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Showing posts from 2008

The time is the 6th day

The Sixth Day of Christmas—The great feast is now half over. Being herded through most stores you couldn’t tell it even occurred. Nary any green or red (though Christmas’ colors are white and gold) to be seen up and down the aisles, it shall not appear again until October. Consigned to a bargain bin or shelf, the symbols are packed away as our corporate masters wish us to think (obliquely) about another saint, Valentine, if they are directing our thoughts to holiday spending at all.

All time is holy, claimed Sylvester I, whose feast day it is today. If that is true, why are you wasting time reading this blog post when you could notice that on days like this even the trees appear cold. Perhaps, you’d enviously observe the chickadees and juncos puffing up their feathers for extra warmth. Maybe you’d play with your children or talk to your friends, make love to your spouse, devour a writer’s words. Better yet, are there any post-Christmas sales still occurring?

On the Fifth Day of Christmas. . .

Five golden holes! Five wounds of Christ, five books of the Torah. The spell is breaking, but only because I look to Madison Avenue to fill those holes, not the deceptive babe who grows up to be a lamb, transformed into a phoenix, keeping his holes, with flames and fangs, and yet, not without mercy. Five days of feasting, five days to celebrate the Holy Family. Theotokos, child-god, and step-father and protector. It is lightly snowing outside, and inside, I think about his wounds and love the child as best I can.

On the fourth day of Christmas

. . . Is it still Christmas? “Clean the air! clean the sky! wash the wind! take stone from stone and wash them. . . Where is Canterbury?” The headlines read: Former player turned Archbishop murdered in cathedral. Four coal black birds fly overhead—crows or merely blackbirds? Too hard to tell.
Later, those same birds mysteriously appear on the other side of the Atlantic, centuries later, pulling the cooling flesh off the corpses of Indians and White soldiers. Merry Christmas to the Lakota people from the United States. Pax Vobiscum!

An Open Letter

Dear Hasbro Packaging Engineer,
I appreciate the care with which you designed the protective casing for the "Biggest Little Pet Shop." I do wonder, however, if you are even human, for what human can open said packaging without fits of rage, mumbling Anglo-Saxonisms so his children won't hear, and regressing into a pre-rational state refusing to let anyone help him because he "won't let this damn packaging beat [him]?"
Is the displaying of the product your end goal, why then, excellent work, my friend. You have succeeded in creating packaging that lovingly (and at this point, permanently) shows off the toy. But if you would like children to actually enjoy PLAYING with the product then is it necessary to include so many quasi-invisible rubber bands, wires tightly wrapped into bug-sized balls, and plastic bands, tape, and enough cardboard to create a small shantytown? What is your goal, sir (or madam)? It cannot be to foster enjoyment on any lev…

Day 3

(This one is my favorite, so far)
The Third Day . . .
Don’t strange things happen in threes? Work routine almost reestablished until the order comes in to ride to Bethlehem, swords at the ready. What will I use that Lowe’s gift certificate for? Bust down the doors, yelling Merry Christmas—we live and die for tyrants—let’s hear it for the boys as we gut them, slash and smash them. Oops, did we just kill your daughter, Ma’am? Later, much later, the reports claimed 14,000 dead tonight (the Syrians said 60,000) but I think the number was closer to 20 dead Jew baby boys. And the least I can do is to unplug the tree lights and skip dessert for these, lully lullay, who died in thy stead. A baby boy now on his way to the land of dusty pharaohs.

Day 2 brings. . .

On the second day of Christmas. . .
Back to work for most of us. The decorations are still displayed, though they never seem to glisten the same way as before the 25th. If you didn’t want to fight crowds to return something today wouldn’t be a bad idea.
To love as John loved—loved Jesus with a burning cup of wrathful fire poured out in love on his head to run down over his body. To see sights unseen, what the ear hasn’t heard, to touch him in his glory, to be like him. To love as John loved that would resurrect Christmas.

Quixano is dead--Quixote lives!

Starting on 18 February, I tackled what many consider to be the first novel--DonQuixote--and today I finished it. If you're at all interested you might try it for yourself. Be warned, however. My interest in all 982 pages waxed and waned. It was at turns, funny, tedious, interesting, compelling, and repetitive. I did sympathize with Quixote though, because so many people took advantage of his delusion--perhaps that was Cervantes' aim--of course, when the narrative was dragging I wished one of his tormentors would have just killed him.

Next for fiction? Either Tolkien's The Children of Hurin or Spenser's Mutabilitie Cantos.

The First (or second, depends on how you count) Day of Christmas

I started this series about two years ago and added more last year. Maybe this year I'll finish it.
Blessings to you, my two or three readers.

On the first day of Christmas. . .
The presents have all been opened, paper sheddings cover the floor. I’m still stuffed from last night’s turkey—now what? From the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve ooey-gooey songs, presents, food and frenzy are all concentrated on every observant American who tries desperately to manufacture the long-gone feelings of a long-gone childhood.
Empty boxes—empty hearts. Fill them with the rocks that stoned Stephen or unpack my heart and give something to someone who doesn’t have much now that they’re forgotten once more since Christmas has passed.


Christus est natus ex Maria virginie!

Eine Kleine Tannenbaum/The Coldest Solstice Ever?

A week later than usual for us, but we committed arborcide yesterday. The snow was a good six or seven inches deep; the boy complained, but somehow made it through. Unfortunately, about two hours after the lights had been on the tree they shorted out. No time to fix them now. (Note: these pictures are in reverse order.)

Today, we celebrate Christmas with the wife's family on a blustery, cyanotic appendage inducing day. You can't see the wind whipping the veils of snow across the landscape in these photos, nor can you feel the burning of my earlobes, trust me it all occured. Today was an example of the dangerous beauty of nature.

Ah, Advent 2008

Restoration Ecology is in the can. Next month starts my last class: Invasive Species Ecology. But inbetween--Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Now I actually can begin to slow down and enjoy this time of patient anticipation. Tonight begins the O Antiphons as well--the titles ascribed to Christ found in the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel as well as other Biblical poetry.
Our first big snow last night; alas, no snow day.

Enjoy your Advent people, it only comes once a year and the great feast of Christmas is eight days away.

The 23rd Thing

Take a few moments to reflect on your journey. You've covered a lot of material over the past ten weeks. What does it all mean? How has your thinking changed between Thing 1 and Thing 23? Has this program changed how you view the Internet or how view teaching in the digital world? What plans have you made for using these tools in and out of the classroom? How will you continue to learn about Web 2.0 tools? What are your big "take aways" from this experience?

What does it all mean she (they?)asks? Good question? This course, while useful for looking at, exploring, and sharpening skills related to Web 2.0 does not give the tools to answer that question.
Let me quote from Patick Deneen's article in the Summer 2008 issue of The New Atlantis (a journal that anyone who is concerned about contemporary technology and its meaning should be reading) entitled "Technology, Culture, and Virtue."

When we think of airplanes and iPods, computers and cell phones as the mar…

Thing 22

In your blog post be sure to include the link to your wiki. Then discuss your feelings about using a wiki. How does a wiki differ from a blog? When is one more appropriate to use than the other?

I made two wikis: Wiki of Doom and SmashMedia
However, there is nothing on either of them at the moment. I might make SmashMedia a project for my Mass Media class that is ending next month--and a new one starts soon after that. I have a few ideas, but they need some stewing time.

Wikis differ from blogs in that blogs are more like journals and wikis are like newspapers in that there is a variety of content by many contributers. How's that for analogies?

Appropriateness? For what? It seems for the classroom, the wiki has more control over it than allowing students to make a class blog.

I'm still skeptical, let's see where these go.

Thing 21

Uggh! I have to sleep and finish this and finish my final. This won't all happen.

Describe a wiki you found that inspires you to create one of your own. What hurdles might stand in the way of your using a wiki? What would it take to remove the hurdles? Is it worth the fight?

I don't know that I found any wiki that inspires me to create one, in fact, they bear more investigation. For instance, in order for one to work as a class project is it better to make one class wiki or several wikis from one class? What exactly do students learn--other than snippets--in working on a wiki? Is this better or just different than other projects one could give a class? Well, in order to fulfill the requirements of the prompt, I'd have to say in the relatively short time I spent looking at educational wikis, this one came across as the most interesting.
Hmmm... the link isn't working now.

Thing 20

3 to go!
Include in your post the name of at least one podcast to which you subscribed. Describe your experience using the various search tools. Which do you prefer and why?

This is nothing new as I indicated in Thing 19; I already subscribe to some podcasts, though those are for personal enrichment rather than anything professional.

I used both the Education Podcast Network and Podcast Alley in my searching. I suppose epnweb was the better site if you are specifically looking for education topics. The two standouts I found were from and the "Shakespodospheare." The former had tips for creative writing and the latter obviously focuses on Shakespeare.

Podcasts have their place in the classroom, but as one commenter pointed out--if you bring up something longer than 10 minutes you'll lose most of the students. I don't know if it's their age or the fact that all this digital technology has reduced their attention span to gnats. If it is the la…

Take a Vow

For some reason, I'm flying through quite a few books right now. This morning, for instance, I finished up Dennis Okholm's Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants.

* I interrupt this blog to report that the sun is shining right now--something that hasn't happened for at least a week here. Now back to our regularly scheduled review.*

Not only does Okholm give a good summary of the Benedictine precepts such as, humility, balance, and hospitality, but he also devotes a small end portion explaining why the Reformers condemned monasticism (rather unfairly, Okholm posits). Okholm makes the case that all Christians should be living the way Benedict laid out so long ago. He also includes a list of ways to incorporate Benedictine practices in the lay life. This book represents Ecumenism in the best sense of that word, virtuous and red-blooded.

And yes, I'm still working on Quixote--less than 230 pages to go!

Thing 19

Which podcasts did you find interesting? Identify one or two podcasts and describe how you would use them in your teaching. (Be sure to include links in your blog entry to the podcasts mentioned.)

I have to bust through to the end soon--I've also a test due for my Restoration Ecology class next Monday.

Podcasts, ah yes. They are good, aren't they? I must admit I do stay away from the educrats and their blather, but I did enjoy the Princeton Review's Vocab Minute--too bad it seems to be discontinued.

Some favorites of mine that aren't necessarily focused on the classroom are:
X-Minus One a radio show from the 40s and 50s of science fiction stories. You could actually use these in a classroom if you were discussing either the history of communication or science fiction, and since they are so old there are no issues of appropriateness in the classroom (though some may be too old for younger students). I think I found this originally on the iTunes site.
Another favorite is

Thing 18

What did you like about the presentation you embedded? How might Slideshare be useful in the classroom? out of the classroom?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the Real WorldView SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: greywellington)

This relates to much I've talked about in the unit we recently finished in the Mass Media class I teach. Being a Conservative, one would think I would be in the hip pocket of these corporations that have extended copyright to the point of "property" and abuse the notion of limited monopoly. One would be confusing me with a Republican. A Conservative has no use for either too much governmental power or corporate power. A Conservative is about de-centralization.

Anyway, this tool is handy when you don't want to construct your own power points. Yes, sometimes convenience and time-saving are a good thing and not the death of the weak and flabby West.

Thing 17

Give a review of the tool you explored - what worked, what didn't work, how might it be used either in or out of the classroom?

I, to a greater or lesser degree, explored all the options given. I saw Knowtes as being the most directly applicable to the classroom and and Remember the Milk as being least applicable. The rest were in a middling range. Honestly, much of the tools here can be completed just as well on paper and sometimes it seems like an extra step to include one or more of these in your life. Of all of these, I would probably use Zoho show the most, as I don't have Power Point loaded on my home computer, but I also couldn't get the demo to work for Zoho, either.

Really, what's wrong with paper for most of these?

Thing 16

How might you use this tool in your personal and professional life? What issues come to mind about using this tool with students (ie, they need email addresses to log-in)?

In order to finish this project by it's due date of next Friday, I've to complete at least one thing a day (sound of whip cracking).

Hey, this Google docs thing is kind of cool. I created an agenda for the Creation Care ministry at my church and can share the load of that task.

School uses? I don't know--at least as far as students go. I do wish our administration would try this, it would make our meetings more collaborative and less authoritarian. But maybe, they don't like sharing power. That seems to be the case with power. Anyway, this is something I think I'll continue to use.

Thing 15

Is RSS becoming easier to understand? Do you recognize new benefits of using this tool? Do you remember to check your feeds regularly? Has it become a habit (or obsession!) yet?

Er, umm. . . sort of? I'm still having trouble with Bloglines (I haven't enabled a button for it in the toolbar still). But, playing around with the search by tags feature on Delicious provided a link to the Sierra Club and all the links they have for religious groups concerned with creation stewardship--everything from Buddhists to the Indigenous Environmental Network. That is a feature that bears more exploration.

Wendell Berry, Education, and Gnosticism

I finished this on the 4th of August. I would highly recommend this to anyone who already appreciates the Kentucky sage, but not to anyone who hasn't read a few of his works. It runs the gamut from personal tributes, to sharp analyses, to dryer academic examinations, the latter being the minority.
While there were several standout essays, Jason Peters' (the book's editor) "Education, Heresy, and the 'Deadly Disease of the World" bears particular mention. Why? Well, Peters examines Berry's views on education, and finds that Mr. Berry, not surprisingly, has little patience for education that doesn't include knowledge that leads to self-sufficiency. If it isn't "the husbandry and wifery of the world" then Berry despises it. And, I think, for good reason, if it creates the superstition "that money brings forth food."
Another interesting point that Peters turns to is Berry's hatred of gnostic dualism--the idea that mat…

Thing 14

Include your Delicious username in this blog post so that others can view the bookmarks that you have chosen to share. Then reflect on how you think social bookmarking can be used in your teaching. Does Delicious seem to be a tool that can enhance your productivity?

My Delicious username? Surprise--NotHamlet. Will I use this in my teaching? Hmmmm. . . I guess it could have some uses if you set up a course specific list, say for Mass Media. But you run in to the double-edged sword of filters in the school district and students without computers. You could make the option of accessing sites at a library, but this seems all too complicated. It would probably take some major planning to work properly, i.e. start on summer vacation.

Can this enhance productivity? I'm not sure that is a category a teacher needs to be concerned with. For now, all it means is not relying on my memory if I'm not using my home computer.

Thing 13

Share your thoughts about tagging. Is tagging a useful way to organize your digital resources and why? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages? What is important to think about before assigning tags to bookmarks or other Internet content?

Here we go again. More stuff. OK, back off, Martin. Organization is a good thing. So, sure tagging and bookmarking can be good, but this social bookmarking reminds me of cell phones. In an emergency the phone can be very handy, but generally people and their cell phone habits annoy me. Back to Delicious: do I NEED to access all my websites on a different computer? I know the URL of most of the sites that I regularly visit. Do I need to outsource that task? There seems to be a bias against memory here--something Neil Postman warned about in his book Technopoly. Memory is a defining human feature (unlike animal memory)and to constantly rely on devices to be our memory is a bit dehumanizing. Granted, we can't remember everyt…

Goat Man becomes God Man

Louis Markos' From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians should read the Pagan classics presents a winsome case for shadows of Christ present in ancient Greek epics and tragedies. While you may not agree with his interpretations, Markos has a wonderful handle on the literature and makes a pre-Christian case for everything from The Iliad to The Aenied. This is strongly recommended if you A)would like a good, albeit biased introduction to the founding stories of the West or B)would like to see what makes Bob Dutko apoplectic. Either way, the reading is great fun.

Cradle to Cradle Consumption

Tonight in my Restoration Ecology class we were discussing (among other things) William McDough's paradigm shift of Cradle to Cradle design replacing the Henry Ford paradigm of Cradle to Grave.
I wondered, aloud to my class, if simply moving from one industrial model to another wouldn't create it's own set of problems. McDonough doesn't seem to see anything wrong with consumption, provided the end life of biological products can enter the carbon, water, nutrient, whatever cycle with no waste. Still, he hasn't dealt with endless consumption. But, maybe in this model, that isn't a problem. Yet, as promising as it is, it still makes me feel uneasy. Anyone else?

Thing 12

Review the widget you selected. Are you getting comfortable with embedding code? Do you belong to other online communities? Are relationships formed online as meaningful as face-to-face relationships? Why do you think MySpace and other social networking sites are so popular with kids today?

I posted a Michigan flag near the bottom of my landing page. I don't know if I'll keep it--it's a bit clunky and doesn't fit with the design of my page very well (neither does my counter). Additionally, it's made me a whore for Google as you can click to open Google ads on a tab.

This exercise seemed like busy-work to me. How does adding a widget add to my page besides more clutter? Maybe there is something more to my liking available, but as much as I adore The Simpsons, I don't think a "Simpsons quiz" widget will make my blog any better than it is.

I realize I'm pretty critical about this 23 Things project--but I think that's a good thing--most of the …

Thing 11

What do you like / dislike about leaving comments? How did you feel when you received your first comment? Why do you think commenting is so important in online communities? What might this mean for students who share their writing online?

The only thing I dislike about leaving comments is when some glitch occurs and my post that took 5.5 minutes to write won't post.

When I went online with my blog in July of '07 my first comment was from some stranger. While her words were positive and encouraging I was a bit pissed because none of my friends or acquaintances posted. To this day, I still have friends who have never posted a comment on here. It's a bit narcissistic, but I want to know what they think. That's why I write. Well, I also write because of some strange compulsion to tell a story (with fiction) but yes, there's that painting of Narcissuss hanging here too (how do you spell his name?).

Commenting is important because feedback is important in thinking …

Thing 10

Why did you select it? Were you also able to download a video?

On my previous post I knocked YouTube--and I stand by that knocking, but I did say there were some worthwhile things on there. Here is one of them; I discovered this in the summer of '07 on two different blogs. While not a perfect fit for the idea of localism, it certainly is a jeremiad against globalization. A British group bemoaning a loss of their culture (oh, yes, it is rich with irony, but these aren't imperialists). Enjoy.

I tried a couple of different videos to download including this, but to no avail. Zamzar is interesting and could be useful for the classroom, but I kept getting "file has no extension" error messages. I'll have to try again.

Thing 9

What do you like or dislike about YouTube? Did you find videos that would be useful for teaching and learning? Is YouTube banned in your building?

Oh, please! Community, she says? I'll admit that YouTube has some nostalgia factor going for it, but the fact that people can post comments and upload video does not make this a community.

What's wrong with YouTube? For every entertaining or fascinating piece you can find on the site, there are 56 narcissistic, banal, or vulgar clips to "enjoy." Which is somehow just like the web, funny how that works.

On occasion, there are some worthwhile things to be shared in the classroom, but I have to answer the last question in a ringing affirmative. The better question is: What isn't banned in your building?

YouTube: mirror of 21st Century America.

Becoming Flexitarian

I'm not a vegetarian, nor do I (at least at this point in my life) forsee that ever happening. However, in trying to be more stewardly and follow other expressions of the Christian tradition, I have tried with limited success to eat vegetarian on Wednesdays (this in trying to emulate the Orthodox practice of vegetarian meals on Wednesday and Friday). One meal without meat (I do have two meatless breakfasts in my three-breakfast cycle) is a good thing for animals and the planet. Especially after a trip last night to the carnivorarium that is Gaucho in Northville.

So, I decided to buy a good vegetarian cookbook to offset the "mostly meat" ones that I do own. After a short browse in a bookstore, I purchased Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

I haven't moved past page 7, but I am planning on preparing a White bean soup for the 19th. His introduction is good, I don't agree with all his opinions, but I did appreciate this following list:

8 In…

Thing 8

Which of these tools intrigues you and why? Was it easy, frustrating, time-consuming, fun? Share some of your ideas for using the images you can create.

An interesting toy (or toys). Do these enhance learning? Maybe if the class is graphic design, but c'mon, really. Students get caught up in the damn title page and spend half an hour on their font when the actual content is what really needs the work. It isn't that I'm totally opposed to this stuff, it has it's place, but how do mash-ups enable students to master algebra, or the Abolition movement, or misplaced modifiers? I know no one is claiming that these will, but its the steady accretion of this little tool and that feature that appear to place a wedge between print culture and image culture. Again, these are not the end of Western civ., just the bells and whistles that distract us as the gates begin to crumble.

As far as this image goes, I used to monkey around in a darkroom, back at OCC--shout out to Rob Kan…

I voted

Even for president, which I didn't think I would do. I didn't realize Michigan had a write-in slot, so I wrote in the name of one of the wisest living Americans today: Wendell Berry. Both major party candidates had a few things to recommend them--Obama actually mentioning that there is a problem in our food system; John McCain saying that ethanol subsidies are not the way to go; Obama proclaiming that the educational system will only work if parents get their act together; McCain appearing to be pro-preborn child. Beyond that there wasn't much different for me. Neither candidate was going to change policy in Iraq radically. Neither candidate talked much about responsibility and sacrifice on the part of all Americans for the economic tar pit. I did not want to choose the lesser of two evils or hold my nose and vote for someone. So, I went for wisdom. A futile choice, yes, but statistically so was any other choice for president.
My one horse I'm betting on? The d…

Thing 7

Think of ways you may be able to use Flickr in your classroom and share your ideas. What issues might you face?

Last year in American Lit. about halfway through Of Mice and Men (after much searching and avoiding the district filter) I found online a collection of Depression-era images. I used my smart board to project them and I trust I gave my students some visual reference of the time that the book was set in.
If you have a time machine you could travel back to say, Pontiac's Rebellion or a November day in Dallas in the early 60's, take your pictures and then upload them to Flickr (which I haven't tried to access at school yet). My district doesn't have enough funds for a time machine (I hear Bloomfield Hills is obtaining one), but I can see using this for prompts for writing--find an interesting image, and have students freewrite while viewing it. You could also use it for some biography/memoir projects, geography/culture--I don't know, the possibilities aren&#…

Thing 6

Why did you choose a particular photo? What is it about the photo that you found interesting?

My criteria was "fall" and "Michigan." At first I chose some copyrighted works (without noticing they were such) and uploaded some blank spots. So, I bounced over to the "creative commons" and found "The Great Pumpkin King" by sgs_1019. This wasn't my first choice, but since there remains about 1 hour of Hallowe'en 2008 I found this to be appropos. I like the texture and the rich orange found here. This doesn't necessarily make me think of Michigan, but it certainly captures an image of fall. Now I want to make some pumpkin pancakes.

Thing 5

RSS can be a difficult concept for some to grasp right away - what questions do you have? What didn't work or doesn't make sense? How might you use RSS in your personal or professional life? Find anything in your searching that you'd recommend to others?

I don't find the concept of RSS difficult, I merely had technical problems in trying to get the last method of subscription to work--I still haven't got that icon in the toolbar. So, I'm a D student on this one, I mastered two out of three. The advantage of using this facet is convenience. One E-Button pushed can bring you to your favorite blogs. I think I'd rather use the "favorites" button built into windows--you have a full-screen view, rather than the shrunken one from Bloglines. All in all, shortcuts are a good thing. Except in airplane construction.

"Into the Wild" and away from community

Having read Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild shortly after it appeared in paperback made me wonder how well the book would translate into a film. So I watched the movie last night with a positive report for you. The movie, while far from perfect, does aid in understanding Chris McCandless' foolish journey to his death. My comments, however, are more about McCandless than the movie or the book.

I sympathize with McCandless' urge to "find" himself in the wilderness, to lose the noise and baggage from his upbringing. That in itself is not a bad thing, one could argue it is a virtue of wilderness and a cogent reason for preserving such places. However, trying to understand your own identity and solving deep problems is best done in some form of community. Young Chris, much like Holden Caulfield, saw his life and his society as lacking authenticity and sought to avoid it and purge its influence by fleeing to the Alaskan wild. That is what killed him however. Had h…

Thing 4

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of blogs out there - how do you handle information overload and how do you think RSS might help with that?

Information is next to useless without context and wisdom. We boast that this is the information age, but human beings are finite creatures, not computers, and an unending stream of information--urgent, titillating, personal, trivial, shocking, informative, and whatever other adjectives you can think of to apply--is not going to improve our lives at all; in fact, it probably leads to diminishment.

RSS might--and I stress, MIGHT--act as a filter giving a thumbnail summary for us to decide whether we want to read the information posted or not. Still, RSS will not train us to be critical thinkers nor wise stewards of our time, but it may aid in those necessities.

Fall is a slow polychromatic necrosis

Note: All photos taken at Lola Valley Park along the Upper Rouge River

A Risk: Blog publishing

OK regular readers, something for you. I just finished in the previous post talking about allowing creative writing students to use blogs to "publish" their work and I have previously posted a couple of essays (see Incarnational Theatre and Wish for Eden posts) and now I'll put up a story of mine. The first children's story I wrote ( I have another one for my daughter and I'm working on one for my son); I've sent this out to publishers a few times and the fact that I'm posting it here should tell you what its fate was. The risk, I suppose, is plagiarism--I can handle the comments that tell me the story blows--it doesn't because what would you know anyway. Here in the ether known as cyberspace people will have access to it and, who knows, may want to snip a taste for their own story about body parts. All right, enough blather--and if you happen to be a publisher of fine children's books, please, let's do lunch.

Now, A big I Am Not Hamlet w…

Thing 3

How might you use a blog with students? How might they respond to a blog assignment? What concerns about blogging with students do you have? How might you use a blog for other educational purposes (other than with students)?

I like and dislike the democracy of the web. I like the fact that nearly anyone (those with the means anyway) can publish music, poetry, or even run a business on the web. I hate the web for the very same reason--some of the foulest tripe, both morally and from a craft perspective find a residence on the web.

Blogs are the same way--they allow an avenue of writing previously only available to those with either lots of capital or a sympathetic editor from a publishing house or magazine. If I could employ blogs in my district I'd probably start with my creative writing class because then their writing has the possibility of being critiqued by someone other than me. Of course, there are probably more people out there who would write "Nice" (see orig…

Thing 2

I've operated this blog for about 1 1/3 years now. It came about because I used to send out some gigantic E-Mail at the beginning of every year listing my favorite reads, listens, and views from the previous year. That became so unwieldy to write so I thought I would keep up a blog to regularly comment on my choices as well as any other ridiculous thing that crossed my mind.
I haven't used this for any sort of classroom connection (other than occasionally mentioning to students that I have a blog) because sometimes I post a rant or two and I don't want to be screened by my district for off-hours comments. Not that I criticize my workplace or anything of that nature, but I have been known to drop an Anglo-Saxonism or two (though I strive to limit those).
Essentially, the blog has taken the place of my journal--though I occasionally write noodlings of a non-public nature in my journal.
I'm not sure how to make the connection of my blog (or anybody's fo…

Thing 1

(Note to my three regular readers (or is it two?) this post is part of a project I am involved in at Wayne RESA (sort of a consulting firm for school districts and teachers) concerning learning and incorporating electonic technology in the classroom. If it doesn't sound interesting skip this post).

Both David Warlick's A Day in the Life of Web 2.0 and the YouTube post of "Pay Attention" are, shall I say, enthusiatic about electronic/digital technology and its application in the classroom. And I can say--OK, I won't mind some bells and whistles in my classroom too. What troubles me, however, seems to be the uncritical acceptance of this technology in the classroom plastered with the Biblical fiat "And it was GOOD!"

I don't doubt that we can harness some of this tekhne-gnosis , literally knowledge of a skill, craft, art, or system, for our students' good. Conversely, I do almost all of my banking online and have done so for at least five years. …

The power of Praise

I taught a retread of a Creation stewardship class yesterday at my church for adults. The session went well, I thought. But the best part came at the end when three or four students complimented me on my teaching. Funny thing is, as a professional teacher I NEVER hear that. Sure, one could argue that some of my students (the ones that fail especially) would never say that, and I can accept that. What isn't acceptable is the lack of appreciation from students (it doesn't have to be every week, mind you) and especially from the administration. We get little generalized bits like "Oh, what you do is so important and we thank you so much," but how can I accept that as sincere when the administration has no idea what I'm doing in my classroom--except when there's a complaint, of course.
Sigh, anybody have a job opening that replaces gratitude with monetary renumeration?

Addendum: I should point out that over the years some of my students (teens) have been grat…

21 years later

Sometime in the late 1980s I started to watch Terry Gilliam's Brazil

It was either on VHS (the kids say "Huh?") or cable I don't remember which. I thought the trailer looked cool. For whatever reason, hormones, late-adolescent ennui, I soon lost interest (after 30 minutes maybe) and started making-out with my girlfriend, never to watch the progress of the dystopian North American story.

So, last night, after two decades--I watched the whole thing. It holds up very well, the story is interesting, the 40's style to the costume and the technology keeps it from dating itself. My only disappointment was it's Orwellian ending. Sure, it's dystopian, but I just wasn't prepared for the downer ending. I suppose my teenaged self would have thought it cool and authentic. My 39-year-old self wants some justice for the protagonist. There's too much injustice in the real world to find it where you least expect it in the celluloid world and be satisfied wit…

What Control?

Why is it that biopics are all about portraying their subject in the most favorable light possible? The only exception I can think of is that Ed Harris vehicle about Jackson Pollack a few years to the rear. Anton Corbijn's Control the story of Ian Curtis the singer of Joy Division is no different from the pattern.

Curtis grew up in Macclesfield, somewhere near Manchester, England (a suburb perhaps?) a dreary place with dreary parents. At least this is what the film has us believe. He marries at what must be age 17 and then begins his career in Joy Division. Things seem to be OK until he is diagnosed with epilepsy. This begins his inevitable spiral into drugs, alcohol, depression, and infidelity. Oh yes, throw in a baby daughter for more plot complication.

My problem isn't Curtis' struggle with his condition, my problem is the POV of the film, "Gosh, his life is so sad, there's no hope for him, I hope everything turns out OK." According to the film, no o…

On reading as a stoic duty

I've been reading Don Quixote since February and while it started out entertaining enough, I have found, almost 600 pages into it, Se~nor Quixote's "mad" adventures tedious. Yet, I feel compelled to finish the damn thing. Why? I don't know.

1. It's canonical--the first novel to be written. 2. When I start a book, I have it in my head to finish it unless I absolutely hate the thing.

In my 35 years of reading I can only remember, on one hand, of not completing a book that I started (as an adult). . . though there was that book about a donkey in the Grand Canyon that I picked up in Roosevelt Elementary's library and never finished waaaaaaaaaaay back in fourth grade. By the way, Mrs. Hastings, if you're still alive, I have so many fond memories of library time--Thank you for your service.

Anyway, am I the only OCR (obessive-compulsive reader) who won't drop a book out of some sinful pride of duty?

Another Way Crisis Economy Center

Allan Carlson's Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Created Family-Centered Economies--and Why They Disappeared was enlightening, entertaining, and disheartening. Why, because he shows the promise of economic systems that aren't Capitalist nor Marxist that did work for a short time. He lays out the history of separate movements that were largely unconnected, yet were all very similar. I'll skip the synopsis and give you the bullet points of the systems.

OK, I can't find the "bullets" options here on blogspot, but you get the idea.
1) They all saw private property as the way to economic independence--limited though it may have been.
2) The family had primacy as the foundation of a good society and the local community ran a close second. The "State" was invited to stay out for the most part.
3) Agrarianism, traditional culture, and religion are all necessary in one form or another to the success of this s…

Change the Wind

I listened to Jim Wallis speak tonight about faith and public policy. There was more faith talk than public policy, unfortunately. Don't misunderstand, the speech wasn't bad, but it wasn't great, either. I appreciated his avoidance of partisan bashing--instead he bashed both parties and said we need to move beyond right and left and go deeper, avoiding simplistic and shallow dichotomies. I also appreciated his echoing of MLK when he said the Church's purpose is not to be handmaiden nor master to the state, but it's conscience. The most annoying thing. . . ? His incessant name-dropping. He's friends with so-and-so and was mentored by HIM and was present for That Guy's inauguration. OK, OK, you travel in wide circles. I don't care. Give some direction on straightening a bent world.

I couldn't help but think of Jacques Ellul's Anarchy and Christianity. Wallis talked about changing the wind so the politicians will follow that. And that&…

Woven Hand

Perhaps you've heard of 16 Horsepower--and if you haven't you're missing the best hillbilly goth ever recorded. Well, they split and David Eugene Edwards, the frontman, created his own side project a few years back named Woven Hand. This is less hillbilly-ish, more. . . eclectic--electric folk with a bit of atmospherics, and always in the background a pinch of Eastern European influences.

Edwards, much like Bill Mallonee, has a way of writing about the spiritual without sounding like. . . Yes(!?) or the ghetto shite of CCM. More than Mallonee, Edwards takes direct phrasing or metaphors from Biblical texts and makes them his own. For instance, his recast metaphor for the sin nature (or St. Paul's "Old Man") is the "Wooden Eye." The opening cut on the new album,"The Beautiful Axe," describes sanctification in a way I don't think I've ever heard before--
"Joy has come/It's risen with the sun/He, the highest on the horizon/…


Nine credits away from a Master's degree and I'm taking Restoration Ecology. I had to write my profs, yes! there are two, and briefly explain why I'm taking the class. I mentioned I was interested in the notion of reconcilation and that "Restoration Ecology" appears to fit somewhere in there. I surprised myself with that one. Restoring ecosystems to a state, not in the past--impossible to do anyway, where they can reach equilibrium and growth is very much like what happens with human relationships that are damaged. This stuff is fairly useful I'd say.

Wish for Eden

This is an older piece I wrote, but it needs a home.

Wish For Eden
A review of Grizzly Man

After the flood in Genesis 9:2 God tells Noah and his family that “the fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea.” Timothy Treadwell, the subject of Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man would beg to differ. Treadwell spent 13 summers in a remote area of Alaska (I’ve never been there but isn’t most of Alaska remote?) living among grizzly bears under the auspices of loving and protecting them. That is until 2003 when in September or October he and his girlfriend Amy Hoogenard were attacked and devoured by a bear known only as “141.”
Treadwell filmed himself alone for 11 of those 13 summers and then returned to civilization to spread his love of the terrible beauty of those bears, usually to schoolchildren.
What he didn’t show the children (I’m assuming) were his freq…

Prophet for President?

While listening to some commentary on the radio today, I couldn't help but agree with the host. Essentially, America doesn't want a revivalist preacher to point out sin. You can't knock American exceptionalism and expect to be elected. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah wouldn't campaign for long.
I have to say that I heard mention of good and evil in the Republican speeches in the last couple of days, but no tragic sense of life at all. To me, that is the best legacy of the ancient Greeks--the sense that life is hard and quite often unjust. We recognize the hardness of life, but Americans seem to want to ignore or use technology or laws to overcome the capricious misfortune that characterizes life. This is true of the Democrats too. Blind faith in technology, American "Can-Do"-it-ness, and optimism are benchmarks for both parties.
We need, in my opinion, an American Euripides who can run a country. Even among the political figures I like the most, no one ev…

Two questions of the month

1) I picked this up from somebody but I can't remember where I saw it: why does it cost $500 for an abortion and $25,000 for an adoption?

2) What happens when the party of radical autonomy of the body battles the party of radical autonomy of the wallet?

Four more years of the same crap!

Surprised by Wonder

Our guest preacher this morning commented on how, during a retreat, she began to notice herons and cicadas and wildflowers and all of God's handiwork. I sat there thinking--are you kidding? When I'm driving and I spy a turkey vulture or a hawk sailing in the sky I whip my head for a better view, much like a third grader rubber-necking for a speeding, wailing fire truck. It boggles me how you cannot notice these fellow creatures. What's that 90's tune? "Where's your head at? Not to mock anyone, but seriously. . . are your eyes that filmy? Your ears too waxy?

I discovered in Last Child in the Woods that Howard Gardener (of Multiple Intelligences fame) posited that some possess a "Naturalist Intelligence." Something along the lines of having a keen awareness of the life outside our offices, shops, schools, and homes. Wanting to know how to match the words "Spotted knapweed" with the actual flower. Things along those lines.

I try not …

Real Community

I'm incredulous as to why I blew off Lars and the Real Girl for so long. Maybe it was the premise: lonely guy falls for sex doll. It sounds crass, but the movie is very sweet and Lars, played by Ryan Gosling, is ubersympathetic. Here's a character so emotionally crippled that human touch hurts him.

Even more amazing is that the community he lives in, some unidentified northern Midwestern town, goes along with his delusion, he treats Bianca, the doll, as if she were real, out of love for Lars. They create a convincing, though it would have been as tough as hell to actually live that out, beloved community. They allow Lars to work through his problems without judgment (for the most part) until he is ready to rejoin them. And yes, a church is part of the heart of this town. The writer and director create a world that is preposterous and real--and desirable! I think why can't I live in a town like that, better yet, what am I doing to create a town like that?

Oh yeah, L…

Will the last child in the woods please turn out the fireflies?

OK, so nearly everyone has already read this book.

Anessa picked it up last year at either the Sleeping Bear Dunes gift shop or the big bookstore in downtown Traverse City. Essentially, Richard Louv makes the case that all of us need direct contact with the outdoors, not just soccer fields or mowed urban parks, but nature (not necessarily red in tooth and claw). Children even more so. It helps physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to move about in the woods, around the edge of a pond or marsh, touching the rough bark of a red pine, glimpsing the flap of a heron as it takes off. Children thrive in this stuff. I know I did. I still do. I'm attempting to pass that on to the terrible two I care and feed.

Anyway, a good read. Pick it up sometime.

Back from Penn's Woods

This posting is a bit overdue as we arrived backed from Mr. Penn's woods a week ago today. We stayed at Cook Forest State Park. A good-sized park in the Allegheny mountains, which included an old growth forest. One morning I took a walk before the family was awake and found a large fallen tree. I know I didn't count correctly, because some of the rings were obscured, but I did count 216 of them. That places the tree as a seedling around 1792. Not bad for a plant.

Overall the trip was pleasant, the first two-and-a-half days it rained on and off--so much so that we were visiting the crappy souvenir tourist traps, but we also, out of desperation visited Punxsutawney, you know, of groundhog fame(see the last photo). A pleasant small burg with an embarrassingly tiny library.
So we hiked, fished, canoed, built fires, harassed chipmunks (which, BTW, if they would organize I think they could take over campgrounds around North America, but alas, they live up to Darwinian expectati…

What did they have that we don't?

I finished Frederica Mathewes-Green's The Illumined Heart while camping and have to say for such a small book it packs a mighty big punch. While it is coming from her Orthodox milieu, the practices she unpacks would apply to any Christian serious about strengthening their relationship with Christ. She compares early Christians and their outlook and reaction with, well, us. In a motherly way, Mathewes-Green shows how wussy we are--well, at least me. Prayer, fasting (the Orthodox way), repentance, she covers the basics that are so easily overlooked. Tolle, lege, really!
Khouria, you make me want to head to Constantinople now!


Dang! I missed it by one hour and 15 minutes. I meant to post this on the one year anniversary of this humble blog. I was too busy playing Age of Mythology when I should be packing for our camping trip to PA. Ah well, for my five readers--thanks. I hope my small words have helped you in some minor way in your journey to where ever it is you may be heading. My goal for year two? To have seven readers.

BTW--I finished N.T. Wright's Evil and the Justice of God--not bad at all. I liked David Hart's The Gates of the Sea better, but Wright has an excellent section on how forgiveness disarms evil in a way that nothing else can. It looks weak, but it's tougher than Hell. A short, but instructive read.

New Light writing tool

I ordered my Canon Rebel two days before I found out I was to be laid off. I debated whether to cancel the order, but said screw it, I've saved up for this camera, we can afford it. So the camera was delivered three weeks ago, two weeks ago I was called back to work in the fall, and I'm happy I stuck with the purchase. Here are a few examples of the new tool's product.

Technology will save us!

Two films I've seen recently reflect on this theme: a soteriology of technology you could call it. Iron Man is an entertaining movie with a minor plot problem. As I saw it, the shrapnel in Tony Stark's heart was either already in his heart or his tissue is incredibly soft. For when the electromagnetic reactor that prevents the shrapnel from killing him is removed, Tony is nearly incapacitated immediately. Too, too quick to be believable. Anyway, back to the theme--Stark, a weapons manufacturer repents of his mercenary ways, but wants to use more technology to stop what his previous technology was doing. Kind of like fighting fire with petroleum jelly to butcher a David Bowie song.

The other film, Wall-E, deals with this theme in a much more serious way. I'll not go on about the movie because others, more articulate than I can point out other interesting tidbits for you (see Crunchy Cons review, for one fine example). By the way, the film was wonderful--visually extr…