Monday, April 30, 2012

Book #12

I can't gin up much excitement about Ender's Game. I found it rather wooden and uninteresting. The prose was monotonous. I'd recommend it for several of my middle schoolers who think about war and violence in interesting or surprising ways--it can help kids think through thorny ethical issues I suppose. But it's not my cup of tea. Are the others in the series more of the same?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hotel Cassiopeia at Single Carrot

How many times has Single Carrot knocked me out? How many times have they vaulted casually over the high expectations bar I bring to their shows? Hotel Cassiopeia was shockingly good. The performances were deep and warm; Nathan Cooper is earnest and open and is taking on more of the burden the dearly departed Brendan Reagan used to carry around stage. Nathan used to be the go-to for goofy or quirky guys in extremis--now he's the sophisticated well-rounded lead. Katie Rumbaugh danced her ass off as the Ballerina, and was creepily sensual to boot. The cast were all great, and not only did they have to act, they had to perform intricate and well-timed choreography using elaborate props. The Carrots often make deliciously innovative use of their tiny North Ave space, but this time it was off the chain. Genevieve de Mahy served as director of this extraordinary and absorbing work, and I was fully involved for all 100 breakless minutes. The play itself is numinous and challenging. It is intellectual and layered and by turns funny and deeply troubling. It had a profound effect on my dreams. I wish I could see it again, but the show is sold out for the remainder of its run. I hope you have tickets.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sorry--I feel like I've betrayed Blog-Sothoth! I've been blogging for my middle school kids--who are writing blogs this trimester--over at my Middle Grades Humanities site. We're learning about food and nutrition and GMO and all that jazz, and reading Michael Pollan together. Check it out if you're so inclined. The students' blogs are linked down the side!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Book #11

A very enjoyable travelogue of a journey along the old Silk Road from China west to Turkey. Thubron is adept at writing interesting characters, his scene-setting is superb, and his grasp of current events and tribes and situations and shifting boundaries makes for lively and engaging reading. Interspersed with all this are the fascinating historical bits about disappeared civilizations and cities decaying and wasted in the sand. I found his text quite useful for research as I was teaching middle graders about the Silk Road, and as a personal narrative of a difficult journey in troubled times it ranks near the top. He's certainly no Patrick Leigh Fermor, but who is?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I love my 6th grade reading group

"Don't inarupp me gurl, it makes me stutta," Bre says. She starts to read again, and fumbles three times through the word lecithin. "See!" It's Myja's turn. "Them potatoes have..." Bre: "THOSE potatoes!" Myja: "Gurl, that's what I said!" Bre: "You said THEM potatoes." Myja: "Whatever! Those potatoes have several notorious..." Bre: "Gurl, NOTICEABLE!" Myja: "I said noticeable." Bre: "Gurl you said notorious. Mr. G--she said notorious, didn't she." Me: "Myja, you said notorious.: Myja: "Whatever!" We're reading the youngster's edition of The Omnivore's Dilemma. Kesha rushes over and grabs a Cheetos bag out of Myja's hand. "Dag, it DOES have corn in it. We full of corn!" Bre: "I don't cur. I like curn." Myja: "girl, it's CORN." Bre: "Yeah, curn. I said CURN." Kesha: "CORN, Bre, CORN." Bre: "Curn. How you say curn Mr. G." The Cheetos bag doesn't have Cheetos in it. Myja's been chewing sunflower seeds, which is expressly forbidden in school, and spitting the husks into this bag. Kesha realizes this as saliva and husks drip out onto her arm. It takes a few minutes to get back to reading time.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Day # ?

I've lost track of how many days into the school year we are. I think it's 137 or something like that.

We're restructuring our leadership model at school, and I got to participate a little bit in the leadership team meetings around this work, and now we're interviewing candidates to fill three new administrative/mentoring/education leadership positions. I'm finding the work a bit rewarding because I think my main contributions to the school thus far have been academic; now I can bring many years of HR and management skills to the fore. These skills have been long dormant, to the point I thought they were fossilized--but of the 13 questions we settled on for our interviews, I wrote 4 (and 16 people sit on this panel). I think I said some provocative, challenging, important things today--and I even felt the return of a certain eloquence and persuasive power I've been missing even in the classroom of late.

It's a big drain however--several hours a day after school, and a bruising 12 hour day today! A gorgeous Saturday afternoon spent under florescent lights...

I'll need to bring more skills to my practice and my school over the next few months and into next year. There will be change, and I'm no longer "new" to the school or to urban ed--I'm a veteran in the middle school now, I'll be teaching two classes of the same kids for the third consecutive year plus a new 6th grade class, and I may have to take on leadership of the Humanities committee. If my planning partner gets promoted, I'll lose the most fruitful professional relationship I've ever had--and that means working with a new partner, someone we haven't even hired yet. Ready or not....

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Book #10

I read a handful of books by Dean Koontz about 25 years ago--I found it extremely peculiar a few weeks back that I could have spent so much time with an author and yet I could not remember a single title or character or even a plot outline. Even when I looked at a list of his books I couldn't remember what I'd read. I do remember him having a certain facility with action sequences, but that's about it--I also think he had a story in Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions.

So I picked up Odd Thomas, if one can pick up a novel on the Kindle. And it served its purpose as a breezy Spring Break read. Koontz is better than he was back in the day--he's got some humor, and a bit more depth to his characters than I recall. But this book is at best a light entertainment; it's predictable, and the villains are a bit banal and unconvincing to say the least. The narrator is amusing-perhaps next time I decide to slum it I'll pick up another in the series.