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Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

52. “The Freedom Writer Diaries,” The Freedom Writers with Erin Grunwell

August 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Really touching. It bothered me, though, that the students’ entries has clearly been “cleaned up”/polished/homogenized. It’s disingenuous.

Page count: 280
Page total: 22,217

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43. “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” ZZ Packer

June 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Lyrical, heart-breaking, touching, tough.

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Would you just go buy it already?

Page count: 238
Page total: 19,798

21. “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry”, Mildred D. Taylor

March 3, 2009 Leave a comment

I hadn’t read this before and it made my heart hurt. I love that terrible excitement that you get about five pages from the end of a book when you start thinking “there’s no way this is all going to come together!” The end was a bit abrupt, and almost too much like real life, but I really liked this book.

Also: TJ is such a freaking jerk. He reminds me of one of my students. The same Napoleon/rejection/attachment thing.

Page count: 210
Page total: 13,523

Next up: “Harriet the Spy” (ee!), “The History of Sexuality” (ha!), and maybe “Slaughter-House Five”?

18. “Kitchen Confidential”, Anthony Bourdain

February 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Well, first things first, this book is aimed at chefs. I am not a chef. I am not even a true foodie (that whole kosher thing makes that hard), but I really, really enjoy food. I also often watch food shows (like “No Reservations”) and think to myself “if I didn’t care about G-d, I would totally be eating that prosciutto-wrapped whatever and loving every salty second of it”, so there is a vicarious thrill for me in books about food. I also really like books about how disgusting food and food prep is.

This book had bits of all of those things (Bourdain recounts his first tastes of Normandy butter and uses the phrase “truffle oil” at least a dozen times). Most of it, however, is about how Bourdain puts together a kitchen and his various job-related exploits. Interesting, if a bit repetitive, but it’s just not what I thought I was getting. And I was not the least bit grossed out by the idea that fish ordered on Monday is from Thursday’s delivery, so that supposedly mind-blowing anecdote was totally lost on me. I’m a dude, I’m in college. I wish the stuff I am eating was only four or five days old.

Page count: 312
Total: 12,846

Currently reading: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity; The Secret Garden; and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

14. “The Bad begining”, Lemony Snicket

January 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Eh. This book didn’t do much for me. I might check the others out at the Wheelock library, but I wouldn’t bother going all the way to the BPL for them, and I wouldn’t buy them. This was a very quick read (probably a little over an hour), which was a plus. I read it during my usual 3-5am wakefulness.

Snicket does this vocab-building thing that I kept going back and forth on. He’ll use a good vocab word, then say something like “which in this case means blah blah blah.” He plays around with it a little (“Gack!” spoken by a baby means “look at that mysterious figure emerging from the fog!”, “faking” means “feigning”), but I think that if he were interested in helping young readers to build up their vocabs, mindfully using context clues might do them one better.

Page count: 162
Total: 11,454

“The Cider House Rules”, John Irving

January 7, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m working on “The Cider House Rules” right now. I read it once before, more than three years ago. I don’t remember liking it as much then as I do now. I only read “The World According to Garp” last year, but it was one of those books that has the effect of a sucker punch. Since reading it, I have read a number of John Irving books; he is one of my favourite contemporary American authors.

“The Cider House Rules”, as the other Irving books I have read, is very sensitively written. Irving often takes detours into his character’s lives or thoughts. I would not say that he meanders, as his asides are substantial and well-plotted. They create wonderfully round characters that a person cannot help but feel for. His heros are generally quite flawed, often New England orphans, and incredibly likable, even as they do bad things.

In “The Cider House Rules”, one of the main characters is Dr. Wilbur Larch, an obstetrician and abortionist who runs an orphanage in a small, depressing, damned Maine town. Here’s an excellent description of him, from The L-rd’s Work:

Later, when [Dr. Larch] would have occasion to doubt himself, he would force himself to remember: he had slept with someone’s mother and dressed himself in the light of her daughter’s cigar. He could quite comfortably abstain from from having sex for the rest of his life, but how could he ever condemn another person for having sex? He would remember, too, what he hadn’t done for Mrs. Eames’s daughter, and what that had cost.
He would deliver babies. He would deliver mothers, too.

10. “Don’t Eat this Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America”, Morgan Spurlock

December 29, 2008 1 comment

Well, this book got me thinking, which is always a good thing. Unfortunately, a lot of that thinking what about how annoying Spurlock’s writing style is. I found him quirky and personable in “Supersize Me”, but that was just two hours of him. I was with this book for much longer, and his verbal tics (affixing the prefix “Mc” before things to mock them, refering to Dr. Atkins as “Fatkins”, his tendency to imitate Homer Simpson’s “Mmm, ______ _______” in the face of barely-edible objects) really got to me. Really. Got to me. I also never managed to figure out what the purpose of his grey boxes were.

I also was nagged by a frequent feeling that this book was not as well-researched as it should have been. Other blogs have tackled some of these problems on a case-by-case basis, but I felt that he was making a lot of heavy allegations with very few citations. And it may just be the academic snob in me, but I found his use of endnotes really irritating. Not only were they endnotes, which are inconvenient, but he didn’t use superscript numbers, which would signal the less-critical reader that not everything was the pure, unadulterated fact that it might seem. We don’t cite the assertion “the sky is blue”, but if we are writing a quasi-academic work and say “the sky is blue because of cow farts”, we should probably cite that. The apparent lack of citation may signal to some people that everything Spurlock is saying is as well-accepted and uncontroversial as he makes it seem. He also cites Wikipedia at one point. Which, come on.

I’m also pretty concerned that reading this book caused me to teach at McDonald’s twice. Over two days. That’s more fast food than I usually eat in two or three months.

As a total sap, I was of course really excited about the positive reactions so many students, teachers, and school districts had to eliminating the junk in their cafeterias and vending machines. The school at which I did my student teaching had open campus, which means that if a student had a free block or it was lunch or break, they were allowed to leave school. Within one block of the school, there are two gas station convenience stores, one CVS, a Domino’s, a wings place, a taqueria, and a McDonald’s. Within two blocks, there was also a Burger King. Within a third, there was a Dunkin’ Donuts, another pizza place, 7-11, another McDonald’s, and another taqueria. Needless to say, I saw much of what Spurlock describes. Students would come back wired. They weren’t allowed to eat in my class, but that didn’t make a difference. The damage was done. One double period block, I ran into the teacher’s lounge during break to grab some water. We had had a really amazing class so far (they were debating about Amendments! Spontaneously!) and I made the horrible mistake of telling another teacher how awesomely my kids were doing. Fifteen minutes later, they were back from break and I was on the verge of losing my voice and my temper.

Most students at my school (about 60%) qualify for free or reduced lunch, but hardly any use it. The food is nasty, and, if it’s anything like my own high school’s food, probably not much healthier. There was a minor revolt in my high school when they started selling fried chicken patties and pizza only one or two days a week, while in my middle school the baked potato and salad bars were incredibly popular (not for the best of reasons, mind. Most of us were loading out potatoes with sour cream and bacon, and eating the iceberg lettuce in an attempt to lose weight.)

Obviously this book got me thinking a lot. I’ve leave you with one last thing to chew on. Evidently, there is a McDonald’s in Dachau, Germany, within two miles of the concentration camp. When it first opened, McDonald’s put fliers under the windshields of people at the Camp.

Page count: 284 Total: 4839
Started 23 December?, finished 29 December