28.5.13

Teacher Rant: Uncanny Moment Grading Papers (Or, Why it is Unsettling Reading Final Exam Essays)

The Pitiful Job of Grading Papers
It's slightly unsettling to grade students' final exams and to read their answers to the essay questions. Some of the students have their own voice and I can tell they understand the question through their own mastery of the concepts. Stellar work, I say, and then there are the students who just don't get the question correct; but, what gets me every time is reading a student's answer that has an uncanny resemblance to my lecture vocabulary and style. It's creepy. I can tell they understand the concepts but they're using my style of delivering the answer. It's not exactly copying. Nor is it their own words  well, sorta  it's their own rehashing of what they remember I said in class. Rather impressive. 
Grading Papers Reminds Me Of How I Wrote Student
I am sure I wrote like that when I was an undergraduate. We really hung onto what are profs said. I really don't remember anything my teachers said about philosophy. I remember the slips of the tongue and non-sequiturs. "Nouns and verbs and shit," said one prof answering a kid's query about what the paper should contain. A sensible answer, I thought. Or one teacher in college told us we could choose any color we wanted to write on the board as long as we used its name as if it were a liquor. Green chalk was Chartreuse. That's all I remember. I drink the stuff with relish (and when I have the dough). It's divine.
image credit: johnkutensky  

15.5.13

Things I Probably Shouldn't Have Said (And Other Faux Pas)

Things I Probably Shouldn't Have Said (And Other Faux Pas) is a book of 13 essays about my journey from New Orleans to NYC. Most of the essays were originally written for this blog, Stones of Erasmus, which I then took out, mishmashed, and turned it into a story about my journey from New Orleans to New York, mixed in with anecdotes about things I shouldn't have said in subway cars, yeshivas, Catholic high schools, my college classroom -- you get the gist. Check it out. I made it into a Kindle Book Here.

Ersatz Existential Daily Post

Today I poured a cup of coffee into a plastic, reusable cup. I sighed. As the world sighs. I sat at my Formica dining room table, listening to the sound of faint music from the bottom floor rising up like a tribal beat, a haunting sound, then quiet. My cup dry. My cup doth not runneth over. The refrigerator hums. I sit in my pea-green apartment and I am one with the universe. It's the best thing going for I must have some sense of transcendence. Right? It bothers me that I must be so existential in the morning. Damn coffee cup. Damn emptiness. I eschew you. Spit you out. There. That's better. Good day, mates.

10.5.13

List of 100 Favorite Movies

I make no claim to a cinematic canon. These are my favorite movies. Subjective. No claim to objective standards of taste. Drum roll please:
1. Les Quatre Cents Coups (The Four Hundred Blows), Dir. François Truffaut (1959)
2. The Wizard of Oz, Dir. Victor Fleming (1939)
3. Billy Elliot, Dir. Stephen Daldry (2000)
4. Psycho, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
5. Au Revoir Les Enfants, Dir. Louis Malle (1987)
6. Kes, Dir. Ken Loach (1969)
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dir. Michel Gondry (2004)
8. Los Olvidados, Dir. Luis Buñuel (1950)
9. Vertigo, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1958)
10. Where the Wild Things Are, Dir. Spike Jonze (2009)
11. Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Cinema Paradiso), Dir. Giussepe Tornatore (1988)
12. Dekalog (The Decalogue), Dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski (1988)
13. Det Sejunde Inseglet (The Seventh Seal), Dir. Ingmar Bergman (1957)
14. Rear Window, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1954)
15. Some Like it Hot, Dir. Billy Wilder (1959)
16. The Kid With a Bike, Dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (2011)
17. Welcome to the Dollhouse, Dir. Todd Soldonz (1995)
18. Citizen Kane, Dir. Orson Welles (1941)
19. The Tree of Life, Dir. Terrence Malick (2011)
20. Un Chien Andalou (The Andalusian Dog), Dir. Luis Buñuel (1929)
21. Fahrenheit 451, Dir. François Truffaut (1966)
22. The Mirror, Dir. Andrey Tarkovsky (1975)
23. The Graduate, Dir. Mike Nichols (1967)
24. Le Souffle au Coeur (Murmur of the Heart), Dir. Louis Malle (1971)
25. Jeux Interdits (Forbidden Games), Dir. René Clement (1952)
26. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini (1975)
27. Orpheus, Dir. Jean Cocteau  (1950)
28. The Phantom of Liberty, Dir. Luis Buñuel (1974)
29. The Firemen’s Ball, Dir. Milos Forman (1967)
30. Midnight Cowboy, Dir. John Schlesinger (1969)
31. La Strada (The Road), Dir. Federico Fellini  (1954)
32. Mulholland Drive, Dir. David Lynch (2001)
33. Habla con Ella (Talk to Her), Dir. Pedro Almodovar (2002)
34. Stella Dallas, Dir. King Vidor (1937)
35. Olivier, Olivier, Dir. Agnieska Holland (1992)
36.  Battleship Potemkin, Dir. Sergei M. Eisenstein (1925)
37. 晩春 Banshun (Late Spring), Yasujirō Ozu (1953)
38. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dir. Stanley Kubrick (1968)
39. My Night at Maud’s, Dir. Eric Rohmer (1969)
40. The Royal Tenenbaums, Dir. Wes Anderson (2001)
41. A Trip to the Moon, Dir. Georges Méliès (1902)
42. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Dir. Steven Spielberg (1977)
43. Au Hasard Balthazar (Balthazar, At Random), Robert Bresson (1966)
44. Angst essen Seele auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul), Dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1974)
45. Harold and Maude, Dir. Hal Ashby (1971)
46. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Dir. Steven Spielberg (1982)
47. La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), Dir. Jean Cocteau (1946)
48. The Squid and the Whale, Dir. Noah Baumbach (2005)
49. Spoorlos (The Vanishing), Dir. George Sluizer (1988)
50. La Cite des Enfants Perdus (The City of Lost Children), Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (1995)
51. Mighty Aphrodite, Dir. Woody Allen (1995)
52. La Stanza del Figlio (The Son’s Room), Dir. Nanni Moretti (2001)
53. Y Tu Mamá También (And Your Mother Too), Dir. Alfonso Cuarón (2001)
54. 雨月物語 Ugetsu, Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi (1954)
55. 羅生門 Rashomon, Dir. Akira Kurosawa (1950)
56. The Night of the Hunter, Dir. Charles Laughton (1955)
57. Le Plaisir, Dir. Max Ophüls (1952)
58. Being John Malkovich, Dir. Spike Jonze (1999)
59. Synecdoche, NY, Dir. Charlie Kaufman (2008)
60. High Noon, Dir. Fred Zinnemann (1952)
61. Hiroshima, Mon Amour, Dir. Alain Resnais (1959)
62. The Lady Eve, Dir. Preston Sturges (1941)
63. Lost in Translation, Dir. Sofia Coppola (2003)
64. The Up Series, Dir. Michael Apted (1964 - Present)
65. Weekend, Dir. Andrew Haigh (2011)
66. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Dir. Mike Nichols  (1966)
67. La Mala Educación (Bad Education), Dir. Pedro Almodovar (2004)
68. Lord of the Flies, Dir. Peter Brook (1963)
69. The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, Dir. Peter Care (2002)
70. Andrei Rublev, Dir. Andrey Tarkovsky (1966)
71. Amour, Dir. Michael Haneke (2012)
72. Inglorious Basterds, Dir. Quentin Tarantino (2009)
73. Empire of the Sun, Dir. Steven Spielberg (1987)
74. A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Dir. Steven Spielberg (2001)
75. The White Ribbon, Dir. Michael Haneke (2009)
76. Margaret, Dir. Kenneth Lonergan  (2011)
77. Wild Tigers I Have Known, Dir. Cam Archer (2006)
78. Alice, Dir. Jan Švankmajer(1988)
79. Through a Glass Darkly, Dir. Ingmar Bergman (1961)
80. Passion of Joan of Arc, Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer (1928)
81. Arabian Nights, Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini (1974)
82. 千と千尋の神隠 (Spirited Away), Hayao Miyazaki (2001)
83. La Pianiste (The Piano Teacher), Dir. Michael Haneke (2001)
84. George Washington, Dir. David Gordon Green (2000)
85. Niki Ardelean, colonel în rezerva (Niki and Flo), Dir. Lucian Pintille (2003)
86. Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire), Dir. Wim Wenders (1987)
87. Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel), Dir. Josef von Sternberg (1930)
88. Equus, Dir. Sidney Lumet (1977)
89. The Best Years of Our Lives, Dir. William Wyler (1946)
90. 4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), Dir. Cristian Mungiu (2007)
91. Mon Oncle, Jacques Tati (1958)
92. Copie Conforme (Certified Copy), Dir. Abbas Kiarostami (2010)
93. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell (2001)
94. Louisiana Story, Dir. Robert J. Flaherty (1948)
95. Black Orpheus, Dir. Marcel Camus (1959)
96. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dir. Jim Sharman (1975)
97. Dancer in the Dark, Dir. Lars von Trier (2000)
98. Silver Linings Playbook, Dir. David O. Russell (2012)
99. Ordinary People, Dir. Robert Redford (1980)
100. The Silence of the Lambs, Dir. Jonathan Demme (1991)

27.4.13

Repost from the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research - "Dreams and Hysteria: An Introduction to Freud"

25.4.13

Sharing The Myth of Sisyphus With Kids: The Original Rolling Stone

I’ve been teaching Greek myth to a class of 8-12-year-olds since February, and it’s been so much fun hearing what the kids say about myths when they process the psychological insights I can share. One of the primary themes of our class has been how and why the myth is still relevant today, thousands of years after these stories were first told. A particularly useful recent lesson was on the myth of Sisyphus, an excellent metaphor for human struggle.
A Detail of an Ancient Greek Vase Depicts the Story of the Trickster Hero Sisyphus Who was Punished by the gods for Attempting to Cheat Death
The Myth of Sisyphus
Sisyphus was a Greek king in the evil trickster mold who found trouble with Zeus when he traded his knowledge of where Zeus was cavorting with a river nymph to her father in exchange for a spring of pure water for the people of his kingdom. In anger, Zeus had Sisyphus carried away to the underworld, but Sisyphus tricked Death into wearing his chains. No one could die until Ares released Death and gave Sisyphus to him.

Sisyphus tricked Death once again (Death must not have been the brightest guy), persuading him that since his (Sisyphus’) wife hadn’t performed the proper funeral rites, he must return to the upper world to correct the situation. Once there, of course, he lived happily for another 50 years or so.
For his offenses against the honor of the gods, Sisyphus is punished by being forced to push a large rock up a steep hill, only to see it roll back down again. He must trek down to the bottom of the mountain and start pushing still.

French-Algerian Writer Albert Camus Reinvents the Myth of Sisyphus for Modern Readers
In his seminal essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus writes about this myth, arguing that Sisyphus’ fate is the fate of every human. Every day we must do the same tasks: going to work, cleaning our homes, and making our meals. We roll the rock up the hill; each day, it rolls back down, and we must start again.

However, Camus argues that Sisyphus is not genuinely cursed because he isn’t unhappy with his fate. The gods can force him to repeat this task, but they can’t force him to hate it. He is content, and therefore Zeus’ punishment has failed.

Teaching the Myth to My Kids in the Classroom
It was refreshing when I explained all of this to my kids because they asked brilliant questions. They always want to know why the characters in Greek myths didn’t make different, better choices. One question came up: why doesn’t Sisyphus chip away at the rock to make it smaller and more manageable for himself? I compared that to working less hard on studying for an exam and getting a “C” instead of an “A.” You can always take steps to make things easier for yourself, but you’d be cheating yourself at the same time. They got it, and it was cool to see them getting it.
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

24.4.13

Alighiero Boetti On Reality

First of all I prefer thought. This is the basic thing. I really think manual skill is secondary …. It’s taking things from reality. Everything, however small and humble, always has a beginning and stems from reality. 
Alighiero e Boetti
PDF Copy for Printing