“Hello, world!” That’s the sign-on now famous, or infamous, to CS50x students who bump into such messages in their adventures through coding. We’ve been working on completing the rigorous course requirements in Scratch, C, computational thinking, and algorithmic problem solving, with more to come before the early-December end-date. Add to that the Google Classroom transition and WebQuests, TurnItIn, and Voicethread projects, and it’s not hard to see that September was a digital dive. As such, this corner of the internet has gotten a little dusty, for which I apologize – if anybody but me pays much attention at all!
As a small sampling of my work in the course, and as a convenient segue into freshmen short stories and senior Old and Middle English, here’s a recording of my Scratch fable. Deep thoughts there. Follow the link to fall into fable (as 30 sec clip)!
Thank you so much, students, who have already signed up for Remind and other digital class notifications. Today would’ve been the first day of school, but the powers that be wisely moved it to the side so that the real show – Total Solar Eclipse! – can take center stage. I’m looking forward to seeing all of you tomorrow, and many of you on today’s Eclipse field trip, to start the academic year!
Space.com has the broadest collection, in my opinion:
If you won’t be on our trip, please make an effort on your own to see what Mabel Loomis Todd observed as: “A vast, palpable presence overwhelming the world. The blue sky changes to gray or dull purple, speedily becoming more dusky, and a death-like trance seizes upon everything earthly.”
Grab those special, approved viewers’ glasses and maybe read up on some of the political and cultural impacts of this eclipse in a particularly dramatic moment in American history at The Atlantic.
You should make every effort to live in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, what Emily Dickinson, who saw the eclipse in 1875, immortalized in the lines:
It sounded as if the streets were running —
And then — the streets stood still —
Eclipse was all we could see at the Window
And Awe — was all we could feel.
By and by — the boldest stole out of his Covert
To see if Time was there —
Nature was in her Opal Apron —
Mixing fresher Air.
Can you believe it?! Not much sense in thinking backwards now – so let’s go ahead and get started! Here is the welcome back slideshow that would normally air in the Back to School evening event. I will be absent this go ’round, attending an audition for Jeopardy! in Denver, which will hopefully look something nothing like this:
As you can expect, reading is a big part of my summer break. I mean, it’s a big part of my day at any point in the year, but in the summer I can read a lot more of what I consider to be fun. (I still enjoy reading in the school year, when I’m absorbing the same works you students do, as well as my grad school and professional readings – but here I get a little more choice!) What I don’t do often is reread a book shortly after I’ve finished it. Who has the time? One of the best exceptions to this rule, and one of the best reads I had this summer, was in Mark Siegel’s graphic novel Sailor Twain (from First Second, 2012).
Sailor Twain is centered on Elijah Twain, the writer-captain of a Hudson River steamship in the 1880s. (Twain, by the by, is of no relation to the author, who our captain must frustratingly point out is actually a Mr. Clemens.) Joining the bedeviled sailor is the ship’s gruff and motley crew, including the womanizing owner of the ship, Lafayette, as well as a foul-mouthed helmsman, two stowaways, a mysterious engineer, and a various assortment of New York passengers (keep an eye out for cameos from the likes of Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and even Stephen King!). And, of course, there is the mermaid of the full title, who Twain must decide is either savior or siren.
Available at the Laramie County Library, this text holds many epic qualities: an expansive and realized cast of characters, elements of fantasy interwoven in spirituality, and a portrait of near-mythic America on the Hudson River. As a work of historical fiction, the world of the narrative is well centered in established movements and attitudes of America’s Gilded Age. What’s more, the artwork – almost entirely in charcoal – is evocative and symbolic. The rainy atmosphere and river setting were easily imagined despite our dusty August heat. Most importantly, Siegel’s use of motif, ambiguity, and doubling are absorbing. You are almost obligated to reread the novel to add your newfound evidence to the intricate clues.
This novel is definitely for mature readers (sexuality, complexity, language), but is my August pick for seniors to read, for two key reasons. First, it makes a great review of the themes of American Literature for those of you who survived last year. Second, Sailor Twain leads nicely into both senior classes’ content, addressing similar themes and also introducing you to the graphic novel format, which you can expect to see in the upcoming school year. In conclusion, it is important to read books and genres outside of your usual experiences. Anyone who still thinks, in 2015, that comics or graphic novels aren’t necessarily “real” literature needs to see what they are missing out on in Mark Siegel’s new American classic, Sailor Twain.
The height of summer is upon us, so I wanted to check in with a call to heed what days remain! I suggest you follow my lead: fill the calendar with reads to recommend, be outdoors more than in, and hide from the afternoon heat in a cinema or siesta. I’m looking forward to seeing you in August (after I’ve seen that eclipse!), but let’s not rush the pages by counting them.
Welcome back! Fresh from Flagstaff with a measure of professional fulfillment, inspiration has struck to makeover the page. Special kudos to the webmaster-wife in this effort! Sorry to those of you who struggle with shifting (and shifty) internets.
Please continue to use the site as you normally would – Odyssey posts are directly below, and past Remind messages are now accessed through the tabs at the top. Off to Ithaca!
The Odyssey is one of the earliest, and best, works in the “big trip” portrayal, so grand they named half the genre after it!
Your explorations are also pretty grand, as long as you are choosing the path that best fits your kleos and nostos. The most recent post on this topic gave you some resources on Odyssey summaries and visual-friendly breakdowns. I’m happy to provide more study sites for you, from the British Museum and also from an esteemed Duke prof.
There are even special resources for those freshmen looking to complete a Map for their Odyssey project, here are a few tips:
First – the in-class map is by no means definitive, but has two components that I think are key: an oversized Ithaca and an Underworld far (far) to the west. You don’t have to reach the Pillars of Heracles, but I like the idea of going to the edge of the known (Mediterranean) world.
Second – use your resources to help you tell the story! Some of my favorites are on Google Earth (download it if you haven’t – it’s worth it!), especially the Odyssey on Google Lit Trips, which features facts and artwork at the locations in each episode. Your map doesn’t need to be overly complicated, but consider adding stickers, flags, or figures to keep the travels alive.
Third – you don’t need to use salt dough, but this is a straightforward method to make your map 3D that is both easy and useful! The video below was made in jazzy style by a very good friend of mine some years ago, and gives you a nice breakdown of the salt dough process. I definitely expect your map to be in color, so grab the appropriate food coloring to go with it or paint it after it dries (a few days later)!
Odyssey season is upon us! Unless you too want to wander around the rocky islands of 9th Grade trying to get home, you would do well to heed our Olympian decree to keep up with the readings and get that final project done.
For the (24!) books of the epic, you have plenty of resources in getting the gist of the plot so you can focus more on our essential questions and archetypes. So, as the grey-eyed one provided Odysseus the tools he needed to be successful, this post is Part I of our mission to get you out of here in one, sophomoric, piece.
Besides the class books and graphic novels/comics, check out these links to get your Mentor on!
Traditional guides: the safety net of Sparknotesand the too-cool-for-school ethos of Shmoop(which has some funny infographics peppered throughout, and way too many popups…)
Full-text versions of the epic: including Ian Johnston’s recent translationout of Vancouver Island University, and two prose translations, old(A.T. Murray) and older (Samuel Butler).
And some really interesting new-media options: including some open/ed. designs from our community of Padlet(this one’s Verity Webster’s) and a fascinating, and highly distracting, clickable offeringfrom Emery University’s Carlos Museum. Clicking on the Greecetab will take you to the interactive site (Flash required).
Of course, we have the in-class options, but the Odyssey is one of the biggest stories ever told! You should journey onto the kool-aid seas of the internet to get the best version for you.