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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
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!).
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.
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.
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!)