Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Iron Heel by Jack London: Book Review (Scripted)



Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
http://joelswagman.blogspot.com/2006/03/iron-heel-by-jack-london.html

So Such Lesson

(TESOL Worksheets--Adverbs)
Google Folder HERE
Slideshow: slides, pub
Model Text (describe my friend): docs, pub
Scrambled Sentences: drive, docs, pub
[This was made to supplement the Grammar in Conversation lesson in English World 5 Unit 6.  It was also made as an attempt to model classic grammar lesson staging following the lesson plan framework HERE.  The scrambled Sentences part of this lesson I had already posted previously HERE.]



My Friend Lisa
This is my friend Lisa.  She is so beautiful.  She is such a beautiful girl.  And she is so tall. 
And she is such a good friend.  She is so kind to me. When I have a problem, she is so helpful.
Also, she is so smart.  She is such a good student. 
Also, she is such a good soccer player.
But, she has some bad points too.  She is so lazy.  And she is so messy.  And she is such a bad driver.  I hate riding in her car.
Still, all in all, I am so glad she is my friend.  We are such good friends.


******************************************************************


Matching
so

such

such a
_____ + adjective + singular noun

_____ + adjective

_____ + adjective + plural noun

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald: Book Review (Scripted)



Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
http://joelswagman.blogspot.com/2006/03/princess-and-goblin-by-george.html

"the same as me" versus "the same with me"


In speaking activities, I find myself constantly correcting my Vietnamese students when they say, "The same with me."

"No, it's the same as me," I'm always saying.

One day, a student asked me, "What's the difference between the same as me and the same with me?"

"The same as me is correct," I answered.  "The same with me is wrong."

But the students had actually looked up this question themselves, and there were several grammar forums online discussing the difference.
One example HERE

"The same as" - comparison. Two or more things are the same.
"the same with" - Could say, "It's the same with me". In agreement with something
...which, yeah, come to think of it, that's right, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett: Book Review (Scripted)



Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
http://joelswagman.blogspot.com/2006/02/interesting-times-by-terry-pratchett.html

meanwhile, whereas, while

(TESOL Worksheets--Vocabulary)
Google: docspub
[This is in response to a student request to study the difference between meanwhile, whereas, and while.  Example sentences come from the dictionary.]


meanwhile, whereas, while


Definitions

_______________ during the time that
_______________ in the time between two things happening, or while something else is happening
_______________ although
_______________ used to compare two different facts or situations
_______________ a period of time (Noun)
_______________ compared with the fact that

Notes:
Meanwhile vs While
Meanwhile and  While more or less have the same meaning however there are differences in the grammar:
Meanwhile is used to connect two sentences however while is also used in a sentence where two actions are happening but it’s all in one sentence.
Meanwhile can’t be at the beginning where while can be put at the beginning of the conversation. For example I could say “While you play soccer I will learn some pronunciation”
Meanwhile is followed by a subject (person or a thing being talked about) whereas while is followed by a verb

While vs Whereas
Whereas means the same as while in sentences expressing contrasts. It does not mean the same as while when while refers to time:
The south has a hot, dry climate, whereas/while the north has a milder, wetter climate.
The secretary took care of my appointments while I was away from the office. (Not: … whereas I was away from the office.)

Sentences

Sit down for a little _______________ .
His parents were rich, _______________ mine had to struggle.
John has gone to the supermarket. Nicola, _______________ , has gone to collect the kids from school.
I can't talk to anyone _______________ I'm driving.
_______________ you're away, I might decorate the bathroom.
I met my old English teacher _______________ trekking in the Alps.
Put the chicken into the oven to roast. _______________ , prepare the vegetables.
Let's go now _______________ it's still light.
Could you forward my mail to me _______________ I'm away?
She described him, rather charitably, as quiet _______________ I would have said he was boring.
Did you visit St Petersburg _______________ you were in Russia?
And _______________ I like my job, I wouldn't want to do it forever.
He is a globalist, _______________ we are nationalists who will put our country first.
It might be wise to keep this quiet for a _______________ .
The rehearsals take place next week. _______________ , the technicians will be testing the stage equipment.
Tom is very confident _______________ Katy is shy and quiet.
a long/short _______________
He must be about 60, _______________ his wife looks about 30.
I'm going out for a _______________ .
After his heart attack, he had to take things easy for a _______________ .
The situation has been troubling me for a _______________ .
She actually enjoys confrontation, _______________ I prefer a quiet life.
He works slowly and precisely _______________ I tend to rush things and make mistakes.
Go and play outside for a _______________ .
I read a magazine _______________ I was waiting.
The mother is ill. The child, _______________ , is living with foster parents.
The school is being rebuilt after the fire. _______________ , temporary classrooms are being used.
You eat a huge plate of food for lunch, _______________ I have just a sandwich.
Your hair has a natural wave _______________ mine's just straight and boring.
Many parts of the south have been suffering from drought. _______________ , areas of the north have been flooded.
Wait here _______________ I get the car.

Answers:

Definitions

while during the time that
meanwhile in the time between two things happening, or while something else is happening
while although
while used to compare two different facts or situations
while a period of time (Noun)
meanwhile in the time between two things happening, or while something else is happening
whereas compared with the fact that

Sentences

Sit down for a little while.
His parents were rich, whereas mine had to struggle.
John has gone to the supermarket. Nicola, meanwhile, has gone to collect the kids from school.
I can't talk to anyone while I'm driving.
While you're away, I might decorate the bathroom.
I met my old English teacher while trekking in the Alps.
Put the chicken into the oven to roast. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables.
Let's go now while it's still light.
Could you forward my mail to me while I'm away?
She described him, rather charitably, as quiet whereas I would have said he was boring.
Did you visit St Petersburg while you were in Russia?
And while I like my job, I wouldn't want to do it forever.
He is a globalist, whereas we are nationalists who will put our country first.
It might be wise to keep this quiet for a while.
The rehearsals take place next week. Meanwhile, the technicians will be testing the stage equipment.
Tom is very confident while Katy is shy and quiet.
a long/short while
He must be about 60, whereas his wife looks about 30.
I'm going out for a while.
After his heart attack, he had to take things easy for a while.
The situation has been troubling me for a while.
She actually enjoys confrontation, whereas I prefer a quiet life.
He works slowly and precisely whereas I tend to rush things and make mistakes.
Go and play outside for a while.
I read a magazine while I was waiting.
The mother is ill. The child, meanwhile, is living with foster parents.
The school is being rebuilt after the fire. Meanwhile, temporary classrooms are being used.
You eat a huge plate of food for lunch, whereas I have just a sandwich.
Your hair has a natural wave whereas mine's just straight and boring.
Many parts of the south have been suffering from drought. Meanwhile, areas of the north have been flooded.
Wait here while I get the car.


Monday, February 25, 2019

On Writing Short Stories: Edited by Tom Bailey: Book Review (Scripted)



Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
http://joelswagman.blogspot.com/2006/02/on-writing-short-stories-by-tom-bailey.html

I applied for a position a grade higher than my current job.

(Grammar Questions I Couldn't Answer)

This sentence comes from the worksheet I prepared for my students on "Grade, Tier, Class".  (Originally it comes from the dictionary, from which I took all my example sentences for that worksheet).

A student asked why "higher" comes after "a grade".  Since it's an adjective, shouldn't it come before the noun it's describing, and not after?

I couldn't answer, so I asked around the office.
My manager said, "Because it's a comparative structure.  I think it's as simple as that." 

Maybe he's right.  We do usually put the comparative after the noun, right?  So we say: "the tall boy" but "the boy is taller than the girl"
But then what happens to the "is" in "a grade higher".

Maybe it's a reduced relative clause--"I applied for a position [which is] a grade higher than my current job." ?

Grade, Tier, Class

(TESOL Worksheets--Vocabulary)
Google: docs, pub
[This is in response to a student request to study the difference between Grade, Tier, and class.  Example sentences come from the dictionary.]



class, grade, tier

Definitions
______________: a level of quality, size, importance, etc:
______________: a group into which people or things are put according to their quality:
______________: one of several layers or levels:

Example Sentences
I applied for a position a ______________higher than my current job.
a business/economy ______________ticket
We sat in one of the upper ______________s of the football stands.
Whenever I travel by train, I always travel first ______________.
He's suffering from some kind of low- ______________ (= slight) infection, which he can't seem to get rid of.
first/second ______________ mail
Bill has been on the same ______________ (= his job has been of the same level of importance, or he has had the same level of pay) for several years now.
When it comes to mathematics, he's in a different ______________ to his peers.
My wedding cake had four ______________s, each supported by small pillars.
There's some really high- ______________ (= high quality) musicianship on this recording.
I don't understand why you think we need yet another ______________ of management.

Answers:

Definitions
Grade: a level of quality, size, importance, etc:
Class: a group into which people or things are put according to their quality:
Tier: one of several layers or levels:

Example Sentences
I applied for a position a grade higher than my current job.
a business/economy class ticket
We sat in one of the upper tiers of the football stands.
Whenever I travel by train, I always travel first class.
He's suffering from some kind of low-grade (= slight) infection, which he can't seem to get rid of.
first/second class mail
Bill has been on the same grade (= his job has been of the same level of importance, or he has had the same level of pay) for several years now.
When it comes to mathematics, he's in a different class to his peers.
My wedding cake had four tiers, each supported by small pillars.
There's some really high-grade (= high quality) musicianship on this recording.
I don't understand why you think we need yet another tier of management.

Grade: a level of quality, size, importance, etc:
Class: a group into which people or things are put according to their quality:
Tier: one of several layers or levels:

We sat in one of the upper tiers of the football stands.
My wedding cake had four tiers, each supported by small pillars.
I don't understand why you think we need yet another tier of management.


Whenever I travel by train, I always travel first class.
first/second class mail
a business/economy class ticket
When it comes to mathematics, he's in a different class to his peers.



I applied for a position a grade higher than my current job.
He's suffering from some kind of low-grade (= slight) infection, which he can't seem to get rid of.
There's some really high-grade (= high quality) musicianship on this recording.
Bill has been on the same grade (= his job has been of the same level of importance, or he has had the same level of pay) for several years now.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Series of Unfortunate Events: A Very Bad Beginning By Lemony Snickett: Book Review (Scripted)



Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
http://joelswagman.blogspot.com/2006/02/series-of-unfortunate-events-book-1.html

Adventures in Interacting With Famous People on Twitter--Part 3
For my previous two adventures, see:
* Tom Hayden liked one of my tweets
* I attempted to remind Tom Holland of which quote he had translated from Suetonius.  (He never responded).

This time, it's Jim Scrivener. 
Jim Scrivener is a big deal in the English Language Teaching industry.  Most first year teachers have to read his book Learning Teaching.  (I've reviewed Learning Teaching HERE.)

Anyway, Jim Scrivener tweeted...




This got me curious, so I had to search for the videos.  And I found them.
Both Jim Scrivener himself (and a number of people in the reply thread) seemed to think this video was a serious attempt at fraud.  But after watching it myself, I thought it was pretty obvious the whole thing was a joke.  And, what's more, I even got a few chuckles out of it.  
The guy is clearly playing a character.  He's pretending to be a terrible English teacher, who is passing off all kinds of terrible advice.  I found it pretty funny.





I normally don't like to tweet at famous people.  (I don't want to be "that guy").  But in this case, I thought I could help out by just letting Jim Scrivener know the thing was a joke.  So I replied to his tweet:


Jim Scrivener responded by liking the tweet.  Which was nice of him.
So, there you go.  Another interaction with a famous person on twitter!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Godfather: Movie Review (My Favorite Movies List)



I explained about this project in a previous post HERE

I got cut off right at the very end, but I was pretty much finished.  I was just going on a little digression about "The Godfather Saga", and was possibly going to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of watching the Godfather saga all in chronological order.  But you can get the same information from Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Godfather_Saga

Playlist HERE.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Vlog: My Favorite Movies List (And New Reviewing Project)



So, this has been on my blogging to-do list ever since 2006 when Whisky Prajer did a blogging series about his favorite movies of all time, and I thought it was a really neat idea. 

I've kept putting it off, however, just because of what a major project it would be.  I knew myself well enough to know I would never be able to be succinct when talking about a movie I had a lot of history with.  Which meant I'd be writing for hours and hours about each movie.  And I waste too much of my time on this blog as it is.  (Whisky Prajer, who knows the value of succinct writing, was able to pull his own project off with a lot of short well-written essays.  But I doubt I'd be able to duplicate it.)

But then, the other day, the wife and I were watching The Godfather.  (She had never seen it before, but she had been curious to see it because she had been noticing a lot of references to it in pop culture.  I was eager to introduce her to the movie.  We had to stop it a few times because the baby was crying, but we did managed to get through the whole thing.)

"Are you going to do a video review of this one?" she asked me.
"No, I only do a review a when I see a movie for the first time," I explained.
"Why's that?" she asked.
"I don't know--it's just my system," I answered.  I started to explain how it took me much longer to review a movie I have a lot of history with...  and then it occurred to me that actually, these video reviews  I've been doing lately are much less painful than the written reviews.  I just turn on the video camera, ramble for 30 minutes, and then the review is done and ready to upload.  (This is, of course, the laziest way to do Youtube.  The top-tier Youtubers put a lot of time and effort into scripting and editing.  But I've been discovering more and more that there are a lot of other people like me on the bottom tier--people who just turn on the camera, say whatever comes into their heads, and then upload the video.  I've made my peace with being on the bottom-tier.)

So... I've decided I'm going to tackle this project as a video only review.

I'll be posting them on this blog as I do them, but just to be clear: no one is under any obligation to watch these.  I fully anticipate that these are going to get long-winded and rambling--in fact, that's why I'm doing them as video only reviews instead of attempting to write them.  I'm doing these more to get it off of my own chest than I am because I think other people need to watch it. So if you don't want to watch the video, we're still friends.

I'm taking the list that I posted in February 2017.  It was originally supposed to be a top 10 list, but then it got expanded into two top 10 lists when I didn't trust myself to differentiate between critically acclaimed movies and guilty pleasures. 
In the same post, I also posted my old list from 2002, which had some overlap, but also had 5 movies on it which weren't on either of my new lists.
So, what the heck, I'm just going to take all the movies from all 3 lists--all 25 movies total.

In no particular order:
The Star Wars Trilogy
Peter Pan (1953 Disney version)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Monty Python's Life of Brian
Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
Platoon
The Planet of the Apes (The original 1968 version, of course)
Aliens
You Only Live Twice
Gremlins
Citizen Kane
The Godfather
Casablanca
The Great Dictator
Gandhi
Malcolm X
The Third Man
Psycho
The Big Sleep (This is the only movie on this whole list that I've also reviewed on this blog--see that review here).
Doctor Strangelove
Duck Soup
Easy Rider
Hard Day's Night
Help!
West Side Story

I'm planning on re-watching each of these before I record a review, so this could take some time.  I'm also not going to do this on any particular schedule.  It might take 10 years before I re-watch all of these movies and review them again.  But I will do it eventually.

The first one, obviously, will be The Godfather, because I just got done re-watch one.  I'll post that video tomorrow.  I'm not sure when the next video after that will be.

I'll be keeping the videos collected on this playlist HERE

Friday, February 08, 2019

Since I left Christianity and became an agnostic, I've gone back and forth on the value of religion.  Some days I think it's an oppressive force.  Some days I think it does a lot of good and helps people through their daily life.  (See HERE and HERE for examples of me admitting that religion might do some good.)
Karl Marx famously called religion the "Opium of the People" because it encouraged people to not worry about improving their condition here on earth, and instead promised them a paradise after they died.
Union organizer Joe Hill wrote a famous song about this--The Preacher and the Slave
Long haired preachers come out every night
try to tell you what´s wrong and what´s right
but when asked about something to eat
they will answer with voices so sweet
You will eat, you will eat, by and by
in the glorious land in the sky way up high
work and pray, live on hay
you´ll get pie in the sky when you die.
But all of this is unfair, isn't it?  In this day and age, Christians don't actually go around saying we don't need to worry about health care because we're all going to heaven, do they?

No, actually, turns out that they're still saying exactly that.  In pretty much exactly those words. Quote from Phil Robertson:

I already have health care. It’s given to me by God. Eternal health care. I’m guaranteed to be raised from the dead. I have life and immortality given to me by God through Jesus Christ... The temporary reprieve is not worth it. I'm telling [Kamala Harris], I have eternal health care, and it's free! Doctors can give you a little temporary reprieve, but they cannot save you from physical death. The doctors who treat you, they die, too.
Phil Robertson: You Don't Need Healthcare, Just Jesus.



For those keeping score at home, put another point in the "Religion is an Oppressive Force and We Need to Resist It" column. 
The game's not over yet, of course.  Give me another couple days and I could be veering back towards the "Religion Actually Does Some Good" side of the ledger, depending on what else happens in the news.  But for today, I'm playing The Preacher and the Slave on my jukebox all afternoon.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Another edition of : Hey! I know that Guy!

Friend from my Melbourne University days, Janenie Mohgan, has started a video series: Mondays with Janenie Mohgan.
Channel HERE
First video HERE: Millennials are not entitled

Do the normal Youtube stuff to show your support--like, comment, subscribe, etc.  (Also, see pictures of Janenie from my trip to Malaysia HERE.)



I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe: Book Review (Scripted)



Part 2: I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe:  Book Review (Scripted)



Sorry about this one.  The camera batteries died 17 minutes into the video, so I had to film a second one to finish up.

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

Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie

(Book Review)

Started: I actually started this book around August 2017.  Before I had started keeping track of my Starting and Finishing books.  (Although, to be honest, by "started", in this case I mean "I got a few pages into it, and then just let it sit on my shelves for months).
I talked briefly about this book in an April 2018 vlog post--The Books I'm Currently Reading.  But I didn't make a serious attempt to tackle it until a few weeks ago.
Finished: February 6, 2019

Why I Read This Book / My History With Woody Guthrie
So... the past few weeks, while I've been carrying this book around with me, I've discovered that a whole lot of people out there have no idea who Woody Guthrie is.  (Many times someone would ask to see what I was reading, and then respond with some version of "Who's that?")
On the other hand, there's a whole lot of people out there who are obsessed with Woody Guthrie.  A couple of my friends from my college days were big Woody Guthrie nuts.  And while I was reading this book at a coffee shop, some random guy sitting next to me started up a conversation in which he started telling me all sorts of random facts about Woody Guthrie.*

Me? I'm somewhat in the middle.  I was vaguely familiar with Woody Guthrie, but not obsessed with him.
In my college days I was a Bob Dylan fan, and one of the first things every Bob Dylan fans learns is that Dylan was influenced by some guy named Woody Guthrie.
As a young radical (or at least, a radical wannabe) I was interested in the history of the American Left, and was intrigued by Woody Guthrie's iconic status.
It surprised me when I learned that "This Land is Your Land", a song we had actually been trained to sing for school concerts in elementary school, had been written by a radical leftist communist.  (But then... that's everyone's history with that song, isn't it?  We all learned to sing that song at school, and then we were all surprised later in life when we learned the history of that song.)
At one point in college, I tried to track down a CD of Woody Guthrie's music, but it was hard to track down at the time, and the one CD I did find was just a lot of scratchy recordings that didn't sound all that great. **
I was actually a lot more into Woody Guthrie's friend and collaborator, Pete Seeger.  (I've written about my history with Pete Seeger HERE ***).  Although Woody Guthrie and Peter Seeger started out as contemporaries, Woody Guthrie was hospitalized in 1954 and that was the end of his career, whereas Pete Seeger was able to keep recording into the modern studio age.  Which (I think) is why there are a lot more quality recordings of Pete Seeger than Woody Guthrie.  (If I'm missing something here, let me know in the comments.)
I also used to have the Alice's Restaurant album by Arlo Guthrie--Woody Guthrie's son.  And I saw the movie Alice's Restaurant--which includes a dramatization of Woody Guthrie sick in the hospital bed.  (And I saw Arlo Guthrie perform once as part of one of the Grateful Dead's Further Festivals in the late 90s ****).

...yeah, so, point being, I definitely knew who Woody Guthrie was.  Even if I didn't know a lot about him.

During my year in Australia, I also learned that Woody Guthrie also had iconic status overseas.  In April 2010, I attended a Socialist conference in Melbourne in which a radical sing-along session was entitled: "This Machine Kills Fascists"--a reference to the slogan Woody Guthrie used to put on his guitars.
That very same month, friend and fellow blogger Whisky Prajer wrote a blog post called, Guitars I Dig: "This Machine KILLS Fascists"  in which he talked about the legacy of Woody Guthrie's guitars, and also included a long quotation from Bound for Glory.
I wrote in the comments:
You know, I was just at a radical sing-along this weekend entitled "This Machine Kills Fascists". It's amazing how that phrase has stuck in the imagination across generations and, in the case of Australia, continents as well.
...Whether Woody Guthrie's machine actually did kill fascists is something I've always been a bit more skeptical on. I'm sure he irritated some of them, but I suppose that's not quite as catchy.
By the way, I had no idea he was an author before reading this post, and that short section is so captivating I'd be quite keen to read the whole book someday. If only my reading list wasn't always so backed up.
I'm assuming you read the whole thing?
Whisky Prajer replied:
I've read Bound For Glory many, many times. It is a terrifically evocative read, and I had a difficult time limiting the quoted passage to what I wound up with. For a guy like you I don't hesitate to make BFG a mandatory purchase (ditto: Joe Klein's bio). 
I should have read the book years ago when Whisky first recommended it to me *****.  But, as I said, my reading list is always backed up.  And besides, it's difficult to track down English books out here in Southeast Asia (where I spend most of my time.)
But then, Whisky actually shipped the book out to me.  It came in the same package in which he sent me The Intellectuals and the Masses by John Carey.  It took me another year to get around to it, but here I am now with my review.

The Review
The book starts out with a vivid description of Woody riding the rails, packed in a boxcar with a lot of other desperate and poor men.  Tempers soon flare up with too many men confined in a small space, leading to a tremendous fight in the boxcar.
The reproduced conversations, and the blow-by-blow descriptions of some of the fighting, couldn't possibly have come from memory.  (Whisky Prajer has quoted an excerpt from this chapter on his blog post, if you want a taste of it.)  And this is the moment when the reader realizes that this is not a traditional autobiography, but some sort of imaginative fictionalized version of Woody's past.

Throughout the book, then, there is always a looming question as to what is true and what is exaggerated or invented.  I suppose the ideal reader of this book doesn't let such mundanities interfere with their enjoyment of a good story, and just enjoys the narrative prose for its own sake.
Me? I've got a certain personality, so it was impossible for me to turn off the questioning part of my brain completely.  But I largely enjoyed the book for what it was.
I probably should have read this book alongside of Joe Klien's biography of Woody Guthrie, as Whisky had recommended me all along.  As it was, I just read it alongside of the Wikipedia bio, and Wikipedia did a decent job of filling in most of the gaps.

Actually, speaking of  what I learned from Woody Guthrie's Wikipedia bio...
The other noteworthy thing about this book is that it completely skips over all of the major events of Woody's adult life.  There's no mention of him meeting his wife, getting married, having kids.  There's no talk of him getting discovered, or getting his first recording contract, or becoming famous, or becoming friends with John Steinbeck.  There's nothing about Guthrie's involvement with the Communist party, or his writing songs about Thomas Mooney (a cause célèbre of the time) or writing his most famous songs, et cetera.
None of the big biographical events are in here.  If you're coming to this book because of Woody Guthrie's importance as a political symbol (and I admit, I was), then you're going to be disappointed.

The bulk of this book is just about Woody's childhood.
Apparently the idea for this book came because Guthrie's friend, Alan Lomax, was reading some of Guthrie's essays, and thought Guthrie had written some of the best accounts of American childhood (once again, via Wikipedia).  So a focus on childhood is what you get in this novel: a lot of descriptions of the games Woody Guthrie used to play with the other kids in the neighborhood, or long descriptions of the neighborhood fights, or just Woody recounting the conversations he used to have with his father, mother, and grandmother.
Again, this can be a bit frustrating if you come to this book expecting tales of organizing, protesting, and revolution.  But it's well told for what it is.  Apparently Guthrie had a lot of help in the editing of this book (again, Wikipedia), but regardless the stories still flow, and Woody has a talent for creating vivid scenes.
The childhood chapters of the book are the only ones that have a feel of a connected story.  (It recounts all the major episodes in Woody's childhood in chronological order.)  Then, once we get to adulthood, the memoir becomes a lot more episodic.  Some specific episodes of Woody's adult life are told, but no large grand story.

All of the stories in Woody's adult life feature him being down-and-out in some way--hitchhiking, riding the rails, sleeping under bridges, travelling with migrant orchard workers., et cetera******
The chronology gets a bit muddled, but at least some of these stories appear to take place after Woody Guthrie had already become a celebrity, and probably wasn't as desperate as he portrays himself.  Apparently long after he had become successful, Woody Guthrie still liked to portray himself as an real working class person (again, Wikipedia).

I think that's all I have to say in general.  Onto my notes about specifics.

Notes about Specific Things
* So, every now and again, you read an opinion piece talking about how coddled and over-protected kids these days are, and how back in the author's day, kids used to run around the neighborhood unsupervised all day, climb trees, go swimming in the river, ride bikes without helmets, et cetera, and no one thought twice about it.
Bound for Glory has this flavor in spades.  Any modern parent would be horrified at all the dangerous things Woody Guthrie and his playmates got up to.  Apparently it was normal at the time?  Or is Woody Guthrie exaggerating again?
Chapter VII, Cain't No Gang Whip Us Now, is a long recounting of a play fight between to rival gangs of children.
It was similar to some of the playfights I remember from my own schoolyard days--similar insofar as we also had elaborate battles between groups of boys, and, like Guthrie's gang fight, we were also confused as to what extent we were playing and to what extent we were really fighting.
But we always had parents and teachers who were not too far away, and kept things from getting completely out of control. Whereas Guthrie's version sounds completely out of control, with stones and slingshots and sticks flying back and forth.  (Stones were even heated up on a stove to get them red hot, and then fired at one of the groups of boys).  I had trouble enjoying it.  I kept thinking, "Somebody's definitely going to lose an eye."
But I suppose this is what boys would get up to if they were left completely unsupervised all summer, isn't it?  And it sounds like back in the day, kids were left completely unsupervised most of the time.  So it's not hard to believe these kind of things happened.

* One of the themes throughout the book is how Woody Guthrie always stood up for the underdog.  In the gang fight described above, Woody takes the side of the new kids in town, who aren't allowed a vote in the clubhouse.
Later on, Woody talks about how he stands up for black friends while riding the rails.  Or how he and Cisco Houston (W) protect a family of Japanese Americans from a blood-thirsty mob on the night of Pearl Harbor.
You get the sense that Woody is tooting his own horn a little bit.
On the other hand, given how many racist writers there were during the 1930s, it's good to remember that there were people fighting against racism at the same time.

Comparison With Chronicles by Bob Dylan
Anyone remember Bob Dylan's memoirs?  It was a big deal when it came out back in 2004 (although I think since then it's been largely forgotten. Or am I wrong?)
Anyway, I read it back in the day, and posted some thoughts on this blog.  To quote myself from 2005:
One thing that really struck me about Bob Dylan's book is how clearly he seems to remember certain events from his past. What the room looked like, the way a conversation went, etc.
I'm tempted to compare this with my own memory. Something I've been noticing lately, especially back in the States and meeting up with old friends, is how much I've forgotten about my college days. I did save all my e-mails, as well as kept a fairly detailed day to day journal, and I'm glad I've done that now because my memory is such crap. I wonder sometimes if because I've been in Japan for so long I'm away from daily cues, people and places and other things, that might otherwise jog my memory and help to keep the past fresh in my mind. I'd be curious how other people feel like their memories are working. And how many people believe Bob Dylan actually remembers the events with the vividness he described them, or how much he is embellishing. 
Now that I've had a few years to think about it, it occurs to me that I was being incredibly dense back in 2005.  Of course Bob Dylan was embellishing his memories.  And probably any reasonably intelligent reader figured that out a long time ago.
It's interesting for me to see now how Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan's role model, did the same thing 60 years before.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more Bound for Glory has in common with Dylan's Chronicles.  Both are episodic--featuring certain events in vivid detail, and completely ignoring other events.

Also, the New York Times reviewer wrote of Dylan's Chronicles:

He's also taunting us, since he knows perfectly well that we'd rather be reading about the creation of "Blonde on Blonde" or some other LP from his 60's peak. 
Is Woody Guthrie doing the same thing in Bound for Glory--deliberately leaving out his biggest career achievements as a kind of tease to the reader?

I'm wondering more and more now if Bob Dylan wasn't using Bound for Glory as his model when he wrote his own memoirs.

As luck would have it, my reading of Bound for Glory coincided with my Scripted Youtube Book Review Series, in which I went through my old blog posts and made Youtube videos out of the old book reviews.  So when I got to making the video for Chronicles, I incorporated some of my thoughts on Bound for Glory in the video.  See HERE.
Since then, I stumbled across another Youtuber review of Chronicles HERE, who pointed out something I long ago forgot (if I ever remembered it to begin with)--Bob Dylan actually talks about his love for Bound for Glory within the actual text of Chronicles.

Footnotes
* Specifically, from this gentleman I learned that Woody Guthrie actually stayed at one point in a building owned by Fred Trump--Donald Trump's father.  And that Woody Guthrie wrote (but didn't record) a song called "Old Man Trump" about the racist housing policies of Fred Trump.  See New Yorker article HERE.

** Of course that was back in the dark ages of the 1990s.  Nowadays with the Internet, it's never been easier to track down old recordings.  There's a lot of Woody Guthrie stuff on Youtube, but most of the recording quality sounds scratchy and old and not all that great generally.  I'm assuming that the modern recording technology just wasn't around in Woody's heyday?

*** Pete Seeger actually wrote the foreword to Bound for Glory, in which Seeger said, "Woody never argued theory much, but you can be quite sure that today he would have poured his fiercest scorn on the criminal fools who sucked America into the Vietnam mess."

**** Fun fact--Arlo Guthrie refuses to perform Alice's Restaurant in concert.  I had actually known this ahead of time. A high school friend, who had seen Arlo Guthrie in concert previously, had told me he had refused to play that song when she saw him.  People kept yelling out "Alice's Restaurant!" and Arlo Guthrie just said, "Sorry guys, I don't do that anymore."
When I saw him, Arlo Guthrie teased the audience by playing a bit of the chorus on the guitar, but then refusing to continue.  He said, "You know, I wish I could have gotten famous for writing something a lot shorter.  Did you ever see that film Groundhog's Day?  That was my life for many years.  Just the same 30 minutes over and over again every night for years."
Of course, that was 20 years ago now.  Maybe he's changed his policy since then?

***** Wow, strange to think that exchange was almost 10 years ago already.  It seems like just the other day Whisky was first recommending this book to me, and just the other day I was thinking to myself I would get around to it sooner or later.  And then all of a sudden 10 years go by before you know it.  Yet another reminder of how fast life can get away from you.

******Speaking of down-and-out, I guess an obvious point of comparison is Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London.  And there are a number of similarities.  Both books are autobiographical, and both seek to convey to the reader how the poor parts of society live.

Video Review
Video review HERE and embedded below:



Link of the Day
about wanting-Noam Chomsky | audio

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Started: Children Learning English by Jayne Moon

Finished: Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie (Review coming soon... hopefully)


Teaching Young Language Learners by Annamaria Pinter

(Book Review)

Started: January 23, 2019
Finished: February 2, 2019

Why I Read This Book
This is a book I read for professional development.  More specifically, I read it for DELTA Module 3.

The Review
Okay, so I have to make the same disclaimer I make with all books I read for professional development--it's not pleasure reading, and you wouldn't expect it to read like pleasure reading.

That being said, the text is clear and easy to read, and th author does a good job of summarizing a lot of academic studies for the non-academic layperson.
I'm reminded, in a good way, of the readable accessible style of How Languages are Learned, a book I've praised repeatedly (HERE and HERE) on this blog for being very readable.
And indeed, this book is part of the same series: Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers.  It has a lot of the same format, style, and even similar illustrations.  (I checked, but couldn't find out if it was the same illustrator or not.)

As far as the content...
This is the first book I've read that deals solely with young learners.  But it overlaps with language acquisition generally, and besides all of the other language acquisition books I've read have had sections on young learners. So much of this is review for me.  So I read through things that I've read through a thousand times already--Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development, Chomsky's Universal Grammar, Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, the Critical Period Hypothesis, et cetera.
I complain, but it's probably my fault for reading another introductory text.  At this stage in my career, I should be moving beyond introductory textbooks and exploring stuff in more depth.  And at least Pinter writes readable prose, so I didn't particularly mind reviewing it.

And I think that's about all I have to say in general terms before getting into my notes and nitpicks.

Notes and Nitpicks
* I've  praised this book for being readable, and on the whole it is, but there were a few confusing passages.  Most of them occurred when Annamaria Pinter was summarizing someone else's studies.
For example, p.59, when talking about the negotiation of meaning, Pinter writers,
"Oliver found that all the children in her study negotiated meaning.  However, when comparing their use of these strategies with that of adults, Oliver found that they used meaning negotiation strategies in a different proportion. They focused on constructing their own meaning rather than facilitating their partner's meaning." (p.59)
So what does that mean?  From the sentences that follow, I'm guessing it means that children focus more on asking questions to understand what their partner is saying, and not on using comprehension checks to ensure their partner understands what they are saying.  But it's all very confusing.
Another example is on pages 48-49.
"In 2001 Marcos Penate Cabrera and Placido Bazo Martinez investigated the effects of two types of story input in their English classes.  One story was told to the children using simplified checks, and supporting gestures (interactional modifications). The other story was told using the original story text with interactional modifications. The children's understanding was measured afterwards using a comprehension test.  The results showed that the group of children who heard the story with interactive modifications understood the story significantly better.  The children were also asked in an interview for their opinion about which type of storytelling was easier to understand.  All the children considered that listening with interactive modifications was easier..."
But how does this work?  I thought only one group heard the story with interactional modifications?  So how could both groups report that it was easier?
I'm being a bit unfair here in that I'm nitpicking a couple paragraphs from an otherwise well-written book.  But I do need to qualify my praise of the book by saying that some confusing sentences do exist.  And while I'm complaining, a couple of the illustrations are mislabeled.  (For example on page 60, the text refers to table 5.2, when it's actually 5.3).

* Pages 13-15 talk about Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles, which at one time was considered doctrine in the English language teaching community, but has increasingly been under scrutiny lately.  See L is for Learning Styles by Scott Thornbury and A Guide to Pseudoscience in ELT by Russ Mayne.  This book, however, was published in 2006, so I think it was before the backlash.

* I mentioned above that I already knew a lot of the basics about the theory.  But it would be an exaggeration to say I learned nothing from this book. 
One of the things I thought was really useful was the section on motivation.  Young children have no external motivation to learn English.  They are in the class simply because someone else is making them, and they don't yet have the capability to think about how English will benefit them in their future careers.  Their only motivation to learn English is if the teacher makes it fun for them.
It's common sense, but in my own classes, I'm capable of forgetting this sometimes, and wondering why my young learner students aren't more motivated to learn English.

* Whenever I read a book on English teaching, I'm probably guilty of a lot of confirmation bias.  I love the parts of the book that give theoretical justification to what I'm already doing in the classroom, but I complain about the parts of the book that ask me to do something different than what I'm used to doing. So take my opinion on these things with a grain of salt.
That being said, I was very much onboard with the parts of this book that advocated using stories and poems in young learner classes, as this is something I've long been passionate about doing anyway.  (Pinter also talked about how children around late elementary school enjoy wordplay, puns, jokes and riddles--something I've also noticed and exploited in my classrooms.)
In fact, I got two really good poems out of this book, which I'm going to add to my poem a day project.  In the appendix, Annamaria Pinter includes two poems that she says could be used in the ESL classroom: Cats by Eleanor Farjeon and Mice by Rose Fyleman.  Both are perfect for ESL learners, and I fully plan on using them in my own classes in the future.
There were a few parts of the book, however, that I thought wouldn't work in the classroom at all.  Some of the parts from chapter 8, "Learning to Learn", in which students are encouraged to reflect on their own learning.  It's good in theory, I suppose, but I could just picture some of my teenage students rolling their eyes at the self-reflection questions.  Some of the proposed topics for lessons also struck me as not likely to engage the imagination of teenagers.  Although to be fair, I think some of these topic lessons are just meant to be examples.  Pinter does acknowledge (on pages 24-25) that the best lessons are when you find a topic that the students are interested in, and then build the lesson around that.

* The view of grammar teaching, especially for the younger children, is similar to what Michael Lewis advocates in The Lexical Approach.  Vocabulary and grammar are interdependent.  By teaching children set lexical phrases, we are also teaching them grammatical structures.

Video Review
Video review HERE and HERE (I went into 2 videos) and embedded below





Link of the Day

Noam Chomsky on Language
The Debacle by Emile Zola: Book Review (Scripted)



Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
http://joelswagman.blogspot.com/2006/02/debacle-by-emile-zola.html

Monday, February 04, 2019

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Book Review (Scripted)



Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
http://joelswagman.blogspot.com/2006/01/crime-and-punishment-by-fyodor.html

Vlog: Global Warming



As expected, I rambled on more than 30 minutes, and the camera automatically cut me off.  I'm going to leave it here though.  I've said some of what I want to say, and to say all of what I want to say would take 10 hours.

Links to stuff I mentioned in the video:
Why am I in the shower?
https://youtu.be/uLTDG8SAtQM

The article I wrote on the Kyoto Treaty:
https://papersiwrote.blogspot.com/2005/11/crossroads-kyoto-treaty-controversy.html

My review of An Inconvenient Truth:
http://joelswagman.blogspot.com/2013/11/an-inconvenient-truth.html

Vlog Playlist:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOY-0V_l_9x7sWjmJPUFF0PhseI7SRLV0

Sunday, February 03, 2019

69 by Ryu Murakami: Book Review (Scripted)



Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
http://joelswagman.blogspot.com/2005/12/thoughts-on-japanese-literature.html

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

(Movie Review)

Why I Watched this Movie
This documentary came out in 2015.  I think I remember seeing some of the buzz for it on the Internet at the time, but couldn't track it down because I was out here in Asia.  But it's the kind of thing that would really interest me.  I'm a huge fan of history documentaries in general, and the Black Panthers have always been one of my interests in particular.  (I was really interested in the Black Panthers in my youth.  See for example these school papers I wrote on the Black Panthers: here and here). 

Some kind soul uploaded the documentary onto Youtube.  I stumbled upon it the other day while searching for old clips of the Black Panthers.
I watched just a couple minutes of it, and I was hooked.  The documentary just pulls you in, and I couldn't stop watching.  And then I had to watch the whole thing.

I doubt the Youtube version is approved by the copyright holders, but for the time being it's online, so I'll link it down below.

Vanguard of the Revolution- The Real Story of the Black Panther Party



The Review
I'm coming to this documentary after years of being interested in the Black Panthers, so I knew a lot of the shocking stuff already.  But I'm sure for some younger people out there, this is going to be the first time they hear about COINTELPRO or the assassination of Fred Hampton or the murder of Bobby Hutton, etc.  And for those people, I'm sure this this movie will blow their minds.  (One Youtube commenter writes: they need to show this documentary in all us high school history classes.)
On the plus side, the documentary has done an incredible job of shifting through the archival footage, and combining it with a great soundtrack to create a fascinating and entertaining viewing experience. 
The documentary moves at breakneck speed.  I guess they have to in order to cover everything in 2 hours.  But you could make a long, long list of things that are completely omitted from the documentary, or which are included in the documentary but never explained. 
One example out of many: the documentary spends a lot of time on the free Huey movement, but never attempts to explain what happened on the night Huey Newton was arrested, or what happened in the trial or why Huey Newton was acquitted.  Presumably the filmmakers felt they didn't have time to open that can of worms, and still cram everything else in under 2 hours.
And there are so, so many other things like that in the documentary. 

But if you accept the documentary as simply an introduction to the Black Panther history, and not the definitive account (or in cases of us older folks, a review of the history), then it's a really entertaining 2 hours.

To really do the Black Panther Party justice, you'd need a 10 hour Ken Burns style docu-miniseries.  Apparently HBO is working on developing one.  But while we wait for that to come out, my favorite documentary series on the Civil Rights movement is Eyes on the Prize.  It's not only about the Black Panthers, but the Black Panthers come in a lot during the later episodes.

Entire Playlist HERE



Rating :
9 out of 10 stars.  I almost gave this 10 Stars.  It deserves 10 Stars just based on presentation and entertainment factors, but in the end I decided that all the historical omissions deserved taking at least 1 star off.

Video Review
Video review HERE and embedded below:



Link of the Day
Chomsky on the Black Panthers and Cointelpro