Monday, May 30, 2016

Complete IELTS Bands 6.5-7.5 Unit 2 Vocabulary

(Supplementary Materials for Specific Textbooks--Complete IELTS Bands 6.5-7.5)


In order to encourage my students to learn the vocabulary for each unit, I put the vocabulary on a quizlet quiz.
Then, after they've had time to learn the words, we play "Backs to the Board" game in class.  (One person from each team puts their backs to the screen.  The screen displays a word which they can not see, and which their teammates must describe to them without using the word in question.)
For unit 2, I used the YugiOh PowerPoint templates created by Sprite 06 and just adjusted them for backs to the board games.  (I deleted the question and answer, and just replaced each slide with a word.  The team that guesses the word gets the prize associated with each slide.) 

Quizlet here (drivedocspub)

Yugioh PowerPoint Game (driveslidespub)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Complete IELTS Bands 6.5-7.5 Unit 2 Listening page 23 transcript

(Supplementary Materials for Specific Textbooks--Complete IELTS Bands 6.5-7.5)

This is the transcript for the listening on page 23.  (It's also in the back of the book, but I find it useful to retype it so the font is easier to read, and so the students don't have to keep flipping to the back of the book while trying to look at the questions at the same time).

Google: drive, docs, pub

Saturday, May 28, 2016

An Arsene Lupin Omnibus by Maurice Leblanc

(Book Review)

So, who out there has heard of Arsene Lupin?
Is he a classic figure of literature who needs no introduction?
Or is he an obscure literary footnote that I need to explain beforehand?

I had never heard of Arsene Lupin until I was in my 20s.  (...but then that's not saying much.  There's a lot I haven't heard of.)

Arsene Lupin is a gentleman thief, master of disguise, and amateur detective who was created by French writer Maurice Leblanc, and appeared in several short stories and novels from 1905 to 1939.

He's somewhat known in the English speaking world among genre fans.  But he's a household name in his native France.

And, interestingly enough, he's also a household name in Japan

In Japan, Arsene Lupin continues to be popular through the long running anime series Lupin III (W).  Lupin III is a huge part of pop-culture in Japan, and in Japan you would see this character everywhere--on TV, on video games, on posters, on t-shirts. et cetera.

Eventually, after seeing this character everywhere for several years, I got curious enough to research his story, and through the magic of Wikipedia I found out that Lupin III was the grandson of Arsene Lupin, and then I found out that Arsene Lupin was a classic pulp fiction character from around the turn of the century.

My interest was piqued.  As a fan of trashy pulp fiction, I was interested in the adventure stories of Arsene Lupin, gentleman thief.
As a literary snob, I thought that reading these books would help me in my never ending pursuit of becoming "a well-read man".
(According to my own private definite of a "classic", anything before World War I automatically qualifies.  So all the pulp - fiction from the turn of the century gets grandfathered in.)

So I put Arsene Lupin's adventures on my long list of books to get around to someday.

...and then a couple months ago, I saw this omnibus collection in Saigon.  And so I thought, "Yeah, why not?"

What is an Omnibus? turns out I don't know what an "Omnibus" is.

I assumed that since "omni" means "all" that an "omnibus" would be a complete collection.

"Great," I thought to myself.  "I've just finished the complete Sherlock Holmes.   Why not knock out the complete Arsene Lupin next?"

...only to get the book home, and discover that this volume contained  only 4 books out of the 25 Arsene Lupin books.

And worse yet, it wasn't even the first 4 books.

The completist in me balked at jumping into the middle of the Arsene Lupin canon.  I almost put this book aside in favor of waiting until I found the first book, and trying to read the Arsene Lupin canon in order.

But then, I thought to myself, "Self, realistically, when are you ever going to get around to reading the entire Arsene Lupin canon?"
My backlog of unread books is large enough as it is.
It was better, I eventually decided, to just read this collection now and get a small taste of Arsene Lupin now rather than wait for a more complete collection which I might never get around to.

And so, I jumped into this volume.

Clocking in at 739 pages, this Omnibus contains 4 separate books bound up in one:
Arsene Lupin Versus Homlock Shears (1908)
The Confessions of Arsene Lupin (1913)
The Golden Triangle (1918)
The Eight Strokes of the Clock (1923).

I'll say some words about each book in turn briefly.

Arsene Lupin Versus Homlock Shears

Way back when I first started researching Arsene Lupin on Wikipedia, one of the first things I discovered was the history of his rivalry with Sherlock Holmes.  (The feud is infamous enough that I think it's one of the first things everyone learns about Arsene Lupin).
Maurice Leblanc first pitted Sherlock Holmes against Arsene Lupin in a 1906 short story.  But when Arthur Conan Doyle got litigious, the name was changed to "Homlock Shears".
(In some editions, as in the picture above, it's "Herlock Sholmes".)
The publisher's introduction to my copy says: "This playing about with Holmes's name was fooling no one, but provided Leblanc with a loophole enabling him to carry on using the character."

Arsene Lupin Versus Homlock Shears, the first book in this collection, is itself a collection of two smaller book: The Fair-Haired Lady and The Jewish Lamp.  Both of these stories pit the British detective against the French master-thief.

While the stories were all-right in-and-of themselves, in my opinion the publisher bungled by making this the first book in the collection.
Before the reader can enjoy the clash of titans that is Arsene Lupin versus Sherlock Holmes, the reader needs some time to get to know who Arsene Lupin is.  Once the reader has gotten to know Arsene Lupin, and, more importantly, gotten to like Arsene Lupin, then they can be expected to cheer him on in his battle with Sherlock Holmes.
But to just throw the readers into this clash, without properly introducing Arsene Lupin first, was unfair of the publisher.
(This is especially true in the English translation, because most of the English-speaking world will already be familiar with Sherlock Holmes, but not Arsene Lupin).

I really wish the first book in this volume had been the first book in the Arsene Lupin canon: Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Burglar.  That book would have established how Arsene Lupin gained so notorious a reputation.  And it would established his rivalry with a French police inspector named Ganimard.  It would even have established the start of his rivalry with Sherlock Holmes.  (The first clash between Arsene Lupin and Sherlock Holmes actually occurred in a short story, which was included in Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Burglar.)

With none of that background, I had to just jump into the second book with these already established characters and relationships.
Following the plot wasn't particularly a problem, but I wasn't emotionally invested in Arsene Lupin.  Instead, the character I was invested in was Sherlock Holmes. (I had, after all, just finished the Sherlock Holmes book the month previous.)  Because these stories were written by Maurice Leblanc, I knew Arsene Lupin had to triumph.  But Sherlock Holmes was the character I sympathized with.
It didn't help that both of the stories were written from Sherlock Holmes's perspective.  How could I get to know and sympathize with Arsene Lupin when the stories unfolded entirely from Sherlock Holmes's point of view?

Also, and again, speaking as someone who just finished the Sherlock Holmes stories, I still had a lot of fondness for the character, and wasn't prepared for the crude caricature that Maurice Leblanc created.
"Maurice Leblanc!  What have you done with Sherlock Holmes?" I cried out.
In the authentic Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock Holmes shied away from the spotlight.  He offered his services to the police for the love of the mystery only, and didn't want any of the public credit when the mystery was solved.
In Maurice Leblanc's parody, Sherlock Holmes is obsessed with the potential glory of capturing Arsene Lupin, and gets increasingly angry when his efforts fail.

Even though I knew that reducing the normally stoic Sherlock Holmes to an angry wreck was supposed to be part of the fun of the parody, I could never fully let myself go along with it.  I had grown to like this character too much.  And I couldn't sympathize with Arsene Lupin, because I didn't know Arsene Lupin.

All that is to the negative.
On the positive side, these stories are very readable.  And I can forgive everything if the story is readable.

So, I read through that book, and onto the next one in the collection:

The Confessions of Arsene Lupin

Now this was where I got hooked on Arsene Lupin.  This was the kind of book that should have started off the collection.

It's ten short stories featuring Arsene Lupin.

These stories are a lot of fun.
Arsene Lupin is portrayed as being a genius of observation and deduction, just like Sherlock Holmes.  But unlike Sherlock Holmes, Arsene Lupin leads a sort of duel career.  Sometimes he will use his gifts to help him carry out the perfect robbery, and sometimes Arsene Lupin will use his gifts to help catch a killer, or help a damsel in distress.
Although he's one the wrong side of the law himself, Lupin is generally portrayed (with some inconsistencies) as being opposed to violence.  And so he'll occasionally help the police apprehend a dangerous killer.
He's also extremely chivalrous, and goes out of his way to help all beautiful French girls who might be in any danger.

The variety in the amount of roles that Lupin is capable of playing helps to add an element of unpredictability to these short stories.  When Lupin enters into the story, you're never sure if he's there to help, or to rob.  And this increases the suspense of the narrative, and, in my humble opinion, even makes these stories more fun than the canonical Sherlock Holmes.

Maurice Leblanc also gets a lot more far-fetched, and a lot sillier, than Arthur Conan Doyle.  But that also can be all part of the fun.  You know the mystery is probably going to have some sort of ridiculous ending, but trying to guess in what way it will be ridiculous allows for a lot of reading pleasure.

The Golden Triangle

You've got to give Maurice Leblanc credit for mixing up his style.  Almost all of the Sherlock Holmes stories follow the exact same format.  But you never know what you're going to get with an Arsene Lupin story.
For example, The Golden Triangle is an Arsene Lupin story in which Arsene Lupin isn't even in the book for most of it.
For most of its space, this book has a completely different protagonist, Patrice, who, through a series of extremely unlikely (but nonetheless entertaining) events, finds himself entangled in a web of Turkish spies, hidden gold, and some sort of mysterious link to his past.  (This story was published during World War I, so the Turks play the role of bad guys here.)
Arsene Lupin doesn't even show up until about two-thirds through the book.

This book has a plot which is completely ridiculous, and over-relies on coincidences and contrivances.  But if you're willing to forgive all that, it can also be a lot of fun.  (In fact, as with most of Arsen Lupin's stories, the ridiculousness of the plot is actually part of what makes it so fun.)

This is a story that belongs squarely to that by-gone age of pulp fiction Adventure Magazines and dime-store spy novels.  There are secret doors, treasure maps, swarthy Middle-Eastern spies, criminal conspiracies, and elaborate death traps.  It's a lot of fun if you just let yourself get caught up in the pure cheesiness of it.

There's also a really intense scene early on in which the criminals are arguing with each other, and one of them is trying to torture the other one into telling where the gold is hidden.  It is told with such great drama and suspense that I was glued to the book for those pages.
Afterwards, I found out the Publisher had also praised this section.   (Following my usual custom, I read the Publisher's introduction last). From the Publisher's introduction: "The story is dark and very modern in tone; indeed, the torture scene in Chapter Four is quite brutal and could easily feature in any current thriller."

I agree that it is quite brutal.  But modern and current?  Not in my opinion.  The story was completely old-school pulp fiction.  It reminded me more of the Dick Tracy than anything.
The racial stereo-typing in this story also makes it very dated.  The black skinned Senegalese character Ya-Bon is portrayed as loyal but dim-witted.

The Eight Strokes of the Clock

This is a collection of short stories, much like The Confessions of Arsene Lupin.  In this book Arsene Lupin goes on an adventure with a young woman, and the two of them wander around encountering people with problems, and helping them solve their problems.

Much of the praise I gave to The Confessions of Arsene Lupin is true for this book as well, although the variety of roles Lupin has is reduced.  In this book his role of a thief is down-played in favor of his role as wandering-do-gooder.
But I enjoyed all 8 mysteries in this last book as well.

Final Verdict on "The Omnibus"
Boy, I really wish they would have included the first book: Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Burglar.  But other than that omission, I have nothing but praise for this book.

And furthermore, I suppose as a reader I bear some of the responsibility for the omission.  I should have gone online and tracked down a public domain version of the story (like this one here at Project Gutenberg) and taken it upon myself to read it before continuing on to the rest of the stories in the Omnibus.
And that would be my advice to any potential readers who happen to come across this book.

Add this book to my list of "Classic Books Which are Fun to Read".  (Since at least half of this collection was written before World War I, I'm counting it as a classic.)

Link of the Day
Chomsky on Obama's Visit to Hiroshima - Presidential Legacy - Nothing to Rave About

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Obama in Saigon

So, if you've been following the news, you of course know that Obama is in Vietnam right now.

What I didn't know was that he would be on my block this morning.

I was walking home after I finished my morning class (I'm lucky enough that I live close enough to my school that I can walk back and forth from home).  I could see that there was a heavy police presence on the street (as there had been all week) but I assumed that closed roads only applied to motorized traffic.

But, to my surprise, they suddenly started yelling at me, and informed me that I couldn't continue walking down the street.
I've been living here over a year now, and my Vietnamese is still terrible.  But I pulled out my apartment key (which has the street address printed on it), pointed to the street address, pointed to myself, and pointed in the direction of my apartment.  (I was only about a block away from my apartment at this point.)  "Sorry sir," was all the policeman kept repeating.

Fuming at how unfair it was to keep a man blocked out from his own domicile, I tried to go around the long way.  I went over one block, and saw several people waiting behind police barricades for Obama to drive by.

I briefly contemplated what the advantages of seeing Obama's motorcade would be, and ended up deciding that it would bring no measurable material improvement to my life.  And so I opted to just get back to my apartment rather than wait out in the hot sun.

(I did once see George Bush's motorcade drive by once, back in the day, but I can't say it changed my life in any meaningful way.)

And yet...and yet, I still do think it's kind of cool that Obama was speaking one the same block I live on.
And to think, I ate my lunch just half a block away from the President of the United States.  (Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention it, but by going all the way around, I did eventually get into my apartment that afternoon).

Anyway, for anyone who's interested:

This is video of the Presidential motorcade at the Gem Center (which is on my block).

Here is video of people waiting for Obama to drive by: This is just one block away from my apartment.

I didn't attend the actual event, but by all the media accounts, the highlight of this conference was an interaction between Obama and a young Vietnamese rapper.

P.S.--I don't think I blogged about it at the time, but I had some similar experiences in Cambodia--i.e. I once ate my dinner within half a block of where Hillary Clinton spoke, and I was once inconvenienced by the traffic jams when Obama came to Phnom Penh.  So if I ever get hit by a truck or something, someone make sure to mention all this at my funeral--I won't have people saying I never had anything exciting happen to me.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky debate 2016 - The Stony Brook Interviews Part One - Noam Chomsky
I have in mind someday to write a blog post about the absurdity of the age we're living in--i.e. everyone knows that we are going to have a climatic catastrophe within our lifetimes, but no one is doing anything about it.
We all know in the back of our minds that there's a good chance we won't live out our natural lifespan because of climate change, and yet, we just walk around and do our everyday business.

I haven't gotten around to writing that post yet, but this Chomsky video does a good job of summarizing the absurdity of it all.

The transcript to the relevant section is below, via Democracy Now's website.

The threat of global warming is very serious. Every time one reads a science journal, there’s an even more alarming discovery. Virtually all the ice masses are melting. The Arctic ice mass, which was assumed to be pretty stable, is actually melting very fast, much more than was thought. The glaciers are melting. There’s severe droughts. Right now already, about 300 million people in India are on the edge of starvation from drought, which has been going on for years. The groundwater is depleted as the Himalayan glaciers melt, as they’re doing. It will undermine the water supply for huge areas in South Asia. If people think there’s a migration crisis now, they haven’t seen anything. The sea level is rising. Chances are it could rise three to six feet, maybe more, by the end of the century—some estimate even sooner. It will have a devastating effect, not just on coastal cities, but on coastal plains, like, say, Bangladesh, where hundreds of millions of people will be severely threatened. I mean, this is a—we’re already killing other species at the level of the so-called fifth extinction. Sixty-five million years ago, when an asteroid hit the Earth, devastating consequences ended the age of the dinosaurs, opened the way for small mammals to develop, ultimately evolve, finally evolve intoHomo sapiens, which now is acting the same way the asteroid did. That’s the fifth extinction. It’s going to get worse. All of these are—the rate of global warming today is far faster, maybe a hundred or more times as fast as any moderately comparable period that can be estimated in the geological record.

And to make it worse, of these two huge threats, we have an electoral—the quadrennial electoral extravaganza is going on right now, of course. And it’s pretty remarkable to see how the worst threats that the human species has ever faced, the most important decisions it must make—and soon—are virtually absent from the discussions and debates. On the Democratic side, there’s a couple of comments about it here and there, not much. On the Republican side, it’s much worse. Every single candidate either denies global warming altogether or, in one case, Kasich, admits that it’s taking place but says we shouldn’t do anything about it, which is even worse.

Monday, May 23, 2016

I've been enjoying these Crash Course series on the philosophy of religion (complete playlist here), but I was slightly disappointed in the episode on Pascal's Wager.

To my mind, the episode didn't point out the biggest problem with Pascal's Wager.  And it's not a problem with the cynicism of believing for pragmatic benefit.

The real problem is perhaps best represented by this SouthPark clip:

Sorry, the video quality is a bit grainy.  Here's the transcript.
The scene is that a bunch of newly dead souls are being introduced to hell.

Hell Director: Hello, newcomers and welcome. Can everybody hear me? Hello? Can everybody... ok. Um, I am the Hell Director. Uh, it looks like we have 8,615 of you newbies today. And for those of you who were little confused: uh, you are dead; and this is Hell. So abandon all hope and yadda-yadda-yadda. Uh, we are now going to start the orientation Process which will last about...
Protestant: Hey, wait a minute. I shouldn't be here, I was a totally strict and devout Protestant. I thought we went to heaven.
Hell Director: Yes, well, I'm afraid you are wrong.
Soldier: I was a practicing Jehovah's Witness.
Hell Director: Uh, you picked the wrong religion as well.
Man from Crowd: Well who was right? Who gets in to Heaven?
Hell Director: I'm afraid it was the Mormons. Yes, the Mormons were the correct answer.
The Damned: Awwww...

Richard Dawkins also made a similar point when asked the question: "What if you're wrong?"

Homer Simpson also made the same point when he was trying to convince his wife to let him stay home from church.  "But what if we picked the wrong religion?  Then every week we're just making God madder and madder?" (I can't find the video clip.)

And there's also this:

(But I'm repeating myself again.  I've already made this point before here and here.)

Life Elementary Textbook: 8D The Photos of Reinier Gerritsen p.100

(Supplemental Materials for Specific Textbooks--Life Elementary)

Quizlet (docspub)

8D The Photos of Reinier Gerritsen p.100

8D The Photos of Reinier Gerritsen p.100

8D The Photos of Reinier Gerritsen p.100

8D The Photos of Reinier Gerritsen p.100

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Complete IELTS Bands 6.5-7.5 Unit 1 Speaking page 14

(Supplementary Materials for Specific Textbooks--Complete IELTS Bands 6.5-7.5)

A worksheet to help students with the questions on page 14.  The format is based on an activity from the IELTS Resource Pack.  Students first brainstorm some thoughts for all the categories in table.  Then they walk around the room with the paper folded so that the questions are facing out.  Their classmates ask them the questions, and they practice their answers.

Google (drive, docs, pub)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

English World 3: Review of Vocabulary for Units 4-6

(Supplementary Materials for Specific Textbooks --English World 3)

This is a crossword puzzle designed to review the vocabulary from Units 4-6 of English World 3.  It combines some of the music vocabulary from pages 56-58 with the phonics lesson from page 62 (words spelled with "ir").  

Crossword on Google here.
Answer key on Google here.
Questions to cut up and post around the room are on Google here (drive, docs, pub)

and a quizlet (docs, pub)

English World Units 4-6

English World Units 4-6

English World Units 4-6

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Today in "Hey, I know that guy!", one of my former students was quoted in the newspaper.  Chan Sambath, who I taught for two terms in English for Academic Purposes back when I was teaching in Cambodia (and who did a really excellent presentation in my class on the political philosophies of Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau.

The article is here:
CPP Absent as People Demand Sensible Government

The parts quoting my former student are below:

Chansambath Bong, a 21-year-old student in the fourth year of an international relations degree at the Pannasastra University, said some early victories for the CPP in removing corruption from the education system in 2013 had turned the heads of skeptics.
“Meanwhile, corruption cases against government officials, including the Cambodian ambassador to South Korea, leads to much applause from members of public, even though some believe that the case is politically motivated,” Mr. Bong said.
“On the other hand, the ACU’s involvement in [deputy opposition leader] Kem Sokha’s affair with his mistress triggers waves of criticism on the credibility and authority of ACU, as a neutral anti-corruption body,” he said.
Not only that—added Mr. Bong, who said he was still an undecided voter—but many people were angered about the status of the country’s health care system.
“Numbers of people, including the prime minister and his top officials, often flee to neighboring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam or Singapore for medical check up and treatments,” Mr. Bong said.
“For the poor, they have no choice but to survive within the current broken system,” he added.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Paris Commune Reading List

Video version of post HERE.

You knew this list was coming eventually, right?  Given my obsession with the Paris Commune, and my love of creating reading lists, it was just a matter of time before I got around to creating a list of all the books I've read on the Paris Commune.
But exactly why now instead of, say, 5 years ago, or 2 years from now?
A couple things pushed this back into the forefront of my mind.
I just discovered that Ho Chi Minh City (where I'm currently living) has an area named "Paris Commune Square."  It's in front of the French Notre Dame Cathedral--just a few blocks from where I live and work, and in an area that I walk through regularly.  I've been down this way countless times, but I've only just found out now that it's named after the Paris Commune.

Given how important the Paris Commune is in Communist mythology, I suppose this is not particularly surprising to find some part of Ho Chi Minh City named after it.  But it's still a cool little surprise nonetheless.
"Oh wow, that's really cool,"  I said to a Vietnamese friend when I found out about this.  "I've read load of books on the Paris Commune."
She nodded politely, and then promptly changed the subject.  As it turns out, nobody cares about my reading list but me.
...Well at least I have this blog to indulge all my interests.

All of which reminded me of a comment Phil made on this blog a few years ago:
You know, if you're ever stuck for post ideas, you've read more than enough history and nonfiction to start doing top-ten lists. "My Ten Favorites on the French Revolution"--that type of thing. I'd read the hell out of that (and in fact it would be pretty useful, as I find myself looking for those kinds of things every time I start to try to read more history. "Should I bother with Hobsbawm? If only a smart person would just tell me the best books on the age of revolutions!"--that type of thing.)

I've actually gotten a lot of good use of that idea in the years since, compiling a number of book lists
* My Favorite Narrative History Books
* My Favorite Historical Fiction Books
* My List of Classic Books that are Actually Fun to Read
* My 10 Worst Fiction Books
* My 10 Worst Non-Fiction Books
* My 10 Best Fiction Books
* My 10 Best Non-Fiction Books

But I never did the "My Ten Favorites on the French Revolution" post.  And actually, a look through my reading list shows that I couldn't write that post even if I wanted to.
I've read 11 books that are connected with the French Revolution in some way (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), but no books that are a straight up history of the French Revolution.
But a Paris Commune Reading list?  Oh yeah, I could totally do that.

Before I get into that, however, I suppose I should explain what so fascinated me about the Paris Commune in the first place.

History geeks, by our very nature, are interested in anything and everything history related.  I'm not limited to one time period--I'll also quite happily read about ancient Greece, or Samurai Japan.
But for many years now, the 19th Century has been my primary historical interest.  For a number of reasons.  It's a very turbulent period, where the modern democratic and republican ideals spread throughout the world, and  just about every country underwent some sort of revolution.
For anyone interested in politics, this period is also fascinating because it's the beginning of the modern world, and the period in which all of our political ideology came from.
And, interestingly enough, not only did our political ideologies come from this period, they also ossified during this period.
Part of the reason the American Right is so out of touch with reality is because all their political vocabulary was created in 1776, and they've never caught up with the modern world.
Part of the reason the Left is so out of touch with reality is because all their political vocabulary comes from 1848, and they've never caught up with the modern world.
We live in a world in which our political ideologies no longer make sense, which accounts for a lot of confusion.  But back in the 19th century, all of this stuff did actually make sense.  You could talk about the right to bear arms, and well-regulated militias, and a proletarian revolution, and it was all possible and conceivable.  It was a time when the political ideologies actually made sense with the reality of the times.

Within this period of the birth of ideologies, the Paris Commune stands at a particular crossroads.
The mythology of the Paris Commmune is just as interesting as the actual history.
  It is presented as both the last republican revolution in France, and the first communist revolution. The  anarchists also claim it as instrumental in the history of anarchism [LINK HERE].

The Paris Commune, being the only communist revolution before 1917, is therefore the last communist revolution it is possible to romanticize.  After Stalin and Mao, communism is forever associated with bureaucracies, secret police, death camps, and work quotas.
The Paris Commune is the last Communist revolution that still belongs to the romantic era of red flags, barricades, Karl Marx, and the first Socialist International.

However, as any of the books on this reading list will tell you, the mythology is a lot different than the actual history.  The Paris Commune was not particularly communist or Marxist or anarchist in its ideology.  Karl Marx and the International played little to no part in the Paris Commune (other than to warn the Paris workers not to do it beforehand, and  then to eulogize the revolution after it was all over).
The Paris Commune was, however, definitely a proletarian revolution.  It was the first time in the modern era that a major world capital was controlled by the poor people.

The Paris Commune is also fascinating for being the proto-typical example of the tragedy of the Left.  It exemplifies the perfectly the Abbie Hoffman quote: "The Left has a marvelous ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." [quote here].
Here were the radical leftists--finally for the first time in control of a major world capital.  And what do they do?  They spend all their time squabbling with each other, while the Versailles army marches in.
It's a tragic story that would unfortunately repeat itself over and over and over again in the next 150 years, as the Left has always been more interested in squabbling with each other than it has been in achieving victory.

Anyway, that's why this little event has fascinated me so much over the years.

Next, a couple quick disclaimer before I start the list--the memory fades somewhat over the years, and many of the books on this list I've read several years ago now.  So undoubtedly my commentary on these books won't be quite as sharp as if I had just read them yesterday.  This is a problem when compiling any book list, but it's particularly a problem with several books on the same subject, because they all lump together in the memory.  The old "I know I read that somewhere, but which book was it in again?" problem comes up a lot.
But if I waited any longer to do this list, the problem would get even worse.  So I'm going to try to muddle through this as best I can now.
Disclaimer number 2: This is only a list of the books I've read.  There's tons of other books out there that I haven't read.  For example, the most recent popular history on the Paris Commune, Massacre by John Merriman, which has gotten excellent reviews (see here).

But with those disclaimers aside, here's my own list.
Instead of ranking these books, I've decided to list them in the order I would recommend reading them, starting with:

1. The Revolutions of 1848 by Priscilla Robertson

This book is about 1848, not 1871.  But I'd recommend it as a starting point just the same, because a surprising amount of the dramatis personae are the same in both revolutions.  Almost all of the older revolutionaries in 1871 (Felix Pyatt, Delescluze, etc) all had prominent roles in 1848.  And understanding the background of these characters and events will help a lot in understanding the events of 1871.
Want to know why Blanqui was such a hero to the left in 1871?  Then it helps to understand his role in 1848.
Want to know why the left regarded Louis Blanc as a traitor for not supporting the Commune?  Then it helps to understand his prominent role on the left in 1848.
Want to know why Clement Thomas was so hated by the Paris Proletariat in 1871?  Because of his role in brutally suppressing the Proletariat in 1848.
Also the whole drama of the Napoleon the III, and the second Empire has its roots in 1848.
(For the purposes of understanding the Paris Commune, you only need to read the chapters in this book dealing with France.)

2. The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne
For the uninitiated, there are a lot of names and factions to keep track of in the events leading up to the Paris Commune.  You have the officials of the Second Empire.  Then you have the liberals (who later become the 3rd Republic after Napoleon III abdicates).  Then you have the Left.
And to add to the confusion, the prominent voices on the Left in the events leading up to the Paris Commune were not the same names as the people who became the actual leaders of the Paris Commune itself.  (Blanqui ,Rochefort, and Flourens were all prominent leaders on the Left leading up to the Paris Commune, but Blanqui was arrested right before the Paris Commune, Rochefort got cold feet and did not participate in the revolution, and Flourens was killed very early on).
That's real life history for you--it can be a lot messier than a novel.  But if you want a guide who can help you get to know who all these characters are, then Alistair Horne is that guide.  He guides the reader slowly and carefully through all the major events of the siege and Commune.

3. The History of the Paris Commune by Prosper Olivier Lissagaray

Okay, now that you know who everyone is and what the major events are, it's time to get into the more polemical histories.
This book, written by Karl Marx's son-in-law, is the official Marxist history of the Paris Commune.  It brings in a lot of details about the street fighting in Paris, and the order in which the barricades fell during the advance of the Versailles army.  But it primarily assumes the reader is generally familiar with the events, and is just seeking a greater analysis.  (It was published in 1876, so it was written for an audience who had just recently seen these events unfold in the newspapers, and didn't need to be reminded who Napoleon III was, or what the legacy of the Second Empire was.)  But if you've already read Alistair Horne's book, then you should be ready for this one.
This book is definitely advancing an agenda: the Paris Commune fell not because it was inevitable that the Proletariat had to lose, but because its leaders were loud-mouthed idiots who were more concerned with making pronouncements than they were doing the actual work of leading.  In particular, Felix Pyat and Gustave Cluseret come off as the chief villains.

4. Karl Marx's Writings on the Paris Commune

The exact title of this book might vary depending on the publisher.  I read Penguin Classics Karl Marx: The First International and After; Political Writings Volume 3.  It may also be sold in the volume Christopher Hitchens edited: Karl Marx On the Paris Commune (A).
The basic essays you want are Marx's writings on the Franco-Prussian War (First Address of the General Council on the Franco-Prussian WarLetter to the Brunswick Committee of the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party , Second Address of the General Council on the Franco-Prussian War) and Karl Marx's infamous: The Civil War in France
As I wrote in my 2005 review of this book, I've never been able to get my head around Marx's philosophical or economic writings, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that his political writings were very easy to understand and very readable.  They essentially read like any political polemicist today.  (In my 2005 review, I compared it to reading Chomsky's political polemics.)
Whether you like Marx or not, every historian agrees that Marx's The Civil War in France is absolutely essential reading if you want to understand the place the Paris Commune occupies in communist mythology.  But because it's a polemic, and not a history, I recommend you wait to read it until you have absorbed the history first.

5. The Insurrectionist by Jules Valles

At this point, you should be familiar with most of the names associated with the Paris Commune, so it's time to get a first hand portrait of a lot of those people (such as Blanqui, Rigault, Varlin, Vermorel, and Michelet) written by someone who actually lived through it.
There is some debate whether this book should be read as a straight up memoir, or as a fictionalized memoir, but it's a fascinating examination of the events of the Paris Commune by someone who actually lived through it.  (As with a lot of the books on this list, it's long been out of print, and you won't find a copy at your local bookstore.  But the Internet, or, should help you track down a copy.)

6. Paris Babylon by Rupert Christiansen
Rupert Christiansen brings in a different perspective to the Paris Commune.  He focuses on the decadence of the Second Empire during its last days, and tries to draw a line from this towards the upheaval in the Paris Commune.  As I wrote in my review, I'm not sure he succeeded in making the connection, but it's an interesting perspective nonetheless.
His use of primary documents like journals and letters is also a great attempt to see the events of the siege and the Commune through the eyes of every day Parisians living at the time.

7. Revolution and Reaction: The Paris Commune 1871 Edited by John Hick and Robert Tucker

Now that you've got the history, and the classic Marxist takes on the Paris Commune, you should find this collection of essays very interesting.
As I mentioned in my review, it's 21 short articles on the Commune by 21 different authors, differing widely in content, focus, and quality.  Some of them are, admittedly, better than others.  But there's some fascinating stuff in here.  The reprinting of the legal defense of Gustave Courbet.  (By this time in the reading list, you will definitely know who Gustave Courbet is.)  And the reprinting of an interview Karl Marx gave to the New York World in 1871 about the Paris Commune.

Historical Fiction About the Paris Commune
Anyone who knows me knows that I love learning about history through the medium of historical fiction.  And I've read three historical fiction books on the Paris Commune.

8. The Debacle by Emile Zola
This is a 500 page book, in which the events of the Paris Commune enter only at the last 50 pages.  I recommend it anyway.
The main focus of the book is the battle of Sedan.  Which is of course one of the precursors to the Paris Commune (as you'll no doubt know by this point in the reading list).  And the battle of Sedan is expertly described.
Although Emile Zola is nowadays remembered as one of the heroes of the Left, he was decidedly not on the part of the Paris Commune, and portrays all of the Communards as scum and villains.  It's not a sympathetic portrayal, but it's a reminder of how intense the feelings were back in the time (The Debacle was published in 1892), and the big divide at the time between the moderate liberals and the radical left.

9. The Voice of the People by Jean Vautrin

Jean Vautrin is trying a little bit too hard to imitate Victor Hugo in this book.  (He's essentially trying to do for the Paris Commune what Victor Hugo did for the 1832 uprisings).   Jean Vautrin isn't quite on the same level as Victor Hugo, but it's an interesting little book nonetheless, which integrates a story about the redemption of an ex-convict, love, the criminal underworld, and the barricades of the Paris Commune.  Many real historical figures play a part in this book, including Louise Michel, Dombrowski, Gustave Courbet, and Jules Valles.

10. The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore

So, hear me out here, what if we took the story of the Paris Commune, and added Werewolves?  Are you hooked yet?
Okay, I know it sounds ridiculous, but mixed in with the horror, there's actually a fair amount of accurate history in this book.  In addition to being a horror writer, Guy Endore was also an established historical novelist.  So he knew his history.
Many actual historical figures from the Paris Commune, like Raoul Rigault, the Commune’s head of police and Gustave Courbet, the Commune’s head of art, make appearances in this novel. The Picpus affair, in which the Commune discovered what appeared to be a secret prison and a secret graveyard in a Catholic Church (an issue still somewhat controversial to this day) is covered in detail. And Rigault’s famous conversation with a Jesuit priest is also faithfully recorded.

Books Related to the Paris Commune
The next 3 books all have large sections dealing with the Paris Commune, but none of them take the Paris Commune as their sole focus.

11. The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists, and Secret Agents by Alex Butterworth

The problem with many histories of the Paris Commune is that they stop in 1871.  But many of the Paris Communards had very fascinating lives that went on after 1871.  (Those that survived the massacre, that is.)  The first few chapters of this book are all about the Paris Commune, and the rest of the book tracks the lives of Paschal Grousset, Henri Rochefort, Louise Michel, and many of the other Paris Communards, in addition to building up a general history of the anarchist movement from 1871 to 1914

12. Louise Michel by Edith Thomas

This is similar to the above book, but this book focuses solely on the life of Louise Michel.  Louise Michel was the most prominent woman involved in the Paris Commune, and arguably the most prominent anarchist involved.  (By this point in the reading list, you'll have encountered her name many times). Somewhat less well-known is Louise Michel's continued activities in the anarchist movement after 1871.  She lived a long life after the Paris Commune (dying in 1905 at the age of 74) and she remained active in the anarchist movement during that time.

13. The Judgment of Paris by Ross King

This book is primarily an art history book, but it also deals with the Paris art scene in the years 1860s and 1870s, including their experiences during the Paris Commune.
The Paris Commune also has a special connection to art history. Gustave Courbet, a socialist realist painter, was a member of the commune. After the fall of the Commune, Courbet was one of the lucky ones to survive the firing squads, but he was convicted in court of being behind the Commune’s decision to topple the Vendome Column, and ordered to pay for its restitution, which financially ruined him for the rest of his life.
(The Vendome Column was a monument to the battles won in the Napoleonic Wars. The Paris Commune, with its emphasis on internationalism, decided to pull down this monument to military imperialism, only to have the Column rebuilt after the fall of Commune.)
Ross King’s book gave a lot of biographical information about Gustave Courbet both before and after the commune. (Although King’s book is primarily about Manet and Meissonier, a lot of other artists pop up in the narrative and Courbet is perhaps the 3rd most important figure in this book after its two main principles.)

Books on Karl Marx

Whenever talking about Karl Marx and the Paris Commune, it's important to distinguish between the myth and reality.  The myth is that Karl Marx helped to create the Paris Commune.  The reality is that he had very little to do with it.
However, although Karl Marx did very little do influence the Paris Commune, the Paris Commune did a lot to influence Karl Marx.  
The press attention from the Paris Commune, and the resulting red scare, changed Karl Marx from an obscure German philosopher to a household name almost overnight.  Therefore any biography of Marx must deal with the fallout from the Paris Commune.

Berlin gives a surprisingly hostile account of the Paris Commune, which he appears to have based completely off the Bourgeois press. And he also advances the interesting idea that Marx actually opposed the Paris Commune because it was more along the lines of Bakunin's revolutionary ideology, but once it was clear the Commune was going to fall, Marx embraced it for the cynical reasons of the desire to link his name with the most infamous revolution in Europe at the time. Berlin is the first writer I have come across who claims this, and well it certainly is not an impossible conclusion, it would be nice if he gave some more evidence for it.

Although the book is largely chronological, the last 20 years in England are divided up into chapters by subject. For example one chapter is on Das Kapital, on chapter is on the rise and fall of the First International, one chapter is on the Paris Commune.

In reality of course all of these subjects were intertwined. For example one of the reasons Marx got so little work done on Das Kapital (and never got around to finishing the subsequent volumes) was because of his involvement in the First Communist International. And the event that thrust the Communist International into the public spotlight was the Paris Commune.

Nevertheless, a fascinating read.

Hmmm.  Actually I read this book ten years ago now, and I don't particularly remember what Francis Wheen had to say about the Paris Commune.  (This is where that disclaimer I put at the top comes in.)  But I do remember this being a really interesting biography in general.

Tangentially Related Books

17.  The Child by Jules Valles
So, remember The Insurrectionist by Jules Valles that I mentioned above?  That book is actually part of a trilogy of roman-a-clef memoirs that Jules Valles wrote about his life.  The first book is all about his childhood.  It has nothing to do with the Paris Commune per se, but it does provide some interesting background on the life of one of the men who would later grow up to be a famous Communard.

Just about every history of the Paris Commune will briefly mention Clemenceau, the radical mayor of Montematre, who unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a peace agreement between the Paris Commune and the French government.
Being a typical American with a typical American education, I never knew there was any more to the man than that for a long time.  Until I finally did some background reading, and found out that he later went on to become the leader of France during World War I. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

English World 3 Unit 10 p.106 Transcript for Listening

(Supplementary Materials for Specific Textbooks --English World 3)

Google (drivedocspub)

Girl: What are you doing?

Boy: I’m playing with my bricks.

Girl: What are you going to make?

Boy: Have a guess.

Girl: Hmmm….Are you going to make a car?

Boy: No, I’m not. This is going to be bigger than a car.

Girl: How about a helicopter?

Boy: No. It’s going to be bigger than a helicopter.

Girl: Is it going to be a building?

Boy: Yes, it is. A very big building.

Girl: Bigger than a house?

Boy: Yes, and it’s going to have four tall towers.

Girl: Aha…I think I know. Is it going to have little windows?

Boy: Yes.

Girl: And a big, strong door?

Boy: Yes.

Girl: Would you like four flags?

Boy: Why?

Girl: You can put them on the towers when the king is at home.

Boy: Good idea!