JustinEarnshaw.com Posts

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!

Admin Class Resources

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!).

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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.

12th Grade: European Literature 9th Grade: Intro to Literature Reading Picks

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

Playlists

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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World Science Festival - Why We Tell Stories
World Science Festival – Why We Tell Stories

Hey, Intro Lit!  Here are the links to the Jonathan Gottschall videos from class today.  They make fantastic resources for future papers on our yearlong theme.

9th Grade: Intro to Literature Class Resources

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12th Grade: European Literature 9th Grade: Intro to Literature Admin Class Resources

https://www.dmns.org/the-power-of-poison/

Let’s take a field trip! Your English budget is pretty much devoted to books and other resources, but this event is cross-curricular – so get talkin’ to those science teachers to put up some fundage and we can all go.

The Power of Poison is a traveling exhibit from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, currently in residence in Denver until January 10th of next year. This one is definitely worth the drive down! If you haven’t been to the DMNS before, it is just south of the Denver Zoo off Colorado Blvd, and always worth a daylong visit. I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon there while in CO for a July run, and this potent exhibit is deadly fun.

Unless you're too scared of poison to leave the house.
Unless you’re too scared of poison to leave the house?

Poison is a paragon of what a museum exhibit should be. There are plenty of reading panels for people like me who have to stop and read everything, but there also plenty of big attractions to run through and see up close – life-size models of yew trees, larger than life ant colonies, tons of interactive, touch-screen challenges, and even a terrarium of poison dart frogs. There is a demonstration by able-minded museum curators of the first practical arsenic test in history, as well as two real-world games designed to detect and cure poison before it’s too late. (If all of this mystery-solving gets you stoked, prep for a future installment in which we return to the DMNS to visit the world’s greatest detective – http://sherlockholmesexhibition.com/ !)

A Hat at the Head of the Table
A hat at the head of the table

Two key installations for us, of course, focus on literature. One is the Shakespeare diorama: the poisons of the plays (9th grade – Intro to Lit.) with emphasis on the witches of Macbeth (Euro./Adv. Lit). The other is the Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (Euro. Lit). How did poisons influence both of these incomparable writers? Head to The Power of Poison to find out! Or, I guess, you could use the internets. But only one of those options includes lunch at Cinzettis. Oh. Yeah.

If that doesn’t get you excited enough, how about this picture from the Mythic Creatures exhibit (open until September 7th – http://www.dmns.org/mythic-creatures/)?!

Should've worn a hat.
Should’ve worn a hat.

Field Trips

Sailor Twain. Mark Siegel. FirstSecond. 2012
Sailor Twain. Mark Siegel. FirstSecond. 2012

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.

Reading Picks