30.9.09

Literary Terms: "P" is for Paradox

Literary terms are often tricky for students. So I came up with this guide for the perplexed. Paradox - a statement that is apparently self-contradictory or absurd, but really contains a possible truth. Sometimes the term is applied to a self- contradictory false proposition. It is also used to describe an opinion or statement which is contrary to generally accepted ideas. Often, a paradox is used to make a reader consider the point in a new way.

The term is from the Greek paradoxos, meaning “contrary to received opinion” or “expectation.” Here is a list of cogent examples. 
The child is father to the man
William Wordsworth,
“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” 1807
They have ears, but do not hear !
Psalm 115



Cowards die many times before their deaths
Bill Shakespeare, Julius Caesar Act II, scene ii : line 32

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

George Orwell, Animal Farm

I can resist anything except temptation
Oscar Wilde

Death, thou shalt die
John Donne, "Death, Be Not Proud"

An example of a paradox in everyday speech:
Deep down, he's really very shallow

Theological Paradox: Christ died so we may have life!

Paradoxical Dialogue:

Me: What is better than eternal bliss?
You: Nothing.
Me: But a slice of bread is better than nothing.
You: So a slice of bread is better than eternal bliss.

Common Paradox:
Nobody goes to that restaurant; it's too crowded.

Time Machine Paradox:
A girl goes into the past and kills her Grandmother.
Since her Grandmother is dead, the girl was never born. If she were never born, she never killed her grandmother.


Physics Paradox
What happens if you are in a car going the speed of light and you turn the headlights on?

Nota Bene:
When a paradox is compressed into two words, as in “loud," silence,” “lonely crowd,” or “living dead,” it is called an OXYMORON.

For teachers:


I made a minilesson available on TpT 

Literary Terms: Paradoxes, Contradictions, and Oxymorons (Minilesson) 

The resource includes the following nifty features for a Minilesson:
  • 2-sided handout on paradoxes, contradictions, and oxymorons
  • 15 quotes and example from literature and other common sources
  • 1 "Further Reading" guide to take your students to the next level

King Tut Language

Nonsensical Languages

Nonsensical languages are so much fun. You know you are a fan of the nonsensical if you can enjoy Lewis Carrol's "The Jabberwocky." I am stunned that I understand what a vorpal sword is and chortle. Amazing. Simply amazing.

Do you remember Pig Latin as a kid? I-ay o-day! We used to speak Pig Latin in the schoolyard so we could say bad words. Uck-fay ou-yay!


King Tut

"Hello" in King Tut Language
But, what about King Tut language? I stumbled upon this nonsensical language* several years ago, working as a page in a public library - you come across a plethora of arcane, but useful books.

King Tut is a nonsensical language I read about - it involves taking all consonants and simply doubling them and inserting a "U" in the middle. Vowels are pronounced as usual. Here is the alphabet:


King Tut Letters

A, Bub, Coy, Dud, E, Fuf, Gug, Huh (or Hoy), I, Juj (or Joy), Kuk, Lul, Mum, Nun, O, Pup, Quk, Rur (or Roy), Sus, Tut, U, Vuv, Wuw (or Woy), Xux, Yuk (or Yoy), Zuz


Double Letters

If a letter is doubled, like in "book" you say bub-o-square-kuk.
"Hello, How are you?"
in King Tut is rendered
"Huh-e-lul-square-o, Huh-o-wuw a-rur-e yuk-o?" 
When King Tut is spoken it is VERY funny. It sounds like complete nonsense. I teach it for fun to my freshman English class to impress upon them the artificial construct of language (although I don't tell them that is why I am teaching it to them).

It is quite impressive how quickly the students can understand what I am saying once I explain the rules.
*(thanks to Dickson's Word Treasury by Paul Dickson)
Also, thanks to Wordie

26.9.09

H is for Home

A tile from my ceiling fell to the floor
Parts of the drop ceiling in my apartment fell in the kitchen.
Is it trite to speak of home? Cliché, maybe. But, home resonates. At the moment my home is in disarray.

Case in point: last night, plaster from the ceiling crumbled and fell in hard portions on the kitchen linoleum. I did not wake up from the din, but I was startled in the morning (in between brushing my teeth and finding a perfect maroon tie) to find the kitchen bespectacled with jagged chunks of plaster. "Is there a rodent in my attic?" I asked myself, half startled and half bemused.

Going from the ramshackle that is my apartment, to the structure of school, I enter another home: a weird conglomeration of bells and roving students, lecturing professors, and due dates, exams, lunches and recess. School is a strange form of home that merely serves as another version -- but for me, a strange anodyne -- and I cringe to confess this fact, because one's vocation is not supposed to be one's home.

Do I find myself grading papers, only to look at the clock notice it is already six o'clock?

This is the tragedy of home as school. Alas, my life is fail. Or, as one of my students would say, "Epic Fail! I hate my life!"

So, today, to rectify this unhappy occasion, I set out to spruce up my "home" and make sure next week I will not end up sleeping at my professor's desk.

My task before me is to make my home the same as it was in August. I notice the pile of dishes hidden beneath the shorn plaster. I notice books unread. And OMG! I have to complete those homework assignments and finish reading those essays.

I stop for a second, in the middle of writing this first installment of an alphabiography, which I have decided to impose on myself as an assignment -- I figure if I am making my students complete this project, I might as well do the same  I have until October 15th  eeekkk and I probably have loads of grammar and spelling mistakes. Is there anything here that is home? True home? Not artificial or cliché home? The sound of the streetcar whizzing by frequently and hurriedly? Is it the fresh pot of coffee I worship every morning  to quote Anne Sexton -- "All this is God, right here in my pea green house."

Home is an unhurried thing. Is it metaphysical? Probably not. Is it the edifice of a house? Or is it the collection of a family? The association of friends?

I know one thing is true: home is unequivocally the evocative longing to diminish the alone. It is the wish of the solitude to unite with the One. It is the prayer of the worshipful to unite with their God. It is the hope of the teacher to successfully complete one more successful assignment; it is the proper buttering of the toast; the perfect rendering of prose into poetry, the sublime nature of one's hope (albeit striving) for ? ... and that is where I stumble ... lost again in the mystery of home.

I do have one final concrete image for those out there who detest abstract thought. The apple pie Americans who need a palpable definition. Home is where the heart is? Home is on the range. Home is for breakfast. Home fries. Homie. Dog. G. Out.

Life Lesson:
Home is what you make it. Ahh, isn't that trite enough? But, I think I will go and wash those dishes (yeah, right he says).

19.9.09

Greig Roselli's 100th Post on Stones Of Erasmus

The one-hundredth post of anything should not go unrecognized. You could say, "What the hell? One hundred posts? Who cares?" I will not think less of you. Blog posts should be celebrated, however. Stones of Erasmus launched in 2005.

Posts when I first started blogging were rare. My energy was relegated to other writing projects. The blog here gained momentum last August when I posted my road trip across America.
Railroad Tracks in Lebeau © Google Maps

I am posting the one-hundredth blog from Bordelonville, LA. I decided to journey with Tony, Andre, Cherie, Ricky, Michelle, Michael, Samuel, and Eddie (a Shih Tzu mix) to the country for the Bordelonville Church Fair. When we cross the railroad track in Lebeau everyone must sing, "We're in the country now! We're in the country now! High-Ho-the-Cherry-Oh we're in the country now!" In Bordenlonville we feasted on cracklins, jambalaya and tried our luck playing twenty-five cent Bingo. The big prize was a twenty-five dollar gift certificate to Glamour Puss in downtown Bordelonville.

From the Desk of a High School English Teacher: Teacher Gripe Session from the Trenches

It is the fifth week ending of a second-year teaching odyssey. I am a high school English teacher and I am feeling the real effects of teacher burnout.
 
Kids are more in tune with the recent trends than reading texts from Ancient Literature. #butimnotcomplaining
     I am thrice-cursed: 1.) I must contend every workday with a barrage of students who hold fast to their own cultural icons: Captain Underpants, Sponge Bob, and Family Guy more than they do the Iliad and the Odyssey. Life Lesson: Popular Culture connects with Ancient Mythology (true): Sisyphus in the Greek legend handcuffs Death. Tragic. Family Guy does the same, apparently, according to a student. 2.) I am a writer who doesn't write. Life Lesson: Teaching precludes writing. 3.) I am poor so send me money. Life Lesson: Enter a poetry contest.

11.9.09

Movie Review: In Juno (2007) Jason Reitman Attempts to Make Us Feel Genuine Emotion

Juno
(starring Ellen Page and Michael Cera)
Maybe it was director Jason Reitman's sleight of hand that actually got to me rather than genuine sentiment, but I have begun to distrust how a film makes me feel. I have acquired an impervious lamella toward film; I had seen Juno back in 2007 and found this review that I had never posted. Literature to me has become false emotional catharsis (probably comes from reading way too much film theory) but it probably actually has more to do with the fact that most films really SUCK at pulling off true human emotion. Probably the last great American movie of genuine, gut-wrench sentiment was Ordinary People. But, for the most part, American movies are saccharine sweet and two-dimensional.

After that scathing report on American Cinema, I will not actually talk about Juno
I have to admit, though, the first ten minutes did not reel me in as I thought it would, based on the Ebert review I did in fact read. The film too much reminded me of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tennenbaums, that I was afraid that the film would never rise about the artifice of clever dialogue and impeccable mise-en-scene. A Wes Anderson flick is so obsessive compulsive in set design, that it is as if the props were meant to be fetishistic totems rather than set pieces.
Jennifer Garner's character Vanessa aspires to be the mother
of the child of a pregnant teenager (played by Ellen Page) 
I thought I was getting way too deep into the Anderson kitsch with this film, especially when the titular character (Ellen Page), a newly impregnated teen, her adolescent tummy bulging deliberately to smack the viewer in the face, chugs a cheery load of Sunny D and lashes out smart-ass comebacks to the convenience store clerk (a great cameo by Rainn Wilson). Wilson spouts out snappy one-liners when the knocked-up teen shows up to buy a home pregnancy test: “That ain't no Etch-A-Sketch. This is one doodle that can't be un-did, Homeskillet. ” Those lines alone should be placed on the Hollywood walk of fame or something.
Not to ruin anything, there are no spoilers here, but I thought the most affecting scene in the entire film is Jennifer Garner, the would-be mother, placing her head to Juno’s belly to hear the baby move. That to me made the film. Oh, if every film had such a moment of sheer beauty, I will want to embrace cinema again and perhaps re-love catharsis.