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My book club read George Saunders’ collection of short stories, The Tenth of December.  So good. He drills down deep into matters of human connection and purpose with a vision that in some stories evokes, in my mind, Walker Percy. At times, there are mysteries about what exactly is going on and what exactly this or that process or machine or war is all about, but all tenth-of-decemberthe better to help the reader be pulled into the world on the level of shared experience, rather than just curious observer.

A Goodreads reviewer took these stories to task for not having any heart, and, well, in my experience (and the experience of our group), the opposite was the case.

These stories are all about rescuing other human beings and what we have to overcome in order to acknowledge the  humanity of those needing rescue and our own reluctance to reach out, risk and sacrifice.

There is so much (well, some) chatter that abounds concerning..where is the faith in fiction? Where is the Catholic fiction? As much as I’m interested in both religion and fiction and as much affinity as I have for 20th-century Catholic-themed and sourced fiction, those conversations don’t interest me much.  I’m more interested in finding writers like Saunders (way after the rest of the world did, of course) and being engaged by the questions he poses in such arresting ways.

(Saunders, btw, was raised Catholic and is now Buddhist.)

If you want a taste of what Saunders is all about, these stories from that collection are available online for free:

Here is a blog post with links to several Saunders stories – three are in this collection: “The Tenth of December,” “Puppy,” “The Semplica-Girl Diaries.” (although with the last, the version in the book is longer than that which was published in The New Yorker.)  You can read “Victory Lap” here.  The story, “Home” is here. The last couple of paragraphs of “Home” are as deeply human and true as anything in contemporary fiction.

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Atlas Obscura has become one of my favorite sites.  For example, check this out:

Built as a residential home in 1630, in the heart of the oldest part of Amsterdam and bordering the infamous red light district, this particular steep-gabled building holds a remarkable secret. Making your way through the nearly 400-year-old corridors, kitchens, and bedrooms, there is a narrow and steep staircase that leads to the upper floors. Where, hidden away in the attic, is a magnificently miniature, fully-appointed Catholic church.

The clandestine church, known in Dutch as a “schuilkerk,” was secreted away in the attic on purpose due to the persecution of Catholicism in Holland in the 17th century. Unable to hold mass in public, Jan Hartmann converted the attic of his home to a church in 1663.

— 2 —

I think I shared before that my younger sons were going to be serving every single liturgy of Holy Week at the convent. Well, they did!

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And it was lovely.

— 3 —

I read Christopher Beha’s Arts and Entertainments – it had been praised in various faith-n-lit forums, so when I saw it on the library shelf, I decided to give it a go.  It’s a very quick, initially entertaining read – I read most of in one evening.

It’s the story of a youngish man who teaches drama in his own high school alma mater.  He’s a failed proessional actor, whose former girlfriend has gone on to star in a wildly successful television show.  Married, he and his wife struggle with fertility, and in order to pay for treatments,assured of anonymity in the transaction, he succumbs to temptation and sells a sex tape made with his former girlfriend.

Of course the veil is ripped away immediately, and the novel is about the power of contemporary reality-television culture and there was certainly a theological/spiritual observation being made. As the kingmaker reality-television producer (a former seminarian) declares, the audience has replaced God as the arbiter of good and evil, as the motivator for human choice and behavior:

“In the world I used to live in, good is whatever God wants. That’s it. There’s no other measuring stick. There is no good before God. When we say that God is good, all we’re saying is that God is God. In the world I live in now, it’s the same thing. There’s only one criterion. What does the audience want? Does the audience want you to be honest? Does the audience want you to be kind? . . . The audience has only one way of expressing its interest—by watching. They might watch because they love you. They might watch because they hate you. They might watch because they’re sick. Doesn’t matter. Is that good or bad? The question doesn’t make any sense. Good is whatever the audience watches.”

I think this is an astute observation, but I think that Beha actually doesn’t cut deeply enough here.  In confining his characters’ hijinks to the world of television-and-movies celebrity and reality TV, he lets the rest of us off the hook.

I say this because “the audience” isn’t just people who watch TV and peruse gossip sites. The “audience” that must be pleased is composed of our blog readers, Facebook friends, Instagram and Twitter followers…all of which feeds the human temptation to make choices and behave for thGod’e sake of others’ opinions rather than God’s will.

It’s the temptation to perform instead of just live.

So…three stars for Arts and Entertainments because, while it certainly kept me entertained, it did get a bit repetitive and stayed on a level that was just too safe.

— 4 —

So I bought this in Spain.

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People were puzzled.

Why would you want a sharp carrot?

Well, I finally broke it out and used it this week, and here’s how it’s done.

There’s an edge that functions as a peeler, and it’s nice and sharp.

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And then you use the “sharpener” part to make curls or rosettes.  Nifty.

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And if you really want to, you can certainly just sharpen your carrot:

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As I said before, I got this at a shop called Tiger, which I would love to see in the US: a Dollar Tree with Ikea design sensibilities.

— 5 —

I fell down on the Easter egg stuff this year, but honestly, with 10- and 14-year old boys in the house, the pressure is not overwhelming.  Although this year’s version (I didn’t have the energy to tackle the Ukrainian eggs this year) was chemically and mechanically intriguing enough that the 14-year old  wandered into the kitchen on night and made a couple of his own volition.

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I bought some 100% pure silk ties at the thrift store – darker colors are preferred.  Then you wrap the eggs in that fabric, then wrap each again in a square of white sheet or pillowcase, and boil for fifteen minutes.

The site I got this from recommended not eating the eggs because of the risk from the dye  You can do blow-out eggs in this manner, but you’d need to weight them down in the boiling water.

If I ever do this again (which I probably won’t), I would make sure the silk was more evenly wrapped and every bit of eggshell was in contact with fabric.  We had some blank patches. I’ll also remember to put vinegar into the water next time….

— 6 —

 Alabama:  Where you go from a slight morning and evening chill to three-foot mosquitos showing up in your house all within a week’s time.

— 7 —

Looking for gifts for First Communion? Mother’s Day?

Got it!

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days

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For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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A post on what we’re doing schoolwise for the 10-year old…mostly these days, but with some future planning. Mostly to keep myself accountable….

  • We spent several weeks studying up on Spanish culture, geography and history, as well as honing in on the art we were going to see, particularly Valesquez, El Greco, Picasso and Goya. Don Quixote. I, Juan de Pareja. So that took up most of March. Then, field trip to Spain. Then there was Holy Week, during which they served many liturgies at a convent served that week by a very strong homilist.  You can’t get much stronger catechesis than being carefully trained to serve at the Triduum liturgies during which you are immersed in the deep tradition of the Church, including music, you witness a community gracefully and generously caring for its aged members and welcoming guests, and you hear strong, direct, missional homilies. Yup.
  • There’s another trip (stateside!) coming up in a few weeks, so prep has begun for that: geology, history, geography, bookmaking….
  • Back to the present:
  • Prayer today was Mass readings & Morning Prayer.  Every so often, we read the Mass readings from an actual Bible rather than the Universalis website, to give him practice in looking up passages in the Bible. He also wrote down some citations from my dictation (like Acts 3: 1-10. And then, what would it be if the citation were Acts, chapter 3, verses 1 AND 10. And so on.) When there’s geography mentioned, we pull out the map and figure out the lay of the land.
  • Reviewed liturgical year, particularly Easter Season.
  • Copywork today was Luke 24:35, the last sentence of the day’s Gospel.
  • Cursive practice, again and again! 
  • We finished Beast Academy 4C before our Spain trip, and so we are waiting with baited breath until 4D is released.  In the meantime, he is going through Life of Fred: Fractions, which is partly review and partly new stuff and a crazy story he loves to read.  We’re also working through a bit of Challenge Math. 
  • We’ve picked up the pace on Latin, hoping to finish up Getting Started With Latin in a couple of weeks. At the same time, we’ve started Visual Latin, another light introduction but at a quicker pace.  My older son worked through part of VL year before last, and I don’t recommend it as a stand alone by any means, but as an engaging (up to a point) supplement it’s okay. We’ll stay on this course until the fall, when he will probably start Henle – although I am still pouring over forums at The Well-Trained Mind sorting through resources.
  • We’ve started this writing program – I like it so far.  Still using a lot of the Brave Writer way of thinking as well, but this gives me a little more structure to work with.
  • Back to the MENSA poetry program – today we started “The Road Not Taken.” (link leads to teaching/memorization aids)
  • Science as per usual is all over the place.  It’s spring, so that’s happening: bees to be watched, dead wasps to be studied, blooms to be found…and so on. I want to finish the chunk of the grade-level science book that deals with electricity, but we’ll see how that works out.
  • I found a site (don’t remember where) that listed a lot of sources for free propoganda teaching materials from organizations and industries.   I’ve received a couple, and we’ll look at those this week – like this one ALL ABOUT COAL! 
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  • Our first EEME kit came this week, so we’ll hit that in the next couple of days (or probably early next week) and I’ll report back. (I paid for it – it wasn’t a review set, btw)
  • We get several magazines published by Cricket – highly recommended, watch for sales – and they, in addition to the couple of dozen books on his own interests (animals and natural disasters, mostly, although this week he brought home a book on Watergate….)  he checks out from the library every week, provide much of the history and science reading.
  • Some good videos lately, each of which leads to further exploration and discussion.  Most of them come from The Kids Should See This, Science Dump (although that has sexually-related material, so you can’t give free reign there, if you ever do to kids on the Internet, which I don’t.), Brain Scoop, Periodic Videos, and many of the other great science-focused YouTube channels out there.
  • Constant recreational reading.  Now he’s tearing through this series. Should take about a week. Before this, he consumed The Tripods trilogy.  Frequent interaction/questions/spontaneous narration about what he’s reading.
  • I found a really good music theory site: Dave Conservatoire.  It’s like Khan Academy for music.  So far, it’s great – even the videos on areas he’s familiar with are engaging enough to keep him (and me) interested and in every one, we learn something new. It will be even better once he has more interactive quizzes in place, but even as it is, it’s very useful.
  • And sometimes it all fits together: We watched some stuff on pitch from Dave Conservatoire, reviewed some of the many other activities we did on the physics of sound a couple of months ago, reviewed a couple of pages from the Usborne physics books we have, then watched sonic boom videos from Science Dump, and then saw and discussed this video on the George Mason students who devised a way of putting out fires using sound waves.  
  • Once a week, homeschool boxing class, and finally, his excellent art class is starting up again, after a basketball-induced break. (BB practice was at the same time as art). Schola at the Cathedral. Cub Scouts. There’s one more science center classes left before summer. A lot of piano this month – state competition, regular recital, and then a scholarship audition.
  • We’re continuing, at a leisurely pace of about once a week, to do the Mapping the World with Art curriculum, which he really enjoys.
  • Oh, if you want a good source for season-related poetry and quotes, go here – it’s great.  It’s a wonderful source for both copywork and general seasonally-inspired poetry reading and sharing. 
  • Lunch eaten to Horrible HIstories. (Now that Lent is over…he gave up TV for Lent, and didn’t complain once…)
  • Alabama Shakespeare is performing As You Like It, so next week, all three of us will start familiarizing ourselves with that..  (They are also performing King Lear, but I think we’ll stick with the comedy. )
  • Wanderings? Tigers for Tomorrow – a rescue facility for, well, tigers, and other cats as well as some bears, wolves and so on.  Excellent, thought-provoking tour.  The weather is now turning gorgeous, so definitely more adventures to come……Mental wanderings? Lots of drawing of imaginary worlds and cataloguing imaginary animals, and creating music on the keyboard and piano…

I think we’ll follow the same kind of path next year, simply getting a little more intentional with both the Latin and the writing. I hope his math progress can track with Beast Academy’s release schedule, but I’m afraid we’re going to continually be just a bit ahead.  He should, no matter what, be ready for the AOPS Pre-Algebra in 6th grade.  If you’d suggested that to me before Beast Academy, I would have scoffed, but now, about to finish up 4 and looking forward to grade 5 in the curriculum, I can see very clearly how the BA road is leading straight to AOPS – methods and ways of thinking that were new to my older son as he engaged with AOPS for the first time two years ago are being introduced in Beast Academy – so that when the 10-year old meets them in a year…he won’t be meeting them for the first time.

The last time I threw out a post like this, some concerned person wondered if the poor little fellow was having room to play in his busy schedule.  I’ll simply remind you that for us, “school”  –  takes three hours a day, tops. Then….recess for everyone!

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No, I didn’t give up the internet or blogging for Lent.  I might as well have, though, right? Eh.  It’s not like there’s no one else out there opining or sharing or venting online.

Plus the narrative out there is so very strong, I’m having to think long and hard how to navigate it and carefully say things that really need to be said.  But we’ll see.

— 2 —

We had a snow day last week and another this week.

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There you go.

I get it.  Last year’s snowcapolypse (sp?) was a nightmare, happened in a matter of hours, and was absolutely unexpected.  It was nothing to laugh at.  But it made everyone exceedingly skittish around here, so this year, at the slightest hint of a system over Texas, we get all proactive and everything shuts down.  We went out late yesterday afternoon to shop for some clothes. The roads were wet but clear..and almost every store in both major shopping centers near here were closed.

Hopefully, next year, the pendulum will swing back.

— 3 —

One of my favorite Loyola Classics titles is Things as They Are by Paul Horgan.  If you don’t know about Horgan – go read this.  He’s probably one of the least-known double Pulitzer Prize winners out there.  He wrote both non-fiction and fiction, much of it centered on the Southwest, although Things as They Are is reflective of Horgan’s childhood in Rochester, New York.  His non-fiction is primarily historical – it’s what he won the Pulitzers for – and get this – the fellow never graduated from college.

(Catholic, too – awarded the Notre Dame Laetare Medal.)

That title was suggested to me by George Weigel, who wrote the introduction.  It’s an episodic, quiet, but ultimately hard-hitting (I think) coming-of-age tale.

— 4 —

A few weeks ago, I picked up a volume that collects three shorter novels of Horgans – it’s called Mountain Standard Time .  I read the first, Main Line West, and it’s very good.  Unusual and evocative, it’s about a Kansas woman, living with relatives, who is courted by a traveling salesman, marries him and is abandoned when she becomes pregnant.  What intrigued me about the plot was the turn in which the woman becomes a traveling evangelist. The story of where that takes her and her son, and the eventual tragedy – based, as Horgan says in his afterword, on an incident he had witnessed as a child during World War I – is startling.  I recommend!

— 5 —

Last weekend, we had 7 basketball games in the course of 72 hours.  I didn’t mind it too much  – basketball games are short – especially when the quarters are 6 minutes long, as they are for the younger son, whose tournament represented the bulk of those games.  One more game tonight – maybe two – and that’s done.

— 6 —

Better Call Saul is enjoyable.  No, it’s no Breaking Bad.  It doesn’t have the intensity or layers of that show (yet), plus, considering we know how Saul turns out, if the show stays in the past (and doesn’t eventually jump back up to post-BB Saul), there are no stakes at the core of it, since we know that Saul doesn’t follow the (faint) nudges of his conscience and find any sort of redemption.  Yes, there’s lots of interest along the way, but that hope that everything will turn out that is the driving interest behind drama is missing.

House of Cards? Eh.  I watched the first season, and then a few episodes of the second last year – but then it just got too ridiculous, I couldn’t follow (aka wasn’t interested in) the policy machinations, and – most importantly – lost interest because when every single character is immoral or amoral, there’s nothing at stake, and no real drama.

I watched the first episode of this season, and was sort of interested in Doug’s rehab and recovery, but am totally bored by the prospect of Claire fightin’ for her right to be UN Ambassador.  There was a bit of an uptick of interest in the show from religious quarters this week because a couple of writers addressed a scene in which Frank Underwood spits at a crucifix.  Can’t watch it anymore, these writers declared – it’s a deal-breaker. (And the threesome with his wife and the Secret Service guy wasn’t? I didn’t see that – just heard it was coming, and at that point, stopped watching. Ew.)  I haven’t watched that episode yet (maybe I’ll dig it up, maybe not), but it seems, from what I have read, that that scene is perfectly consistent with the Underwood’s character.  It’s not a sympathetic person doing it – it’s a murderous (literally), horrible, evil guy. Evil people spit on Christ,  and then walk away – figuratively and even literally.

— 7 —

Speaking of the Cross…

John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross, published by Ave Maria Press.  This, again, is available as an actual book and in a digital version, in this case as an app.  Go here for more information. (The illustrations are by Michael O’Brien)

"amy welborn"A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love,  published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!

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This was the edition on my parents’ bookshelves when I was growing up…

Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a short post on John Howard Griffin, the author of Black Like Me.  Fr. Longenecker hadn’t known until recently that Griffin was Catholic.  Most people don’t – nor do they know that he was the author of a very Catholic novel.

It’s called The Devil Rides Outside.  I read it several years ago when I was editor of the Loyola Classics series – the series of at-that-moment out of print and obtainable mid-century Catholic-themed fiction.

I have lots of interesting stories to tell about the books we were able to get and those we weren’t.  Perhaps I’ll do a blog post over the weekend about some of them.  It was really a very interesting job.

Anyway, I learned about Griffin’s novel and obtained a well-worn paperback with quite a lurid cover, and started it with high hopes.  This will be great, I thought – bringing back into print the novel by figure so well-known for one part of his life and work and completely unknown in the present for this one.

At the time he wrote it (the late 1940’s) Griffin, not yet Catholic (he was Episcopalian) was suffering from blindness caused by an injury he suffered while in the military in Europe during World War II.  He would be healed of the blindness in 1957.

Griffin was an accomplished and knowledgeable musicologist, and had spent time at Solesmes Abbey exploring both religious vocation and chant.  This novel came out of that experience.

It’s a fascinating piece of work – heated and intense, a confessional novel of a young man’s struggle to find God as he’s pulled between life in the monastery and outside.

In an interesting twist, the novel played a role in overturning censorship laws.  In 1954, Pocket Books decided to use the book to test Michigan’s censorship statutes.  It had been banned there because of Griffin’s (for the time) frank sexual scenes.  The case reached the Supreme Court which decided that censorship laws that were explicitly intended to protect the young were unconstitutional since the consequence of such laws was denying anyone access to these materials, not just the young.

My take?  I probably need to read it again, because that first reading was done with a specific purpose in mind: would this have general appeal to a 21st century audience? So back then, with that in mind I decided…no.  It was certainly interesting – that’s why I say I think I’d like to read it again – but on the whole I found it just a bit overheated, too long, a little hysterical and caricaturish in its portrayal of women.   It’s mainly interesting for the portrait of monastic life – and this is one of the reasons I read even not-“classic” fiction with Catholic themes: you get little glimpses of Catholic history without the academic overlay.

But wouldn’t it be awesome to republish it with this cover?

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You can read it on Kindle now, anyway….so there you go!

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Lent is coming!  Full list of resources here, but take special note today, if you don’t mind, of these Stations of the Cross..and pass it on to your parish!

John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross, published by Ave Maria Press.  This, again, is available as an actual book and in a digital version, in this case as an app.  Go here for more information. (The illustrations are by Michael O’Brien)

"amy welborn"A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love,  published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!

amy-welborn4

— 2 —

Podcast listening?  Not much of great interest this past week, since I’m mostly concentrating on that Couch to 5k thing.  I’m up to Week 8! 28 minutes! (But that’s on an indoor track – we’ll see what happens when I am able to go outdoors again, given the harder surfaces and more, er, varied terrain outside.

So, Melvin lost me this week with Phenomenology. I tried – I really did, but listening to philosophy talk about Husserl, Heidegger and meaning through earphones while running with youth basketball going on below was pretty much a lost cause.  What was interesting was this program on Zola in England.  After the Dreyfus trial, Zola fled to London – by doing so, he enabled keeping the case open.  While in England, he began work on his last series of books, the first of which was called Fecundity or Fruitfulness – and, although Zola is a hard slog (I read Lourdes – barely), the premise is fascinating and timely – in which Zola blames oppressive social and economic systems for discouraging the lower classes from reproducing, decrying contraception, abortion and child abandonment….

— 3 —

I’m currently reading The Colony, which is about the history of the leper colony at Molokai. The origins of the place are so sad, an example of incompetent and deceptive government action in the face of tragedy.

Related, but somewhat contrasting is this fascinating story that provided me with a brief excursion down the rabbit hole this past week:

In 1803, King Charles of Spain ordered an extraordinary expedition: Smallpox was, of course, taking a terrible toll on the Spanish colonies so…..

On September 1, 1803, King Charles IV of Spain, who had lost one of his own children to smallpox, issued a royal order to all royal officers and religious authorities in his American and Asian domains, announcing the arrival of a vaccination expedition and commanding their support to

  • vaccinate the masses free of charge,
  • teach the domains how to prepare the smallpox vaccine, and
  • organize municipal vaccination boards throughout the domains to record the vaccinations performed and to keep live serum for future vaccinations.

The expedition to vaccinate the population in South America against smallpox was a public health undertaking of staggering proportions. A small group set out by ship and horse to traverse present-day Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, carrying the vaccine and administering it in villages and cities along the way. The territory was not only vast but also brutally harsh, with precipitous mountains, dense jungles, and uncharted rivers. The expedition traveled in primitive riverboats and on mules when the terrain was too rugged for horses.

First Destination: Puerto Rico

The María Pita left the Spanish harbor of La Coruña on November 30, 1803, with the smallpox vaccination expedition team consisting of a director, Dr. Francisco Xavier Balmis; an assistant director, Dr. Jóse Salvany Lleopart; and several assistants and paramedics. The ship reached Puerto Rico in February 1804 with its cargo of vaccine serum preserved between sealed glass plates; also onboard were 21 children from the orphanage at La Coruña who carried the vaccine through arm-to-arm vaccinations performed sequentially during the ship’s journey, and thousands of copies of a treatise describing how to vaccinate and preserve the serum, recounts José Rigau-Pérez in an article on the smallpox vaccine in Puerto Rico.

More here and here. 

— 4 —

I’m going to try to do a learning post tonight, but in short, this week was a week of lots of science (properties of matter, heat transfer), art (printmaking) and puzzles (logic chapter of Beast Academy)

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Also, here’s a fun thing:  Hit the Lego store when the staff is unpacking a shipment and you just might find yourself the recipient of big bags of random pieces they don’t have room to stock in those bins on the back wall….and it might be your lucky day.

— 5 —

Through reading H. Allen’s Smith’s The Pig in the Barber Shop, I discovered a book called Father Juniper and the General, "amy welborn"written in the late 50’s by another American ex-pat in Mexico named James Norman.  It’s in the Don Camillo – Father Malachy genre – priest does battle with and outwits local civil/social authorities, and it’s amusing.  I’m surprised I’d never heard of it, considering I thought I’d read or at least heard of every vaguely Catholic themed middle-brow book published in the US in the mid=century when I was editing the Loyola Classics, but apparently not!

— 6 —

I actually accompanied my kids to the movies the other day (they are old enough to go on their own, together now) – Big Hero 6, which was…good!  As usual with movies today (get off my lawn!) the climactic battle goes on waaaaay too long, but the setting – a mythical more Far Eastern version of San Francisco – was fascinating and the animated characters were surprisingly well individuated.

Speaking of movies: over the holiday weekend, we watched Strangers on a Train, which I enjoyed for some fantastic set-pieces and Robert Walker’s compelling performance, and didn’t enjoy for the mostly-stiff other performances and off-putting amoral tone surrounding the murder of Granger’s wife and the “happy ending” of him and his paramour.  I just thought that was so weird.

Also, The Trouble With Angels, which I hadn’t seen in a while, but is so good. Still. I had remembered the Hayley Mills’ character’s embrace of religious life as more of a surprise, and while it is a bit of a twist, the really observant viewer can see it coming, and her spiritual discomfort and awakening is sketched rather well, as she confronts her own fears about getting old and dying , encounters mercy again and again in the Rosalind Russel’s Mother Superior, and observes the ties of family among the sisters, a kind of family she’s never experienced herself.  It’s based on a memoir called Life With Mother Superior by Jane Trahey, a female pioneer in advertising, and the Hayley Mills character is based on a friend of hers who really did go on to become a Dominican Sinsinawa! 

— 7 —

 

Better Call Saul actually looks like it might be…good.  When it was first floated, I thought, “Oh, no….” and when it was announced as a thing, I thought, “Not a good idea.”  But in reading about the show’s premise, in which there are actually emotional stakes at work and seeing previews, I’m getting excited.  I’ve read a couple of reviewers who opine that it’s better than BB…hard to imagine,but… Love the logo!

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"amy welborn"

Yes, this still exists and is in use.

It was sighted yesterday at an open house for a school we’re considering for next year’s high schooler.

And honestly, even though the librarian said they’re in the process of switching over to a computer based system, the fact that in 2014, they still used a card catalog was almost enough to tip my vote.  Almost.  

Isn’t that strange? Because aren’t we supposed to be attracted by the New Shiny Tech that will assure us that our kids are Ready for the Global Challenges of the 21st Century?

For me, not really.  As much as I appreciate Computer Things, I’m a Luddite when it comes to classroom tech.  I am not impressed by boasts that “we have an Ipad for every kid!” and fundraisers for yet more classroom tech that will be obsolete in two years.

There was a woman at this open house who had come from another state with her child looking for an alternative school because her daughter’s school had gone to all Ipad for textbooks.  No actual books.  Just swiping on screens.

I have always suspected that our retention of material read on screens is poorer than that read in print on pages we turn while holding a book.  How many times have you recalled a quote or passage and were helped in that memory by the fact that you could remember where the passage lay on the page or how the book felt or smelled?

As an person who has been observing education from various perspectives for about 30 years now, I can say that one of the things that has puzzled me is this:

Over the past decades, we have been constantly reminded that people have different learning styles.  Teachers have been exhausted by workshops outlining all the different ways in which they are expected to meet the needs of different learning styles while teaching what a noun is or how to add fractions:  visual, auditory, tactile, kinetic..etc…..

So isn’t it strange and counterproductive that as awareness of these different learning styles has grown, we have slowly but surely stripped education of all but the visual?  Actually, physically writing things down helps retention – but let’s just type instead.   Sitting with a book leads to better retention than swiping screens..but..let’s pulp the books and hand every kid an Ipad instead.

So sure, computer-based cataloging system is far more flexible and less time-consuming and efficient.  But isn’t it funny how when an institution isn’t in such a rush to keep up with this ever-changing world, it’s set apart..and inspires a closer look and the intrigued question of why? …instead simply swiping to the next screen?

Huh.

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