29.4.20

Proverbial Quotation On Doing Something Too Little Too Late

Proverbs are meant to be short, pithy practical statements. Perhaps the most famous collection of proverbs come from the Hebrew Bible. But here, I have for you a proverb from a different source —

It's a wretched business to be digging a well just as thirst is coming over you.
— Plautus, Ancient Roman playwright (c. 250 - 184 B.C.E.)
Sources: Pickering, David, et al. The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. United States, Facts On File, 2007. / Nixon, Paul, and Melo, Wolfgang David Cirilo de. Amphitryon. United Kingdom, Harvard University Press, 2011.
image credit: Photo by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash

28.4.20

Quotation: On the Experience of Falling in Love

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
— Elizabeth Barret Browning, British Poet, and Writer
"Night Passing the Earth to Day" (Detail)
Frank Jirouch's 1928 bronze sculpture, "Night Passing the Earth to Day" (Detail)
I Love Him. I Love Him Not.
There is a child's game. Perhaps you know it. You take a petaled flower or clover, and you recite an age-old ditty. "I love him," then you pluck a petal. "I love him not." Whichever you said when you pluck the last petal is fate. You love him. Or you don't. 
Elizabeth Barret Browning's "How do I love thee" reminds me of this child's game. While the ditty is one of sealed fate, a simplistic toy to determine love — all agency is lost in the finality of whatever is said at the last petal. And could you cheat and count the petals beforehand — but perhaps that defeats the purpose of reciting the words, anyway. One plucks the petals because one is in a state of indecision. 
Which way to go? Who to love? 
But Barret Browning's poem is of a different quality. It has the cadence of a ditty, but it suggests something more  — call it agency — or call it freedom. In her poem, she "counts the ways," and she is not about allowing fate to decide the outcome. She loves. And she has an infinite number of reasons, of ways, of patterns, and qualities on a display of that love.

25.4.20

A Few Notable Quotations on Stupidity and Lack of Thinking

Stupid is as stupid does.
— Tom Hanks in Forest Gump (1995)

Forest Gump (1995)\
. . . most people would die sooner than think—in fact, they do so.
— Bertrand Russell


sources: Roth, Eric, Wendy Finerman, Steve Tisch, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, and Winston Groom. Forest Gump. Hollywood, Calif: Paramount Pictures, 1995. / Russell, Bertrand. The ABC of Relativity. United Kingdom, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1927.

24.4.20

Video: How To Make Potato Salad The Way My Mother Taught Me

First Steps To Make Potato Salad
Good morning, today I am going to show you how to make my famous potato salad. You're gonna want to cut up some green onions, real good. And you're gonna need a jar or two of mayonnaise. I like to boil my eggs first. When you're boiling your eggs one nice tip is to take the eggs out on a spoon and if the water evaporates then the egg is ready. Similarly, with my potatoes, I boil "em for twenty to twenty-five minutes.

Cutting Up All My Ingredients
In the meantime, I am cutting up my green onions — I love the ones with the bulbs at the end. They are so delicious. A good potato salad has celery. Celery is going to give your potato salad some texture — something to chew on and it just tastes good. Going back to my potatoes — that takes the longest time. I keep the skins on 'em. Because I like to eat the skins. But after you boil 'em, if you want, you can take the skins off. It's up to you. Look at that boil. My favorite part is deshelling my hard-boiled eggs. I'm pretty good at it. And you'll get the hang of it too. Today, I bought some brown eggs but any eggs will suffice. Quick fact: eggs are an alchemist's dream in the kitchen. Eggs are perfect for any meal. Ohhh. Just look at that white orb of deliciousness. Cannot wait to cut you up and put you in my salad, honey.

Pot-'O-Potatoes
Alright. Those potatoes are ready. * To show you I got some turkey bacon but really any hog bacon will work just as fine. I guess I'm feeling a little health-conscious. So I bought some turkey bacon. And I fry that up in some olive oil. Crispy-like. You want to make that stuff crunchy. Cuz when you put it in your potato salad — Mmmmm — it's going to give it that — Ohhhhhhhhh — nice, fatty taste that you love. We don't call it comfort food for nothing.

Masher-cize
And here's where the elbow grease comes in. You're going to have to mash those potatoes. I got myself a masher. I don't know if it's ready for potatoes. But it works. Mash those potatoes good. Cut 'em up. Now. If you are like me you don't want your potatoes too mashed. You want to keep some chunk in there. Now when I'm getting ready to mix everything up I do add a little bit of mustard. It tastes good. You don't want to put too much mustard in it. And you're going to mix that mayonnaise inside and you're going to mash it all up. You're going to put your eggs in there. You're going to put your celery in the bowl.

Finishing Touches
Now, you don't want to leave out an important ingredient — black pepper. Not too much. But enough to make it taste good. And there you have it. My momma's favorite potato salad recipe served at your doorstep. Well just kidding. You'll have to make it yourself. But I think I have enough comfort food to last me a month. So let me know if you try out my potato salad recipe and how it works out for you. I'm going to eat this up, honey. Yes!

Quotation: On Curiosity and Its Opposite

Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind.
— Samuel Johnson
Curiosity killed the cat.
— Proverb
Stray, hungry cat
"Hungry Stray Cat" Photo by Bing Han on Unsplash
Sources:
"curiosity killed the cat." McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. 2002. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2 May. 2020 https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/curiosity+killed+the+cat 
Johnson, Samuel, and Hill, George Birkbeck Norman. Wit and Wisdom of Samuel Johnson. Italy, Clarendon Press, 1888.

23.4.20

COVID-19 Neighborhood: Taking a Walk to Buy Groceries During a Pandemic (In Jackson Heights, Queens)

Taking a walk in Jackson Heights, I stitched together a video as I walked to the grocery store — an essential trip I must take (which has made me ponderous, and sad).
Taking A Walk Today — Spring 2020 in New York City, the Epicenter of the Coronavirus Pandemic
Step outside in New York City and you will see folks wearing surgical masks. Just a month ago that would have looked strange — but it has become the norm almost overnight. Heeding the injunction to stay indoors by my local officials, I still have to venture out to buy essentials like rice, beans, canned chicken and tuna, and other provisions. I have become a maestro at making simple dishes with few ingredients! On my walk, I maintain a six-foot distance but it is hard to keep the mask on my face (it slips down my nose). I am afraid to touch anything — but I know I am safe and I feel privileged.
The Pandemic Has Blown the Lid Off of Social Inequalities that Persist in American Society
What about people who have to commute every day by subway or bus? What about people with kids to feed — how are they coping with this crisis? The pandemic has thrown the lid off of social inequality — that before COVID-19 was easy to brush off — but lays itself bare. In this video, I walk past storefronts, people rushing by, and I think, and I ponder. I hope our city makes it through this chaos, this interruption. I am hopeful. Though. I think we can come through rejuvenated — and I hope we can become more generous, more connected to our neighbor. And oh. Try my mom's potato salad!

Quotation on Love and What it Conquers

Love conquers all
— Virgil, Roman poet (70 B.C.E. - 19 C.E.)


Source: Virgil, , and Robert Coleman. Ecologues. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1977. Print.

22.4.20

Quotation: On Those Who Blindly Persecute Others

Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Jesus, the Nazarene (Luke 23:34)
Alternative thinking:
Or should we? Why is their ignorance a condition for forgiveness? When Jesus says this line in the Gospel of Luke, it is at the moment the Roman soldiers tear off his clothing to ready his body for crucifixion. They also take his clothes and "cast lots" for who will get what of Jesus' meager possessions. It is a brutal scene, one that includes the crowd who shout "He saved others; let him save himself . . .".
The crowd represents us 
the humanity that denied Jesus. So Jesus is talking to us in this passage. On a broader note, Jesus is referring to what Hannah Arendt called the "banality of evil." The Roman Soldiers, the crowd, Pontius Pilate, the temple priests, and those who betrayed him — were they all calculating killers, hell-bent on ridding the world of a man from Nazareth who claimed he was the son of God? Arendt's argument is that evil is ground down to its basest, most formless level. We do not know the two soldiers who tear off his clothes and who cast lots — but they are the best representatives of the banality of evil in the story of Jesus. The brutality is so harsh, so physically brutal — it lays bare the extent of evil as this persistent "thing" that can materialize in a moment. 
Jesus forgives. And I am not sure why. 
Their crime is not something to be explained. To rationalize. And perhaps Jesus knows this. And accepts it. But doesn't condone it. Freed from it. We see it. As evil. For what it is. A heinous crime. Perpetrated against another human being. The woman battered and beaten in the park. A child killed by a stray bullet. A woman who has died alone. Violence perpetrated by hatred and racism. Jesus says, "Forgive them. They know not what they do." But he did not say, forget.   
Note: The translation from Luke's Gospel is the King James Version of the New Testament
Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash

21.4.20

Philosophy in the Classroom: Friedrich Nietzsche's Concept of "Eternal Recurrence" Paired with Groundhog Day — the 90s Movie Starring Bill Murray

Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com
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In this post, I re-package a previous post I did on Nietzsche's concept of eternal recurrence and turn it into a meaningful High School English lesson for Ninth and Tenth graders.
Henry Fuseli's "Nightmare"
The demon on your chest — would you curse the demon or embrace your fate?      
      A while ago, I posted a passage from Friedrich Nietzsche's book The Gay Science on my website. I was really struck by a section of the book I call "The Allegory of the Demon." It's a thought experiment and Nietzsche has his reader think about how does one live out their life? How would you live your life differently? What if you had to repeat your life over and over again without change? Would you "gnash your teeth" or would you embrace it? 
      I thought the passage was dense enough and short enough, to elicit a response in my Ninth and Tenth grade English classes. So, I created a lesson to think about Nietzsche along with a classic 1990s movie Groundhog Day. None of my students had heard of the movie, and their knowledge of Nietzsche was slim — but we dug into the reading and I was pleasantly surprised by how much critical thinking we were able to do with such a small passage from World Literature. So. I put together the lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers. Here is the outline of the lesson:
Philosophy in the Classroom Lesson Plan: Nietzsche and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day 
What is the meaning of life? You and your students are sure to come up with many answers to this question. Get your students engaged in philosophical inquiry by presenting them with Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of "eternal recurrence," paired with clips from the movie Groundhog Day (1993) starring Billy Murray and Andie McDowell.
This resource includes the following features:
Essential Question: What is the meaning of Life?
Supporting Questions: How does Friedrich Nietzsche provide a possible answer to this question. / How can I apply abstract ideas to everyday life?
This resource includes the following features:
The text of the story is included in this resource.
  • Teacher's notes on using this resource
  • 7 reading comprehension questions
  • 1 Entrance Ticket
  • 1 Movie View Guide
  • 1 Writing Prompt
  • 3 Editable Google Slides handouts
  • Further Reading List (To go deeper into the topic with your students)
Suggested Uses:
  1. Ninth or Tenth Grade High School English Curriculum
  2. World History Course on the History of Ideas
  3. Introduction to Philosophy Course
  4. Literature Course
  5. Ethics Course
  6. Introduction to Philosophy Course
  7. Student Advisory Course
  8. A Lesson on the "Meaning of Life"
Suggested Classroom Time: 3 Hours + Independent Worktime for Students' writing
See a companion lesson "Plato's Allegory of the Cave in Plain Language" - on searching for truth in a crazy world.

20.4.20

Quotation on Accepting Gifts in a Polite Manner (And Why You Shouldn't Look in a Horse's Mouth, Anyway)

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
- Traditional Saying
The saying comes from the practice of a customer looking in a horse's mouth to determine it's age.

Image Credit: "Always Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth". Editorial cartoon shows Uncle Sam examining the teeth (labeled "Wall St. Interests") of a powerful horse (labeled "Central Bank") offered by Senator Nelson W. Aldrich. By 1909, most people thought the American banking system to be badly in need of reform. Aldrich advocated the establishment of a Central Bank, a proposal opposed by progressive Democrats who saw it as an attempt by the financiers of Wall Street to gain control. Published in The New York Times, Dec. 1, 1909, p. 10

19.4.20

On Writer's Block — A Journal & Rant

Cover of John Steinbeck's Book "Journal of a Novel"
In this book, Journal of a Novel, 
Steinbeck talks about how he overcame writer's 
block to write his epic novel East of Eden.
John Steinbeck famously stalled starting East of Eden by carving a wooden pencil box for his personally carved pencils. He couldn't begin writing a great novel without having both decent pencils and a handsome box to his crafted artist tools.
     I am not that bad, but I think every writer worth his salt battles with writer's block.
     The problem is not WHAT to write, but HOW to write what you want to write. The writer is not usually void of ideas, but once settled on one idea, there comes the conundrum of infinite ways to approach the topic. What's the title? Do I write in the first person? Who is my audience - middle age blue bloods, or pimply adolescents? Do I use accents or write in plain English prose?

Then, there is the security factor. Do I think the piece is gonna be good or not? Will people read this?
     Then, when the work has started, and your pen is moving at a well-clipped pace, eventually, at some point, there comes a stall. The great lull, I call it. Or just boredom. I think this is why most Master theses and Doctoral dissertations go unfinished.
     "It seemed like a good idea," the grad student laments. What's left: piles of research, jotted notes, email to directors, and an unfinished manuscript.

Sometimes, it is the ending that gets ya. 
     Virginia Woolf famously dreaded ending her novels because it felt like a death. I can relate to the visceral, human connection to a work in progress. The writer feeds his work his blood, tears, ambition, time. Ink. Pencil graphite. To finish the opus seems too much like divorce - or even worse, death.
     Woolf finished Between the Acts and some time later stepped into the stream behind her house, heavy stones sewn into the lining of her blouse.
     Now, I don't think I am that bad. But, I can relate to Woolf's decision. Perhaps she was tired of dying. She had written through many deaths.

I can relate to John Steinbeck, better. 
     It wasn't that he felt like he couldn't create an epic American Genesis, but the task was so monumental maybe he thought he would get bored or give up. Woolf killed herself, by contrast, not because she completed a great piece of work, but just that it was completed.
     Once the manuscript is tidied up by the publisher, the text is no longer yours. Once I press submit, it is as if the narrative births itself and leaves the cage of the author.
     One way I helped alleviate writer's block was to start actively contributing to my blog. To write a blog entry is a way to floss my writer's teeth. To write and publish automatically is a way to remind myself I can create something that is not monumental but, at the same time, hopefully not trite. I try to aim for funny, pertinent - or just plain good, dammit.

When I am really feeling it, I go to Twitter and microblog. 
     Wow. What a catharsis. I am energized that Roger Ebert feels the same way. He recently wrote a blog piece on why he tweets. I think he writes his blog and tweets a helluva lot because it lubricates his gears so he can step up to the plate for the big stuff.
     Now, you may say, all of this is the same thing as carving that wondrous wooden box to put your pencils because you don't want to really get into the nitty-gritty of writing. There's a blog post about this, by the way.

But, I instead write something every day, rather than nothing.
     So, here's my something.
     Maybe, you can relate? Lemme know, dammit. Why do you write? When do you not write?

18.4.20

Quotation on Human Existence: To Be Or Not To Be

To be or not to be. That is the question.
Hamlet  William Shakespeare
Photo by Max Muselmann on Unsplash

7.4.20

A Pro Tip for Teachers: Using Text Sets on Newsela

Newsela is a website that curates news articles for teachers to share with their students. The idea is straightforward. Students engage with non-fiction texts to improve their reading levels (and critical thinking skills). Each news article on Newsela is calibrated to at least five reading levels which can be tweaked according to a student's grade level and reading proficiency. Articles come equipped with quizzes students can take (and teachers can see the results) and writing prompts students can respond to (which teachers can edit to align with their own classes).

Use Newsela for Non-Fiction ReadingI have been using Newsela for a long time. I use it to assign articles to my students that supplement what we're doing in class. For example, for a Ninth Grade English Shakespeare unit I have kids read about Shakespeare in the Park or after talking about whether or not "video games rot your mind" I have them read an opinion piece on the subject before they write their own essay.

Go Further With Teacher-created Text SetsA really powerful tool on Newsela is the ability to create text sets. I teach a series of "Philosophy in the Classroom" units that I developed with middle and high school students at my school. We read Plato and Nietzsche in class but I want to connect the abstract ideas of philosophers to current and relevant events going on in our society today. Newsela makes that possible. Here is a text set I recently made for my students that I have paired up with my unit on Justice.

Newsela Text Set: Philosophy in the High School Classroom: "The Ring of Gyges"
Essential Mystery: Why should I be a good person?

Cover Image of Philosophy in the Classroom: The Ring of Gyges in Plato's Republic
I based the Newsela Text Set On 
Supporting questions:
Should I be a good person even if I know I can get away with being bad?
Is being a good person in of itself a good thing? Why do those who do bad things not only sometimes get away with it but seem to benefit from their ill deeds while those who do good don't often prosper nor get as much recognition for the good they do?

Student/ Teacher Instructions:
Why be good? The texts in this set contribute to an overarching moral question first brought out by Plato in his book, The Republic. Plato's young student Glaucon complains to Socrates that good people never seem to benefit from their good deeds, while bad people who do bad deeds not only profit from it but seem to be better off than good people. So why be good at all?

  • Pre-Reading Assignment: Before going further watch the following video “The Myth of Gyges”. Copy and paste the link: https://youtu.be/4qjGp6TWqe4
  • Optional. Read the primary source material from The Republic. Copy and paste the link: http://sites.wofford.edu/kaycd/Plato/
  • Choose THREE compelling stories from this text set to read and to annotate. Respond to all prompts in YELLOW. These are my questions to you. 
  • Be both Glaucon and Socrates as you read. Highlight in RED ideas in the stories that support Glaucon. Highlight in GREEN views that support Socrates' view. 
  • Take the reading comprehension quizzes for the three stories you selected. 
  • Prepare the writing prompt for the article that you thought was the most compelling. Read the prompt carefully. 

In class, be ready to share your annotations for the articles you selected. You will be paired with different students to discuss the ideas of each article. Your grade for this assignment is a combination of your quiz scores (20%), your annotations and appropriate highlights (20%), group participation (30%), and finally, your writing prompt (30%).

Extension Resources:

Intended Grade Level(s): 7-10

Content Areas: English Language Arts, Social Studies, Humanities, Civics

Skills Practiced: This text set and its activities conform to the following Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.2 - Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.6 - Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5 - Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

Estimated Time: Three 45-minute class periods.

5.4.20

Quotation: Mr. Keating from Dead Poets' Society on Writing

In the movie Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams plays the role of private school teacher Mr. Keating — a man who believes words can be bullets. Words matter. Maybe more so now than ever.
Even unintelligible text scribbled on a wall can be an idea.
Even unintelligible text scribbled on a wall can be an idea.
"No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world"
— Mr. Keating, Dead Poets Society (1989)