Sunday, July 14, 2019

Addendum to the Anarchism Vlogs: Part 2
(The second addendum to post on Anarchism.  For the first addendum, see HERE.)

I saw this recently, and I thought I'd through it in (along with my commentary) as a second addendum.

It's Time to Leave This Planet | Eric Weinstein

The argument Eric Weinstein advances in the video is that ever since the creation of the hydrogen bomb, Earth's days have been numbered.  (n.b. the hydrogen bomb is much more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  It would take only a few hydrogen bombs to make the earth uninhabitable.)  We've managed to make it 60 years without someone launching the nuclear weapons, but 60 years is actually not a long time.  Given another 100 years, or 500 years, or 1000 years, eventually someone will screw up and launch the nukes.  Humanity is not capable of having godlike power in its hands without someone screwing it up sooner or later.
Ergo his conclusion, we need to start looking for another planet on which to live if humans are to survive another millennium.

The really scary thing is, he's probably right.

But then, as I pointed out in my vlogs on anarchism, nuclear weapons are only possible in a world with strong centralized governments.  You or I, as individuals, do not have the money, resources or expertise to create hydrogen bombs, attach them to missiles and launching equipment, store them, and guard them.  The American government and the Chinese government can do all of this, but individual people cannot.

And we certainly couldn't stockpile nuclear weapons in the tens of thousands... which is what the USA and Russia have done.

So, if you want to solve the nuclear weapons problem, we need to get rid of centralized governments.

This never occurs to Eric Weinstein though.  And it's telling that it never occurs to him.  His only solution is to start looking for other planets to live.

Well, those are our options.  Get rid of governments, or find other planets to live on.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Addendum to the Anarchism Vlogs: Part 1
(An addendum to the previous post)
There was a minor incident on twitter the other day when Elon Musk mentioned how he'd been enjoying a podcast about the end of Bakunin's life,...

...and then a bunch of people got angry that Elon Musk would in any way try to associate his brand with Bakunin, which is how it came across my twitter feed.
"Huh," I thought.  "I was just vlogging about Bakunin, and how underappreciated he was during the end of his life.  What are the odds?"
Elon Musk, it turns out, was listening to Revolutions Podcast.  And it turns out that, by sheer coincidence, Revolutions Podcast and I were talking about a lot of the same things last week. Revolutions Podcast was also talking about the fight between Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx, how the Paris Commune figured into the ideological split between anarchists and communists, and the split of the first International--all topics I tried to cover in the vlog.

But I'd be flattering myself if I implied that there was any equality between my rambling vlog and Revolutions Podcast.  Revolutions Podcast is the real deal--carefully researched, and professional presented.  This, really, is what you should be listening to if you want to learn about the subject, not me.
For the episode on Mikhail Bakunin's biography, see HERE.
For the episode on Bakunin's philosophy, see HERE.  
For the episode on Bakunin's and Marx's view of the Paris Commune, see HERE.
and for the episode on Bakunin's fight with Marx, and the split of the 1st International, see HERE.

(If you're even halfway interested in these topics, it's time well-spent.  Trust me.  These are entertaining and engaging podcasts.)

Revolutions Podcast is by a guy named Mike Duncan (W). He's most famous for his History of Rome Podcast (W), which I only found out about a couple years ago. It came up in a conversation in the school staffroom. 
(We have a lot of good history discussions in the staffroom.  You'd be surprised at how many former history majors and classics majors are teaching English in Asia... actually you probably wouldn't be.  It's probably exactly what you'd expect people would do with a history or classics degree.)
This podcast started in 2007, so it wasn't around when I was in college.  (In fact I'm fairly sure Mike Duncan is a few years younger than I am.)  But my younger colleagues have given me to understand that for ancient history or classics undergraduates nowadays, Mike Duncan's History of Rome Podcast is standard listening for bulking up on all the historical details outside of class.

Then after finishing The History of Rome, Mike Duncan started another podcast of history's revolutions.  It turns out Mike Duncan has the exact same interests as me.  My main historical interests are also ancient Rome, and revolutions.  
It appears Mike Duncan is just an ordinary guy (bachelor's in history) who just deciding to start podcasting about history.  Since he's been working on my historical interests, it occurs to me that Mike Duncan is doing exactly the kind of work that I myself would love to do if only I were better organized and more hard-working.  (And if I had more concentration, and was a better writer, and more intelligent, and had been more aware of what podcasting was and how to do it back in 2007.... etc.)
So I had known about his revolutions podcast, but I hadn't been actively following to it.  (I am planning on listening to the whole thing one day, but I'm working my way through other podcasts first.)  So I didn't realize he was covering the same ground as me last week. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

...I'm not particularly proud of this, but now that it's done I may as well post it here as well.

The origin of this dates back from about 15 years ago, when I had some ideas bouncing around my head, and was toying with the idea of writing a long political manifesto.

I thought about it for a few months, and then never wrote it.  That is the fate of most of my ideas for long epic blog posts.  (And let's face it... that's probably just as well.)

Vlogging, however, allows me to have a shot at the same subject matter without having to do the hard work of writing or paragraphing.  So now that I've started vlogging, it occurred to me that I could perhaps tackle this subject after all.

There were a couple other things that pushed this subject to the front of my brain recently:
* I've been going back and making youtube videos of my old book reviews from 12 years ago, so I've been reminded about a lot of the books I used to read on Anarchism.
* I've been spending way too much time on Leftist Youtube lately, and have discovered there's a whole community of Anarchist youtubers.  (Including another American guy who's also living in Vietnam like me.)  And I've been thinking "Hey! I also know something about this!" So I got the urge to chime in with my own two cents.

The wife and baby were away last week, so I had the apartment to myself, and filmed some videos. I made a rough outline to try to keep myself on topic (something that has been a problem in previous Vlogs).  My notes are HERE, and also posted below. But I didn't get through all the points I had outlined.

As it turned out, the subject was too big, even with the camera on.  (Maybe especially with the camera on.  Writing at least forces you to think about your word choices, but video encourages rambling).

Anyway, for whatever it may be worth, here is my vlog on anarchism

A. Preliminaries
Vlog series, rambling, notes
My history--activist scene.  At first I mocked anarchists. (high school and college education). Media Mouse (Anarchists in Grand Rapids), Reading (History/Biography mainly, not philosophy Melbourne 2010).  Nowadays: not particularly political, no group loyalty, dangers of tribalism
Disclaimer--Other people know this better, Not an expert, Not fresh in memory, Rambling, video time limit, mispronounce French names
Why do? Self-indulgence, (at a coffeehouse talk), possibly clear some stuff up. Invite corrections, Booktube tie in
Structure: What it is, History, arguments for and against.
B. What is Anarchism
Anarchism is difficult to define, and has a lot of different varieties.  Example, the conference I went to.  Anarchists resist strict categorizations.  (Although there are some doctrinaire anarchists.)
Dictionary definition misleading--but same with many political ideologies (Democrats, Republicans, National Socialists, etc).  Historical tradition is more important than definition. Anarchist history 1870s to 1930s.
Anarchism is not anarchy in the sense of chaos (James Bond villain.  Organized anarchism is not an oxymoron).
anarchy= an (no) archy (government/ruler) e.g. monarchy, oligarchy.  Does it mean no government or no ruler?
Usual description: no unjustified hierarchies.  Hierarchy has got to justify itself. (parent/child, ship on high seas)
Anarchism comes out of Socialist tradition--Is this strange?
Common misconceptions: Socialism is higher taxes, Obama-care, etc.  But this is actually welfare state within capitalism
Also: Marx didn’t create Socialism.  Socialist movement from 1820s.
Common misconceptions about capitalism--buying and selling.
History textbooks often say Capitalism emerged in the 18th century.  I found this confusing
Capitalism: shareholders (stockholders) get the profits from the company, not the workers.  (By definition, then, the workers are not being paid the value of their labor, since the profits go to the shareholders).
Socialism: workers control the means of production= workers control the company. (Private property)
Makes sense with anarchism--abolishment of hierarchies.
7. So...It’s on a scale.  Absolute state control of factories (e.g. Stalinism or Maoism) is opposite of anarchism.  But some forms of decentralized democratic socialism are quite close to (or equivalent to) more organized schools of anarchism.  (My experience debating Socialists).  Some of the difference is what tradition you want to identify yourself with. Libertarian Socialism
8. Anarchism: small communes organized into federations.  Direct democracy or recallable elected representatives.  Consensus democracy. (Consensus minus 1).
9. Anarcho-communism versus anarcho-syndicalism.

B. History
Antiquity--Modern (after French Revolution) Max Stirner
Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin
First to self-identify as anarchist. Famous dialogue (But Bakunin often seen as founder). Proudhon more in Socialist tradition. (Against violence)
Biographies: Couldn’t find on Amazon.  Revolutions of 1848 by Priscilla Robertson (Part in the Revolution)
Also, feud with Marx (Marx feuded a lot): Philosophy of Poverty/ Poverty of Philosophy.  Any biography
Dark side of Proudon: anti-semitism (but not major), Patriarchal
Property is theft
4. Bakunin
Russian aristocratic family:
Bakunin also involved in Revolutions of 1848 (Revolutions of 1848 by Priscilla Robertson)  With Wagner (Wagner: A Documentary Study edited by Herbert Barth, Dietrich Mack, Egon Voss)
Imprisonment in Russia, escape to Japan-USA-Europe
Feud with Marx--
Bakunin’s darkside: antisemitism (Francis Wheen: Karl Marx A life), also his love of conspiracies (anti-democratic) Sergey Nechayev; Catechism of a Revolutionary.  Careless about Revolutions (not like Marx).  Also not as brilliant as Marx
But… critiques of Marx still hold (Isaiah Berlin) We believe power corrupts those who wield it as much as those who are forced to obey it. Under its influence, some become greedy and ambitious tyrants, exploiting society in their own interest, or in that of their class, while others are turned into abject slaves. Intellectuals, positivists, doctrinaires, all those who put science before life…defend the idea of the state and its authority as being the only possible salvation of society-quite logically, since from their false premises that thought comes before life, that only abstract theory can form the starting-point of social practice…they draw the inevitable conclusion that since such theoretical knowledge is at present possessed by very few, these few must be put in control of social life, not only to inspire, but to direct all popular movements, and that no sooner is the revolution over than a new social organization must be at once be set up; not a free association of popular bodies…working in accordance with the needs and instincts of the people but a centralized dictatorial power concentrated in the hands of this academic minority, as if they really expressed the popular will….The difference between such revolutionary dictatorship and the modern State is only one of external trappings. In substance both are a tyranny of the minority over the majority in the name of the people-in the name of the stupidity of the many and the superior wisdom of the few-and so they are equally reactionary, devising to secure political and economic privilege to the ruling minority, and the…enslavement of the masses, to destroy the present order only to erect their own rigid dictatorship on its ruins.
End of life: (The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists, and Secret Agents by Alex Butterworth...and Bakunin, An Invention by Horst Bienek
Workingman’s International--1872 expulsion (and New York) Jura Federation--1876
5. Kropotkin
I’ve read about the least--but he has the best reputation (reasonable, no crackpot.)
The Great French Revolution --A People’s History of the World by Chris Harman
Supported World War I-- Marxists always bring this up (Emma Goldman autobiography)
6. Paris Commune
Big in Marxist and Anarchist mythology, but ultimately an unplanned revolution.  (Marx warned against it).  Working class revolution, but ideology confused
Anarchist--City autonomous.  Recallable delegates (Bakunin at Lyon the year before)
Marx--name associated with it, but delayed Isaiah Berlin, Paris Commune, Revolution and Reaction
Revolution went off--election Jacobin (Blanquist) majority, Proudhonist Socialist Minority (anarchist), Louise Michel (Louise Michel by Edith Thomas)
"The most fundamental split in the Commune so far had taken place, and henceforth its Assembly would consist of a Majority and Minority faction; the one, controlled by Jacobins, wanting to exercise dictatorship and terror--the methods of '93--and blaming the failures of the Commune upon the sentimentality of the Socialists; the other desiring to govern by reasonably democratic methods, to observe moderation in order to leave, as Rochefort put it, 'the door at least half open to conciliation'. In the light of twentieth-century history, it seems perhaps ironical that the exponents of democracy and moderation should have been chiefly the Internationalists, the forefathers of Lenin's Bolsheviks."--The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne
Brutal repression--future violence
7. Propaganda of the Deed
assassinations--targeted and not so targeted (The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists, and Secret Agents by Alex Butterworth)
8. Anarchism in the United States
Haymarket massacre 1886
Emma Goldman (Living my Life)
Homestead Strike--Henry Clay Frick--Attempted Assassination
Socialist Critique of this--undemocratic--Emma Goldman sort of realizes this later in life
Leon Czolgosz--assassinated President of the United States (Weird, isn’t it?)  Inspired by anarchists in Europe (witnessed police brutality).  Not allowed in any anarchist group, and yet he self-identified as an anarchist.  (Brings up problems of self-identification, group responsibility).  Disavowed by anarchists, except Emma Goldman.
9. China--attraction to anarchism in 1910s and 1920s--Chinese Communist Party largely made up of anarchists until Cominterm, Chen Duxiu used to be anarchist, sons anarchist
10. Korea--anarchists in 1910s
11. Japan
1910 crackdown--accused of killing the emperor
Osugi Sakae (Sakae Osugi) Memoirs of an anarchist--childhood, Osugi Sakae: Anarchist in Taisho Japan by Thomas Stanley. Free love scandal.  Murdered by police in 1923 (precursor to crackdown).
People my age didn’t know him, but 1968 generation did.  Anarchist versus socialist.  (Chomsky)
12. Spain--Spanish Civil War
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Holocaust (120,000 buses), Stalin secret police Gulag
Manhattan project
anarchist space program

Vlog: Anarchism

Anarchist in Grand Rapids:

Part 2: Anarchism

Books Mentioned:

Biographies of Marx:

Part 3: Anarchism

Books Mentioned:
Bakunin, An Invention by Horst Bienek

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

Revolutions of 1848 by Priscilla Robertson

Karl Marx: A Life by Francis Wheen

Karl Marx: His Life and Environment by Isaiah Berlin

Wagner: A Documentary Study edited by Herbert Barth, Dietrich Mack, Egon Voss

Living My Life by Emma Goldman:

A People's History of the World by Chris Harman

Books Mentioned:

Living My Life by Emma Goldman:

The Civil War in France by Karl Marx:

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

Karl Marx: His Life and Environment by Isaiah Berlin

Revolutions of 1848 by Priscilla Robertson

The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne

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

Louise Michel by Edith Thomas

Playlist HERE

Addendum 1 HERE
Addendum 2 HERE

Monday, July 08, 2019

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway: Book Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:

Spider-Man: Far From Home

(Movie Review)

The Review
A fun little Superhero movie, but nothing particularly groundbreaking like Endgame.

I suppose it's unfair to compare this movie to Avengers: Endgame.  Not every movie can or should be a huge event movie like Endgame.  You need the ordinary superhero movies in between so that the big event movies can feel special.  But... I can't help but think it, this movie does feel a bit anti-climatic after Endgame.

A good Spider-Man movie needs to focus on Peter Parker's high school angst, and Peter Parker's group of teenage friends. 
A Marvel Cinematic Universe movie needs to make connections to the larger world of superheros and reference the big events that happened in previous movies.
This movie does as good a job of balancing the two as can be hoped for.  The decision to send Peter Parker's high school friends on a European field trip allowed the writers to take the story to exotic locations, while still keeping the focus on the group of friends.

The movie is lighthearted and fun.  With a lot of jokes thrown in.
If I was inclined to be critical, I could complain that the movie is not quite as funny as it thinks it is.  (Quite often I thought that a corny joke didn't quite merit all the set-up that the movie gave it).  But why complain about nitpicks? These Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have always done a fairly good job of managing the tone-- keeping their movies fun, but also keeping the stakes real.  (After the complete failure of the DC Cinematic Universe to manage the same act, it's a reminder that we've gotten spoiled by how good the Marvel movies are.) 

Other Notes
* I was a little concerned at first that Marvel was throwing away the dramatic weight behind their own storyline by treating the "blip" as just a joke.  But after thinking about it, I think it works.  The opening scenes were just showing how high school students would react to the blip.  Of course from a high school student's perspective, the injustice of having to retake mid-terms would be the most important thing about the blip. 
This doesn't preclude a later movie from taking a more serious look at the massive societal disruption the blip must have caused.

7 out of 10 Stars.  (Good fun film, but just as easily forgettable).

Marvel Cinematic Universe Reviews Links

1. Iron Man
2. The Incredible Hulk
3. Iron Man 2
4. Thor
5. Captain America: The First Avenger
6. The Avengers
7. Iron Man 3
8. Thor 2: Dark World
9. Captain America 2: Winter Soldier
10. Guardians of the Galaxy
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
12. Ant-Man
13. Captain America 3: Civil War
14. Doctor Strange--Haven't seen yet
15. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
16. Spider-Man: Homecoming
17. Thor: Ragnarok
18: Black Panther
19. Avengers: Infinity War
20. Ant-Man and the Wasp ,
21. Captain Marvel--Haven't seen yet
22. Avengers: Endgame

Video Review:
Video review HERE and embedded below:

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky - The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism (1976)

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Horror BookTube Tag

Video in which I got tagged:

The Questions (Which I Ignored):
1. How and when did you get into horror?
2. What was the first horror book that you read?
3. What horror-related goodness can we expect from your channel?
4. Do you have any favourite themes or subgenres within horror?
5. Name an underrated horror novel or author.
6. Name an overrated horror novel or author.
7. Recommend three of your favourite horror novels.
8. Recommend a book for someone who is new to the horror genre.
9. Are there any book to film adaptations that you particularly loved or hated?
10. How do you discover new, or new to you, horror books?
11. What was the last horror book that you bought?
12. What horror book is at the top of your wishlist?
13. (Optional) Tag some people.

Some of the books mentioned and links to my reviews:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore

Slime by Joseph Payne Brennan

The Hound of the Baskervilles

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Stand by Stephen King

Addendum: Books I should've mentioned, but totally forgot about:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

Vampire Blood Trilogy by Darren Shan

Graham Quigley

Stripped Cover Lit:

Tags Playlist HERE:

Today in Hey! I Know that Guy!
My former pastor is currently in the national news.  His story is being reported on in publications across the country, for example, the Los Angeles Times:
Minneapolis pastor defrocked and his church expelled for permitting gay marriage
(Also in the New York Times: Minneapolis Church Expelled Over Support of Gay Marriage)

A few notes:
* I currently consider myself an agnostic, and so arguably no longer have a stake in Christian internecine feuds.  But I do feel like whether you're a Christian or not, you can't help but admire someone who is standing up for their beliefs.  I certainly do.  I feel great admiration for him in sticking to his principles in spite of the cost.

* Related to the above point: This guy has always been a class-act.  Dignified and authoritative, but also friendly and approachable.  Always calm, always knowledgeable, always caring.  I admired him back then, and I still do.
...all this in spite of the fact that, as I've moved from Christian to agnostic over the years, I've gone on to reject most of what he taught me about the Bible.
But then, there you go.  That's the thing, isn't it?  It just goes to show how little ideological alignment matters in human relations.  I once had a high school religion teacher, who told us: "Years from now, you won't remember any of the things I've taught you, but you'll remember how I treated you."  So true.

* Interestingly enough, the only issue I ever openly challenged him on was on this same exact issue: homosexuality.  I detailed the whole story at some length (and with a fair bit of digressions and rambling) in this old blog post HERE.
Either his opinions must have evolved over the years. Or perhaps he had more private sympathy for my position than he let on.  (I do remember him laying some stress on the fact that the denomination's official position on the issue had been to re-affirm that homosexuality was a sin, with the implication being that it was outside of his control.)

Monday, June 10, 2019

Started: Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener  (This is a re-read.  I've already read it and reviewed it once before HERE).

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: Book Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:

Sunday is the Lord's Day--Interesting Random Facts
So, given the fact that throughout the Bible, the Sabbath is supposed to be on Saturday, why do we celebrate it on Sunday?
My 8th grade Bible teacher told us that the Church moved it to Sunday because Jesus rose again on a Sunday.
But I recently got into a discussion with a 7th Day Adventist about it.  And I began to think that the explanation my 8th grade Bible teacher gave us was probably a bit simplistic.  I mean, what was the history of this decision?  When were the church councils?  What was the debate?
(And funny, I thought, that I had never been intellectually curious about this before.  But a lot of things are like that, aren't they?  You can go for years without thinking about something, and then suddenly get curious about it one day.)

My 7th Day Adventist friend told us that the whole reason the Catholic Church moved it to Sunday in the first place was because they were trying to co-opt the Roman day of Sun worship.  (Sunday was also the Sun Day in the classical Roman calendar as well.)  This actually sounds plausible enough.  The early church co-opted a number of ancient pagan holidays and rituals.  (Easter and Christmas were both former pagan holidays that the Church co-opted, for example).

According to Wikipedia, no one really knows when or why the early Church switched the Lord's Day to Sunday.  It was just one of those things that got established somewhere in early Christian tradition, and then people have been guessing about the reason ever since.  The theory about Jesus rising from the dead on Sunday is one plausible explanation.  But the theory of trying to co-opt the Sun worship day is also plausible, and apparently Constantine's edict officially moving the Lord's Day to Sunday was also influenced by Pagan Sun Worship.

Either way, it is an odd Church tradition that is explicitly in conflict with numerous Biblical texts both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
I mean, sure, Christianity broke with Judaism on any number of traditions.  But usually there is some scripture in the New Testament that explicitly justifies that break.  We don't get circumcised anymore because Paul wrote in the New Testament that gentiles no longer have to get circumcised.  We don't keep Kosher laws anymore because Peter had a vision in the book of Acts that he could eat unclean meat.

But the day of rest on Sunday?  There is nothing in the Old or New Testament to justify this.  (Jesus and Paul both kept the traditional Sabbath day.)  And there is tons of stuff in the Bible about remembering the Sabbath day and keeping it holy.  Like, it's a really, really big reoccurring theme throughout the Bible.  And also seems to be implicitly supported in the New Testament by the respect Jesus and Paul give to the Sabbath.  So.... kind of strange that the early Church just disregarded it for some unknown reason, right?

Bonus Interesting Random Fact
...Speaking of  7th Day Adventists, there is a lot of interesting stuff on Wikipedia about 7th Day Adventists.  Check out this whole long article on "The Great Disappointment" about what happened when Jesus did not return on October 22, 1844.

Monday, June 03, 2019

This Gun for Hire by Graham Greene: Book Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:

Today in Hey! I know that Guy!...
My co-worker Niall Mackay has started up his own podcast about life in Ho Chi Minh City, entitled: Seven Million Bikes; A Saigon Podcast
Follow the link to listen.  If anyone is curious about what life is like out here in Vietnam, this will be interesting to listen to.
Steve Reads (a.k.a. Steve Donoghue)
A 2019 Iliad Read-Along: Part 1!

This is a brilliant little commentary on what makes the Iliad so fascinating. 

Interesting that Steve reads the Iliad every June.  I read it twice as a youngster, but I have picked it up since high school, so my own memories of the Iliad are over 20 years old now.  I feel like I remember it really vividly, but I'm probably due for a re-read at some point.

The translation I read, by the way, is below.  It's a prose translation, so if you want something that tries to re-capture the rhythm and meter, this one isn't for you.  But I enjoyed it.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Oh, and while I'm catching up on stuff I should've posted to the blog weeks ago...
The Honest BookTuber Tag

The video in which I was tagged by Dane:

Youtubers mentioned/ tagged:
Graham Quigley:

Stripped Cover Lit:

Steve Donoghue:

1. Have you ever lied about reading a book?
2. Have you ever avoided a book because of controversy around the content/author?
3. Have you ever been sent a book for free and not disclosed it?
4. Have you ever bought a book with no intention of reading it?
5. Have you ever got caught up in booktube drama?
6. Have you ever had a hate comment, and did you respond?
7. Have you ever made a video just because you knew it would get views?
8. If you could go back to the beginning of your channel, would you do anything differently?
9. Are there any channels you wish you could be more like?
10. What's something you love about your channel?

Vlog Playlist HERE

I've been keeping up with my weekly Game of Thrones reviews on Youtube, but (after posting the first and second one) have neglected to update the blog for the rest.  So here are the final 4 episode reviews.

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3: TV Review

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 4: TV Review

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5: TV Review

Game of Thrones Final Episode (Season 8 Episode 6): TV Review

And the whole Playlist HERE

Monday, May 13, 2019

Avengers: Endgame

(Movie Review)

I'm 2 weeks late on this because it's a lot harder to make it to the cinema after having a baby.  But the wife's sister agreed to watch the baby for one afternoon so we could watch this.

I do genuinely enjoy these movies, but they've also begun to feel a bit like an obligation.  It feels like you absolutely HAVE to make a trip to the theater to see this, or you're missing out on an important cultural milestone.
I do also wonder at what age I'm going to become too old for dumb superhero movies.  I mean, here I am, 41 years old, and still planning my day around seeing a superhero movie.  Should I have stopped watching these 10 years ago, or has the culture shifted so that these are now acceptable for adults?
At any rate, after some 20 movies watched, I feel like it's too late to back out now.  At this point I have to watch this one to see how it all ties together. 

Actually to give credit where credit is due, whatever else you want to say about these movies, they are not "dumb superhero" movies.  The plotting and continuity off these movies has become complex enough that at this point, I have to admit the people making these movies are a lot smarter than I am.  They're juggling a lot of characters, and a lot of story-arcs here, but they manage to do justice to them all.  And they throw in a some interesting plot twists and subverted expectations.

We've also reached a point where the convoluted continuity of comic book characters (which used to be something only geeks cared about), has now become mainstream.  Pity the poor person who tries to watch this movie without a detailed understanding of the previous 20 movies before it.  This movie is chalked full of Easter eggs and references to previous movies.  (My sister-in-law got dragged to this movie by her boyfriend, and didn't understand anything that was going on.)
Me? I've always been a geek, so I eat this kind of stuff up.  I loved all the call-backs, references, and continuity nods to previous movies.

There were a few plot twists in this movie that I thought were very clever and some of which took me off guard.  Kudos to the writers--there's some really clever plotting and set-up and pay-off things going on here--which is difficult considering how many characters they're juggling.

I also really enjoyed the humor in this movie.   (I that that whole fat Thor thing was the funniest thing ever.)
The action scenes were decent--I liked the battle between Thanos and Thor/Captain America/ Iron Man.
The big battle at the end was well-done also.  Although this is (by my count) the 4th Avengers movie that has ended with a big battle against an invading horde.  I guess if you're going to bring all the Avengers together into one movie, then you need to have something big for them to fight.  But too much of this could get tiring quickly.  (I'm happy to wait a few years before the next movie that has the Avengers battling a huge space army).

8 out of 10 Stars.

Marvel Cinematic Universe Reviews Links

1. Iron Man
2. The Incredible Hulk
3. Iron Man 2
4. Thor
5. Captain America: The First Avenger
6. The Avengers
7. Iron Man 3
8. Thor 2: Dark World
9. Captain America 2: Winter Soldier
10. Guardians of the Galaxy
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
12. Ant-Man
13. Captain America 3: Civil War
14. Doctor Strange--Haven't seen yet
15. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
16. Spider-Man: Homecoming
17. Thor: Ragnarok
18: Black Panther
19. Avengers: Infinity War
20. Ant-Man and the Wasp ,
21. Captain Marvel--Haven't seen yet

Video Review HERE and embedded below

Link of the Day

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Like everyone else, I was saddened to hear off the death of Rachel Held Evans.
From Vox: How progressive Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans changed everything

I gave my opinions in 2014
I've come across Rachel Held Evans before.  I forget exactly how, but I think someone I know on Facebook must have linked to her blog in the past or something.  I haven't read a lot of her, but my impression is that she is pursuing a dialogue within the Christian faith.  She's defending a liberal view of Christianity against the more conservative view she grew up with.  When I was 20, I would have been very much on board with her, 

Isle of Dogs

(Movie Review)

* The plot moves a bit slowly at points.
* Too much sentimentality at points.

* That deadpan Wes Anderson humor is great.
* All actors are good, but especially Bill Murray and Edward Norton are great at delivering the deadpan Wes Anderson humor
* I'm not much of a cinema expert, so I can't talk about this in great depth, but it's obvious that Wes Anderson views every frame as a piece of art.  And it shows in his shot composition.
* Related to the above point, my friend the Cinephile once told me that Wes Anderson is heavily influenced by Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, who also was obsessed with creating symmetry in all of his shots.  So, the Japanese setting for this movie is appropriate, and words beautifully. 

Other Notes
* I know this is only of interest to me, but... Back when I lived in Japan, and was obsessed with Japanese oldies, I had "Tokyo Shoeshine Boy" in my music collection.  (This is the song that is playing in the background in the izakaya scene.)

7 out of 10.  (In the past I've given 10 out of 10 to Wes Anderson film The Grand Budapest Hotel.  But I didn't enjoy this one quite as much.  It loses a couple of points for the slow moving plot, and the sentimentality.  But... the funny parts were really funny.  (I love that deadpan humor).  So 7 out of 10.

Video Review
Video review HERE and embedded below:

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky on Venezuela

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowlings: Book Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:


(Movie Review)

My History With Captain Marvel
The strange legal history of Captain Marvel, as well as his awkward place in the D.C. Universe, has long been a source of fascination for me.  I've mentioned it before several times on this blog--HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for example.

This is also, incidentally, the first D.C. Universe movie I've seen.  Although I've long been a fan of the comic books, the movies have been getting such horrible reviews that I've just stayed home.

The Review  ***SPOILERS***
Having long had a bizarre fascination with Captain Marvel (see the links above), I was predisposed to be interested in this movie. 
And I liked it.
There are some weak points.  The plot is a bit too contrived.  The bully characters are a bit too cliche.  And the movie is not as funny as it thinks it is.  Asher Angel--the actor who plays Billy Batson--is good, but a lot of the banter at the beginning of this movie between Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman was not funny and just groan worthy.
But Zachary Levi, the actor who plays Captain Marvel, redeems the whole movie.  He is great.  Not only is he really funny, and does great in all the comedic parts, but he also does such a good job of really selling the idea of a kid in a grown man's body. 
I liked the fact that the whole Marvel family was involved.  When all the kids went through the magic door together to fight the bad guy, the movie had a Goonies type vibe of this gang of kids together on an adventure.
And then (**SPOILERS***) I was really very pleasantly surprised when they all got super powers in the final scene.  I mean, since I was familiar with the comics, I knew that Freddy and Mary were obviously being set up to be Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr.  But I thought it was just an Easter Egg they weren't really going to pay off.  Or if they did, it would be in some sequel down the road.  I didn't think this movie would embrace the zaniness of the original comic book source material by bringing in the full Marvel family, but I'm so glad it did. 

More Nitpicks
* I realize at this point it's not really sporting anymore to point out how much the DC Cinematic Universe is failing compared to Marvel, but... what was up with that Superman cameo at the end in which they couldn't even get the Superman actor to appear?  Could you imagine a Marvel movie doing that? Could you imagine Marvel not being able to negotiate a cameo appearance, and so having to hide the character's face out of frame?

Rating :
7 out of 10 Stars.  A flawed movie, but still a fun movie.

Video Review
Video Review HERE and embedded below

Link of the Day
Chomsky: Arrest of Assange Is “Scandalous” and Highlights Shocking Extraterritorial Reach of U.S.

Monday, April 08, 2019

If any changes, what will you do?

(Grammar Questions I Couldn't Answer)

...actually I think I've got this one, but I'll throw it out to the blogosphere for a second opinion.

During an activity in which the students were supposed to brainstorm possible job interview questions, a student wrote the sentence "If any changes, what will you do?"

I corrected it as "If there are any changes, what will you do?"

The student was confused.  "But why do I need a full clause?" she asked.  "Don't we often use abbreviated phrases like 'If possible' or 'If necessary' without any subject in the If-Clause?"

Thinking on my feet, I said those were different because those were adverbial clauses.  Then I changed my mind and said they were adjectives.  (Both "possible" and "necessary" can modify nouns, right?  "a possible plan" or "a necessary plan")
The Assassination of Richard Nixon: Movie Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:

Sunday, April 07, 2019

A Joke A Day Part 3

(TESOL Worksheets--Comprehensible Input)
Google Drive Folder HERE
Slideshow: slidespub

So, back in June I said I was trying to bring "A Joke A Day" back into the classroom.  It's corny, but it works really well with 10-12 year olds. 
I've found that the bigger the slideshow gets, the longer it takes to load on slow Internet connections.  So once I got to 200 slides, I restarted with a new slideshow.  So here is part 3.

I say this every time, but I am really getting desperate for good jokes.  Every week I'm like, "Oh, what am I going to do for this lesson?" 
It's difficult to find good jokes that would be understandable to children who are learning English as a second language.
So... if some of these jokes seem a bit desperate, it's because they are. 
Please let me know if you have any good jokes.  Leave them in the comments or something.

For the first Joke a Day collection, see HERE.
For the second, see HERE.
The Life of Emile Zola: Movie Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Staging an IELTS Lesson

(TESOL Ideas--IELTS, Lesson Planning)
Google: docs, pub
[This was a worksheet I made discussing the staging of an IELTS lesson for a revised version of my workshop on IELTS.  The CELTA staging framework (which I use as a point of contrast) are HERE. ]

Receptive Skills (Reading and Listening)
For receptive skills, I don’t think the CELTA staging framework fits the IELTS class.  On the actual exam, no one will set the context for the student, no one will pre-teach the vocabulary, and there is no opportunity for gist listening.  (Students can do a gist reading if they want, but they have to teach themselves how to do it.  No one will give them a gist question).

So I often use Test-Teach-Test instead.

Give students a section from a reading or listening practice.  Have them attempt it, and then check their answers with the partner.
I then usually put the correct answers on the board, and have students self-check.  (This avoids embarrassing students who get the wrong answer).  Then students have some time to discuss the answers with a partner, and figure out why these are the correct answers.  (For listening exercises, I give the students a written transcript at this point). Then class feedback consists of the students explaining to me why these were the correct answers (e.g. where they were in the text, what were the synonyms, what were the distractors).
Next students are put into groups and discuss what they found difficult about the test.  (i.e. if they got something wrong, why did they get it wrong).  During class feedback, groups tell me what was difficult, I put the problems on the whiteboard, and then we discuss possible strategies and solutions.

Introduce a subskill or strategies for a task-type.  Do controlled practice with it.
Controlled practice often means using very short passages.  For example, when practicing True/False/Not Given, instead of having to read a long passage, students are given only one or two sentences and a T/F/NG question related to that one sentence.

Students complete another practice test section.  Compare answers and feedback as above.

Exam Rules
Also, at some point in the lesson, there is a game (board race, treasure hunt, quiz game) to focus the students’ attention on the rules and strategies for this section of the test.

Productive Skills (Writing and Speaking)

For productive skills, I find that the CELTA framework can actually transfer very well to the IELTS class.  (See backside for Productive Skills CELTA framework).
I make some small additions.

For the model text section of the CELTA framework, I usually give the students the question in advance of the text, and we brainstorm strategies for answering it before I give them the model.  e.g “Here is a question for Writing Task 2.  With your partner, think of 3 reasons to agree, and 3 reasons to disagree.”

With the writing especially, I try to have some sort of game/activity involved in re-constructing the model text.  e.g. put the sentences in order, match the discourse markers to the blanks, match the topic sentences to the paragraphs, put the paragraphs in order, etc.  These can also be turned into running dictations or treasure hunts.

The “focus on the useful language” section of the CELTA framework can be used to focus on a variety of things--grammar and lexis, but also structure and content.  (But not all in the same lesson of course.)

At some point in the lesson, I add in an extra stage that focuses on the exam rules and useful tips and strategies.  I try to make this into a game (e.g. board race, treasure hunt, quiz game)