Hello, everyone! In a recent post, I announced a plan to provide 2016 presidential election coverage by discussing many of the issues that we will need to consider when determining who to vote for next November. Since it is so much in the news right now (thanks to Donald “Hairpiece” Trump,) I have decided to kick things off by discussing the topic of immigration.
We are a nation of immigrants. Few of us would be here in the United States today if it weren’t for our immigrant ancestors. Many of these early immigrants came here for the same reasons that immigrants from Central and South America want to come here today. They came here to escape poverty and/or persecution. As a nation, we are proud of this heritage. We are proud that the United States provided a safe haven for those ancestors where they could bring us up to be who we are today. (more…)
It’s that time of the decade again, folks… Time to start thinking about who we want for the next President of the United States of America (aka POTUSA). This time, we have an amazing cast of clowns to choose from! How will we even begin to determine who to vote for?
It’s hard enough when you’re someone like me who doesn’t believe in voting according to party lines. If I were a Democrat, I would have only 2 candidates to choose from at this point. If I were a Republican, I would have to wade through a cesspool of 15 (I think) as of today. But I’m neither, so now I have a minimum of 17 presidential candidates to choose from. Or none, as the case may be.
How about a huge round of applause for our latest candidate – Wisconsin’s top clown – Mr. Scott Walker! (And here, I thought I was done seeing that — “DOH! — grin all over my television screen when I moved away from Wisconsin!) (more…)
In her graphic novel, Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi examines the pedagogical issue of “othering” and creates closeness between her western audience and its perceived enemy – the Iranian people – by speaking directly to and carefully instructing the reader on Iran and its people. She explicitly teaches the reader about the Iranian revolution and how she and Iranians like her are very much like us here in the West.
The history of Iran that Satrapi provides in the introduction creates a frame for her story in which the reader must consider the fact that the fundamentalists who now rule Iran were created by the west. She also strives to strip away the “otherness” and show us that we are, in many ways, more alike than we are different. Satrapi uses her text to show her western audience that she and other educated Iranians like her are more like everyday westerners than they are like the fundamentalist Iranians who are so vilified by the west.
Throughout Persepolis, the character of Marji often speaks directly to the western reader. There is no question that Satrapi uses her text to teach to a western audience. For example, in the scene on pages 114-115, Marji walks purposefully down a flight of stairs toward her audience. She may as well be an actor on a stage, pausing the show to step down to audience-level and explain her country’s descent into war. Such a move would not be necessary if she were writing for an Iranian audience. (more…)
The role of fiction in the understanding of history: Why everyone should read more historical novels
History has always fascinated me. I enjoy historical novels that allow me to immerse myself in other times and places and understand how people lived “back then.” However, history classes have always bored me. I have learned far more about history from historical novels than I ever learned in any history class.
Every history course I have ever taken has focused on dry facts – dates, names of battles, lists of names on important historical documents – that students were required to memorize and then regurgitate on that next test. Most of these details immediately flew out of my brain as soon as I turned in my final exam.
Ask me when the U.S. Constitution was signed. I can’t remember, but I can Google it for you if you like.
While these factual elements are important to setting a story in time and place, they never quite tell the entire story. Unfortunately, the “story” part of history seems to be missing from many American history classrooms. (Although, we do seem to get the “his” part right in most cases.) (more…)
It’s amazing how often logistical issues can get in the way of our writing. I, like many writers, have tried a variety of techniques in an attempt to make writing – wherever I may be – as easy as possible. Because we all know, the easier it is, the more likely we are to do it. If it seems like too much trouble to haul your ancient, seven-pound laptop along when running errands, then you probably will end up just not doing it.
If you were writing a novel a century ago, your choices of communication modes were probably quite limited. You basically either wrote your novel out longhand, or you tapped it out on a bulky typewriter. Did they even have portable typewriters yet a century ago? (more…)
I love exploring. Last weekend, I was driving my older son to his girlfriend’s house in another town and happened to notice a sign for the Richfield Nature Park along the way. On the way home, I asked my younger son if he felt like exploring, and next thing you know, we are discovering a cool new local attraction that I hadn’t even known existed!
At first glance, Richfield Nature Park, in Richfield, Wisconsin, seems as though it’s not much to look at. We walked a small trail around part of the park and thought there wasn’t much to see. It was nice to get out in Nature for an afternoon, but it only took us about ten minutes to walk the trail. Then we noticed that that road we drove in on continued beyond the nature park and went past an old red barn. At first, it wasn’t obvious if the barn was part of the park, or if it belonged to a neighboring property. We decided to follow the road and see what lay beyond. (more…)
One of the greatest tragedies of my childhood was not having access to a public library. I grew up in a rural area in south-central Illinois. The closest town, which boasted a population of around 350 people, didn’t have a library. The closest public library was about a twenty to twenty-five minute drive. Since we didn’t live in town, we weren’t entitled to a free library card. My parents didn’t think the library membership was worth the $50 a year considering how little we would get to made the trip.
My parents always made sure we had books to read. We had a full set of encyclopedias. I’ve been told my father used to read to me from the encyclopedia when I was a baby. As I grew older, whenever I would ask my dad a question about the world, he would say, “Let’s look it up.” He would make me figure out for myself which book would have the answer I was looking for, and then he would make me find the correct entry so I would learn how to find answers on my own. Then we would read it together and talk about it. My dad taught me to look for answers and think for myself. (more…)
My 7-year-old started second grade this year. Recently, he brought home his very first list of vocabulary words. The assignment – which is to be repeated every week with a new set of words for the remainder of the school year – was to write down each word with its definition. Which therefore meant looking up definitions for him to write down.
At first, I was tempted to use the Dictionary.com app on my phone to look up each definition and have my son copy the words from there. Then it occurred to me that no child of mine will ever get away with not learning how to use a real-life, hard-copy dictionary. So, I pulled out my mammoth Webster’s New World College Dictionary, and we set to work.
Teaching a 7-year-old how to use a Dictionary is maybe not the easiest task in the world. In fact, like much of my son’s homework that ends up being my homework as well, it’s a little annoying. How can a teacher tell a second grader to write down definitions without first teaching him how to find those definitions? (more…)
On our way home from Amish country Saturday, my SignifO and I decided we wanted to have lunch at some kind of small, family-owned restaurant rather than the usual boring chain. So, when we came across Mullin’s Drive In, located in Fox Lake, WI, we had to stop and eat.
Mullin’s sign boasts their car hops come to your car to take your order, but that’s not all. The property includes a large yard full of picnic tables where patrons can take a seat in the shade while car hops take their orders table-side. A car hop/waitress greeted us as we exited our vehicle and directed us to take any table we liked, and she would be right with us.