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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I rediscovered this book when I recovered a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance from the trash. This was one of the books of my youth, a time when I took things apart like bicycles, 36 horsepower VW engines, front steps not only to know how they worked but to fix them. I was a tinkerer, I still am a tinkerer and this book by Robert Pirsig was a crucial book for me to remind me I wasn't crazy, like some folks told me. I followed the edict "If it ain't broke, take it apart to see how it works," drove my father crazy and some others, too. I loved this book because it spoke to me. At first it was the romantic Huck Finn notion of lightin' out for the territory and then became the classic view of essence. Now as I read it some 35 years later, I'm in awe of this tome.

Alan Watts introduced me to Zen, my experience in Veitnam was more about Zen than any domino theory. When I came home I studied Phaedrus and owned a motorcycle. Pirsig's book was a welcome college graduation gift. It was read on a simpler romantic level then. Now it is more of a classical read. I'm still tinkering but now with computers. My first computer was a keyboard I hooked up to a B&W tv and had to write BASIC to see "Hi Ted" on the screen. Exciting, but nothing compared to 1984 when I had a weekly "ahha" moment as I was learning to teach with computers in my 16 Tandy 1000 computer room with those 5 1/4 inch startup disks. Today I have 16 Imacs and 16 Dells in a room with smartboards and a console that can not only control the computers in my room but those in other rooms. My tinkering is in VETY (I'm still enamoured with the Greeks and Romans as well as exploring the parts) and having my students write in HTML. I have given up my Facebook and Twitter accounts as they aren't ZEN. As I reread this tome, I'm reminded about how unZen we are with our ignorance of how it works let alone any care about how it works as witnessed in the horrendous year Columbia University has had from plagairism in a valedictorian speech (C'mon man), to drug dealing to pay for college, to sex between a prof and his daughter. How lazy and stupid have we become? We can't write our own valedictorian speeches anymore? We can't find legal ways to make money? We can't find sex outside our homes? I think Columbia needs a little bit of Zen. And on the west coast and in Ohio an adequate lesson plan is a journal entry and NOT an essay. “Write a journal entry in which you imagine how life or work will change after the smart grid is ready to go.” Yikes, a journal entry?? What have we become a nation of tweets? Governor Rendell may have said it well too. I'm worried when we limit ourselves to 128 characters and to journal entries as lesson plans instead of creative projects and essay writing. Even the famed NYState English Language Arts Regents exam has been dumbed down again in my teaching career to one essay and too much Multiple Choice. Pirsig is correct and needs to be reread over and over again, we are not only afraid of technology we are not sure how to use it correctly. Technology has taken control and made us wusses, stupid wusses who are limited to so many characters and so little to say that we use copy and paste to the point we think it is ours.

Don't be confused by the title, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This book should be on everyone's reading list. Make 2011 the year you take back your life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Like a tourist

We haven't spent many holidays here recently, so we have spent our time with family and acting like tourists. During the snow storm many walks to the river and to Times Square. The day after the storm we went to Central Park and frolicked. In the past two days I have been amazed at the traffic in the city. As I sit in the living room watching English Premier games on the computers I watch the traffic crawl across 50th Street. When we leave in the mid morning, the traffic is bumper to bumper. When we get to the avenues it is packed like a getaway Friday. Today the walk from 10th Avenue and 50th to the New York Public Library at 42nd and Fifth was packed with people and traffic. Snow removal is still poor and I'm glad I have my bright yellow boots for sloshing through a sloppy New York City grid.

These boots fit over my sneakers.

At the library time was spent in the Three Faiths Scriptorium which was mind blowing and so informative. It is definitely worth another visit or two, especially after the holidays and when we have fewer tourists, if that ever happens. After exploring the faiths of the western world, I made my way up to the third floor for the photographic exhibition called Recollection that represented thirty years of photography at the NYPL. Some famous and familiar images and some new images that lined the walls of the glorious corridor. A visit to the reading rooms is always humbling and necessary.

From the library, a walk east to Madison and south to 38th finds us at the Morgan.Just in time for the very informative 15 minute video about the museum. It is here you get a good overview and plan for visiting the museum. The Morgan Library is very European and is loaded with very familiar authors and titles. Of course they are first editions. In the cases there are great examples of author's notes and drafts in their hand. The collection includes original drafts from musicians, authors, and poets. The fireplaces are grand and one can only wonder what it must have been like with a roaring fire and time to spend time enjoying selections from this fine collection or entertaining guests. The next stop was the collection of Roy Lichenstein black and white drawings and cartoons. Finally the reason for going to the Morgan was the Twain collection of drafts, first editions, and photographs. I had no idea what the seals were until I stepped into the room of ancient Near East seals. The final must see object is the trigraph that claims to contain wood in the shape of a cross from the cross used to crucify Jesus.

The walk home across 37th Street to 10th Avenue and north to 50th was an adventure weaving around the bumper to bumper traffic and poorly shoveled sidewalks and slushy streets.

Now as I watch the Chelsea-Bolton match, I'm still amazed at the traffic. And so many cars with only one occupant.

What touristy thing should we do now?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow in NYC





The snow is up to my knees in the backyard.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Publish or Perish

Just listened to a radio show about colleges.

OMG.

Educators must run places of education. It isn't about tenure, it is about education. Education is not a business. Education is a place that thrives on mistakes. Mistakes are the fodder of learning, Schools are supposed to be a place where we play, practice things. If we make mistakes, no problem, we should learn from those mistakes. When we publish we are able to broadcast to the public our capabilities. Peer review, access to our work so that anyone, or specific people can read my ideas in y writings. This is what CyberEnglish is all about. My scholars publish, otherwise they will perish.

This publish thing confuses me. Get a blog, write a webpage, tweet. Anyone and everyone can publish. There lies the rub. Since everyone publishes, that requires I read all this stuff and make my own mind up. The Internet, which was an interactive tool is slowly becoming a consumer environment like television and radio. We have blogs and we have webpages, the real power. Look at Facebook and WikiLeaks. These giants are all about webpages. Yes webpages. The power of America is its ability to be producers, not consumers, not agents, but producers. The zenith of America in the Gilded Age was our ability to produce to manufacture. Manufacturing is moving from hand made to cyber producers. The new money is online, in online business and services.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The real terrorists

I just finished reading "The Doomsday Strain" by Michael Specter in the current New Yorker.

OMG!

I'm not a praying man, but maybe I should reconsider.

This is the scariest sh!t I've read since....since....since.... I don't know when. Nathan Wolfe, the calm debonair hero of this tale, portends dastardly circumstances for humanity. Even when we know, we ignore the science, the facts, the data. And when we, no they, ignore Wolfe, they die. This kinda data gets my attention. Not that spew, that pablum, that comes from the NYC DOE. This is real data, data we can hang our hat on.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is Israel the next Mexico?

I'm still reading the WikiLeaks pages and following by embassy now. The Vatican thread is predictable and fun. On the other hand the Tel Aviv cables are frightening and revealing. Is Cunningham just an alarmist or should I have real concern about Organized Crime in Israel? Heretofore, I was not aware of the existence of Organized Crime in Israel nor the size and power of it. Even more surprising was how ineffective the Israel government forces are against the organized crime factions. Like Mexico, the crime from Israel is spreading to America. And why hasn't the US press mentioned any of this as they do about Mexico? Sure Mexico is a neighbor, but what Cunningham writes about in Israel should cause some concern. Israel is not only subject to attack from outside, it is threatened from within by former soldiers who have the wherewithal to conduct military operations and maintain a level of sophistication as crime bosses and soldiers which makes them more of a threat than the Mexican gangs. Maybe I should reread the Old Testament as it may be coming back for a revival soon. As economies crumble crime will win out and considering the volubility of the Mid East, this information about OC in Israel is disturbing.

Fast Forward six months and "Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher visited Israel December 1-2. U/S Tauscher focused her visit on setting the stage for a successful Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (RevCon) in May 2010." Essentially as always we are told more about Iran and other states, when we should be just as concerned if not more concerned about Israel. The crime bosses are former trained soldiers with knowledge about weapons and access.

Now for some light reading. I struck upon this, "Turkmen President Berdimuhammedov is vain, fastidious, vindictive, a micro-manager, and a bit of an Ahal Teke “nationalist.” And this is just the first sentence to a fabulous cable by Curran. Turkmenistan is to the north of both Iran and Afghanistan and has access to the notorious Caspian Sea. While from the northern landlocked neighbor of Uzbekistan, we have three cables dating back to 2007 discussing the behavior of the oldest daughter, Lola, and her nightclubbing activities to a year later when we read about how she is trying to clean up her image. Back to the Sea and travel north to either Russia, just north of Georgia and to the east Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is crucial to us for flyovers and the like. As with the other neighboring countries they offer light entertainment about the families and politics as seen from the eyes of our diplomats. Most entertaining would be the lifestyles of the leadership and the fabulous cable filled with drama and potentially the basis for a funny sitcom. All this from the capital, Astana, the home of the championship cycling team.

I don't know why some people are so upset with these cables, they are absolutely delightful reading and in many cases very funny while in other cases very revealing and important for us to know.

Now what is happening to Julian Assange is criminal and dastardly. I wouldn't be surprised for one minute if America is behind this harassment. Isn't it telling when someone like Zuckerberg is named Person of the Year by Time instead of Assange? I don't care one lick for Facebook, barely use it and my life is not the better for it. And is Zuckerberg the creator of Facebook? However, Assange has made a far more important impact on my life. The cables are far more entertaining then anything I find on Facebook. Facebook isn't real, the cables are real. Is this what America has become a Facebook nation? Yikes!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What an upside down world

Our new Speaker of the House is an enigma to me.

As an English teacher I'm stumped as how to pronounce his name. Does he know Hyacinth Bucket, who insists her last name is pronounced "Bouquet" in the BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances.

He cries about schoolchildren on a playground.

He cries a lot apparently.

Hmm, crying is good, but when women in politics almost do it, look out.

Now when a stocky manly man cries and is the Speaker of the House, has someone pulled a boner?



Gail Collins has provided some clarity.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Polakow-Suransky, the new #2 should be #1

“Until we start seeing assessments that ask kids to write research papers, ask them to solve unfamiliar problems, ask them to defend their ideas, ask them to engage with both fiction and nonfiction texts; until those kinds of assessments are our state assessments, all we’re measuring are basic skills,” Mr. Shael Polakow-Suransky (shale poh-LA-coe soo-RAN-skee.) said in an interview.

I agree with this statement from The New York Times interview about assessment. This is how CyberEnglish works and assesses the scholars. What Polakow-Suransky suggests is that the scholars should be producers and not just consumers or regurgitators. He can see exactly what my scholars are doing in my classes now and from those of the past on my class webpage which will lead him to the webpages of my scholars. He will find examples exactly as he outlines of how products are created and how they are assessed.

Why wasn't this man made chancellor, he understands education, he is from the classroom, he has been a part of education at all levels, he is an educated educator, and it seems like he could manage this far better than Black. He has already said more intelligent things about our schools than Black has blundered and blurted out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

30 years ago

It was cold, very very cold. I was watching Monday Night Football with Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell. It was late when Cosell announced the shooting and death of John Lennon. I was stunned. I had become used to seeing John and Sean playing in the rustic part of the park now called Strawberry Fields near his Dakota home.

In shock, I put on a lot of clothes and my warmest coat and left my east 71st Street apartment and walked across the park to the Dakota to join the vigil already begun by others. A boom box was playing his music and a large crowd was gathering across from the Dakota. Flowers began to amass at the spot he was shot. Every evening of Dec 8, I have made my way to the Dakota to pay my respects to John and to deposit a white rose on the appropriate place for those pilgrims.

I have gone alone, I have gone with friends. I always bring a single white rose with names of people from around the world who know I do this every Dec 8.

Imagine Peace

Monday, December 6, 2010

Let's Follow the Business Model



haha, blah blah Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

DATA. It is all about the data. In all areas of our lives we are analyzing the data. Are we relying too much on data? Data or statistics is a crap shoot. Look at how statistics works (doesn't work) in sports. Bankers and numbers, now there's a nightmare scenario. Taking an accountant, business, management led team into an educational leadership position is suicide. We know this, yet, we continue to make the same mistake. That's politics, baby.

How has education that has been led by non-educational leaders fared?

Look at the numbers, but not theirs, haha. Obviously we do not learn from our mistakes nor admit them. Stay the course King Michael.

Haha, the first words from Queen Cathy have been about teachers and tenure. Let's not lose sight of the job of education, Cathy. How about the curriculum and the business of education, not union busting. It will be a waste of time and only prove your incompetence. Follow the educational plan, needs, ideas. It's not about teacher tenure it's about leadership, EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP, Cathy. Let's work on classroom size, materials, curriculum and see how the teachers respond. Teachers are of course an easy target, whereas the tough work is done in the trenches with curriculum, materials, and the classroom. This is why you were the wrong choice. The first time you open your big mouth you put your big foot into it. Now the only time you will open your mouth is to change feet. And this is day one. You already have a steep learning curve. Oh and stop talking about yourself, it's not about you, it's about the children, so please get on with your work of education.
Education requires a consistency, not a foolish consistency, but a consistency. Teachers have rituals and routines that they use each day to help the young scholars learn. When that routine is changed it "upsets the applecart." The young scholars need absolutes so that the changing world can be addressed. Business leaders just don't understand this idea about pedagogy. Education takes time like good cooking. Concentrate on the substance of education and not the teachers. How dare you walk into a new position without doing your homework and take on the teachers. It is a waste of time and effort and demonstrates your ignorance about education and running a school system. Learn education first, sweetheart.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hip Hip Horray WikiLeaks

I like what is happening because of WikiLeaks. It has taken the Freedom of Information Act to the next level. Bravo! With all the amendments and interpretations of this Act, we should be prepared for some interesting legal battles. It's what we like to do when the status quo is about to be rocked. I don't like that it is blocked in the NYC public schools. What great fodder for classroom lessons. Our scholars should be reading these cables and doing what history, English scholars do with such primary documents. They look at threads for patterns, places, situations. They study the prose style of different authors. Who are the authors? The scholars produce secondary resources about their research and opinions that are to be passed on. Oh did I mention it comes in five other languages, too: Portuguese, French, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic. When will we see Chinese or other Asian languages?

The typical knee jerk reaction to WikiLeaks is important to watch and to hear what is said by whom. Future actions, too, will be important to monitor. Is this another excuse for the government to take more of our liberties away? Was this leak generated from within so they could enact laws and perform other political parlor tricks to dupe the public and to steal more freedoms from us in the name of our safety. I'm sure those we really do not want to read these cables, read them on the day they were sent.

In most cases, the cables are good prose, delightfully entertaining, and most assuredly informative. Names are xxxxx out. We are being treated to in depth behind the scenes reporting by those in the front lines. We have access to the primary documents and that is crucial. Are those in power worried about becoming obsolete? Information is power and there has been a major power sharing surge that continues on a daily basis. I love it. It nourishes me. I am gorging on these cables.

For example:
"Whatever the truth about his mood, it is hard to believe that Gul, a seasoned politician and operator, would let himself be pushed into something he didn't want to do, even “for the greater good for his party.” End comment.

Reading about Robert Mugabe was great fun. It is not a great surprise what I read.

SUBJECT: ELDERLY AMERICAN SMUGGLED OUT OF IRAN

"Russia is ranked second only to the United States in arms sales to the developing world, and a sizeable portion of its arms trade is with countries of concern to us." Russian Calculus.

The cables about the German Economics ministry turmoil was interesting and more detailed about something we knew but only on a cursory level. These cables fill in the gaps. They provide more details about something we know too little.
What I find fascinating about these cables is that some of those outlandish conspiracy theories we are told not to believe might be true or possibly true. These cables date back to 1966, so strolling through the years is fun. Reading about the Shah is interesting and educational. The study done in Iran in 1985, titled, "Negotiations" is deep and well worth reading.

Others:
Chevron gets thrown out of a meeting in Kazakhstan; the lifestyle of the wealthy in Kazakhstan; from 2008: "none of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's three sons is likely to be tapped to succeed him."; Afghan money to Dubai; Life in Beijing; the work to get Bout; State's request to Ambassador in Pakistan to press Pakistan to continue to hold Dr Khan in house arrest; our troubles with Pakistan; The President's briefing before Paris visit; the under the table dealing with drones in Pakistan; Cuba and Venezuela's relationship; how Cubans get to America, the Litinenko Assassination, Paragraph three is a pisser. Reading these cables can be addicting. And to think it will be months. Reminds me of the Watergate hearings.

-------
Comment
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¶15. (C) All of the above putative versions of events are handicapped by a lack of evidence and by the existence of other motives for the killings and other potential perpetrators. Whatever the truth may ultimately be --and it may never be known-- the tendency here to almost automatically assume that someone in or close to Putin’s inner circle is the author of these deaths speaks volumes about expectations of Kremlin behavior as the high-stakes succession struggle intensifies. BURNS

I'm liking the indexing by year, embassy, tag and other methods. My fear is getting lost in these cables. This is a great service to correct history or fill in the gaps. When we finally have time to read these cables and to sort through them on our own, we will see the importance of this event. We have only seen a very small amount of the cables as it is taking time to upload them all. I love this installment process as each day brings more great reading, just as the Watergate Hearings were good television watching.

Perhaps one of the most important points about these cables is that we are looking at primary documents. This is key to our own education. We don't need to rely on reporters, who may or may not have an agenda, to tell us the news. We can read the cables and make our own determination about things and don't need the pundits to interpret for us, tell us what we need to know, to be barraged by their spew. This is just another magnificent example of the power and beauty of the internet and sites like WikiLeaks and Wikipedia. Watch who is critical of the leaks and who is not. No big surprises here.

Power to the people and keep on keepin' on WikiLeaks.

We know some people will probably be leaving their posts because of these revelations and maybe find a new profession writing novels or screen plays. I can't wait for the movie or even mini-series based on these cables. Too bad "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" has already been used.

An important caveat is the age of these cables. The most recent is February of 2010. It news cycles , they are ancient history.

Now if WikiLeaks could explore the health industry, the pharmaceutical folks, and NYC politics to name a few, wow now that would be a real service.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Good education is good economics

I just heard what sounds like a threat from the off shore oil advocates. "If we don't drill off shore we will lose jobs." Fear. That is the message of scary ones. Beware the scary ones. I remember when Detroit began to decline and then crash. Why did this happen to Detroit? Quite simply the workers in Detroit auto industry never finished their education and when Detroit had to retool to compete with Japan, the workers were unable to read the new manuals.

We don't need to drill off shore baby, what we need to do is create new forms of energy to replace our need for oil. Instead of suggesting or even threatening, why not figure out a new way to find energy sources that are not detrimental or bad for us and the environment. Instead of doing things that are bad for us again and again, please discover a new way to do this and to make money. To do this, we all need is an education, baby. The threats suggest we are too stupid to do something better. Figure it out, idiots. It starts by going to school, staying in school, and maybe reeducating ourselves. Our economics should not be dictated by idiots who can't learn and by the scary ones who are stuck in doing it the SOSO way.

The new industries can be wind, solar, water, and other natural resources. We have to reeducate ourselves to understand we don't need those fossil fuels anymore because they are bad for us. Heck if this industry wants to stay off shore figure out how wind turbines can be erected and maintained in places you want to drill for oil. The new economy should be based on new ideas, not on the old ideas and ways of doing things as Detroit discovered and many of American manufacturers. We are getting our butts kicked by those countries who have discovered how to do things in a new and improved way. Our advertisers constantly use "NEW' and "IMPROVED" on products, but neither our thinking nor ideas about manufacturing are NEW or IMPROVED. We seem to have forgotten how to make things. Now we need to apply these words to us, the people of America, by reeducating or actually finishing school and actually learn how to do and make things.

Another by product of this lack of education in America, besides the constant belittling of American schools, is seen in the American electorate. This electorate believes the lies of such blowhards as Beck and the scary ones. "Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see" means you should investigate, search out the truth of things instead of believing the blowhards, the scary ones.

It is about education and America is quite obviously not as educated as it should be and we have proven this not only on tests in schools, but also in our politics and economics. Who has been in charge of schools recently? Beware the scary ones.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why hate Congress

Politicians are the lowest form of life, they are pond scum, slime on the bottom of a shoe that stepped in dog shit. To those who aspire to public office, DON'T unless you are really there for the people and not for yourself.

Why are they using children to meet their greedy, stupid, political ends.

Pass the Child Nutrition Act you idiots. It's not about you, it's about the children, the citizens.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jazzed about Short Stories

My class is going into a short story unit. I love using short stories in my class. They are short. They are fiction. They are rich in fodder to play with figurative language, they are perfect for deconstruction, they are easy reads, they are good models of writing skills, they are good subjects for expository writing assignments, they are a perfect microcosm of life. They aren't poetry.

Short stories are a genre familiar to all my scholars whether they are good readers or not. They all know stories. They hear stories, they have read stories, they all tell stories. Stories are part of their heritage and culture. Stories are great tools for text to self, because in a short compact piece of literature, the author connects to the reader in one way or another. We learn about ourselves in a quick read. We see character development done quickly. Plot unfolds instantly. All the pieces of a short story connect to the reader because they are short. The author needs to be more concise than does the novelist. The prose style is more familiar than is verse or even drama. Short stories are entertaining while non-fiction, a similar prose style, is not necessarily entertaining or accessible. Sometimes my scholars might comment that the short story isn't that short. Other than that, I don't hear too many complaints and soon they are all involved.

Their writing assignments are fuller and more complete than other expository assignments about non-fiction, verse, or drama. Deconstructing short stories via our Fact Sheet helps them find the pieces and place them in the appropriate information cell. Short stories provide me and the scholars a platform to explore learning. I can watch and see how each of my scholars learn and they can observe their own learning styles as the fact sheet, note taking, and assessment tools, the quiz and the essay, supply the data for exploring learning. In a two hour period all of this can be done. In regular school I teach one hour classes. In after school and summer school, I teach two hour classes. I prefer the two hour class because the entire lesson can be completed without interruption.

After each scholar presents an expository essay on a short story or two, the scholars are invited to write their own short story, using the fact sheet to construct the characters, plots, and other elements of the short story. One of the major benefits of this lesson is that my scholars are more apt to be producers. Producing a product engages the scholar, excites the senses of the scholar, establishes a good context for class.

There is nothing as powerful as a good story.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Compromise? No a cop out.

This is not a compromise. This is a cop out, Steiner. We haven't had a competent commissioner since Tom Sobel.

It seems we get Cathleen P Black after all. Oh sure there will be an educational sidekick. Yeah that works. It didn't before. Remember Diana Lam?

This new two headed hydra is a bad idea in a pen of alpha dogs. The educational puppy will get run over by the alpha dog Black.

Never mind the voice of the people, never mind the recommendation of the hand picked educational committee against the waiver.

Why do our leaders disregard the voices of those around them? What makes us believe Black will even listen to that educational consultant who has come from within, a lapdog. Since Steiner has disregarded his advisors, Bloomberg has never listened to advisers, what makes us believe Black is any different? This is a terrible situation.

What is Steiner's problem. No balls, no guts, no brains, no scruples. Wonder what King Michael offered Steiner as an incentive.

Isn't this special, we have three more years of this nightmare. Public education in NYC is in deep yogurt.

Oh yeah, Gloria Steinem, I hope you are happy since you wanted Black only because she is a woman. How about a qualified woman. Gloria, I'm ashamed of you and I know my mom would be too for that stupid reason. There are far better and more qualified women out there for this job.

What happened to the procedure of applying for a job or a least having a list of choices for the job?

What an upside down world we live in right now. NYC is a good example of a plutocracy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bob Dylan at Terminal 5

I entered the Globe of 2010 when I entered Terminal 5. The venue was fabulous. A big area for the groundlings with two tiers of balcony space. I remembered seeing Stray Cats at the Bowery Ballroom and danced all night. I've seen Dylan in many venues and sat in a chair. At home I dance to Dylan. When I arrived at the venue, it was nicely packed. I made my way to a good spot with a good view of the stage and am close. I had good dancing space. The only complaint is I wished the floor was raked at a 2 - 3 % rate so those in the back could see over the heads of those in front.

The stage was set and a couple of stage hands moved around the stage setting this and setting that. Since this was the third day, I would have thought they had their shit together. They had all day too. We don't need to see these guys unless they do some kind of entertaining. The guitar tuner could have done some licks, but no. Maybe a juggler or a mime while we wait for Dylan and the lads.

Once the band came on stage, the curtain opened and we were introduced to the backgrounds that were subtle and clever for the evening. Shots from stage left, overview and front would interchange with appropriate landscapes.

I always love the outfits of the band and Bob in that huge hat. I haven't seen Bob play the harmonica so much in a show and one handed too. Wow.

The audience was young, very young.

The final treat was the encore of three.

Set list:
1. Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
2. The Man In Me
3. Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
4. Tangled Up In Blue
5. The Levee's Gonna Break
6. Spirit On The Water
7. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
8. Can't Wait
9. Summer Days
10. Forgetful Heart
11. Honest With Me
12. Nettie Moore
13. Thunder On The Mountain
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man
15. Jolene
16. Like A Rolling Stone
17. All Along The Watchtower

Finally, I hope he plays this venue in future trips and Neil Young too, because we stand to dance and it is only 6 blocks from my home.

Thanks,
Bob

Friday, November 19, 2010

Capture that Idea

open up your google account
open documents and then File New
start writing down your ideas
keep this tab opened
open a new tab
when one of those
ahha moments happen
go to the untitled tab
and realize you have to label it.
call it “Today”
and label it the date
year/month/day
xx/xx/xx
then when of those things happens
go and write frantically
for fear you forget
be sure to save
and then take a walk to the kitchen.

when you have an idea
a thought; write it down.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's not about Cathleen P Black

As we watch the current furor over the appointment of a new NYC Schools Chancellor, we are seeing a pure example of the problem. The big hitters like former mayors and major business people are coming out in support of the current mayor's power play. The mayor has sidestepped the procedures of law and is being supported by his cronies.

On the other hand, the very people about who these leaders speak about, the clients, the customers, are asking for proper procedure to be followed and for their voice to be heard about the next chancellor.

We are seeing the gulf between the haves and the have not's or those in power ignoring the very voices they depend on for votes and for their support. We are seeing another example of the Janus aspect of politics. These mayors did very little for education and in some cases caused more chaos than order. Who cares what Koch thinks. He was a blowhard then and is one now and is so far from reality. As for the other two former mayors, please. One was a one term mayor for good reason and the other was voted a terribe mayor the day before the great tragedy. Former mayors should be just that, former mayors and shut up. It is embarrassing to hear your feeble voices again. That's why you are former mayors.

As for this mayor, who has blatantly abused his power, we have seen how he runs rough shod over the city and over procedure once again.

Why do people think Klein was a good Chancellor? He wasn't. He ran an organization that was in constant turmoil, constant change, too many bad choices, and education did not improve in this city because of his leadership. He ignored parents, he insulted the employees, he had no idea about organization except how to reorganize. If we use Klein as a reason to appoint Black, then quite obviously we should not have Black as the next chancellor. We should learn from our mistakes.

It's not about Cathleen P Black, it is about power, absolute power and the absence of following the rule of law. No one is above the law, Mr Mayor.

Are we being told that we can't find someone who has both pedagogy and managerial skills? How do the universities do it? How do prep schools do it? Don't we have schools of education that train administrators to run school organizations? Education is a much different kind of institution that is not like business. It is the interaction of people. It requires certain skills because we are dealing with little humans and not products. We shouldn't be cutting corners, we should be exploring our practice to be better. Under managerial leaders in education we are not seeing a better educational system, but we are seeing a leaner one. I know a lean educational system is not successful because it is cutting necessary resources that make the educational institution successful.

OPRAH, TOO?? OH SHUT UP OPRAH.

Friday, November 12, 2010

We need a Revolution

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

Buckminster Fuller

In 2000, I gave a presentation in Puerto Rico, for the governor, on school reform that suggested we reconstruct our schools to be better suited to educate our children. The presentation began with an overview of where we were and transitioned to where we needed to go. We need to leave the current school buildings and methods of educating because we know they aren't working. Reform then was a bad word because it simply meant rearranging failed methods, renaming failed ideas, and doing the same old same old in a different order. But nothing changed nor was anything reformed. Reform is still a bad idea and word, because it doesn't do anything. Instead, I have been advocating a revolution.

By 2001, I was using "paradigm shift" in many of my graduate papers and publications. One article spoke about how I was changing my classroom into a new model called CyberEnglish. Instead of being receptacles of information, my scholars became producers of knowledge and information. Many of my colleagues were on board with this idea as they, too, began looking for ways to transform their classrooms.

When I began CyberEnglish in 1993, I wanted to change education from the current stifling form of information delivery and presentation to a new model. The new model created producers, not consumers. The new model didn't rely on seat time but work done from anywhere at anytime. Schools still demand seat time and create consumers. Today I ran into a scholar who was coming to school late and had missed the class. He told me he was doing the work online at home, which I had seen and that he had some issues which caused him to be late to school, more often than he'd like. The point is, he didn't need to be in my class every day and he was able to do the work in his time and on his terms. And he was doing it well. The reason our schools are failing is that they are not considering the needs of their clients, the scholars.

Around 2007 we had a whole "shift happens" revolution on YouTube. These cute videos pointed out the change, but not a way to make it happen in schools. CyberEnglish did provide a way.

Nearly 20 years later, I was introduced to Sir Ken Robinson and his video about Changing Education Paradigms. The title struck a cord. He has a similar pair of videos at TED.

What is it going to take to change education? Certainly not the Senge model of management we see at The US Department of Education nor the one we see in New York City with the appointment of Cathleen P Black.

We need a revolution, a real revolution like the good old days.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Imagine Peace


Happy Veterans day to my fellow vets.

My hope is that our troops are out of Afghanistan and Iraq soon. How many more have to die?

Another hope is ceasing the interruption and usurpation of our seventh inning with that once lovely, now jingoistic, nationalistic, religious song, that has nothing to do with baseball and is treated more reverently than the National Anthem. Enough already. I'd prefer to hear something more rousing like "When Johnny comes Marching Home Again."

Peace.

Vietnam March 1969 to May 1970



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Joel Klein resigns

What a shock to hear that Joel Klein resigned as chancellor of NYC schools.

The question now is who is Cathleen P Black and how is she a good choice as the educational leader of NYC schools?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Phone calls

I called the homes of six scholars who have not been coming to class and miraculously they showed up in class today. I hope they continue to come to school.

Phoning home is a powerful tool. Email is becoming an important tool too, finally. My own scholar's parents aren't using it enough, but I'm using it with my son and it is making all the difference.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gotta love daylight savings

The immediate perk to daylight savings was having so many students appear at school on time and even early in many cases. When I asked some of my scholars about this, they all responded they woke early and decided to come to school early. I'm sure we'll get used to the change soon enough.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Youth is wasted on the young

I was shocked when I heard the numbers of young voters who voted, which told me the number who didn't vote.

Hey guys where were you on Nov 2?

Hungover in bed? At the bar, too busy bending the elbow to vote? Too high to remember to exercise your vote? In the sack, too lazy to vote? Obviously not doing your homework, otherwise you would have voted.

I remember your enthusiasm and presence in 2008. So what happened in 2010?

Would it have made a difference? You bet it would have, you little shits.

Seems the older generation still cares more about your future than you do.

Yo young shits, get your act together next election and vote, no matter what you think about your vote. Your vote matters. So you snot nosed little shits, vote the next time you can because we have fought for that right for you little shits.

I had some respect for you last election, but you lost it all this time around you little shits.

Those who didn't vote are the best argument why parents should eat their young.

The young voter turnout sucked and so do those of you who didn't vote you little shits.

And you wonder why we can't take you little shits seriously.

Vote next time you little shits.

Quite obviously someone is wasting money on your education.

Voting is an obligation, a right, a way of making your voice heard.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Winterizing the Garden


I wasn't pleased with the garden this year for many reasons, too many to go into.

In preparation for next year I have built a cold frame. It is ten feet long, sixteen inches deep and two feet tall at the back wall and one foot tall at the front wall. I will keep some herbs in it now and maybe mess around with lettuce and such. We will use it next year to start stuff, which was something we really didn't do this year, which was one of our big mistakes.


We did make lots of pesto and had a good herb garden. The hydrangeas, roses, and flowering plants were weak, maybe because of the heat in the beginning and wet later. Tomatoes were a disaster. Oh the three goldfish have survived another year, which makes it five years now.

The garden is dead, long live the garden.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Evaluating Teachers

How should we evaluate teachers? When I was in college and graduate schools, I received a form to evaluate my professors. When I did adjunct work in different schools of higher education, I would pass these forms out to my scholars. I found it an adequate and fair way to both evaluate my professors and to be evaluated. What I find offensive in the current trend to evaluate teachers is to use a test that teachers have neither created nor have input in their creation. These are arbitrary tests made by some firm not associated with my school or in communication with me.

Which teacher is responsible for a scholar's success on any given test? The current teacher or a teacher from last year or further back? Has a scholar arrived in my class ill prepared to do the work in my class and therefore incapable of doing any test? I get scholars in my class from other schools, cities, states, countries. They are in my class because of their age more than any other criteria, not because of their language skills. In a very short period of time I have my scholars and I am going to be rewarded or punished because of the work or lack of it by others? Then how about the scholar who has come well prepared and I get credit. Talk about a crap shoot.

Teaching is a communal effort. Each scholar encounters more than one teacher each day and on some days perhaps sees as many as six teachers, each with a different teaching style and purpose. How do we know the skills learned in one class aren't transferred into another? Which teacher is rewarded? How do we determine the teacher responsible for success or failure? Maybe we should reconsider those forms of the past where scholars made evaluations of their teachers. Patterns will emerge as we are able to sift through these evaluations. Top and bottom evaluations will reveal much as will correlations between grade and comment. In the end, however, I always found these evaluations honest and useful.

The current push to use tests made by certain companies that may not be valid or reflective of the classes being taught makes no sense. The test makers do not provide guides to what is on the test so we can not just teach to the test but to be sure to include instruction on this material. When I teach a unit, the scholars know what material will be on the test. Now if I make a test that assesses stuff I didn't cover in class, they will scream and holler about how unfair this is. We have all been there in our school days. The same holds true for these tests that are made from sources outside our school district or state and are used to evaluate our performance, especially when we are not aware of the concept, content, or any aspect of the test.

When I first started teaching, I was in a department of six teachers. At the beginning of each semester we devised the instrument of evaluation we would use at the end of the semester. In addition, each teacher had to create a part of the test that would be for their class only. It allowed for uniformity so if scholars had to change a schedule instruction and content was not lost. We were interchangeable parts a la Eli Whitney. It worked beautifully. We knew what to teach, we could customize and concentrate on our strengths, and have an instrument of evaluation of our scholars and of ourselves. It made for a healthy collegial English department in which we helped each other and did not compete with each other. Our common goal was the success of our scholars and this method of evaluation made us better teachers. But this was thirty five years ago and we have moved far from this pedagogical ideal world to a world of ignorance about education and I'm very sad to see that it comes from our own inept Federal Government of both parties. This is not a sickness of just one political party it is a malady shared by both.

Currently this nation is on a witch hunt to find fault with their circumstances. Election day will alleviate some of that pain, but in the meantime and after the elections teachers will continue to be targets of blame.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Emily and Greg get married


I am very happy for my daughter Emily and her new husband, Greg.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Come on, Mr President

On Monday's NBC Today Show, President Obama said, "Money alone isn't the cure for America's ailing school system." He then went on to outline some ways he plans to improve education in America. All require money.

I've always been amused by this notion that money is not crucial in saving or even improving education in this country. Money isn't important? haha. Everything I hear from the Republican party about money tells me money is important and those who have it should keep it and not have to share it or make less. Money makes weak sports teams better and even winners and in some cases champions. Rich people have used their money to get elected to public office like the mayor of NYC. Money allows those with it to get better education for themselves and their children, to live in better homes and communities, to get better health care, to have things that those without money cant have. So please, don't tell me money can't improve things.

If money isn't a way to improve things why do CEO's demand such a high salary? Why are some athletes, actors, consultants paid so much? Of course money is important in improving anything and everything.

Schools can use more money to make schools safer; have better supplies, like computers, more and better books; pay for better teachers, like teams pay for better athletes; have better schools that have better classroom, more classrooms, and comfortable facilities; and have better food. Money, more money could begin to solve many problems with our schools, just as money has helped bail out the banks and corporations that caused our current economic woes. These very corporations responsible for the economic damage they did and caused, had lots of money, alone, thrown at them.

Why is it that only in education do we hear this expression, "Money alone isn't the cure for America's ailing school system," when we see it work in other areas of our life?

Come on Mr President.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Half Full or Half Empty?




Maybe the glass is twice as big as it ought to be.


Listening to Neil Young's new 'Le Noise' release online.

Friday, September 24, 2010

We're Number 11

America is number eleven as reported in a recent Newsweek article rating countries in the world for livability. When I looked at the list, I wasn't shocked to find eight of the top ten are homogeneous countries and the other two countries apologized to their indigenous people. Size was also an issue. The question of homogeneity is important and has been causing some new problems in some of these countries mentioned. A homogeneous society is a much easier society in which to teach than is a heterogeneous society, which is what America is. Many of the countries used to compare to America in educational matters are homogeneous. Consider if all the scholars in my class share one culture, one religion, and one set of mores; then teaching them is going to be much more effective and efficient since I don't have to stop and teach an individual student that idea or just move on and that scholar misses something. As a teacher in a very heterogeneous classroom in America, many points have to be taught before I can go into a larger lesson. Consider how the Bible is an important reference for many American writers. Some knowledge of the Bible is necessary to understand the literature. For some of my scholars knowledge of the Bible is nil and that is a problem.

I'm still confused why we continue to compare our educational system with other countries. The rules, the methodology, the population of our schools are so much different from other countries' schools. Schools in other countries do not have class populations like ours. Other countries don't demand and provide education for all students under 17. When I look at the list, Australia and Canada are two great choices, while the others are lovely countries, I like being there, but they can't be compared to America or Canada or Australia for so many reasons.

When we begin our classes each year, we have to provide our scholars a rubric that explains how they will be assessed. I'm never sure I have seen a rubric that provides proper assessment for the schools of the world. I think we are talking apples and oranges when it comes to education on a global scale.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Motivation is

Motivation is the reason we succeed or fail.

Public education is America is just fine, despite what the media and pundits say. In fact it is far better than it has ever been. Nicholas Lehman's recent Comment in the New Yorker provides some context: "A hundred years ago, eight and a half per cent of American seventeen-year-olds had a high-school degree, and two per cent of twenty-three-year-olds had a college degree." We know who went to school then and who didn't. So since 1954, America is educating all of its pre 17 year olds, NOT just some of them. This is not so in other countries. We are graduating a larger percentage of those students then ever before. More than in other countries. He goes on to speak about how messy education may be. I agree it is messy, but when you do something and do it well, you make a mess. Ask any chef, painter, carpenter. He is right is showing how our presidents are merely repainting the old walls of the school. many of us have suggested we tear down those schools and rebuild them using technology. Technology as we have learned raises the bar for the haves and have nots. The technology provides access to information heretofore restricted only to the haves. Democracy around the world has been born and sustained because of our new technologies. If only our leaders could see how powerful and useful technology could be in our schools then we would have a better educational system. Bill Clinton got it. Technology enhances what we know about education and we have seen nothing but the elimination of this great tool in our schools. Walk into any computer lab and see how motivated the scholars are. Then walk into a classroom bereft of computers. Which class has a higher level of activity? Motivation? Production?

The age in Jacques' diatribe that begins, "All the world's a stage," about the "whining school-boy" has always been one of my favorite ones mentioned:
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school.
Shakespeare is alluding to motivation in the scholar. Robert J Samuelson speaks about "motivation" in education today in his recent Op-Ed in the Washington Post just as schools were beginning on September 6, 2010. Certainly one of the motivating tools used by teachers in the past have been a switch or stick used to rap knuckles or other forms of corporal punishment not allowed today, not that I would argue for a return to corporal punishment. So let's not wax nostalgic about schools of yesterday or reminisce about those days of your childhood because you will forget the horrors we experienced, horrors we do not want to visit on our scholars today.

Samuelson speaks well about the poor motivation in today's schools. The bottom line is that students don't like school, concludes Samuelson. Even teachers are not motivated. How can anyone be motivated when the curriculum hasn't changed, hasn't been modified to reflect our current society, and we teach so our scholars take mindless multiple choice tests. We need to provide stimulating project based lessons that have the scholars produce something that they can show to others and to have conversations about. School is boring because of how it is done. the scholars still sit in rows. One person talks at a time. We are doing this to people who successfully multitask when not in school. School is boring, raising your hand to speak, not having time to say what you want, and never having time to delve into a topic. Technology has the tools, that are mostly blocked in schools, that could provide a beginning in motivating scholars. Teachers aren't motivated to use the technology because of the filters and poor maintenance.

What is said is that not much hasn't changed since Shakespeare's time. I'm reminded that Shakespeare never finished high school and never went to college. Some of our most successful and richest people never finished college or went to college. What that tells me is that schools still do not provide the important fodder for success so those who want to excel, drop out.

To motivate scholars in schools make school relevant. Right now schools are irrelevant in spite of what President Obama said in his Back to School Speech. Motivation comes from being inspired and technology is the most powerful tool we have to provide inspiration and we have neglected it badly in our schools. The point is that we can do better, but not if we continue with the same old same old methods. We must be motivated and inspired to reinvent education with the assistance of technology. Computer assisted instruction has proven its effectiveness over the years, so let's give computer assisted education a try, a better try than the feeble attempts we have seen so far.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Learning and Playing

Play has always and will always be an integral part of learning. Socrates played with his scholars minds with his incessant questions. Scientific knowledge has been acquired by "playing" around with some chemical, weight, glass, flame, or string. Discoveries made by each learner, those precious "ahha" moments, so often occur in a moment of play. We often hear someone say prior to some epiphany or revelation, "Let's just play around with this idea for a moment and see what happens."

If we stop and reflect on those important events in the history of man, we will discover many incidents where play was a crucial part of some altering discovery by man for man. Consider how "play" and many of its synonyms are used by us as we undertake something new. The importance of play is crucial in education and the recent elimination of recess in too many elementary schools bothered and concerned me. Who will ever forget the scene in The Shining when we see what Jack Nicholson has been typing: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." The consequences of that very notion were tragic and horrifying.

One must learn by doing the thing.
For though you think you know it,
you have no certainty until you try.
Sophocles (BC 495-406, Greek Tragic Poet)

Sophocles suggests the idea of play in this important quote. In order for us to know something we must do that thing and play is one of the ways in which we can realize that knowledge. Through play we unlock a truth, an inner essence of an idea, a practice, a theory. John Dewey uses this notion in the last century with his mantra of "learning by doing." O'Neill's Summerhill was a school based on play as was Montessori's experiment that has flourished around the world. Coaches provide a very useful playing field for the mind of our scholars as they use play to teach many important lessons for life.

I have an old and dear friend, Eric Crump, who in the 1990's spoke about and wrote about the importance of play in education for NCTE conferences and publications. Marc Prensky, a former teacher, is another writer who has devoted his time and efforts to research and document the positive effects of play in learning. In the early days in NYC, high schools like Murry Bergtraum; Martin Luther King, Jr; and Washington Irving formed an association that sponsored three ACT (Advancing Technology in Teaching) conferences at NYU. The first conference featured those schools in Manhattan using technology. The third conference included the high schools of the Alternative High School Superintendency. Other schools involved with technology in those days through Teachers College initiatives were Dalton, and Ralph Bunche Middle School. All of these schools not only used technology and play in the classes but also had digital clubhouses and tech squads to help maintain the technology. In some cases games were created in other webpages were created. Creating classes that combined disciplines like math and English were becoming very common as the technology was opening up more avenues with the world to become mentors. Theworld was becoming our playground as many schools engaged in international educational programs.

With a change in educational leadership in NYC, the initiatives begun were suddenly altered as we lost technology departments, lost the superintendencies and the technology wizards were scattered into the wind. Some retired, some left for more friendly technology environs, and some stayed and found a place to replant and to continue the work. Soon we saw schools created for the specific purpose of using technology in the learning process like Information Technology High School. Because of the emphasis on tests, technology was all but forgotten. Slowly almost at a glacial pace do we see technology emerging from its deep hiding place. It will be a while before we return to those halcyon days of the 90's when the NYC schools led the way in technology use in this country. Because of the constant changing of personnel and titles at the NYC Department of Education, technology keeps getting shortchanged as does any sustained educational policy. We still do not have a technology leadership person or committee. There are no technology offices that help teach the ways to use technology, to present at an annual best practices conference, or plan to incorporate technology in our schools. At best it is haphazard as someone comes up with an idea for a school that uses technology and sells the idea to Joel Klein.

During the 90's we were flying thanks to the leadership of President Clinton. But in 2000 we were suddenly thrust into a Dark Ages in education when W became president. Technology and play were closeted in favor of multiple choice tests and more time was used to prepare our suffering scholars for those mind numbing exams. We haven't recovered yet from those dark days. Obama hasn't quite got it yet about the importance of play and technology, though there do seem to be some glimmers of hope with the technology initiative. Race to the Top is countering real growth in education. What we need in our seats of leadership are people like Sophocles, Dewey, ONeill, Montessori not CEO's like Duncan, Klein, and many others who have assumed important educational leadership roles in this country. They just don't get education.

I know I was very excited when Obama had Linda Darling-Hammond as his spokesperson for education during his presidential campaign. I was relieved and hopeful because I thought he got it about education by having this brilliant woman lead the educational discussion for him. Wow was I shocked when I learned after his election he was debating between Arne Duncan and Joel Klein, choosing the former for the position of Secretary of Education. Duncan and the president may play basketball often, but they aren't quite there about the importance of play in education or about the importance of technology in our very competitive educational world.

More articles like the one in the Sunday Magazine section of the September 19, 2010 New York Times are needed. I only wish the author had spent a bit more time on the play in education and the history of technology in NYC schools. This one school in NYC is not new nor unique to NYC. Ten years ago this same publication reported on technology in our schools with more promise for the future than the September 19, 2010 article did. We have a long way to go to get to where we were ten years ago. The reason for this dismal situation has been poor educational leadership and it isn't much better today. In a world where technology is freeing people and liberating economies, I'm still stunned at how poorly technology is incorporated in the public schools when President Obama charges our scholars in his now annual beginning of school speech to do their best and to honor America, but technology is kept from them as a tool to excel. I've said it before and will say it again, technology is the panacea for our educational woes. Technology assists in differentiated instruction, in customizing education, in meeting the needs of our scholars in this brave new world. And what is the answer to this by our educational leaders? The use of filters, the banning of electronics in our schools. These are the very tools others use to excel. This is a tragic irony.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Teaching Shakespeare

I have never questioned whether I should teach Shakespeare but which Shakespeare plays to teach.

I am not happy with the choices made in too many schools. They are Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar. I am not happy about these choices because of the message they send, the types of action they create, and the tragedy of each of them. Romeo and Juliet isn't for children, it is for the adults. It tells the adults, both parents and guidance or spiritual counselors to not impose their mores on the children. In addition, Romeo and Juliet are not two types of children I want my scholars to emulate or even feel sorry for. Hamlet is a loser who at the age of 30 is still a student and surely incapable of being king. If Romeo had lived, he would have grown up to be Hamlet. Again the parents are a main problem in this play and lead to the tragic deaths of their children. Macbeth is a man who is ambitious and allows witches to lead him astray and for him to listen to his ambitious wife. Macbeth is not the kind of man I want my scholars to become. Julius Caesar is also a play about blind ambition. The violence involved in these plays is not the correct message we should be sending to our scholars year after year.

I made the decision to select comedies, plays that involved young love, minor parent child conflict that ends well, education in some form, and great language. The plays I decided to teach were Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, Comedy of Errors, Love's Labors Lost, Twelfth Night, and The Tempest. These plays deal beautifully with Honor, Time, and Life in a festival of glorious language as seen in classics passages, puns, and song. All them end well. They all provide a proper denouement to the problems that begin each play. Some of the most beautiful language in Shakespeare comes from these plays. The main characters in these plays are young people close to the age of those scholars in my class. Finally the type of character these plays depict are the examples of life I wish to expose to my scholars and not the characters of the classic tragedy choices too many schools select. They have time enough to learn the tragedies, it is the comedy of life we need to promote. One final point is that I have found these comedies played more than the tragedies so my scholars can see the play. I much prefer my scholars ruminating over "All the world's a stage" and not "To be or not to be." The former promotes life while the latter contemplates ending one's life.

Humor is an important habit of mind and a quality of genius. I am reminded of the classic scene in Singing in the Rain that always makes me laugh to the point of crying is Donald O'Connor's "Make 'em Laugh." The same holds true to how I view the comedies of Shakespeare. I know I am learning so much more when I laugh.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I almost lost my Camera

One can never get tired of this fabulous weather. Another crisp clear morning that will be a perfect walking day and being out of doors kind of day. Not a day for slug a beds.

I set off mid morning for the bank and financial area of Monument to enjoy those empty beautiful streets on a Saturday. Last Thursday evening it was a madhouse as Thursday has turned into the new Friday and Friday is get out of town day. I followed the path we did Thursday evening and was able to get the shots I wanted without the hindrance of people. In some cases I was able to stand in the middle of the road and take the picture. This could not have been done on Thursday. An addition to this morning's jaunt was the hearing of the bells of the churches that dot the area. This is a most curious combination of old and new most notably represented by the new Lloyd's Building that incorporate the facade of the original building. Another example of this juxtaposition is the London Stone and all the modern architecture and the number of Wren churches here. Old and new and everything in between.

When I'm done here I catch a bus to Oxford Circus and then a bus to Warwick Ave where our afternoon walk in little Venice will take place. Riding the bus along Oxford Street is more pleasant to my thinking than walking it.

At Oxford Circus I transfer to another bus that will take me to Warwick Street. On the way I pass through a Lebanese community. When the bus suddenly makes a turn and is on a main street of Maida Hill, I immediately recognize where I am. I was here a couple of weeks ago when I was taking the bus back from Hampstead Heath. The bus stops in front of a Tesco and I decide to get off to get my lunch which I will eat in a quite park nearby. When I am in the Tesco, I discover I don't have my camera. I empty the bag I am carrying, No camera. I check all my pockets again. No camera. I don't panic, or do I?

I go to see if the bus is in sight. No bus. I consider waiting for the next bus and going to the end and see if i can retrieve my camera. I will have to wait too long for the next bus, so I hail the next taxi that I see. I tell him my problem. I am reading to him the rout of the bus and we catch up to it. He does a Starsky and Hutch move by passing the bus when we finally caught it and stopped in front of it. I jump out and tell the bus driver I left my camera in the seat next to me. The driver lets me on and I go upstairs to find my camera where I left it. All this cost me was 10 pounds including a handsome tip.

I saw another Tesco at the stop so I went in to pick up from where I was before the loss of my camera. I bought lunch and took the bus back to Warwick Station and walked up to the canal and had my lunch on a bench by the canal.

Our Little Venice walk started at 2PM. We toured the streets of the rich and famous, learned the history of this enchanting area of London and walked some of the canals.

I'm exhausted and take a train back to Kennington, stop at the store to buy some stores, and stop at the Prince of Wales for a pint of Whistling Boy. I have a lovely conversation with a young editor of chapbooks. At the next table the conversation is about finding a flat to rent and before I leave I suggest they look in the Pimlico area since MI6 is abandoning their safe houses over there now.

I take some time to sit in the garden to record my day's event, before heading over to the Black Prince for dinner and my last night in UK and London. I had the lamb shank which is one of the best I have had.

For tomorrow I fly home. As I told Mrs Steele this morning, I am a rat abandoning the ship since Monday promises to be terrible with the transit strike and the bad weather is arriving.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Walking London

Today I will be doing two London walks, Soho and the Inns of Court and conclude the day with Comedy of Errors at the Globe. After breakfast and a shower I took the number 3 bus to Piccadilly and walked to Leicester Square station. Graham a robust Scott led the tour. He fancied pointing out the better eateries and punctuated these recommendations by patting his belly and telling us how many times a year he has gone to each. Another fond discussion was the prostitutes. We were in Soho after all and now they were models and here was where you will find the licensed sex shops. It is also the theater district, Chinatown, little Italy, Greek town, and the home of the music industry. Graham was a wealth of info as are all the guides.

I went back to the Shakespeare Head pub for a half before taking a bus to my next walk's starting place at Holborn. At Holborn, I found a large Sainsbury and bought a sandwich I planned on eating in Lincoln Inn Field. It is a beautiful day and lots of other people had the same idea and it is Friday.

After lunch I made my way back to the meeting place at the Holborn station. Richard III, a guide we have had before was leading this tour of the Inns of Court. We visited Lincoln Inn, Gray's Inn, Staple Inn, Inner Temple, and Middle Temple. This is a most unique kind of tour because the average visitor would never find these sites. In fact I had found the Middle Temple before and was walking all around the others on other occasions. These are great places to know about to get off the congested streets, to find sanctuary in a crazy hectic world.

I took the bus, an old heritage bus, back to London Bridge to catch a bus home. I picked up dinner at the shop and came home to relax in the garden and do some work. Tonight, there are people here. Two little girls are playing and three young ladies are drinking some wine as they wind down from the week.

I discovered that Charlie Chaplin was born in Kennington.

Tonight I went to the Globe to see a marvelous rendition of Comedy of Errors. I am reminded about the concept of Time and Honor in Shakespeare. Two words I must explore one day when I have the time. This was the travelling troupe and everyone plays two roles, except the wife and sister. Antipholus and Dromio begin the antics of the same person playing both with the simple distinction of glasses. This is the funniest play I have seen and still find it one of my favorites. This cast was superb. I have been lucky with the brilliant plays I have seen this trip.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Touring London

Last night, I looked at the London Walks and decided to do the Thursday Forbidden City walk lead by Helena. I decided to walk to the meeting place and took Black Prince Road to Lambeth Bridge and down Houndsberry to the meeting place. On the way I came upon the magistrates offices that was filled with photographers and film crews to record the entrance of Christopher Tapin for extradition hearings back to the USA. Across the street were protesters organized to protest the hurried and perhaps illegal extradition process in UK as prescribed by the US-UK Extradition Treaty. I didn't hang out to see the spectacle.

The walk would start at St Jame's Park Tube and this is the description:

This walk is what in another context would be called a game-changer. Sure, it's Landmark London – all the Big Ticket stuff. Palaces aplenty, the Changing of the Guard, No. 10 Downing Street, the "Royal Peculiar", the places where history – world history – has been made, etc. What makes it a game changer is the way we see it. In short, we nook and cranny it. Get around behind. Get up above*. Get inside. See things Londoners – let alone the tourist hordes – never get to see. It's that "specialilty" London Walks is famous for – "the degree of granularity that you get". Everything from the import of a black circle by the 2 on a certain clock to what the Horse Guards are actually guarding. Want to read a bit more? Here's a related "take" on this walk.

*Up above because we end with an optional visit to "the reviewing stand in the sky" - opened specially for us! – where we look down into Buckingham Palace Gardens. How wag-a-tail wonderful is that? We get to see exactly what's on the other side of that wall! Even the Corgis if they're out.

We ended at the war memorial park with Wellington Arch and many tributes to Australian, New Zealand, and British soldiers of various wars.

I walked to the bus stop and caught a bus to Hammersmith. I was sitting next to a gentleman who was taking two of his grandsons on a tour of London. He was giving them a guided tour and I benefitted from this. I spied a cycle shop and got off to go and find a Sky Cycle Club jersey. They had all the team jerseys and I got a long sleeved jersey. I learned that Contador had joined the Saxo Bank team, WOW!!

With my new jersey I got back on a bus to Hamersmith which is a major transportation hub with shopping, dining, bus, rail and city bus connections. I grabbed a bus that would take me through Chelsea and to Westminster where I would catch a bus back to the B&B. This bus wove its way to Westminster and passed the Chelsea Football Club grounds which were impressive. They are the current English Premier Champions and have started the season well. Soon after some hospitals we were in Chelsea proper. I know this as the Bentleys, the Porches, the other cars of the wealthy were all I saw. The well heeled were dining in fine restaurants, shopping in the best stores, and walking the street that looked like Fifth Avenue. Soon we were at Westminster cathedral and then Parliament Square.

Here I changed for a bus back across the Lambreth Bridge that delivered me to Kennington Lane. I stopped in a store to buy sandwiches and a cider to have in the garden. I spent time writing my journal and will rest a bit before the evening's pub walk.

The evening pub walk was spectacular through the Banks of England and along the byways of the financial district. We viewed the ancient stones and places of The City of London which included The London Stone from Roman times as well as some remarkable churches by Wren. The Monument was a prelude to the new modern buildings of Lloyd's and the bullet shaped building.

I took two buses home.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

To London

Woke early, had breakfast, did last minute packing, took a shower and got to train station and boarded the train to Marleybone which was sitting in the station. The ride to London was about two hours and we passed some lovely landscape. By the time we arrived in Marleybone, at noon, every seat was filled and people were standing. I got my tube back to Kennington, picked up some lunch and proceeded back to the B&B and had lunch in the garden. While eating lunch I looked over the bus map and decided to explore the White Chapel area of London. I took a bus to Elephant and Castle, aught another bus to Bank, and then another one into the heart of the East End.

Riding these buses has given me a whole new look at London. Once we left Bank we were immediately in another world, a very diverse world mostly Muslim. The signage was in both Arabic and English. The markets were South Asian, the people were dressed in different forms from women fully covered to shorts. English was not the language of the people on the bus. At one point, the bus was boarded by policemen who checked everyone's bus pass and pulled a couple of people off who had not paid their fare. This was a bus that allows people to board at three spots and uses the honor system. These buses are controversial for this reason of cheating but also because they are just too long, they are double length.

After that excitement, I noticed one college after another. The College of Finance, The London College of Accounting, The Technical Institute of London and so on. The bus was slow going so I got off at Stratford and caught a bus back to the City Of London, but not before stopping in a pub for a half. I was definitely in the styx as Young's was a guest ale, but I did spy a bitter I hadn't tried, Toad Bitter, so I got a half. While there a man, quite obviously a street sleeper, came in to use the toilets. There was a sign clearly posted on the door stating, the toilets were for patrons only because of the abuse of the use of the toilets. The gentleman left, but returned after having a conversation with a lady outside who must have given him more courage because he and she stormed back in and headed straight for the toilets. The barkeep a young lad called his boss who came down in a few minutes and called the cops. I left.

I knew I was back in The City of London when people getting on the bus were in suits. Quite the line of demarkation. Since it was getting late, I decided to grab a Northern Line Train to Kennington and head over to the Black Prince for dinner. I met another young couple who had just come back from Scotland. They had been in Uig at the same time we had been. As we exchanged our adventures there, they accounted how they had rented bicycles and had taken a ride that they misjudged and left them on the Quatraing late on Saturday night in the rain. Suddenly I remember passing a couple of people on bikes on that very and only road over the Quatraing that Saturday evening as we were returning to Uig after that very disappointing dinner. Small world indeed, here in the Black Prince where the bartender knows the lads of Hibernia in NYC. As we were speaking of Oysters, another couple joined in since they had just come back from NYC and had spent a great afternoon at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central. Finally the conversation got us to the Wright Brothers Oyster house and all agreed it was the best in London. It was getting dark and chill and we all retired to the innards of the pub. I watched the beginning of the Open and then left for home. It was 10PM and I had been up since half six this morning and done more than I needed to do on vacation.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Play's the Thing

The Play is the Thing

Today I will be seeing As You Like It and Winter's Tale at the Courtyard today.

After breakfast I took a walk to town to explore. I went over Clopton Bridge along Banberry Road to find the house I stayed in during my studies here 24 years ago. I made my way back along the River Avon along the recreation park side. I stopped at a barge and spent some time speaking about his life on the barge. He spends six months on the barge and the other six in Norfolk. I spent time watching the dogs play in the recreation park and swim. I crossed the Avon via the walking bridge and made my way to the Shakespeare Institute. I strolled around and it was pretty much the same as when I was here.

I had to get ready, so I stopped at the Co-Op to buy lunch, a couple of sandwiches and a couple of ciders. I stopped at a souvenir shop and the Shakespeare shop to buy things. I dropped things off at the B&B.

I set off to the banks of the Avon to find a place to picnic. I found a tree between the Parish and the RSC on the Avon. Splendid spot as I watched the boaters and sea birds.

My seat was in the first row right at the stage. The play was beautifully done. Touchstone and Jacques were superb. My favorite passages were done well. Rosalind and Celia were excellent. I didn't really think I could see another AYL done so well, yet I have. The set was plain and then became so intricate. At the beginning of the second half, Sylvus was dressing a rabbit to applause when he held up the skinned carcass and toss the fur to Touchstone. The bawdiness of the second half was hilarious and well done.

I will rest before having dinner at the Windmill Inn before seeing Winter's Tale.

Another great play done well. I'm amazed at the intricacies of the sets. After the play went to the Dirty Duck and had a good conversation with the Camillo character.

The plays at RSC this summer will be in NYC next summer. Can't wait.

Off to London tomorrow.