cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Reflections”

Why We Say #29: taking and talking


Taking a back seat can just take the cake sometimes, especially when talking turkey about telling a gag.

Taking a Back Seat
In England’s Parliament, members of power get the front seats, kind of a ringside view of the political show, while those members who are in the minority power must contend with the seats in the back, and probably don’t get to contribute in the same manner.   So when we tell someone to “take a back seat” we are basically letting him or her know that they don’t have the main say. Although back seat drivers are known for having quite a bit to say. Here are some back seat quotes to consider:

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Take the Cake
Remember once upon a time when there were school carnivals with all those wonderful games, including the cake walk? Moving around the circle hoping your number was called after the music stopped so you could pick your favorite cake from the selections was a definite high point of the evening. After the surprise of getting your number called you got to take the cake home–that’s pretty special, winning a cake. And so it goes with the expression: it’s pretty special, even amazing, when someone or something “takes the cake.”

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Moving on from taking to talking…

Talking Turkey
Early American settlers trading with Native Americans were not always interested in bargaining for anything offered but turkey. Turkey was a new type of meat, and many a settler had developed a taste for the bird. Getting right to the talk of trading for turkey, without having to sift through other trading talk, meant “talking turkey,” getting right down to the facts, the serious business. Some may not quite understand that talking turkey is serious stuff….

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northstonerealestate.com

Which leads us to telling a gag
Telling a joke, a “gag,” stems from the days when performers would save the situation when one partner would forget his or her lines by filling in the moment with a quick joke. This quick save avoided an otherwise awkward silence and helped the stricken partner regain the forgotten lines. The filler joke was referred as a gag, since gags were used as silencers. There are some great entertainers who knew all about great jokes:

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Certain as a Jertain


By way of a Quora question request I found perhaps the most beautiful article in the NYTimes mobile about reading.

As a parent, who is a writer/librarian/teacher, I value reading and getting books into the hands of kids, especially mine when they were little.

I remember being the only librarian on staff who had pre-schoolers which meant I had the privilege of taking home a stack of picture books before they hit the shelves.


I would gather my brood around me on our eastern king bed with the dark blue velour blanket and read and read and read. 

“You are the first children to ever read this book,” I would intone before commencing. The books would crisply creak when I opened them, they were so fresh off the press. I’m a closet dramatic and reading books in character voices is how they heard George and Martha and their pb compatriots.

My daughter (now in her thirties) tells me: “It felt like we were floating on a soft, blue ocean while you read to us.”

Reading out loud to children is important. I read out loud to my granddaughter when we are together. I introduced her to Narnia. I read to my high school students, or have a book tape read to them. They are not grown up enough to stop reveling in the joy of being read to out loud.

And so, this is my Mother’s Day post celebrating the joy of having read to my own children. We didn’t have a Streak, but we did create some memories together.

Reading Round Up: April


I am woefully behind schedule in my Good Read’s challenge, being at a paltry 29%. I am five books behind!

 Who knew taking on teaching another Advanced Placement class would zap my energy for even my go-to-unwind activity of reading? Preparing students for their AP exams has left me so tired I have to take a nap so I can get enough energy to go to the gym. And I can’t skip the gym because I tend to binge on chocolate when stressed. 

Wednesday was the last exam. Life is looking a little less frazzling going into the weekend, especially since I’m taking a couple of personal days and extending my weekend into Tuesday. Reading books and relaxing are premier on my agenda list after Friday.

Not having read much last month, here are my two spotlights:

The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne


In the tradition of old tales of yesteryear such Stevenson’s Treasure Island, is found The Coral Island. Shipwrecked, three young men make their island their home. They have their share of adventures providing readers an enriching story that heartily entertains. 

An interesting aside is that The Coral Island was once read by a lad named William Golding. He would later write his own shipwreck tale called Lord of the Flies. His main characters are also called Jack and Ralph. Hmmmm

Me and Shakespeare by Herman Gollob


The Crayola bright color combined with the enticement of Me and Shakespeare prompted me to stack Herman Gollob’s memoir on top of my other reads. Gollob’s title attracted me for the reason of how personal it sounded, as if he and the Bard had gone on a road trip together.

In actuality, this is a Journey tale. Gollob’s skillful weaving of his extensive experience as a book editor and his discovery of Shakespeare creates a fine and enjoyable read. Sometimes Gollob became a bit pedantic and negative, yet overall he added insights to my own Shakespeare interests.

Reading Round Up: April


I am woefully behind schedule in my Good Read’s challenge, being at at paltry 29%. I am five books behind schedule. Who knew taking on another Advanced Placement class would zap my energy for even my go-to-unwind activity of reading? Preparing students for their AP exams left me enough so tired I had to take a nap so I could get enough energy to get to the gym. And I can skip the gym because I tend to binge on chocolate when stressed. Wednesday is the last exam. Life is looking a little less frazzling going into the weekend, especially since I’m taking a couple of personal days and extending it. Reading books and relaxing are premier on my agenda list after Friday.

Not having read much last month, here are my two spotlights:

The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne


In the tradition of old tales of yesteryear such Stevenson’s Treasure Island, is found The Coral Island. Shipwrecked, three young men make their island their home. They have their share of adventures providing readers an enriching story that heartily entertains. 

An interesting aside is that The Coral Island was once read by a lad named William Golding. He would later write his own shipwreck tale called Lord of the Flies. His main characters are also called Jack and Ralph. Hmmmm

Me and Shakespeare by Herman Gollob


The Crayola bright color combined with the enticement of Me and Shakespeare prompted me to stack Herman Gollob’s memoir on top of my other reads. Gollob’s title attracted me for the reason of how personal it sounded, as if he and the Bard had gone on a road trip together.

In actuality, this is a Journey tale. Gollob’s skillful weaving of his extensive experience as a book editor and his discovery of Shakespeare creates a fine and enjoyable read. Sometimes Gollob became a bit pedantic and negative, yet overall he added insights to my own Shakespeare interests.

A Bit of Bard–maybe a bit late


Depending on where you are located, it’s April 23rd and William Shakespeare’s birthday. Today he is an amazing 453 years old! Last year the world celebrated the 400 years since he passed from immediate view–going out on his birthday in 1616. I believe Mark Twain is another writer who did the same, except being Twain he did so with more flourish by coming in with Halley’s comet and leaving the day it returned.

As for William, his influence is ageless. I’m currently undertaking the starting of a Shakespeare club on campus: Students for Shakespeare. I actually inherited the title of the club. A few years back a group of students who wanted to put on Macbeth at the local theater and by doing so, made enough from ticket sales to create a little nest egg for future ventures. Their tidy profit helped in bringing Shakespeare to our school. With some tight management of funds, I manage to bring in annually Shakesperience, a team of actors who travel around the state performing at schools for a small fee. For some students, this will be their first and only exposure to a live performance of Shakespeare.

In the classroom I no doubt wear out my students with my enthusiasm for Shakespeare. I have his poster up on the wall and once a month I create crazy iMovies that are played on the morning announcements that promote the Students for Shakespeare Club. And four is the number of students I commandeered to be in the yearbook photo since no one has actually showed up for our monthly meetings yet. I shall once more to the breach…

April also happens to be National Poetry Month. I usually provide a poem a day as tribute to the month. I save them up all year. This year spring break happened the first week of April, I succumbed to getting a cold, then became dizzyfied by SAT testing, followed by reviewing for AP exams, became distracted by class registration–well, let’s just say Eliot wasn’t kidding when he said April is the cruelest month. Maybe not cruel. Daffodils are blooming. I get happy when the flowers return. It is a busy month though.

So–my poetry plans fell through, but I shall, as Puck says, try to make amends. Here is a link that is definitely worth watching, especially if you relish really amazing acting. This is Sir Ian in his prime (around 43), performing a one man show of Shakespeare. And this fulfills my poetry and Shakespeare efforts for April since Sir Ian performs both sonnets and play excerpts. Enjoy!

Review Round Up: March 


Nothing like Spring Break to throw off a blogging routine! Take a little R&R and the regiment of writing piffles away. The excellent part of R&R is the time to read instead of time spent grading essays. While I didn’t get down to business on my own writing as planned, I did get into quite a few great books. Here are the top picks for March.


image: Margaret Atwood.ca

There is a slew of Shakespeare retellings out there, and my request for Margaret Atwood’s Hagseed, her version of The Tempest, finally came through at the library. The basic plot is Felix, a well-known director, whose overly creative approaches to theatre, is ousted by his protege. Seeking exile in a dilapidated farm house, our hero has a rough time of it until he takes a gig at a prison to bring Shakespeare to the inmates. 

While it was difficult to get into the story at first, Atwood’s version of The Tempest won me over once the inmates began acting out the play. Their fresh approach made The Tempest stand up and become more relevant to present day concerns.

All the new revisionments of Shakespeare’s plays tend to be hit or miss in their approach. More misses than hits. Yet, Atwood, being the maestro of imaginative tales herself, gamely applied her own brand of magic to Prospero’s tale and conjured up an agreeable story within a play which plays upon the story.

The best part of her adaptation was having Felix, the artsy, exiled director, explain the play to the inmates. Valuable education stuff. Should I ever choose to teach The Tempest I shall delve into Ms. Atwood’s classroom references.


image: Goodreads.com

I’m not sure how this book got on my TBR list as I shy away from tragedy stories, especially ones about 9/11. And this story had yet another tragedy story woven throughout–the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911. I got over my initial “read or not to read moment” and found myself involved in an amazing story that speaks well towards the gifts of grace, forgiveness, and redemption.

The parallel stories of lost love due to horrendous circumstances is skillfully and eloquently written. Susan Meissner infuses her stories with rich prose and an underlayment of faith that provides a richly satisfying read. The characters transcend their paper boundary and imprint. I looked forward to my reading time and spent most of one Saturday intrigued by Clara’s choices and Taryn’s painful healing. I cried. And laughed. It’s been a while since that’s happened with a book. 

My second book by Meissner. I’ve now loaded her other books on my TBR list. I can take a bit of tragedy in my reading when the story had such a powerful message attached.
image: Goodreads.com
As a sequel to The Shakespeare Stealer, the story continues in following the historical fiction of Shakespeare’s acting troupe. While the action is not as lively as the first book, there is still plenty of intrigue as readers follow Widge’s determination to find his place as a player in the Chamberlin’s Men. The primary audience is middle readers or even young adult, yet I’m always game for a Shakespeare story.

The black plague is a definite presence throughout the story and Blackwood’s attention to detail creates an engaging insightful look into the times of England’s Renaissance.

Shakespeare Knew Unrest


Peggy O’Brian, director of education, of the Folger, recently queried how former Folgerians were doing. Seeing the Folger is neighbors with many prominent Washington DC power sources, such as the Supreme Court, her question holds some resonance of consideration. 

I paused and thought. How are we doing? The “we” for me being the school environment because school is a large part of my life and serves as a reflection of how the world out there is affecting the lives of present and future citizens. I will say this: there is unrest. 

Here is my partial response to Peggy’s question:

We are feeling the bite of unrest. Students are forming clubs that reflect their need to express their views. We have a club that celebrates the 50.5%, formed by young women (and young men). Another club is the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, young men who want to explore what it means to be a male in today’s society. We also have Interact and Key Club, which reaches out with fundraisers to meet the needs of the community. The administration has a mentor class of student peers who lead discussion groups.

Class discussion topics for my AP Language class bring forth interests such as “fake news,” and how women are portrayed in the media. Students exchange ideas and debate views. We share. I remind them their voices can be heard. They march. They write letters and articles for the school paper. They are involved. I am fortunate to be part of their conscious desire to be the change they want to see in the world.

And in all this, I keep teaching Shakespeare. He saw injustice, corruption, love, hate, death, prejudice and he put pen to paper, and words became actions upon the stage. Students see that 400 years later we still have the same issues, even if they are expressed in a different manner at times. My students see that one man continues to have a large influence upon the world. Shakespeare truly is a man for all time.

Shakespeare is one way I illustrate how times of unrest are reflected through the arts. And it’s frightening to learn that funding for the arts is being threatened.

I’m hoping our voices will be heard up on the Capitol’s hill that the arts are important and the people want them to remain a vibrant voice. 

We especially need our voices to be heard in times of unrest.

Sully and Alien Parents


For those who appreciate writing contests you will want to scamper over to Mike Allegra’s site for his Sully Writing Award Competition. Lots of nice swag if you’re a winner. 

NOTE: this Sully is not to be confused with the heroic pilot from the recent Tom Hanks movie. This Sully is from a salamander. Yeah, I know. What was Mike thinking? I hope the hero Sully has a sense of humor. 

Part of the competition is to pingback Mike’s site. I think we’re supposed to post our entry here as well.  

So here is my entry, an excerpt of a work in progress:

ALIENS AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE

There were aliens sitting at the breakfast table. I don’t know when it happened but aliens came and took up residence in my mom and dad’s bodies. Admittedly, they looked and acted quite a bit like my parents. They even got that one mole that sits on my dad’s neck just right. It’s raised and kind of hangs there, like a fleck of ear wax. They copied how mom’s left nostril is larger than her right one as well. All in all they are very good imitations. Not like the guy from Men in Black, whose skin didn’t fit right. No. These look, sound, and act like my parents. I still think they are aliens.

    Why?

    The real question is why I didn’t notice earlier. Maybe there is some sort of cosmic ray they used to shoot my milk with so I didn’t notice. Now that I’m in junior high I don’t drink as much milk. It may do my body good, but it’s havoc on my intestines. Lactose intolerant. Bad gas is not cool in eighth grade. Sixth grade maybe. Not eighth grade. Okay, in the locker room. Not in science. Especially standing next to Heather Fortuna. I may not end up marrying her, or even like her by the time we get into ninth grade. All I know is drinking milk at lunch with my pizza slice has its consequences a half hour later. Which would be in science class.  

    Let’s get back to my alien parents.

    I think when I stopped drinking so much milk I caught on to the fact my parents had changed. They may be onto to me so I better stop staring at them and slip into my usual morning scowl of indifference.

*********

This story idea is based on the fact that teens and parents are truly different species. I know this. Not because I’m an anthropologist, but because I’m a high school teacher and I work with both teens and their parents. After 20+ plus years of observation, I’d say they are truly from different planets since they do not understand each other, and certainly do not speak the  same language.
 

Will see if this is Sully worthy…

Bardinator Mission


Tuesday, over one hundred teens experienced live theatre for less than the cost of a latte. For $2.00, a group of middle schoolers and high schoolers decided to take a break from class for one hour and invest in Shakespeare. 

The Shakespeare Festival troupe travels around the state performing for students and this year’s play was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I think it important students experience live theatre. It’s such a radically different experience than watching a film. That connection with the actors as live drama enfolds right there in close proximity is such an invigorating, unique experience. 

I almost feel it’s my mission as a Bardinator to encourage as many students as possible to see Shakespeare performed. He was never meant to be read from a textbook, or watched as a movie. That’s one reason the acting troupe advertises the event as Shakesperience. Experiencing Shakespeare as performed theatre should be a requisite of education. 

Currently it’s a once a year option and it’s a tough sell to get students to buy a ticket, to invest in a memory that costs less than their daily caffeine candy in a cup.

Last year the audience was barely fifty students. A few years ago we used to have double performances with a full house of 250 each.  It makes me wonder if trying to infuse culture on our campus is a lost cause. This year’s jump in attendance gives me hope. And I will continue to make the arrangements for the yearly visit (even though I vow to not do it again).

I shall prevail. After all, as it’s been said, “the perchance to dream.” And Tuesday’s performance showed students that life is but a dream. A magical one they will remember for a long time.

Image:libbeybowl.org

The Star Trek Cold Cure


Have you experienced that annoying out-of-nowhere cold? The one that follows you home one night after work and stays the weekend? Yes, I recognize those nods of acknowledgement.

Thursday:sore throat tickles prompted me to get into “stave off cold mode” by sipping my immune  tea and eating good old homemade chicken soup (thoughtfully prepared by the hubs–what a keeper). Nasal wash (a dreaded relief). Go to bed early after a healthy dose of OTC cold medicine. You know the kind–bizarre color of blue or orange that gets poured in a tiny plastic cup and when downed the after taste makes your toenails curl in aftershock. 

Friday: Failure of tried and true preventative results in waking up with a full out head cold. Surpringsly enough, since I work in a germ factory called a public high school, I rarely get sick. Fortunately, it’s an in-service day and after the required staff activity my benevolent principal allows me to go and work from home. What teacher doesn’t anyway every night? I go home and sleep the rest of the day.

Cold Cure Crew?


image: comingsoon.net

Saturday: The cold, having flirted with going into my chest decides to totally clog my sinuses. Breathing like a trout caught out, napping with my mouth open causes coughing and no rest. My brain can’t focus on my book. The solution? A movie festival. Trotting over to the public library I decide on the original Star Trek series I-VI. I spent all day Saturday camped on the recliner, entering grades while traveling where no man has gone before. By 11 o’clock that night I was so dazed from my Special Edition spree that sleep came easily.

Sunday: Waking up with breathing in tact and somewhat rested, I made it out the door for early service and returned an hour later and slept until 5:30 pm after taking a decongestant for my clogged up ears.

Monday: After going to bed at 10 pm, I’m up at 2 am. Not so great. I plump up the pillows, and plug in ocean waves white noise–hope for the best until the alarm at 6 am.

I really think sitting through four Star Trek movies, (I had watched #1 earlier that week, and skipped #4) complete with special feature documentaries, sped the course of this unwelcome cold. Maybe it was the overexposure to cheesy acting and low budget special effects that wore down or even annihilated  the remaining cold forces. Maybe my brain and body became so anesthetized from  watching so much space drama it was immune to the cold settling in for a longer stay.

I can’t recommend the Star Trek is a guarantee cold reducer for everyone, and I still can’t believe I sat through four plus movies. I do know that I will reconsider my choice of series should I decide upon this cure again. Maybe watch Lost in its enthralling entirety? Hmmm…

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