Category Archives: Literature

words

“Stop!” said the old man.
Douglas pulled up and turned.
Mr. Sanderson leaned forward. “How do they feel?”
The boy looked down at his feet deep in the rivers, in the fields of wheat, in the wind that already was rushing him out of the town. He looked up at the old man, his eyes burning, his mouth moving, but no sound came out.

“Antelopes?” said the old man, looking from the boy’s face to his shoes. “Gazelles?”

The boy thought about it, hesitated, and nodded a quick nod. Almost immediately he vanished. He just spun about with a whisper and went off. The door stood empty. The sound of the tennis shoes faded in the jungle heat.

Mr. Sanderson stood in the sun-blazed door, listening. From a long time ago, when he dreamed as a boy, he remembered the sound. Beautiful creatures leaping under the sky, gone through brush, under trees, away, and only the soft echo their running left behind. 

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Thyme Ms. Stick King | Three Random Vignettes

Do any of you guys play Mad Gab?  I love Mad Gab.

TIME IS TICKING!

The Charles, right before it starts to bloom.

Anyway, this semester, I spent a good four hours consolidating all my syllabi into one master syllabus.  It took a loooong time since only one prof gave me a MS Word documents and the rest used PDFs.  But it was so worth it.  I’ve been relatively on top of my projects and readings!  It’s come to a point though, where all I’m realizing is that it is week 10, I have projects and papers due in the last week of April and the first week of May, and then it’s o v e .

Second semester was so much better in figuring out how to end, but it could always be better.  I sort of gave up some areas of my life to prioritize for others and of course, leaving a lot of time for play.  I’m a sentimental type of person, and sometimes, I see people in the library or walking down the street and I feel this urgency to meet up for “one last time,” study together for “one last time,” and then I feel very very weepy.

One of my hopes for this blog was to explain the name and the title.  I thought it was a clever way of incorporating this “search for the elusive  snark” and little witticisms.  Recently, as I’m trying to figure out where to go after graduate school, how to plan my ideas for The Mind Garden or whether to jump head first into different nonprofit start-ups, this chunk of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark resonates more deeply.

” ‘But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day,
If your Snark be a Boojum! For then
You will softly and suddenly vanish away,
And never be met with again!’

I have goals and I have dreams that I am hunting.  But if it’s the wrong Snark, if it’s a Boojum, “you will softly and suddenly vanish away, / And never be met with again!”  I feel that although I’m surrounded by much passion, sometimes, I feel sad at the meaninglessness of being only full of passion, even if it is properly guided or stems from well-meaning thoughts.  I wonder a lot for myself, what does it matter if I gain my whole world, but then lose that which put meaning into it in the first place?  (Mt. 16:26, Mk. 8:36, Lk 9:25).

“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary” – Thomas Carruthers

(I have no idea who Thomas Carruthers is except for the fact that he’s credited with a pretty great quote.  I’ve been meaning to write on “The Hunting of the Snark” for a while and how it relates to me (and this blog), but it turned out to be longer than I anticipated.  So, I’m releasing it in chunks!  Meaty chunks.)

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.

I can’t remember the first time I read “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll nor can I say that I particularly enjoyed Carroll’s works when I was young.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was a teacher myself, at a small international school in Taipei, that I began to appreciate Carroll’s tiny gem.  With this poem, I could teach my students (many of whom came from non-English-speaking backgrounds) poetry terms (verse, quatrain, rhyme scheme, rhythm, consonance),  I could review the plot diagram (exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement), I could emphasize the importance of grammar (despite not knowing the words, you can figure out the story based on its preservation of grammatical sentence structure, and also, by interpreting a “fake” word as a predicate nominative or a predicate adjective change the whole picture), I could insert creative options (illustrating, dramatizing, singing), and finally, I could remind my students that even Carroll himself snubbed the dogma of a rigid education.

The more I studied “Jabberwocky”, the more enchanted I became, and later I began to read Carroll’s other famous poem (or should I say An Agony in Eight Fits), “The Hunting of the Snark.”  The above portion is excerpted from the poem’s main refrain (and if you haven’t noticed, is also the inspiration behind my blog title).  I like this idea of an adventure quest.  And this hunting of a Snark has all the elements of an epic quest sprinkled with Carrollian twists and turns.

I bring this in partly because I love the poem, but also because it reflects a lot of what I’m doing right now – pursuing something magical, perhaps nonexistent, with a box of tools that appear rather bare.  [Thimbles, care, forks, hope, railway-share (whatever that is), smiles, and soap?]   And the rhymes are just so whimsical and perfect.

To be continued…

Weak-End Wisdom #2: Memorize sentences not definitions!

While teaching in Taiwan, I was perplexed by how adept students were at memorizing vocabulary and and spitting them right back out at me.  And yet, in their written compositions, they continued to use “good”, “nice”, and “bad” and n o t h i n g else!  It was frustrating.

During that time I also was trying to expand my mandarin vocabulary and as I was chatting with my pastor in Taipei (who was also learning), he shared with me the idea he learned of memorizing sentences rather than simply memorizing words.

This way, not only do you know the definition, but you get a flavor for how it’s used and a brief glimpse of its connotation!  Furthermore, by doing this, you should (ideally) be able to actually use the word in your papers!

As a result, most of my vocabulary instruction consists of “use X in a sentence in a way that demonstrates that you know the definition.” Or, if I want to be especially difficult (and want them to recall concepts from other readings we covered), I have students “use X in a sentence to explain Romeo’s feelings about Juliet.”  You get the gist right?

Although for some people, grading may be more tedious, I actually enjoy skimming through each sentence, putting a check or an ex on the underlined word depending on if it’s used properly or not (or occasionally an “ok…”).  From the following examples, you can probably see why.

Ah the jumble of emotions, the bodily paradox of a cringe-smile reflecting the simultaneous experience of of entertainment and failure.   To be fair, this student didn’t study and recently moved to the USA….

  • I profess that Junia is mean.
  • As a right of propensity, get out of here.
  • I got elucidate by drug.
  • I garble to wash my mouth.

Final aside: It’s also interesting how so many words sound like they ought to mean one thing, but they actually mean something else.  (Like the word “restive” or “embarasado”).

Girls rule, boys drool?

The meaning behind that old playground adage/taunt (which I first came across in the movie Homeward Bound when Sassy the cat says “Cats rule, dogs drool) seems to be a semi-hot topic in contemporary news.

I remember last year reading Nick Kristof’s blunt assessment, “The Boys Have Fallen Behind” where he appears to promote the “do whatever it takes to get them to read” approach.  I flinched at that.  Do we really need to meet teenage boys where they are (in that mucky adolescent mind) and provide them with low-brow humor?  Can’t we encourage them to be men?  Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed in one of my favorite journalists in the world.

Then this year, the Wall Street Journal posted an opinion article, “How to Raise Boys Who Read” which sort of took a different approach but felt unrealistic.   The idea that in this day and age you could “keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books” is what I’d love to do (and probably could do since I’m stubborn), but isn’t feasible for many families (especially those where both parents work).

So, what do we do?

Today while I was working at College Track, my awesome boss/supervisor challenged “I” to read Isabel Allende’s “Two Words.”  Now, “I” is a smart kid.  He’s cute, cool, confident, etc., etc.  What bugs me is if I ever showed him this article, “How to Raise Boys That Read”, he (and others like him) would vehemently defend his right to not read.  He would somehow find holes in the article’s argument (admittedly, I found many), and in the end, joke around the whole deal.  Since he’s a pretty charismatic character, all the surrounding boys (and girls) would be swayed over to his side and loudly put in their two cents arguing the virtues of video games and technology over books and how their English teachers suck and yadda yadda yadda.

This will probably ruin my argument but... Team Jacob!

How do you get around this?  There’s the smart kids who won’t read, and the not-so-smart kids who follow the influence of the smart kids.  I really doubt putting up pictures of celebrities posing with books will get them to change this mentality.  But honestly, without reading, how do you expand minds?  Honestly!

To be fair, I was that weird kid who sometimes sat out during recess reading books (until I realized pretty late in the game how uncool that was).  But I think it worked.   And I think family intervention has a lot to do with it.  Perhaps ridding the home of video games might be overkill, but I hope that when I become a teacher, I can effectively work with the family to address this issue (without of course, neglecting my own).

Gah, it makes me mad.  Smart boys who won’t grow their brains because they’re too smart to care.  Does that make sense?

Why reading the ending of A Lesson Before Dying while listening to Muse is not a good idea.

I’m teaching A Lesson Before Dying for a MS book club.  I remember reading this before in high school.  It was a book that someone had read for their “OutSideReading book” (OSR).  For some reason, a bunch of us then read it on our own.  I remember liking it, but not remembering why.

This second time around, I think I care more.  Not that I didn’t care when I was younger, but when you’re in the position to figure out what you’re going to focus on and what you’re going to pinpoint, the care is different.  There are some massive passages here that I want them to understand.  By “them” I mean those little Asian kids, smart, probably over-privileged, snarky, but sweet.

As I read the ending, I’m listening to Muse’s Absolution album.  Talk of giving your life a hefty soundtrack!  The emotions poured in through my ears and out my eyes and nose.  I’m done. I feel cathartic.  I guess.

Mr. Grant Wiggins, my dear autodiegetic narrator, through your performative utterances, “I was crying” (256) too.

My vorpal sword and I

I love Lewis Carroll’s whimsical rhymes and his unabashedly morbid narratives. I love how he works within the “system” to poke fun at, add to, and eventually demonstrate the flexibility of the rigid system. Some may say such actions actually lead to the system’s demise, which isn’t a bad thing.

I’ve been wanting to start this blog for some time now. I mean, I’ve always enjoyed writing, explaining, and simply announcing the going-ons in my life. I tried a variety of blogs; a regular personal blog felt too narcissistic and any blog requiring photos required too much work.

During my year abroad I had an interesting conversation with an equally interesting girl. She asked, “What moves you?” I told her I wasn’t sure. I told her in movies what makes me cry is when people bully other people, when something happens and people are helpless to stop it, when things aren’t fair, when life is taken for granted, or when life is appreciated. I told her how I grew up with a sense of what was fair or not, and only recently learned how mercy outweighs justice. I told her life mattered – human life. I told her I wasn’t sure if this was clear and she nodded and told me that it was.

I look back and am grateful that she had me verbalize something that had been churning in me for a while. Something that I had difficulty expressing and reconciling; the idea of how to live a life that is full, in which I can act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). I wanted to fix the wrongs in the world without ignoring the fact that these are outpourings of a deeper, spiritual problems. I didn’t want to address the soul without following up with practical actions. And i realized throughout this all, that I was just hopelessly ignorant, both of what the Bible says about the world and of what is happening.

So I’m changing.

I’m reading the Word and growing more aware of what is happening in the world. And this blog is going to help me digest what I learn by being a place where I can draw awareness to what is happening globally and regionally. A place where I can summarize issues that everyone should know but doesn’t. And finally a place where I can track my own progress in being a woman who practices pure and genuine religion (James 1:27) by both caring for those in affliction and keeping herself unstained by the world.

This blog shall be (to borrow from Mr. Carroll) my vorpal sword.