Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-08-16

  • 6 days to prep students for August Regents. Will someone hold on to my good teacher soul so I can have it back when I'm done? #
  • Been reading #YALit to get ready for new indy reading prgrm, LOVING Hunger Games. Liked Gone. What else 2 read? #engchat #
  • It might make me late to #SSChat tonight, but feeling a need to spite the heat and jetlag so going running anyway. #
  • I teach my class almost entirely with primary sources – have a toolbox of strategies #sschat #
  • http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ is my favorite source for world history docs – amazing depth! #sschat #
  • My questions: What kind of doc? Who created? What do we know about creator? What do we know about background? What POV are missing? #sschat #
  • One activity I love: put doc in middle of poster post it and let kids make additions to add what they know #sschat #
  • I never used SOAPS because it doesn't address what's NOT there – how do people address this? #sschat #
  • Thanks all for a great #sschat as always. Now, on to #engchat #
  • Revision Revisions Revision…and Engagement #engchat #
  • RT @sapereaude: Students have voice and choice in what and how they learn and demonstrate that learning. #engchat #
  • Bronx Lab, an NYC pub HS, needs an AP for this fall. If interested or know anyone, please DM @SlazarOTC. Please RT. Thx. #
  • What a great idea. On Education – Lesson Plan in Boston Schools – Don’t Go It Alone – NYTimes.com http://instapaper.com/zV160w21m #
  • This is hilarious: a review of Portnoy's Complaint by a "4th grader" http://bit.ly/aHtMJ6 #
  • Reasons to love/support indy bookstores RT @BookCourt Three customers singing along to Rocky Raccoon in different parts of the store! #
  • I usually don't like to share this kind of stuff, but this was just too bad: a student couldn't tell me where the French Rev happened. #
  • RT @nyrbclassics RT @3ammagazine: Tony Judt's reading list of 10 books to read on 20th Century Europe: http://is.gd/eeDeL #historyteacher #
  • Cannot believe I have to wait 12 days to finish Hunger Games series. Feel bad for everyone who read it as published. #
  • If you haven't already read it, please do – it's excellent: Marx and School 2.0: http://t.co/UAMMvZa #
  • RT @sapereaude: Do u want to talk abt tech or community or vocab during #engchat vote now! http://twtpoll.com/ugu2d0 Pls RT. #
  • RT @Ron_Peck: The new #sschat poll is posted. Please vote for your topic of choice to be discussed next Monday 8/16. http://bit.ly/cr3QsQ #
  • Wow! 8% of public school teachers left profession last year. http://bit.ly/cd0DoT #
  • A must read – the high schools we need: Interview with Linda Darling-Hammond http://instapaper.com/zD6jqw21t #
  • Great article: Increase Student Engagement by Getting Rid of Textbooks http://instapaper.com/zmx5yg21A #sschat #historyteacher #
  • Not sure how I got subscription that never ends, but Franzen feature in Time is 1st good thing ive read there: http://bit.ly/aqPmwt #
  • My day: RT @greenlightbklyn How to revel in a day like today: Come to Greenlight, buy a good book, head to nearest park bench and enjoy. #
  • Just started Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. Thanks @donalynbooks for recommendation. My dystopian summer continues. #
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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-08-09

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-08-02

  • Wow – NYPL only charges you for the lost book, not late fees. Last time I loan a library book to a student, no matter how responsible. #
  • RT @gregkulowiec: Social Studies chat tonight @ 6pm. Topic: using music to teach ss. Join us to share ideas & resources. #sschat #
  • Sorry I missed most of #sschat last night. Set a dish towel on fire, which seems apropos for the topic. #
  • My first goal is always to get students used to working together #engchat #
  • Gotta run. Thanks @sapereaude @EngTeachGeek for organizing. Looking forward to learning with all of you this year! #engchat #
  • I'm posting some of my blogposts on Gotham Schools now. Curious to see what the comments will be like. http://bit.ly/aKBErB #
  • Off to see Rick Moody read @bookcourt. Why do dystopias seem to be filling my life this summer? #
  • Wow! @bookcourt has a section entirely devoted to nyrb classics – my excitement at this is prob geekiest eng teacher moment of my life. #
  • Cool – my first snarky, presumptuous comment from Gotham Schools. Thanks Jodama! http://bit.ly/aquGA9 Now, let my usurpation continue. #
  • "Part of being a good citizen is being skillful at resisting authority, organizing 'our side' on behalf of common interests." Deborah Meier #
  • More from Deborah Meier's Blog on Education: What Price Control? http://bit.ly/b6oXyx #
  • Off to vacation in LA for a week. Should mean I'm not online, but if I'm up at 4am each morning, then perhaps not. #
  • Not “What” You Know http://j.mp/cMvSTo #
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48 Hour Read-A-Thon

I’m sort of cheating, because I would be reading a lot this weekend anyway with a six hour cross country flight tomorrow and then a full day on Venice Beach on Sunday, but nonetheless, I am committing to a 48 hour Read-A-Thon, and I encourage others to do the same. Here are the guidelines from the Unputdownables blog:

If You’re In:

  1. Choose a few books that you will attempt to finish this weekend (Friday evening through Sunday night).
  2. Post your TBR Read-a-Thon books on your blog so your readers can see what you are attempting for the weekend.
  3. Challenge your readers to read along with you! (It’s OK if they don’t, but might be fun if they want to choose at least one book to participate with).
  4. Join the discussion all weekend long at #bookblogchat on Twitter.
  5. Post updates on your blog about what you are reading and what you have finished (full reviews can come later, but this will let your readers know what you are reading so they can either read along or look forward to your reviews!)
  6. Visit other blogs that are doing the read-a-long. Post comments and follow your fellow bloggers.
  7. Make sure you sign up here with Mr. Linky with a link to your first post so we can follow your progress!
  8. *If you don’t have a blog but want to participate: Sign up with Mr. Linky, just don’t add a website (or you can link to your Twitter or GoodReads page).*

If You’re Not In, but Want to Support:

  1. Check out the blogs that are participating below in the Mr. Linky list.
  2. Visit those blogs and leave comments and encouragement
  3. Add to your own TBRs as you see what others are reading!

My reading list for the weekend:

  1. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart – About halfway done, and loving every word of it.  I’ve been getting a lot of funny looks on the subway the past few days for laughing out loud as I read. Shteyngart’s first two are some of my favorites, and this one might be his best work yet.
  2. Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin – Been slogging away at this one for about a month now.  It’s time to be done, though I might loose all motivation for this one once I’m at the beach.
  3. Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear by Javier Marias – Took this to the beach with me last time, but ended up lost in the Wegeland Trilogy (which is one of the most amazing works I have ever encountered – HIGHLY recommended). I feel like I keep on coming across how amazing Marias is, and I’m looking forward to seeing for myself.
  4. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust – Just kidding, but I will conquer this one of these years….
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Just Finished…The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

One Sentence Summary

The experiences of Jacob de Zoet, a clerk at a Dutch trading post in the still-closed Japan of 1799, as he deals with Dutch/Japanese politics, out-of-reach love, and an all time great literary villain.

Favorite Sentence

“The present is a battleground” –Yoshida straightens his spine as best he can—”where rival what-ifs compete to become the future ‘what is.’” (205)

Why I Read It

Mitchel’s 2002 book, Cloud Atlas, is one of my favorite books of the 00′s, and this was getting stunning reviews, so I picked it up for my first full read of summer.

Favorite Thing About the Book

The way Mitchell brings the world of the Dutch port of Dejima and parts of 1799 Japan were engrossing. The world was so foreign that it had a similar effect to moving into a fantasy world in some of the best imaginative fiction out there.

Least Favorite Thing About the Book

I’m not sure this is really a complaint, but the book’s plot kept on going places I didn’t expect it to go, without always giving the resolution I had hoped for from certain plot lines. The book’s true central plot is not really obvious until the end of the book, and it’s certainly not what is mentioned on the book jacket.

Recommendation

This is a Great Book, though it requires some patience, because the plot does move slowly at times and some of the dialect is challenging. With that said, for those who are up for it, it is an amazing reading experience.


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Just Finished…The Big Short by Michael Lewis

One Sentence Summary

It’s the story of the moments leading up to the financial collapse that caused the Great Recession, told from the perspective of the few who saw it coming, and bet on the collapse.

or

It’s a book about just how dumb smart people can be.

Favorite Sentence

“‘I can understand why Goldman Sachs would want to be included in the conversation about what to do about Wall Street,’ he said. ‘What I can’t understand is why anyone would listen to them.’” (Kindle location 4008)

Why I Read It

I was curious to get a better understanding of the everything I’ve been hearing about the financial collapse of the past few years, and was in the mood for some non-fiction, of which I have read much too little recently.

Favorite Thing About the Book

The way it captures just how unbelievably dumb people were in their decisions leading up to the crash, as well as how screwed up the whole financial system seems to be.

Least Favorite Thing About the Book

It ends right at the moment of the collapse, and I wanted the story to keep going.

Recommendation

I would recommend it highly to someone like me, who wants a better understanding of why we’re in the situation we’re in, and has at least a basic level of economic literacy, though has not followed all the economic details of the past few years.

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Just Finished…The Magicians by Lev Grossman

One Sentence Summary

It’s a post-modern retelling of the Harry Potter archetype with the Chronicles of Narnia nested inside of it.

Favorite Sentence

“He was experimenting cautiously with the idea of being happy, dipping an uncertain toe into those intoxicating carbonated waters” (Kindle location 698)

Why I Read It

I was in the mood for a good page turner and a sucker for the display of the new paperbacks in the front of a Borders.

Favorite Thing About the Book

Like most good coming-of-age stories, it shows the anxiety of the transition from adolescence to adulthood. It also does a great job of capturing the feeling that there is something wrong with the world, and something better somewhere else.

Least Favorite Thing About the Book

I don’t want to give anything away, but at times the book was trying just a little too hard to let you know how aware of the author was of how Harry Potter influenced it. The absolute worst moment of the book is a student being drunk and talking about “Quidditch” and no one else knowing what he’s talking about.

Recommendation

I’d recommend to one of my students who loved Harry Potter and was looking for something similar. Beyond that, I’m not sure it’s worth the time, though it’s not a bad beach read.

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Just Finished…Jesus’ Son: Stories by Denis Johnson

One Sentence Summary

It’s a cycle of stories, sharing the same narrator, about addiction and the search for redemption in amongst the least redeemable people in society.

Favorite Sentence

“And you, you ridiculous people, you expect me to help you.” (p. 12)

or

“And with each step my heart broke for the person I would never find, the person who’d love me.” (p. 37)

or

“But nothing I could think up, no matter how dramatic or completely horrible, ever made her repent or love me the way she had a first, before she really knew me” (p. 92)

or

“And sometimes a dust storm would stand off in the desert, towering so high it was like another city–a terrifying new era approaching, blurring our dreams.” (p. 137).

Why I Read It

I first read this nearly ten years ago in a fiction writing workshop in college taught by Judy Budnitz. I remembered it was great, but little else about it. I was in the mood for a quick read, and it caught my eye from my bookshelf.

Favorite Thing About the Book

Nearly every single sentence is a work of genius. (Anything I could add could never do it justice. They’re fantastic.)

Least Favorite Thing About the Book

I’m not really a fan of short stories — even the best short stories ever never seem to stay with me, unlike novels which live inside me forever — however, as this is more of a story cycle than a collection, it still accomplishes much of what a great novel does. With that said, while the totality of it is amazing, I’m not sure I could pick one or two stories that stand out as memorable.

Recommendation

Read this book. Right now. Seriously: drop what you are doing to read this book (if you love language and don’t mind unlikeable characters who do a lot of really bad things).

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Just Finished…Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

One Sentence Summary

In a future world where no one reads and children are no longer born, two readers fight to preserve their humanity, and save all of it.

Favorite Sentence

“And they read, hearing the voices of the living and the dead speaking to them in eloquent silence, in touch with a babble of human talk that must have filled the mind in a manner that said: I am human.” (p.114)

Why I Read It

It was mentioned in this article by Jonathan Lethem, which I learned about from this review, though I can’t remember where I came across the original link to the review. Lethem mentions a ton of recent science fiction I had never heard of, so I went on Amazon to check them out, and Mockingbird appealed to me, particularly as I’m working on building an independent reading program for my school for next year.

Favorite Thing About the Book

This is very much a “novel of ideas,” which I always enjoy when done right. While the blurbs on my copy of the book frequently compare it to Fahrenheit 451, it reminded me a lot more of Brave New World, which was one of my favorite books that I had to read for high school, and also deals with similar questions to the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, Idiocracy. Mockinbird asks what happens to a society that requires less and less meaningful interaction with other humans, while simultaneously relying more and more on technology to do our work and regulate our chemistry. It does an excellent job of showing how reading has the ability to transform how individuals deal with the world and others in it, and the danger for society if this is lost.

Least Favorite Thing About the Book

I don’t have any major complaints. If I had to choose one, it would be that the writing is only really good in a few brief moments like the above sentence.

Recommendation

I wish I could force every student I have to read this, but this type of science fiction is definitely for everyone. It’s definitely worth the 276 pages, but it’s not a “You’ve Got to Read This” book by any means. It’s a good book for a weekend at the beach, or one filled with long car or train trips.

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Just Finished…Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

One Sentence Summary

Two generations of incestuous Greek immigrants yield Calliope/Cal Stephanides, whose coming of age is defined by her self-discovery of her intersex identity.

Favorite Sentence

Sing now, O Muse, of the recessive mutation on my fifth chromosome! (p. 4)

Why I Read It

I read Eugenides’ first book, The Virgin Suicides, probably ten years ago and loved it, but Middlesex has been sitting on my bookshelf for years and I never got around to reading it, despite my wife’s raves about it. The multigenerational immigrant saga has never been a favorite of mine, and I think I needed a break from books where characters happen to experience important moments in US history after reading quite a few of those in the past years. However, I was teaching the early 20th century a couple weeks ago in my US History class, and that is where this book begins, so it seemed like it was time.

Favorite Thing About the Book

Eugenides seems to have a certain knack for writing about houses. My most vivid memories of The Virgin Suicides are of the descriptions of the girls’ house as its deterioration parallels the girls’ decent towards suicide. Middlesex seemed to really come alive for me when the Stephanides family moves into a new modernist house on Middlesex Rd in the book’s third part. Once again, Eugenides used the house to reveal and shape his characters in a way I have never encountered in any other fiction.

Least Favorite Thing About the Book

The first 200 pages, which focus on Calliope/Cal’s grandparents’ and parents’ love stories and immigration experiences, seemed completely unnecessary for me. While they give the book an epic scope, I thought they did nothing but detract from the much more powerful and compelling story of the narrator’s coming of age.

Recommendation

If you’re interested in a 500 page book about the burning of Smyrna, incest, immigration, Detroit, Ford factories, the birth of the Nation of Islam, more incest, the 1966 Detroit Race Rebellion, and the coming of age of a hermaphrodite, I can’t imagine a better book to deliver that experience. The writing, particularly the clarity, strength, and uniqueness of the narrator’s voice, is very good and the scope is epic. However, this book just did not do it for me. The first 200 pages seemed unnecessary, and the book’s final section seemed to devolve into runaway cliches. While Middlesex certainly is not a bad book, I would not rush to recommend this to anyone to which the book’s subject matter did not immediately appeal.

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