Required Reading
Cap'n Flynn (deviantART)
Cap'n Flynn's Salty Sea Chest

The Unveiled Clepsydra

The Voyage to Ruin
Catholic Works
Aliens in This World
Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!
Catholic Ragemonkey
De Fidei Oboedientia
Doubleshot Thoughts
E-Pression (Zorak)
Flos Carmeli
For Keats' Sake!
Happy Catholic
John C. Wright's Journal
Old Oligarch's Painted Stoa
Scuffulans hirsutus
Shrine of the Holy Whapping
Summa Mamas, The
Troglodyte, The
The Stacks
Basia me, Catholica Sum
Corner, The
Fiat Lux!
I Am the Lizard Queen!
The Kawaii Menace
James Lileks
Wasted Words
Weirdsville, USA
8-Bit Theater
Get Fuzzy
Sluggy Freelance
xkcd: A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language
One Guy's Opinion
Dark Echo
Reference Materials
Catholic Culture: Liturgical Year
The Holy See
Invisible Children
New Advent
The Rosary Confraternity
Anglican Use Society
Book of Divine Worship
Pastoral Provision
Saint Mary The Virgin Catholic Church
Chambers' Book of Days
King's American Dispensatory
The Writer's Den
Jim Butcher
Bruce Campbell
Susanna Clarke
Harlan Ellison
Stephen King
Lit Gothic
The Studio
Jeff Matsuda
Moby Dick, the Movie
The Conservatory
David Bowie
Dougie MacLean
Gaming FM
Great Big Sea
Kate Rusby
The Myriad
Nickel Creek
The Recliners
Back Issues
Wishful Thinking
Buy Me a Book?
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28 August 2006
Poetry Club
Last week, I submitted a proposal to the administration of my school for the creation of a poetry club. Happily, I found out today that they've approved it, and were quite excited at the prospect.

As for me, I'm thrilled. Not only do I love yammering about poetry, but I also love getting others excited about it and teaching people to better understand, write, and read aloud poetry. And it's really awesome to see how into the idea some of these kids are.

Of course, I've no real idea how to run a club. I mean, I was barely in any clubs in high school myself, and I'm but a second year teacher. Not much experience to utilise. But ultimately, I figure I'm just there as guide and mentor (and instructor as needed). I reckon the kids themselves have a far better idea how to handle some of the aspects of the club organisation than I currently do. For now, though, we've got our first meeting set, and I'm darned curious to see how many come in to sign up.

This is such a cool thing.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   7:01 PM
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23 August 2006
Cue "Haunting Torgo Theme"
For lovers of MST3K, the following is an absolute must-see. It's based on the (arguably) worst movie ever made--Manos: The Hands of Fate. kashi found this little gem of artwork on, and shared it with me.

Therefore, go hence ye now, and bask in its awesomeness!

Torgo Lives
Jelly Pinched Wolf   8:40 PM
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21 August 2006
Week One
Well, I've survived the first week of the new school year, and with far less stress than last year. Having a lot of material and assessments prepped in advance and some clue of how this whole teaching thing works is a major boon, lemme tell ya. Having my own room makes a bit of a difference as well.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased. It looks like I've got a pretty good crop of kids, willing to share their ideas and actually work out what's going on in the readings in class discussions. I still haven't been able to make as much of a break from my lecture tendency as I'd like, but there's definitely a much greater "dialogue" feel this year. It's nice, 'cause I've had a fair amount of time now to reflect on my role as a teacher, and I'm starting to think it's not quite like what I had once thought, nor is it like what a lot of teachers seem to consider themselves.

Simply, we are not the owners of knowledge.

I think it might be an easy hubris to fall into (I've seen myself do it on occasion, and witnessed it elsewhere enough that it seems like a solid theory)--that somehow we are the keepers of this vast collection of knowledge and understanding, and we can use that to mold and shape minds. Certainly, some molding and shaping is going to happen (and it should), but I don't think our role is (or at least should be) quite so domineering. It seems we should work on being more like guides, pointing out the multiple paths one can take through the jungle, keeping the student from falling in a tiger trap, but mostly letting them learn to hack their way through everything so eventually they can guide themselves.

My goal in class is to try to draw ideas out of them, to help them think more deeply, to reason better--not to talk at them for 45 minutes. Especially in teens, passive learning is nigh useless, and I'd argue not learning at all. Yes, I do have information to impart, but the whole process is way more involved than that.

In addition, I can learn at least as much from them as they can from me. It's really brilliant when a student finds a new way of looking at a work of literature that never even remotely occurred to me. And to see them follow the logic, making the necessary connections, supporting the idea--to see them hit on something new and interesting is absolutely awesome. I don't think you get that when lecturing. And frankly, I don't want to stop learning. Either on my own, or from my students.

Maybe this is completely obvious to anyone who's not me. It's only my second year teaching, after all. All I can see is the results. I've got a lot more kids participating than I had last year, really good discussions evolving out of that, and a much greater sense of respect in the room, both toward me as well as the students toward each other. I just can't really argue with that. It's really satisfying to be a guide.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   6:01 PM
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04 August 2006
Trampling Out the Story Where the Grapes of Wrath are Stored
I shall try to keep my wrath toward John Steinbeck’s Grapes and his ideology limited to a discussion of the specific problems of his writing and storytelling. Also, I’ve ranted about the man enough in my personal life and just don’t have the energy to go too far into things here. But there are certain ideological aspects of The Grapes of Wrath what need to be brought to light.

First, let’s get the political rot out of the way. The longstanding defense of Steinbeck has been that he was never a communist. That is, so far as I know, true—he was never an official member of the Communist Party. However, this does not mean he was not sympathetic to the ideas, and if you can read Grapes without seeing his call for revolution to institute a socialist society, as well as a determined rejection of American tradition, then I must confess I’m at a loss what to say. He’s neither subtle about it, nor relenting in his restatement of his ideas of “communal life.” To be fair, I can see where Steinbeck is coming from. He witnessed first-hand the effects of the Depression and the terrible drought that afflicted the Midwest and Panhandle, as well as the cold, unjust, and sometimes violent reception the native Californians gave these migrants when they were forced to pick up stakes and risk their lives for some elusive, better way out in the west. They were, in many cases, robbed of all they had (even if only by natural forces) and duped into believing in something that wasn’t actually there in California. If Grapes does anything very well, it’s to give a very personal snapshot of a terrible time in our history and how the real people of the Midwest were hurt by events beyond their control.

My problem with Steinbeck’s ideas is mostly in the one-sidedness with which he presents things (well, that and I just think the kind of utopian socialist regime he wanted was illogical, impractical, and simply wrong in so very many ways—but I reckon that’s neither here nor there). According to the text: All banks and corporations are faceless evils, and all who work for them are corrupt and selfish. All institutions of American tradition are failures, or else the Depression would not have happened. All law enforcement agencies merely support (violently, of course) the system. The little guy can never get ahead, unless government programs support him, and everyone is forced to be equal in all respects. Let no one person or organisation have an advantage over another (except, of course, those who would of necessity need to be granted the power to enforce such a system).

Simply put, Steinbeck has a point to make, and he works in extremes to make that point very clear. In other words, he stops at nothing short of beating the reader over the head with his point. This does not a good read make.

At the heart of it, this is why I loathe Grapes so very much. Because Steinbeck’s really not a bad writer. He’s got some beautiful, poetic language, good characters, and essentially a good story. But for him, it’s not about the story, but the ideas. He is not performing the role of storyteller, as he ought, but rather that of a man on his soapbox. I’ve covered this before (see
here), and may well again. It is an injustice to the story to let your ideas run it. Ideas are fine, so long as they naturally stem from the story and don’t overshadow the telling of the tale. But Steinbeck’s ideas reign supreme, and the story serves their needs. He is relentless, and restates the same things over and over throughout. The horse is so much glue long before the end of the novel. And it’s sad, because it could have been a good, even enjoyable story had he let it live and breathe on its own terms, a story that needed to be told. But he sacrificed that story for an ideology he wished to foist upon the world. This is, to my mind, an unforgivable sin for a writer to commit.

Happily, my department head is open to changing things up a bit on occasion, so next year (Spring of ’08) I’ll be dropping The Grapes of Wrath from my curriculum in favour of some Faulkner (either As I Lay Dying or The Sound and the Fury) and some other smaller works from the same era which consider similar themes. As for Steinbeck, I can sort of appreciate him, but I’ll never have a love for his works.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:00 PM
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03 August 2006
On a lighter note...

I had promised this review rather a while back, before my class gobbled up all my time, and I figured now was the time to get back to it, such that I can leave the more serious, angrifying topics behind.

There were a fair number of complaints about Pixar's Cars when it came out--too long, not enough interest for kids, not as good as The Incredibles. To answer each, I say:

1. It may be a bit long, but so is every other bloody movie out there--when was the last time we were blessed with a major movie running at only 90 minutes?--and if it's a little slow, well that's part of the point of the movie--stop speeding through life, or you might miss the scenery.

2. What is this American obsession with animation being only for kids? I'll grant that children will likely enjoy it automatically because it mirrors, to some extent, the way in which their imaginations work (although I know of one 3-year old who adores watching the likes of Poirot and Alton Brown and asks for them as regularly as animated works, so who is to say what children's tastes may be?), but this does not mean that it is exclusively a child's form of entertainment. Animation is wonderfully versatile, able to do so much more than live-action, able to work on so many different levels. And Pixar has shown repeatedly that it is more than willing to allow its films to take advantage of all these levels--accessible to children and adults.

3. No, it's not as good as The Incredibles, but really, what could be? Brad Bird is nigh a god of animation and storytelling. It's kind of hard to beat. Stop comparing everything and judge a movie on its own merits.

So, as to the movie at hand, kashi and I realised coming out that it does help if one has a love of cars or an affection for backroad, backwater burghs, especially of the south and midwest. It's not a deal-breaker, but it does make a difference. The basic conceit of the movie is that cars have personalities. You've got to accept that to some extent to get the movie. If you've only ever seen cars as hunks of metal (or, I guess, plastic these days) that get you from point A to point B, you might have a hard time getting all the nice small touches put into this film. As for me, I love cars, especially older models what had true personality. Give me a '56 Chevy Bel Air, or a '58 Plymouth Fury and I'm a happy guy. And oh, what I wouldn't give to be driving a late '50s, early '60s hearse!

That aside, the story's good, too. It's the classic "jerk gets his come-uppance and learns to be a decent fellow" story, but there's a reason it's a classic. It rings true, every time. Critics always seem to want something new in a movie, but personally, I say stick with the classics. The story was old when Dickens used it in Great Expectations, but he knew it was good and used it because of that fact. And even deeper than that story, there's an underlying dose of respect for the lost part of America. I may be from a New England small town (and they have their own particular characters), but I'm a small town boy nevertheless. The cities offer a lot in the way of convenience, lifestyle, and things to do (which is, of course, their allure) but the more I think about it, the more I come to believe that America's small, rural townsfolk know more about true living than we city folk ever will. They're so far removed from the culture wars of New York and L.A., and yet if anyone thinks them uncultured then I say he is ignorant and a fool. And the people of these towns are suffering. Take a trip into the small towns in the Panhandle region of Texas, or up into western Kansas, in Garden City, and you'll see what I mean. There's no rain, no money, and a lot of people who are being forgotten. Cars makes a stand against this. It says, we will not forget these people. They deserve our respect, and our attention. Get to it. I don't know how yet, but kashi and I do have some ideas we're kicking about. I only hope we can find a way to put them into effect. Maybe just dreaming, but dreams are where everything begins.

As a final note, the animation in the movie is gorgeous. I can't imagine how anyone could watch the scene in which Lightning McQueen and Sally tour about the landscape of old Route 66 without being struck to the core at the sheer beauty of it. But then maybe I'm just a big sap. The animators capture the natural beauty of the landscape stunningly--and with heart. One gets the sense this scene (heck, the whole project) is a labour of love.

Anyhoo, we really loved it. Good story, much humour, exciting car races, truths told, and beautiful animation. What more could you want? If you haven't, give Cars a chance.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   3:34 PM
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I really must thank Hollywood and the media. They've given me a perfect example, relevant to the lives of my students, for when we discuss witch hunts as portrayed in The Crucible. To be sure, I make it clear to my students that while injustices were wrought by the witch hunts, and this is what we should be careful of whenever fear enters the mix, as it turns out yes, there really were practicing witches in Salem, as well as practicing Communists in the HUAC investigations.

Just as Mel Gibson really did say those vile things the other night. This does not make the retaliating persecutions by the self-righteous of Hollywood any more right.

I honestly don't know what's worse, that while North Korea is nigh to dropping some exciting fireworks on our shores and the Middle East is rapidly falling into utter chaos the media is concerned more with the drunken slurs of a Hollywood celebrity, or that so many voices in Hollywood and the media are intent on crucifying a man for his sins rather than forgiving him. Trust me, the irony of that last statement is not lost on me.

Frankly, I'm just sick of the news reports about this, and the voices coming out of the woodwork to proclaim that we must run Mel out of the business, never see his movies again, banish rice pudding for all time, blah, blah, blah. Hate. That's what it all comes down to. These people respond to Mel's (self-admittedly) hateful words with more hatred. The man was drunk! It may not be an excuse (though, it must be noted, the Japanese would believe it so), but it's not as though he's defended his words. He has much to make up for, he has problems and sins to overcome, he has penance to perform. Welcome to humanity, people! If we cannot accept that he's truly sorry for his actions (and really, must we not assume this is true? We cannot see into his soul, nor should we presume to. If he says he truly regrets his words, then we must accept that, or else where is our hope in man?) then we must forgive and allow him to set things right, not castigate him.

ABC has dropped his miniseries. Barbara Walters says she will never see his movies again (though one can assume that she will not pass up the opportunity to have him as a guest on one of her specials in order to confront him and make him weep over the whole affair in order to boost her ratings--how's that for cynicism?). Hollywood is ravenous to ruin the man, and I find that far more despicable than the vile words he spoke. Mel deserves our pity and our prayers, not our wrath. But then, he made The Passion didn't he? I fear that may be what this is all about, in the end. I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist these days, but it seems at least moderately plausible in this case. A man (imperfect like the rest of us) who loves God created a beautiful and powerful film detailing the central mystery of his faith. He did so in the midst of an antagonistic, anti-religious culture that assumed such a project would fail. It did not. In fact, it succeeded in more ways than they had imagined. It is bitterness and hatred which rule the mob of voices denouncing Gibson, and I, for one, am sick of it.

I was hesitant to post on this, in part because I'm sure better thinkers than I have already weighed in on the topic in far better fashion than I have. But also, I do not wish to give the impression that I think Gibson's display was in any way right. I don't defend what he said, but rather his right to repent, to seek forgiveness and help. For even if all he is doing now were revealed to be a sham to save face, were he again to ask forgiveness should we not offer it? Is not that what we're called to do? I just can't believe that vilifying him is the right way to go about things. But then, what do I know?
Jelly Pinched Wolf   2:07 PM
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Shirt of the Day
Didn't get a chance to put this up the other day, but one of kashi's Cafepress t-shirt designs won "Shirt of the Day" at a site called
Lamp 8. Much happification! And mayhap it might bolster sales (speaking of which, I've also included a link to the Cafepress site on the sidebar for ease of browsing her other designs).

See the page here

Also, I've been remiss in getting a link up for the business kashi's started with a friend, so that's now available in the "Required Reading" section, as well as here. Pink Ink Writers is a copywriting and design company, so should you happen to need such services, check 'em out. Or, just check out the site simply because it's terrifically designed (and this is said from an objective point of view, not a husband's--as a husband, I'd gush far more).

*Again, I am slow in adding blogs what ought to have been added long ago. Mea Culpa. Though belatedly, I've now got Steven Riddle's Flos Carmeli added to the links.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   10:03 AM
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