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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Roots of Magic

18 MAR 17
If magic were to exist, ever since mankind has been around or even earlier, what would it look like? What shape would it take? I pondered this question as I rewrote a section of a story today. To me the beginning of magics might start with cavemen hunching away from the winds and the rains, shaking when the lightning and thunder come a calling. Maybe they call out to an ancestor who was strong and brave against the elements. Maybe they make a gesture at random and the rain lessons somewhat.
But let's go back even further. Let's talk about dolphins, sharks and trees.
Dolphins are smart, no reason to fudge around about that fact. And life started in the sea. So magic use probably started with them. If ancient man could figure it out, we could assume that dolphins could too. Sea magic. Dolphin magicians. The power of tides and currents. How would they conjure? By waving their fins? Swimming in certain patterns? What would magic-using dolphins do to the world? Fish calls for meals? Would dolphins swim through the air, using magic to explore the 'upper waters' as they might call the atmosphere? I can see that, a school of dolphin mages swimming through some clouds, looking down at the cavemen on the ground. Would dolphins use magic to protect themselves from sharks? Would sharks use magic? How about trees? They've been around a lot longer than man as well.
So many questions. Lots of story ideas in there.

Picture: I don't know why the guy in the pic is using a tome, maybe he stole it from a land-dweller. But yeah, sea-magic, ocean-magic, water-magic.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Life is Beautiful Grazie and Danke

08 MAR 17

First off, a big shout out to everyone around the world who is reading my blog! Nearly a dozen other countries are showing up in the stats! Thank you! Danke, Grazie! Domo Arigato! Hm, I don't know how to say thank you in the other languages!

No matter what subject I teach or where I am teaching, I always try to slip in the movie Life is Beautiful sometime during the year. If you've seen it, let me know in the comments what it is about the movie that affects you so, good and bad. I wish I knew enough Italian to enjoy the movie in the original language. I know enough to be able to watch it in Italian with English subtitles and follow it all right.
The reason I mention the movie is because I had a pretty cool thing happen in class a few weeks after we watched it. My students were quietly working away at an assignment and one of them sneezed. Normally this elicits several "Bless You's" from other students and a "Thank You" in response from the sneezer.
Today however the student who sneezed said, "Grazie," like Joseph, the son in the movie. Then someone in class whispered, "Danke. You're supposed to say Danke." And a few of the students nodded and smiled. It was kind of a touching moment. Right then I knew that the movie had become something personal to them, something that they would remember for many years.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, go see it! I'll wait right here. It's a holocaust movie, so if that isn't your cup of tea, well, you should see it anyway. It's a great movie.

There is a pivotal moment where the young son Joseph (who is an Italian Jew) is eating with a bunch of German children. He is pretending to be a German and getting a good meal, his first in a long time. But when he is served dessert his manners come to the fore and he says 'Grazie' which is 'thank you' in Italian. Oh no! But he is pretending to be German! He should have said Danke! The German waiter knows something is wrong and goes to get someone to haul this impostor child away. The father, Guido, is nearby, serving food as well and has a few moments in which to think of some way to save his son's life.
When we watched the movie earlier in the year, I timed the day's viewing to stop right at the moment when Guido is trying to figure out how to save his son. Many students complained! I gave them the homework assignment of putting themselves in Guido's shoes and try to figure out how to save the son. But what was really amazing was the next day I had several students come to me and say they couldn't wait till class and they watched the movie online. That's when you know you have their attention! I even had one student cry at the end of the movie, she was so emotional. The movie really stuck with them.
Again, if you haven't seen it, go see it! Let me know what you think, good or bad. The first half of the movie is a little silly, the second half more serious. I have a few favorite scenes. Go ahead in the comments and let me know what your favorite scene is.

Two pictures for today, both from one of my favorite moments in the film:
 "First prize is a tank!"

"These guys get to play the part of the mean guards who yell all the time!"

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Guest Post over at Our Write Side

04 MAR 17: The good folks over at Our Write Side were kind enough to ask for a guest post on the writing process.  I gave it some due thought and the whole shebang is posted over on their site:

My post over at Our Write Side

It's about how I write short stories. I am actually going to write the tale detailed in the article. It is indeed one that is in the hopper for development. It was pretty cool to do the whole 'how do I get from point A to point B' when writing something.

Picture for today, a beautiful elephant. Will he turn into a story? Who knows what the future may hold.



Saturday, February 25, 2017

Hombres Aqui

25 FEB 2017
Almost lost it seems. I've never heard about this and some of my Hispanic students asked me as we studied history in class. "What about Mexicans?" Ignorance is never an excuse, so I did some research...

(1953-4, Jackson County, Texas) Pete Hernandez, a farm worker in Texas, was convicted of murder by an all-white jury. His attorneys appealed his conviction because Mexican Americans had been systematically excluded for decades from Texas juries. But, since Mexican Americans were classified as white, the state court said a white jury constituted a "jury of peers" for Hernandez.
His defense attorneys took the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, becoming the first Mexican-American attorneys to appear there. They argued that Texas discriminated against Mexican Americans as a class and Hernandez's rights were violated by Texas' exclusion of Mexican Americans from all juries.
In its unanimous decision, Hernandez v. Texas (1954), the Supreme Court ruled that Mexican Americans were a class in this case, as discrimination against them was proven, and that they and all other racial or national groups in the United States had equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.
Hard to argue that Whites were a jury of his peers when Mexicans were specifically excluded from the jury pool.
And from the Supreme Court ruling: The distinction between whites and Mexican ancestry individuals was made clear at the Jackson County Courthouse itself where "there were two men's toilets, one unmarked, and the other marked 'Colored Men and 'Hombres Aqui' ('Men Here'),..."

Saturday, February 18, 2017

New Orleans

10FEB17 New Orleans, what a magical city. I'm down here again, and I just love this place. So much to see and do. The birthplace of Jazz. Took some good pictures, at least in my mind. :)

I can now cross off Mardi Gras in New Orleans off my bucket list. We had ringside balcony seats for two parades on Saturday. Krewe du vieux 2017 and another one that followed right along. A good two hours plus of craziness and political satire. Crazy to say the least. Links to some pictures are here, and I will add a few pictures to this post as well.

Krewe Du Vieux 2017 at Mardi Gras.com

Krewe Du Vieux 2017 with list of subkrewes from bestofneworleans.com

Had one really crazy encounter on the Green line trolley. A crazy lady with a gallon of what I hoped was water. She was a bigger black lady, maybe in her early thirties, late twenties, who suddenly and without warning shouted "COMING OUT!" Then she picked her bag up high and slammed it into the aisle, in an attempt to clear the aisle mayhap, but she missed her 'stop' with all the people in her way toward the exit. Then she got angry, told everyone in no uncertain that she was mad, profanity, etc... and then the trolley lurched, throwing her into a few other patrons on the crowded trolley, and then the seas parted to let this woman off. Everyone clapped when she was off.
We saw her on the side of the road later that same day as we rode the trolley back. No pictures of her though.

Andrew Jackson Savior of New Orleans
Of course I spent quite a bit of time at Jackson Square. This is just before sunrise. The weather was wonderful.


 We bought fudge at a place with singing servers. These apples looked delicious!


This was behind the St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square. The Church sign denoting a Quiet Zone, covered in very loud graffiti spoke to me. Such a clash of cultures.

 
 This decorated car was truly a sight to behold. Not sure how much Mom would appreciate the shoutout on the back window. It was decorated with BIC lighters, money, shards of various types, figurines and animal horns. The Fleur De Lis was on the hood (the bottom left corner of the picture is the windshield), I especially like the face peeking out of the bottom right hand corner!

Typical French Quarter. Building with iron railings on the balconies. My wife was thinking of drawing something like this scene, so I took the picture. She is very talented! I don't think I would have the patience to draw something so detailed.


A detail of the iron railing next to the place we stayed at. Came out nice I think, as a background image.

 Coop's Place, across from BB King's. The two guys staring at the menu swayed slightly as they read. Or should I say tried to read, they were at it for quite a while.

A little art corner off of Decatur Street. Lots of stuff going on right here, including a lady in a corset selling little Lego people.

A restaurant we passed while walking. Reminded me of a French cafe.

The Cabildo and a portion of the St. Louis Cathedral off of Jackson Square.

Another shot of the Cabildo. These were taken as the sun was rising.

Jackson Square with the cathedral and Cabildo in the background. The Square used to be called the Plaza de Armas during Spanish Colonial times.

 The backside of St. Louis Cathedral as the sun rose.
 Andrew Jackson, the Savior of New Orleans. The position of the clock in this picture reminds me a rather gross joke about a guy who looks like he can tell time by weighing a horse's balls in his hands, but he is actually moving them out of the way so he can look at the church clock across the square.
 These trees look like they almost spell out something!

Detail of a resting place in Lafayette Cemetery #1. Life growing from a place of Death.

 This resonated with me. A fire company, whose motto was Ready at the First Sound, has (or had, not sure if they were still in business or not) a place for firemen to be buried. Very powerful that they have a place for those who served together to be together again. Makes me think of being buried in a military cemetery, mustering one last time with my brothers and sisters in arms.

One of the floats from the Krewe du Vieux. Great floats, great satire. Donald Trump as Humpty Dumpty sitting on his wall that he wants to build to keep Mexicans out. Behind the Statue of Liberty is a Presidenting for Dummies book with the header of It's Harder than it Looks.

Trying to capture the dancers from so far off was hard. They moved so fast!

 I bet this guy took some great pictures. I like the composition of this piece.

Another float from the Krewe du Vieux. Julian Assange Wikileaking in Public! Hilarious!

Joan of Arc statue. Very severe look on her face. Great craftsmanship.

Focus is on the Mardis Gras mask in the upper left corner. Early revelers below, heading...?

 Early morning picture of the fog rolling over the Governor Nicholls Street Wharf building.

A paddle boat on the Mississippi. Clouds parted just enough to let some sun shine in.

Spiderweb with some dew. First time I have taken a picture like this, Switched to the macro lens. It was actually a bit of a juggle as this picture took place right before the previous one. I turned around, saw the clouds parting and the boat going by and had to quickly switch lenses and settings.

The wall around The Joint, a BBQ place featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Glass shards along the top of the wall providing cheap security.

The inside of the restaurant. Great food. The BBQ sauce was thin but flavorful.

This moment I loved, and I hope the picture does it justice. It was very early on a Saturday morning. I came around the corner of the St. Louis Cathedral, heading back to Jackson Square, and I glanced down at some steps leading to a side door of the church and I see Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s book about the Dresden fire-bombing (among other topics). We are studying World War II in class this week and the book just lying there, angled just so, on the church steps, in the dew-filled morning air, sent a shiver through my spine. Who was reading it? Why did they leave it here overnight? Was it some altar boy, sneaking off for a read in between masses? Or the church head, contemplating mankind's evils done to other men? Whatever the true story is behind the tableau, I left feeling pensive, wondering if the universe was sending me a message. I hadn't discussed the Dresden firebombing. Maybe I should.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Carlisha Wrote a Book!

07FEB17 One of my former students wrote a book! I am blown away! So so happy for her.
Here is the link to Amazon. It's a kid's book with a message.

Stephanie's Imaginary Friends


Sunday, February 5, 2017

World War

05FEB17 World wars... wow. I've been reading up on WWI and WWII before teaching about Louisiana's involvement in WWII next week. The Higgins' boat is LA's main claim to the war effort, as well as the Louisiana Maneuvers held in LA before we entered the war. The Higgins boat is named after the guy who designed them. He was an expert at making boats, and tried selling his model to the Navy for years. Marines asked him to put a drop-down ramp on the front like the design of a Japanese landing craft and it was a success. You can see example of it in action, most notably in Saving Private Ryan.

As I was reading, I thought of a how crazy it must be, war. That made me think of the old definition of hell. Hell is the impossibility of reason. And that made me think further of the war mentality, what it must take to defeat your enemy. And that led me to this:

In wartime you must hate your enemy, for he surely must hate you

No two ways about it. 
Picture for today, tracer mortar paths during trench warfare in WWI.