Monday, May 31, 2010

One of the daily battles for chicken supremacy in our bathtub this Monday evening.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Okay, then. Just finished Middlemarch, sitting here on the porch at the lake with the breeze and the sound of the waves. So lucky.

So I probably like Mill on the Floss a little better than this one, but it's close. There are some chapters in Middlemarch that affect me in ways I just don't know how to write about. The scene where Ladislaw walks to Dorothea's church and sits through the service simply hoping to make eye contact with her and fails even to get that, the resigned reconciliation of Lydgate and Rosamond, and all of the scenes depicting various species of provincial ignorance. It's all too much.

We were listening to the Wind in the Willows audiobook on the drive up here and I was taken at how much it reads like a George Eliot kids' book. Grumpy animals pottering about, grand authorial asides, and a diction that, though meant for children, sees no reason not to use words like "paroxysm" with regularity. These days, the kids section at any local Borders makes it look as though children's literature is full of options, but it's all so bad. I read what June brings home from book fairs and it seems like something designed so that the kids might one day aspire, if they keep reading all their Magic Treehouse books, maybe, to manage Harry Potter. I think I've decided to only read stuff with the kids that is over their heads and fun and serious. If you are not disoriented, your reading list is not challenging enough. That will be my motto.

But now I might leave the 19th century for my next books, but gently. Re-reading Wallace Stegner, for example. Angle of Repose or Crossing to Safety.

You finished your book, now throw me a stick.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

If I had a building

Here's a distant shot of the historic freight depot that many think is about to be torn down this weekend. "Historic" is a relative term, I guess. I mean, I don't know if any famous freight ever passed through here or if Kerouac ever rode by it with Neal Cassady in a boxcar, but the fact is that, compared to a lot of what we have left in this town, this is our history. It's near a downtown that keeps threatening to become a destination, is right across from two of our most beautiful urban parks, and is about 100 yards from our ever-expanding greenway and a skate park that is so cool I can't stand the fact that I never got into skating and only donned the haircuts for a few years.

It may go down, though, because the current owner doesn't, publicly, at least, appear interested in entering a dialogue about possible uses. But if it goes down, I hope it's not without some noise. If this is the kind of thing you care about, join the Facebook group or go to the web site and sign the petition. It's a pretty non-confrontational, responsible group of people running the group--friends of mine, radicals only in the sense that they see value conservation.

I see an old building like this and can only think of the businesses I would run there. I mean, look at its length. What would you do there? It looks to me like nice place for a family restaurant and brewery. Maybe some cool apartments or studios running along the back there. Great land for some kind of community gardening (um, unless it's a brownfield). Maybe an indoor skate park so that in the winter the skaters I teach don't have to be so glum all the time.

Anyway, do consider contributing to the noise that just might make a difference here. It would be a real waste of potential to turn this old place into one more corner of rubble. We have enough of those.

Cool apartment. I like all their stuff, the way they just have it there, in their place, and the casual way they sit there in the middle of it, with the sincerest form of feigned indifference. I wish I could feign my indifference like this.

Unhappy Hipsters would have something snarky to say about this picture, but (a) their credibility is damaged by the odd definition of "hipster" that they seem to be applying, and (b) they probably live in a dump. And (c) snark is the lowest form of internet speech.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010


Earlier this school year, one of my students, Nabia, schooled her class, myself included, in the possibilities of an often overlooked program called Windows Movie-maker. It's another one of those programs that makes me think "I'm sure there's a much better form of this for Macs," but she showed us that it's still cool enough to play around with and make some great movies.

Anyway, I copied Nabia's idea and assigned it as an option for one of my classes, a class that is based on independent reading, to make trailers for one of the books they read that semester. This video here is a sample I made for a fun read called The Dart League King.

It represents about three hours of time, and could use another hour. The inter-titles could be written more succinctly and the timing is off, but still, I like it, and I'm excited to see what students come up with for their books if they choose this option.

In the back of my mind, I'm a little bothered by one problem or blind spot this trailer approach has--it's emphasis on selling the plot of a book rather than its style and voice. There is nothing "wrong" with reading primarily for plot, but as a teacher, I feel like it's partly my responsibility to interest people in caring less about "what happens" and more about enjoying the "how it's told" part. This is complicated, though, because it's a mystery to me, most of the time. I don't know where to start when explaining why I love The Savage Detectives, a long book where nothing happens, or the Laura Ingalls-Wilder book The Long Winter other than to say that when I read them out loud, it feels good. Maybe some kind of read-aloud contest between literary and popular fiction might allow a class to make some observations and a dialogue.

Speaking of The Long Winter, which we are shoveling through a chapter or two a night . . . Birk heard a weather report with a lot of rain in it this morning and said "Dad, it's The Long Thunderstorm, get it?" One of his rare non-Scooby Doo or Andy Griffith Show allusions.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Damon, Naomi, and Dean
Drove to school and then drove right back this morning because I could tell that I was about to have a re-match with the stomach flu I thought I beat this weekend. So I have just a little bit of time before I'm incapacitated and have to get a few things done, some grading, some ideas about how to set up my AP students before the big test on Thursday (could be one of my best classes, I'm starting to think), but Pitchfork has this big article about Galaxie 500, like really long for the internet, and what am I supposed to do, not read it?

Their records feel like not soundtracks but actual emotional documents of my life back when they came out. And the more time passes, the greater they sound to me, and I don't think it's just nostalgia that is doing that. I wonder if I am running out of the ability to have new bands or whatever affect me like Galaxie 500 did and still does, because it doesn't happen very often anymore. It's like my heart is spoken for.