Thursday, September 27, 2012

Blast from the Past

You just never know what you're going to find in an old book.  I was looking for a book that would help one of Mr. Cramer's US History students.  Her project is about religious fanaticism, and I pulled a book from the shelves that was written in 1951.  It's called The True Believer: thoughts on the nature of mass movements, by Eric Hoffer.  Inside the book was a cancelled check from 1977, made out to Nally's Uniforms, a business where student used to order school clothing.  It looks like a student names Margaret Yung used the check as a bookmark, because the library card shows that she checked out the book 10/6/77, and then renewed it twice.  I wonder where she is now.....

Sunday, September 23, 2012

More thoughts on Chekhov: Ariadne

Wow.  These people are NOT HAPPY!
Anton Chekhov
at his home in Melikhovo
with his 
dachshund Khina in 1897
from Wikimedia Commons

  • Shamokhin seems really conflicted about his feelings about women in general.  This quote it interesting: "This backwardness of the educated woman is a real menace to civilization." Hmmmm.  That is SO the opposite of what our society believes (well, I guess it depends on who you ask).  I'm not sure I think that Shamokhin actually believes it either.  He just seems ticked off at Ariadne.
  • According to Shamokhin, Ariadne is a total fraud anyway.  He doesn't really think she's smart, but she acts like she is.  He doesn't really think that she's cultured, but she acts like she is.  So the fact that he bases his feelings about women on Ariadne is, well, problematic.  
  • Stories like this make me think how totally crazy the social structure of this time and place was.  I mean, these people don't work at all, but they have all this money to burn travelling around and going to resorts.  Yes, Shamokhin asks his father to mortgage their family home to support this habit (crazy!), but still.  It doesn't even occur to any of them to work.  Now, today, in our society, it is only the super wealthy who can live this way.  In Chekhov's time, it seems, people lived this way even if they were what we would consider middle class.  I would be curious to learn what the tipping point was when the middle class became more of a working class (well, I think I you?).
  • If Ariadne were around today, would we call her a "gold digger"?
  • The money borrowing and lending in this story is out of control.  How did this work?  It seems like people made personal loans, that banks had nothing to do with it.  I wonder how this colored people's friendships and relationships with family members.  What if Lubkov didn't repay his loans (I bet he didn't!)?  Were there any consequences, or could he just borrow and borrow and borrow, endlessly?
  • What is the deal with this Prince?  Hilarious!
  • I love the fat, pale spiritualist brother character.  I wish there was more of him in the story. I think 19th century (and early 20th century) spiritualism is fascinating!  Anyone else?  Mesmerism, seances, hypnotism, all of that.  People were so caught up in it, and those people make such wonderful literary characters.
  • I love that Ariadne tells the narrator that she loved his stories, but the Shamokhin whispers to him that she hasn't even read them.  I wonder, has she?  Does Shamokhin know?  Is he right about her?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Russian Literature: Some Thoughts

Ok, I just read Chekhov’s “The Butterfly”.  Here are some initial reactions:
image retrieved from Wikimedia Commons
  • Was Dymov trying to get Olga’s attention by making so many careless, dangerous mistakes in his medical practice (like cutting himself while performing autopsies, during which he certainly was not wearing gloves), or was he just completely ignorant about how infections spread?  At that time, did doctors know about contagion?  If they did, then what was his problem?
  • Poor Dymov!   I mean, when he shows up at the cabin after such a long journey and Olga just sends him back to the city to fetch her dress, I felt so sorry for him.  Of course, he DID it, which is either pathetic or really sweet, or perhaps both.
  •  It’s interesting that Olga justifies her first kiss with Ryabovksy by thinking about Dymov that “for so simple, so ordinary a man the happiness which he has already received is quite adequate”.  Does that mean she feels that one must be extraordinary to deserve great happiness, and that ordinary people only require a modest amount of happiness in their lives?  Or does it mean that only extraordinary people can really find great happiness, and ordinary people don’t or won’t recognize it or allow themselves to experience it?  Hmmmm….
  •  For what reason did Ryabovsky hide his new girlfriend from Olga when she came to his studio?  I can’t imagine he was trying to spare her feelings, since he was cruel to her so many other times.  Was he just trying to avoid conflict?
  •  Come to think of it, Olga mentions that SHE had hidden in his studio more than once.  So clearly he is something of a ladies’ man, and Olga already knew it. 
  • I love the use of the word “wangle”.  I think it’s a great word.  Olga ‘wangled’ theater tickets from her actor friends.
  • Does anyone else think it’s strange that Olga would throw parties for big groups of men, and that her husband would prepare their dinner? 
  • Who the heck is Schreck and why is so much mention made of him?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

St. Catherine Fun Fact #5

Saint Catherine of Siena.
Painting in the 
nave of San Nazaro Maggiore basilica in Milan.
Picture by 
Giovanni Dall'Orto
Catherine rebelled against her parents!  Her family became furious when she refused to comply with their attempts to marry her off.  Her mother sent a Dominican father to talk some sense into her, but when he realized her devotion to her faith, he encouraged her to SHAVE HER HEAD to prove her commitment to God.  She did, and her mother was spitting mad!  In fact, her mother fired their household servant and instructed the family to treat Catherine as a servant.  Catherine was made to serve her brothers, father, and mother, and was told she'd be allowed to stop if she agreed to marry.  She persisted in her 'rebellion' and did her duties cheerfully.  Eventually her family relented, accepting her chosen path in life.  In the end, they had to respect her resolve.  She would not be deterred!

McDermott, T.S. The Lives of the Dominican Saints.  New York: The Dominican Fathers of the Province of St. Joseph, 1940. Print.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Teacher Feature: Mr. Buxman

Who knew science teachers liked to read?  (Well, I did, but that's beside the point.)
Mr. Buxman, FSHA's physics teacher and basketball coach, is an avid reader.  What does he read, you ask?  Lofty tomes on dark matter, wormholes, quantum leaping, and particle quarks (I don't think that's a real thing, but it sounds good)?  WNBA stats?  Perhaps, perhaps.

What Mr. Buxman really loves to read is Young Adult dystopian and SciFi literature.  Isn't that cool?  In fact, Mr. Buxman had read more than THIRTY books since last spring, many of them YA books.  You've probably read (or heard of) some of them, like Delirium, Divergent, Matched, and I Am Number Four. To see more of Mr. Buxman's reading list, visit his blog, BiblioBux.

How To Succeed in College

Check out this list of tips.  For me, two were especially true.  The first is "Don't Study in Your Room".  My room was tiny, my roommate was not so friendly, and all I ever wanted to do was wander down the hall to a friend's room to hang out, or nap.  I found it was much easier to study in a library, a cafe, a diner, or outside.  The other is "Choose Professors, Not Classes".  As we all know, it's the teacher that makes the content exciting.  Classes I chose because the professors were highly regarded were always the best ones.
See more advice on getting the most out of college here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

St. Catherine Fun Fact #4

Smokey the Bear
St. Catherine would have liked Smokey the Bear's campaign to prevent forest fires.  According to this website (among other sources), she is the Patron Saint of Fire Prevention.

Twilight Lip-Reading HILARIOUSness

This is so funny, I can hardly stand it.  It makes the movie SO MUCH BETTER!

A Different Look at College Ranking

Washington Monthly has published its list of top 100 colleges nationwide.  Readers might be surprised to see Harvard make the list at #11, and Yale at #41.  That's because the colleges on this list are ranked using and interesting set of criteria.  According to Washington Monthly's website,  "We rate schools based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), Research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), andService (encouraging students to give something back to their country)."  If these are values that appeal to you, take a look at the rest of the lists.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"The Fault in Our Stars" Fan Song

John Green fans, rejoice!  Here's a 52-second song about Natalie Portman's presence (or lack thereof) in the book The Fault in Our Stars.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

St. Catherine of Siena Fun Fact #3

St. Catherine of Siena besieged by demons
Catherine kept secrets from her mother!  Can you believe?  When Catherine was twelve, her mother started trying to get her to dress up a little, do her hair, make herself attractive to the boys.  You see, it was Catherine's mother's job to try to find a suitable husband for her daughter.  Little did she know Catherine had secretly taken a private vow of celibacy when she was just seven years old!  She intended to spend her life in the service of God.  So her mother called in Bonaventura, Catherine's older (and married) sister, to help.  Bonaventura convinced Catherine to pay more attention to her appearance, but when the older sister suddenly died (!), Catherine swore never to be vain again.  Drama!

McDermott, T.S. The Lives of the Dominican Saints.  New York: The Dominican Fathers of the Province of St. Joseph, 1940. Print.