet – The Ballroom Blitz
  26. Róisín Murphy – Night of the Dancing Flame
  27. JBM – Winter Ghosts
  28. Elvis Costello (Ghost Brothers of Darkland County Soundtrack) – That’s Me
  29. Janelle Monáe – Dance Apocalyptic
  30. Mumford & Sons – Ghosts That We Knew
  31. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Theme from Swan Lake

Banned Books Week 2015

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Banned Books Week 2015, courtesy ala.org/bbooks

Banned Books Week 2015, courtesy ala.org/bbooks

Every year, the last week in September becomes the focal point for a concerted effort to celebrate the freedom to read.  In this country, the First Amendment’s right to free speech must contend with a long history of censorship – promoted by individuals, organizations, and government.  Banned Books Week is organized by the American Library Association (ALA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and a host of non-profits, publishers, and legal defense funds.  It is supported by myself, among much of the reading world, and, through this week’s Extra Credit opportunity, by you!

To receive Extra Credit for Banned Books Week, you must choose one of the following options, and use professional images, symbols, designs, or media:

A) Create a Poster to celebrate the week, using the three requirements below:

  • Include the title Banned Books Week, in flashy color/font to catch the attention of passerby
  • Include a quote about censorship from this video provided by Simon & Schuster Books: Celebrate the Freedom to Read
  • Include suggestions on how to celebrate Banned Books Week in school or at home

B) Create a Handout to share information about banned and challenged books, using these criteria:

  • A list of frequently challenged books (Here’s a resource from the ALA)
  • Reasons why books are often challenged (Resources from the Huffington Post, in 2012 and 2014)
  • A checklist of frequently challenged books – check off as many as you’ve read!

C) Compose a 1 page essay (typed – 12pt font, TNR, double-spaced) on To Kill a Mockingbird as a challenged book.  Why (and where/when) has it frequently been challenged?  What might be ironic about wanting this book censored?  What is your reflection on reading the book – how might you oppose or defend a challenge to this book at our school?

Whichever option you choose, it must be submitted by the end of the day Thursday, October 1.  To be eligible, you must follow the requirements for each option, as well as aim for professional quality (Mom would put it on the fridge, and so would I!).  Successful efforts will be awarded 20pts, and above-average efforts 30pts (each option is worth more than a homework assignment!).  If nothing else, you can celebrate this week by finishing TKAM, and moving on to a new book which, having been published, probably has found someone to challenge it by now!

F(READ)OM!!

September Threads

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Illustration by Vladimir Radunsky, from On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne (see BrainPickings link below)

Illustration by Vladimir Radunsky, from On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne (see BrainPickings link below)

First Day of Fall!  A Happy Birthday to the Boss, a fond farewell to Yogi Berra (even though he signed with the Empire of Evil) and some links to ponder.  It’s important, especially for those of us living in a seemingly-remote corner of the world…(They say there are things to do, and I think that there are things to do, but students still tell me there’s “nothing to do”.  Doesn’t seem to equate more homework getting done…).  Anyway, it’s important for those of us who live in insular societies to join the larger world.  No one’s experiences are in isolation!  We as human beings are all part of a larger, circular order to criss-crossing paths and degrees of separation.  Like a spider’s web, movement on one end of our connective tissue affects somebody else.  I call posts like these “Threads” to connote this link up.  Here are some helpful links to get you up to date on food for thought and shout-outs to glory.

Burns, Wyoming’s First All-Girls FTC Robotics Team! – Marissa, et al are taking extracurriculars to new heights and radioactive, fan girl awesomeness.  Geronimo, allons-y and all that!

Brain Pickings! – Curated by Maria Popova, this all-learning, all-the-time resource from the greatest minds on happiness, intelligence, serenity, adventures, and the benefits of being alive.  This is a great site I visit frequently (sign-up for the newsletter to get a weekly rundown!) that informs my reading, teaching, and all-around efforts to share genius and mindfulness.  Excelsior!

Here are some of my favorites to get you started:

The Importance of Leisure in a Workaholic Society

Amanda Palmer Recounts Neil Gaiman’s Philosophical Dream

Fifteen Inspiring Picture Books Celebrating Famous Thinkers

Finally, the Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: all your holiday shopping, from Halloween to Valentine’s Day and back!

Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for Extra Credit opportunities here soon!

Smartcars and Zombies: What You Need To Know

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Only a month in and some people already be like:

Only a month in and some people already be like:

We are entering one of our busiest times of the school year.  A full month of school completed, plus the end of MAP testing, means that teachers are going to start administering tests and district assessments (if they haven’t already).  Additionally, Homecoming next week, active sports seasons, fall festivals, and changing hours of daylight are all liable to mess up your study and reading schedules.  Bearing that in mind, please do your best to keep up with assignments, and don’t hesitate to contact me with questions for clarification or edification.  If you need a mental break or food for thought, check out some of the happenings and hootenannies here in southeast Wyoming’s wacky fall (click on the bolded links for more info):

Grant will allow Wyoming to test smart vehicle tech – driving on I-80 is going to get even more interesting in the near future (check back next month for my reaction to the morning I drove to Burns and saw a vampire trucker and the aftermath of a fiery ceremony)

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, sequel to last year’s adaptation of James Dashner’s book, is out in cinemas today, and you might check it out for three reasons: 1) It’s based on a book series (which you can order through the class orders!), 2) It doesn’t follow the book so closely you have to know what’s going on, and 3) The filmmakers were honest enough, and kind enough, not to split the third book into two movies — looking at you Mockingjay!

Cheyenne Zombiefest returns this weekend – Halloween lasts all year for some people (and every day in English class hosts the making of some new ghost story…).  Most of my friends through Cheyenne Little Theatre are those kinds of people, and they will be volunteering this weekend at the annual undead revival in downtown Cheyenne.  The Halloween stores are open, and the craft stores have probably started to put out Christmas decorations, which means that spooky season is upon us again, and you Walking Dead obsessives can get your fix. [Heads up: not everybody who attends does so with the PG-13 rating in mind — there are some costumes and behaviors that might not be for everyone (myself included), so use discretion if you attend.]

And on top of all that, the Pokes are away this weekend, so you don’t have to drive all the way to Laramie just to be distressed by our lack of defense (for what it’s worth, my grad school’s team — which is a Division I team, Zane — is 2-0: Go Jacks!).

Reading Picks: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness. Candlewick Press. 2011

A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness. Candlewick Press. 2011

I’m in the midst of grad school books (in addition to my upkeep with To Kill a Mockingbird and Beowulf), so there isn’t much to share in my current readings that most students would be interested in.  Conversations in the senior classes, however, reminded me of a very, very good book I picked up in our school library a few years ago that is perfectly timed for the change in seasons.  If you aren’t already excited to read this month’s pick by the compelling cover art alone, the above book should appeal to you for many, marvelous reasons.  Not least of which is the promise of the title – indeed, A Monster Calls (from Candlewick Press, 2011).

A Monster Calls was inspired by an idea from author Siobhan Dowd, a famed, prize-winning British writer of young adult fiction who died from a severe case of breast cancer in 2007.  Her (unfortunately) short list of completed works were widely recognized by literary awards, including the Carnegie, which is the British version of the Newbery Medal.  In the words of Patrick Ness, who completed this story: “She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning.  What she didn’t have, unfortunately, was time.”  Ness, author of the Chaos Walking series, picked up her idea and ran with it to a Carnegie Medal of his own for this novella, which details the troubled nights of Conor – a 13-year-old boy with an ailing mother and an inhuman visitor.

Illustration by Jim Kay from A Monster Calls.

Illustration by Jim Kay from A Monster Calls.

The Monster in this book is of the Wild – a creature of the thresholds who is literally made of the natural world, visiting Conor each night seven minutes after twelve.  The creature is vividly brought to life in award-winning illustrations by Jim Kay, and the images blend seamlessly into the words much as the natural world slowly encroaches on our own concept of “safe” “civilization”.  The theme of slow, inexorable changes settles in the pages: in Conor’s attitude, his mother’s health, and the changing role of the monster who visits Conor night after night, stories in hand.

Storytelling is the one of the main takeaways of this novel, which addresses all of the English classes this year.  I won’t say any more about this book in the hopes that you will check it out for yourself for a monstrously-good read in this most exciting of seasons.  Again, the book is available in our own school library, as are the Chaos Walking books, and a host of other Carnegie winners (and fantasy/young adult fiction books).  If nothing else has you looking for this pick, think of it as a chance to read it before it gets cool – the upcoming movie adaptation is due October 2016, written by Ness, and starring Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones.

September Playlist (2015)

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1-Music-GIF

Here are the class tunes for the first month of autumn.

  1. Matt & Kim – Daylight
  2. Emeli Sandé – Next to Me
  3. Bruce Springsteen – Land of Hope and Dreams
  4. The Cure – Friday, I’m in Love
  5. Elle King – Ex’s & Oh’s
  6. Mumford & Sons – Babel
  7. KT Tunstall – I Don’t Want You Now
  8. Steve Martin – Late for School
  9. Taio Cruz – Dynamite
  10. Tomoyasu Hotel – Battle Without Honor Or Humanity
  11. Haim – The Wire
  12. Mika – Grace Kelly
  13. Eddie Beram – Riot in Thunder Alley
  14. Mary Black – Treasure Island
  15. The National – England
  16. Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill
  17. Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe Soundtrack) – All My Loving
  18. Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint – The Sharpest Thorn
  19. Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman
  20. Harry McClintock (O Brother, Where Art Thou Soundtrack) – Big Rock Candy Mountain
  21. The Clash – Train in Vain
  22. Tommy Tutone – 867-5309/Jenny
  23. Queen – Seven Seas of Rhye
  24. Nashville Cast – Borrow My Heart
  25. Brett Dennen – Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog)
  26. Duffy – Mercy
  27. Dropkick Murphys – Worker’s Song
  28. Regina Spektor – On the Radio
  29. The Avett Brothers – And It Spread
  30. Kris Kristofferson (Ghost Brothers of Darkland County Soundtrack) – How Many Days
  31. Ennio Morricone – The Ecstasy of Gold (from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)
  32. The Handsome Family – Fallen Peaches
  33. Natalie Merchant – The Man in the Wilderness
  34. Sting – Fields of Gold

The First Long Weekend

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Labor Day 2013 – A Dog on a tube

Labor Day is upon us, and that is a very exciting thing for your teachers and your parents (unless they were enjoying your days away).  You see, even though you students will – if you play your cards right – have many more three day weekends ahead, the staff and community of Burns High are working away most Fridays to give you the best education possible.

To help you pass the time over the long weekend, why don’t you introduce the BBQ attendees or hunting buddies to the site that became a senior class obsession: the Herb Nerd Personality Quiz (click on the bolded name for link).  Labor Day in our modern world is all about the food.  If you don’t mind being compared to the food that your food eats, take this quiz and find the right herb for your diet.  It might even help you in school!

I hope you all have a great weekend, and eat up! (Also, Go Pokes!)

Mr. E

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