Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Friday, January 4, 2008

sweeney todd

when i returned to nyc in 1979, after wandering the hinterland of new england prep schools as an english teacher to become a writer for a one person magazine called hosiery and underwear for hbj, i saw sweeney todd on broadway with angela lansbury and len cariou. the story and music were great, but what blew me away was the set. it was elaborate, massive, and astonishing. i'd seen much broadway over the years, but this production knocked me over. it was memorable, to say the least. i missed the revival with patti lapone, and i like her.

now the newest iteration is from tim burton and it is superb. he has catured the essence for me with the setting. it is fabulous and lush. having just returned from a holiday in london, seeing this old london version was special. one other similarity was how the trevor nunn's version of king lear and burton's sweeney todd both begin with the loud, penetrating, ominous organ. absolutely bone chilling and goose bumpy in both shows. now i love johnny depp in everything he has done. reuniting with burton from edward scissorhands makes for a grand reunion. depp is superb as are the entire cast. as the new yorker pointed out, once again a child actor almost steals the show. child actors this past year as the magazine said have had a prominent role in this year's films. i'm only sorry they omitted the actor who played august rush in the movie of the same name. he was one of the best. since i knew the story and many of the songs, i was interested to see how burton would do it. i loved the rickman character, he is always so evil and unlikable. i love him. he is redeeming in love actually. sacha baron cohen was brilliant, funny, and perfectly foppish. i found the scene where todd constructs the chair amazing and magical. it was genius and conjured frankenstein and even scissorhands. the entire production was flawless and enthralling. the applause at the end of the movie always intrigues me and i was finding myself applauding and i never do.

it is good to have burton and depp back together again.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

lightin' out for the territory

we have books like Walden and Huck Finn that excite us about our possibilities. they are books about coming of age, about testing ourselves, challenging ourselves. there are two more books to add to this collection:
into the woods by jon krakauer and the last american man by elizabeth gilbert.

these two books complement each other. they follow in the tradition of outside, coming of age books. they are both current. they both deal with the woods and living off the land. they are both about young men. they both had a tough time with their dad. a major difference, however, is that one young man survives; while the other young man does not survive. they are about men living out their dreams.

while reading these books, i reflected on my own life. i have built and lived a tipi. i have lived off the land, by myself and with a family. i have spent long periods alone in nature. i have almost died. i lost touch with my dad for 10 years, from the time i returned from vietnam till the end of my first marriage, one they disapproved of. these books are inspiring and provide me with the energy to continue that way of life. i am still an active camper and hiker, but not to the extent i once was. i want to send my 14 year old son to eustace's turtle island preserve camp for 2 weeks this summer. i want him to learn more than i can not teach him so he can help me continue to live in nature. my son and i spend a couple of weeks every summer camping. i want to do this for him and with him. i could very easily have ended up like chris mccandless in jon krakaeur's book. i have not achieved eustace conway's level in elizabeth gilbert's book. i'm somewhere in between. i still have the chris and eustace bug and i know my son has it. so i want him to be like both these men, but i want him to survive and to stay close with his old man.

these books reminded me that we all are chris and eustace. some of us survive, others do not. that is life. they reminded me of my own life and it helped me reexamine those times in my life when i was chris and eustace and how i'm still that way. now it is time to help my son realize it in him. i've gotten him started and want him to learn more.

these are two must reads for all boys and men as well as the women in their lives.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

YES, use wikipedia

1500 years ago everyone knew the Earth was the center of the Universe.
500 years ago everyone knew the Earth was flat.
15 minutes ago you knew people were alone on this planet.
Imagine what you will know tomorrow.
K, MIB

wikipedia is merely the next iteration in information sharing. following the evolution of information sharing, we had oral, then written and now digital. all information was controlled by an elder, perhaps, and shared orally. the information shared was of course edited by the giver. churches evolved as the main information sharer. then with gutenberg, the information sharer was passed onto publishers. they, too, edited and selected what was shared. today we have the internet and information is shared in a more democratic manner and perhaps chaotic manner. yet the information gets batted about and sifted through so that we should arrive at pure information, unedited and free. this of course scares lots of people who are used to getting information from print sources or from people who own these print sources. so it makes sense that something like wikipedia scares people cause they have been told to fear it or fear it cause it is wresting the distribution of information from them and giving it to the people.

of course we should use wikipedia as a resource. i'm not quite sure why we would not.
why not?

it is democratic. it is created by the people who do know more about the topic than others. it is public, it is peer reviewed, and it is edited constantly. sure it goes through weird times but it is fixed very quickly.

check out this assignment i did with a class a couple of years ago during a controversial time for wikipedia.
http://www.tnellen.com/06iths/fall/wiki.html

the key to this lesson was to show scholars how wikipedia ironed itself out in due course, correctly and in
front of us. that is key, information is public NOT private. this kind of correction does not happen in the print world.

print is not organic, whereas the internet is organic. the former is not interactive, it is one way delivery. the latter is interactive, engaging the reader and the writer.

now i have a real issue with textbooks and books in general as they are printed and once we learn more or find a mistake in said printed tome, it is wrong forever and how many copies of this book with misinformation is being passed on? that is the crime of books, it spreads misinformation too
soon after being published. we all know these books. with the net and sites like wikipedia we no longer need books for information except to archive man's knowledge to that point of publication and then know it will
be misinformation from that day on.

we know about history textbooks and that the information is created by the victor. consider american history texts. then consider howard zinn's history of the american people. two different versions of the same history. both claim access to public documents. it is how we interpret those documents and which documents we use. with these books there is no conversation. but on the internet there is a conversation. that is important in a democracy.

in a brave new world, the internet is perhaps the only resource i would use at this point. books are fine to a point, but as they become digitized we have access to them, that is they are public and then other sites can grow as peer review and information and knowledge is passed on. books are quaint and fun, no doubt, but they are not the final authority as sites like wikipedia can be and are becoming. even newspapers and journals that have both print and digital portals, the print form will have mistakes, while the digital version corrects itself. this means the digits do not pass on misinformation as will the static print version.

a neat thing happened while we were visiting cambridge and saw the samuel pepys library. the neat thing about this library is that it is frozen in time. when pepys died he gave his entire library to the college with two
provisions: they were not to get rid of any book he gave and they could not add to it. cool. a flash in time. now on the other hand, copyright libraries in england, there are 6, get a copy of every book published and keep building shelves to accomodate these books. two extremes. and then there is the digital libray which takes up little space, and grows while maintaining the archival copy. it is merely the next iteration.

let's not be afraid of progress as the church was when the press was created. we have always had progress in the spreading of information from the knowledge stolen by the egyptians when any ship lited in alexandria
with books they were put in that first great library and we know what happened when it was lost to fire, so was that knowledge. then the churches held knowledge as they wanted to perpetrate it. the name of the rose deals with this. the press came along and wrested this power from the church. now the internet is wresting it from the few publishers who edit the knowledge we get. consider the news we get in america as compared to england or china or iran etc etc. whose knowledge is right? none. now when we have this news on the internet the people of the world can edit it.

power to he who owns the press and we all own the press from wikipedia to our own blogs and webpages.

i would never not allow the internet and sites like wikipedia to be used. consider that you have access to these web sites like your scholars so you can engage in a conversation. do you have access to the books they use? probably not without some work and time. scholarly discussions have taken an important step with the internet, just as they did in gutenberg's time. please do not NOT allow the internet and wikipedia to be used cause you can do more with this resource than we can with esoteric tomes hidden on shelves, with pages ripped out and not available right now cause someone has it or even worse stole it or burned it. digits are far better than atoms. atoms are comfortable, but not as accessible and certainly available to the haves more than the have nots.

we merely need to consider what john dewey and pablo freire have to say on this topic.

Another opinion from Sunday NYTimes Magazine, May 11, 2008, "Lexicographical Longing."

happy new year!!