Started Reading The Art of Racing In the Rain last night

Started reading the kindle version of The Art of Racing in the Rain for no particular reason last night, although it has been a book I’ve been told I should read for several years.  Finished 5% of the book before I got sleepy and turned out the light.  So far, the dog is old and nearing the end of his life.  His owner is now a single dad, and the dog has been with him since he first met his wife, had a daughter, and the wife passed away from illness.  The man loves car racing, and the dog too now loves it, and reflects on the 1993 Grand Prix which was won in the rain, and how his owner is good at racing in the rain because the key is to forget the past and just race in the moment.  We learn the dog may be nearing the end of his life, but looks forward to it because he doesnt’ want to be a burden to his owner plus knows from a documentary that after his dog life he will be a human, and can’t wait to be human with their amazing tongues, which allow them to chew their food and to form speech.  To be continued…

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Started Reading The Art of Racing In the Rain last night

Read a little about Uncle Tom’s Cabin

With the world in general and the US in particular going somewhat crazy (something that started gradually decades ago and is accelerating now), I was curious about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was written during troubled and racist times like these…

The seeds for the novel were planted during the 1830s and 1840s when she heard tales about slavery, then blossomed after the fugitive slave acts were passed in 1850.  She based the novel on tales and a few writings by runaway slaves, and sold it as a serialized novel for $600 (not a tiny sum in 1850).  It was a success, and published as a novel that was also a phenomenal and immediate success – in the North, the average person could picture slavery beyond the speeches, and in the South Stowe was called slanderous and a liar, but both northerners and southerners read her book, and it was published in virtually every language across the world.  Like Common Sense in 1776, Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s influence in the right time and right place is hard to overstate.  Stowe became a celebrity, and moved after The Civil War to Florida, where in her old age she likely suffered from Alzheimer’s before dying in 1895(?).

I’m very interested in reading this book!  I’ve reserved the audiobook from the library.  There are several people who’ve reserved the book before me (i.e. there is a wait list), which is wonderful!

Read a little about Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Missing this moment with my students…

When I was a high school teacher, I tried to lead by example.  So, if my students were doing something, I did the same activity.  For example, if my students were watching a movie, I watched the movie (even if I’d seen it 100 times before).  If my students were working on a class project, I was working with them on the group project (by going group to group and sitting with each group). And if they had silent reading, I read a book too.  Never ever did I grade papers or do prep for another class while class was in session (as my mentor teacher said, if I am telling the students something is important but then not doing it myself, I’m sending the wrong message – so i tried to model the same behavior, and I feel like it helped me build bonds with my students).  But I am thinking of one time in particular during silent reading, when I was reading along with my students but the book I was reading was hilarious (it might have been Confederacy of Dunces) so I kept chuckling; I noticed (out of the corner of my eye, since a teacher always tries to keep the peripheral vision going for obvious reasons 🙂 ) the students exchanging smiles then one finally said, not unkindly, “We can’t concentrate because you are laughing.” Then the entire class laughed.  I loved that moment.  It was a tender moment and thinking of it makes me miss my students.  Those students were 16 at the time, and would all be in their 30s today.  Wild to think about. But that moment is frozen in time in my memory.

Missing this moment with my students…

Reading “Hershey” by D’Antonio and liking it

Reading Hershey, by D’Antonio, which is ultimately about the Hershey school but with substantial amounts dedicated to the Hershey History.  Hershey was born to a dreamer, charistmatic and a bit of a snake-oil salesman father and a menninite mother (an odd combination).  As a young boy, he went to work at a confectioner (candy shoppe) which were popular at the time, and with his mom’s intervention learned to be a candy maker.  After four unsuccessful tries financed by his mom’s successful farmer family, he found success with a caramel formula he found in Denver then produced locally in Lancaster (PA).  His mom and aunt’s presence were instrumental in his early successees, and he became quite weatlhy when a London importer stumbled upon his caramel and made bulk orders shortly before Hershey’s business went under.  In other words, he was lucky although a hard worker.  Eventually, he sold his caramel business for 1M to a competitor, and bought land in Derry’s Creek to construct a huge factory and town for his chocolates, which were still experimental, dominated by the Swiss (and Cadbury) but new to Americans.  As his huge investment (1M) neared completion, his loyal worker perfected the recipe for milk choclate (earning a 100 USD bonus), and the factory (and town) became a monstrous success.  He used some of this money to build a school for boys at a time when many orphanages were being built to serve the high numbers of poor orphans.

Hershey was lucky and had the support of his family, but also was a hard worker who was dedicated to his craft of making candy, and took a substantial risk in building the what would be the town of Hershey (200K of his 1M windfall was spent in acquiring the land alone, and several of his supports more or less called him crazy for taking on the risk).

This is a fascinating, well-researched, well-written/told story.

Reading “Hershey” by D’Antonio and liking it

A momentary understanding of poets

Standing here at the bus stop, beneath a hazy sunrise with literally a silver colored sky above me, I have a momentary understanding of why a poet might write poetry. I feel a rush looking at this, and a poet probably needs to channel that rush. Unfortunately, I am no poet (not really). In college, when I took a poetry writing course to improve my descriptive writing skills, I was obviously a hack when it comes to poetry 🙂

A momentary understanding of poets

Reading autobioraphies is sometimes like reading the mind of the dead — it is eerie and beautiful at the same time.

When I read autobiographies of people who have passed (e.g. Michael Crighton or EB Sledge), I am sometimes struck that it is like reading the thoughts of the dead.  This morning while reading Travels on the bus, I was reading a paragraph where MIchael Crichton talks about his fear of falling off a cliff while hiking in Pakistan — he died years ago, yet here i am reading his thoughts about that experience. It is errie, beautiful and magical all in one.  This is true of any autobiography, although it is challenging for me to read anything pre-20th century since the writing style is so much different (I like more of a crisp, journalistic style that came into vogue with Hemmingway — reading John Smith’s writings from the 16th century are tedious for me).  

Reading autobioraphies is sometimes like reading the mind of the dead — it is eerie and beautiful at the same time.

One of my favorite things about teaching was incorporating impromptu ideas in the next day’s lessons

When I taught, I taught block periods, meaning I had kids for 90+ minutes at a time.  I loved it, as it gave me a lot of time to build flow and to incorporate different things into a single class.  Plus, it also gave a natural life-like flow to class versus a choppiness, and one of the great benefits to that is I got a chance ot know my classes and students better on a human level.  Also, one of the things I learned the hard way was that every single day the lesson or class activity had to be interesting, *especially* in a block class, or I was screwed (teens forced to sit through a boring lesson for 90 minutes can do interesting things to keep themselves occupied, especially when a non-intimidating teacher like me is in front of the class 🙂 ).  Anyway, one of things i loved was having an idea the night before, and incorporating it into the next day’s lesson.  For example, in Stranger Things there were a lot of allusions to various 1980s films including ET.  So what I might do if I were teaching English today was show 2 minutes of the bike scene from ET and then 2 minutes from the bike scene of STranger Things, then ask the students to compare the two.  I would then explain that this was a type of allusion, that Stranger Things was alluding to (or pointing to or borrowing from) ET; there is a 10% chance a student would ask about allusion versus pirating, which could lead to interesting conversation and a secondary/smaller lesson. I always found that video – even just a 2 minute clip was a great way to teach the less tangible concepts in literature like symbolism, theme, allusion, etc.  Inevitably when I did this there would be one or two C or D students who would say, “Oooohhhh.”  Anyway, I always loved moments like that, where I could quickly illustrate something with an interesting or fresh medium in less than 10 minutes.  I miss those moments 🙂  

One of my favorite things about teaching was incorporating impromptu ideas in the next day’s lessons