Monday, June 30, 2008

I've been thinking a lot about the story within the story, not necessarily a frame, but something really short, like a fairy tale in a novel. I was reading Knut Hamsun's Victoria, and he does this. Victoria is a love story, and there's one chapter that's just a fairy tale about love and the pursuit of love, and I remember thinking it would be such fun to write a themed fairy tale for a novel. How would you stick it it there? Just slip it in as a chapter on its own, the way Hamsun did it, or what? See, I like the idea of a novel being layered. Layering is huge in teaching right now. Some pedagogists believe that if a lesson is layered, in other words, if it includes activities of interest for all (or most) of the multiple intelligences, or tiered for many different levels of ability, it will be more of a three dimensional lesson. I suppose this is a decent approach to teaching, though admittedly a lot of work, but I wonder if a novel can function in a similar way? I know a novel is not supposed to be a lesson, yet I wonder what makes for a satisfying read? I guess it depends on who you are, and I don't think it's possible to apply the theory of a layered lesson to writing a novel, but I do wonder how many different types of writing can fit into one.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Recent exercise - carrying Wyatt upstairs for a changing (at first, now I use the pack and play). He's starting to smile now, which has been very rewarding, though people (cynics) tell me it might be gas. He definitely focuses on objects. For instance, he loves the giraffe wall cling above his changing table, and he likes to stare at bright lights and faces. Again, (cynics) say a baby would stare at a ping pong paddle, or say, a frisbee, if you held it in front of them. Sometimes I get the impression that he wants to do things that his body won't yet allow. For instance, the day he was born he started lifting his head. It's mostly when I've got him against my shoulder. He definitely wants to play frisbee golf- he knows this is a wonderful summer activity. At the moment he is patiently enduring the unfortunate truth that his hands are not yet large enough to hold a distance driver. Or a fishing pole! Did you know today is National Catfish Day?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rolling on three hours sleep. Let the bottle feeding commence. Not as bad as it sounds. I was up most of the night reading. I've got three books going- Catch-22, which still never fails to put Wyatt to sleep, and is quickly becoming a test of endurance for papa... how much of this kind of back and forth stuff can a person read? I don't know. The answer seems to be how much could a person write? Right now it looks like 400+ pages. I hope the narrative picks up a bit because a few hundred pages in it's becoming overwhelmingly clever.

Surprise hit is Caveman's Guide to Baby's First Year, which I thought was going to be something like babies for dummies. Who knows, maybe it is, and this dummy doesn't know any better, but the book has surprised me by being both clever and useful. I know I told some people I wouldn't be reading any how-to-daddy-books, but this one is a far cry from Chicken Soup for the Daddy's Soul, all right?

Can't forget Barn Owl submissions.

Living the Wisdom of the Tao is this month's bathroom material. That, and #63 of Wolverine's new series. They'll never top the original, but the new one is not bad. On one cover (issue #2) he's reading Walden. What kind of poetry would Logan read if Logan read poetry... hard to say, but I'll bet he's a Hemingway fan.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


For a while there I felt like I was driving down a dirt road at night with “Blackhole” by Beck playing at full volume on the cd player, which is a great track but lures me into a catatonic state. I guess I would advise this track selection if you happen to be driving down a dirt road at night, but I might go ahead and be presumptuous and suggest something like Time Out of Mind. There are a few tracks on that album that are just creepy enough to call up images of backwater goofballs loading corpses into the trunk…something like Nashville meets Fargo. My kind of backwoods music.

Do you remember when I said on bad mental days I’d enjoy watching the candle that resembles a hunk of wood burning? Yeah, well, that’s been the last couple of days, but I kind of had a breakthrough today, and I’m not going to write too much about it in fear of cursing it, or hyping myself, but I guess I’m hyped, and in the long run, I wonder if that’s all that matters.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I hate feeling like the day was pointless, but as I sit to write about it, that's what I feel. Maybe not pointless, but uninspired... it's bad when the highlight of the day was waiting for a Fed Ex delivery... maybe I need some crab apples for my cheeks. No, highlight of the day was taking Wyatt out for the first time. To General for lactation advice, then to Target for a Frappuccino (us, not him...what a lengthy Wiki page!...I still like the discussion on the refrigerator Wiki page over what distinguishes a refrigerator from a freezer...what? was Aqua Teen a rerun that night?) then to Ritzman's pharmacy. I talked to the pharmacist about him, and some (older) woman who encouraged carrie to stick with the breast feeding. Ritzman's has good black licorice by the way...but what I've been looking for for some time now is those old licorice pipes. Those were the best. See what I mean? I feel like I've inherited the attention span of a newborn. Maybe it was the movie we watched... Bee Movie. I think I'd rather be stung by bees. Sometimes I like kids movies... like Bug's Life wasn't bad, or I kind of liked the one about the French rat, but this one was pretty dumb, I thought, and then I always chastize myself for being too critical of something that probably doesn't even warrant such criticism. I also rented I'm Not There... looking forward to that one, and I was psyched to see the Hunter S. Thompson documentary in the works. Timely? Perhaps...

I've been reading Wyatt Catch-22 before bed. His favorite name is Chief White Halfoat.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Senior Novel

I taught Siddhartha this time around to my graduating seniors and because one of the keys to enlightenment is reflecting on past experiences, I am going to do that here... that and I'm going stir crazy without anything to do and it's only the first day of Summer Break!! This is my third time teaching the book, and I think I was able to do a far better job technically this year than the first two times I taught it. The first time we all read it, the second time I taught it as the part of a literature circle- students chose from Night, Angela's Ashes, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Siddhartha. I think something like three kids chose Siddhartha. Most chose Angela's Ashes because they laughed at my description of the book. One kid chose Malcolm X, and a bunch chose Night, although, as far as holocaust literature goes, I like All But My Life, though I have not attempted to teach it. Anyway, I think Siddhartha went well because I was able to explain some of the religious aspects more completely (Mara, Maya, etc.). Buddhist scriptures help, particularly "The Bodhisattva and the Hungry Tigress," and "The Bodhisattva as the Preacher of Patience," though some students equated the Bodhisattva's attitude toward death and rebirth with the Islamic fundamentalism they hear about in the news. The were a little dumbfounded at first by the Mandukya Upanishad, but reacted positively (mostly) to experimenting with meditation. They didn't like the ragas as much as I did, but I imagine it might have been their first experience with eastern music. One female student reacted very strongly to Siddhartha's treatment of Kamala in that she thought he used her. Male students were quick to point out that as a courtesan, teaching Siddhartha about physical love in exchange for gifts was her job, though it didn't sway this young lady's opinion of Siddhartha- she herself was a single parent, and I could totally see where she was coming from. If I teach the book again, I'm going to want to explore the concept of a courtesan with them a little more fully, so they don't think she was just a prostitute. Male students identified with Siddhartha's "party stage" when he becomes addicted to gambling and wine, and Vasudeva as the wise old man. I'm thinking maybe they have such a figure in their lives, maybe a simple farmer or man of the earth type they identify with the character. Students enjoyed researching famous couples and judging whether or not they thought they were successful, ie. found love with one another. They were attracted particularly to learning about Johnny Cash and June Carter (and I started to see some similarities between Johnny Cash's story and Siddhartha's), and Bonny and Clyde. The more bookish students researched instead Jung's theory of archetypes and the collective unconscious, and how they related to the book. They were successful (sometimes) in making personal connections with the book through journaling. For instance, one student compared Kamaswami to an unfriendly flea market vendor. We were able to have a few guided small group discussion about the book once they were finished with it, but hardly any discussion as they read. Usually it was me lecturing- something I hate, but at 9:00 am they tend to be catatonic.

So usually it's ups and downs with teaching a novel- it's work, so they're not going to love you for it, much less thank you
(until years later... maybe), and if it's classic literature, they're not going to make immediate connections...the exception may be The Catcher in the Rye, which I taught to juniors, and they made many connections, even in the first chapters.

My first year I taught Harry Potter to seniors, and a lot of them liked it. There's a good suplimental text for those who may want to teach it without having to wade through the sixth grade lesson plans called The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter. Because that book can exist purely as a fun read, I "taught" them some history of magic within particular culture, and quizzed them over chapters. Tried to keep the atmosphere positive, encouraged them to read more of the series. That was just as the second movie was finished. I was glad they thought the movies were so-so.

Year two I taught A Clockwork Orange and experienced some resistance to the Nadsat language, and one parent refused to allow their student to read it, so I swapped it with Brave New World. We had fun finding obscure pop culture references to A Clockwork Orange, and most picked up on the Nadsat by chapter three. They really struggled with understanding the big questions of the book, or at least some had a hard time caring about Alex at all. The psychological background stuff was intimidating to some, but I tried to simplify Aversion therapy and Behavorial conditioning with some analogical lecture.

I'd like to teach the book again some time, but next year I'm taking over advanced courses, and I want to start the year with Oedipus and Antigone. My plan is to see how many books they'll read without enacting total mutiny.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

So I was playing guitar yesterday just to see how Wyatt would react. He was up on our coffee table in his bouncy chair, and of course I expected him to be enthralled. Maybe even reach out for it. As I was playing I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up just in time to see that he had his first instance of projectile vomiting. It arched up over the side of his chair and onto the carpet. Apparently he doesn't like the red hot chili peppers. Not to eat, folks, the band. Music, remember?

He has a nickname, which is unrelated to the projectile vomiting. Rhutabega. Rudy for short.

My friend Sara told me PBS has a cartoon with a little boy named Whyatt Beanstalk. The show is Super Why! Apparently his superpower is his imagination. I might have known about this if my TV recieved more than two and a half channels. How cool is it that he has a book on his costume? I've thought a lot about exposing Wyatt to TV and all that, and I am mostly against it, however a show about a kid with a super imagination couldn't be so bad. Wyatt will probably have to figure out that most television is garbage on his own though. I was reading that the Kings (Steven) never had a television. Even when they could afford it. They just sat around at night and read stories to each other. How cool is that?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Big Babies

So now that I stare at Wyatt all the time, everyone looks like a newborn. I was driving and this guy passed me on his motorcycle, and he STUCK OUT HIS TONGUE. What a large baby, and what a noisy toy. There was this other guy sticking his head out the window of his car to check for oncoming traffic, and he dug his chin down on his shoulder the way Wyatt does when he wants fed, and he looked like a big baby. Maybe people only look like newborns when they're driving. No, that's not true. The kid that waited on me at Target looked like a very stylish baby. His hair was up in one of those faux-hawk things, and he had no idea what I was asking him.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Wyatt Leonard Skarl

Wyatt was born at 2:07am on June 2, 2008. He was 19.5 inches, seven pounds. Remember the post about the dream of the train and the number seven? Well, he didn't walk seven steps at his birth, but we were in room seven, which is cool, but not nearly as cool as if he had come out fully enlightened. I guess that's what his life is for.

His favorite story (well, maybe my favorite story at this point) is "The Color Kittens," and he doesn't mind Yeats either.

Glad I have the laptop; I've been able to manage quite a bit from the room- I brought Carrie a plant from home (Holden II- the first Holden died), some cake, and thought about sneaking Grendel in (our dog). I've been grading final reader response essays and checking out the Barn Owl Submissions. I can't believe we have so many!