I've had three weeks off, and in that time I have completed one Japanese cultural unit for elementary students, half of a Spanish 1 unit for high school students, and parts of a literature course unit. It took me two hours to plan out half of the Spanish unit, while it takes me 5+ hours to plan one day's lesson for my literature unit that is short-story based. Michael said this is an indication of which is my stronger subject. The last day of "vacation" (if you can call intense planning that) is Thursday.
While not planning and/or procrastinating with a large stack of magazines and Disney's "Hannah Montana" show, I've been able to reserve my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which encourages me to set the goal of having all of my outside work finished by its release date on July 21st. My mom started me on this series when I was in 10th grade, and I'm ashamed to say that I initially rolled my eyes at the thought of reading a children's book, especially a popular one - as I was SO above main stream media at that age (haha). Of course she was right, though - and one of my best summer memories was working at The Bunch of Grapes bookstore on Martha's Vineyard when book 5 was released. We had a midnight release party, and all of the employees dressed up as characters or magical creatures, (I was a fairy - my first and only costume since I was the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio at 4). The more I learn about the series, the more I hate that it is not considered "quality literature" by a lot of (misinformed) people, ESPECIALLY with all of the talk about getting kids to read books that may not be at grade level, but are comprehensible and thus a gateway to grade level reading. The allusions in the book to mythology, religion, as well as its use of Latin word roots are beyond measure, and it clearly appeals to kids who otherwise would not be reading, and who are often not aware of the books' overt allegorical plot in addition to its cultural references. If I could teach this over some other choices that were picked to target kids who are not reading at grade level, I would.
I am also aware of the censorship hype about wizards, witches, etc. but while knowing my boundaries in the classroom, I still feel the need to scoff at censorship that I feel is an obvious hindrance over an enhancement. That's why I'm very excited to have my 10th graders read the story about the censorship of Hamlet and its consequences in the short story collection 2041.
Speaking of censorship... this has been a really great season for new albums from old favorites. Nine Inch Nail's new CD Year Zero is quickly becoming my favorite in all of the NIN discography. While Trent Reznor describes the whole album as a concept album that is set approximately 15 years in the future, I will still argue for its relevance in satirizing much of the political climate of today. It also helps that the older I get, the more industrial electronica seems to appeal to me. And anything I can describe as "satirical" gets a plus in my book.
Although not legally released yet, I still have to say that I have enjoyed Manson's new, and much tamer album, Eat Me, Drink Me. Again, my favorite word here is: ALLUSION. I understand a lot of the criticism directed towards him in regards to his treatment of Christianity, and I often wonder why he doesn't have such strong commentary on other major religions, (perhaps he foregoes the interest of being fair in lieu of commentating on his Christian schooling), but that still isn't grounds enough for me to dismiss his relevance as a musician. When I first saw the title of this album, my mind did automatically jump to the act of Communion, but then later read that it's meaning is extended as an allusion to the tea and cake found by Alice before entering the Rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll's famous book. Interviews with Manson that I recently read illustrate his interest in Carroll's creepy visions, but I always found the author more interesting as a mathematician, which says a lot, because I HATE math! I've also seen Manson's single "Heart Shaped Glasses" taking flak because of it's close ties to Kurt Cobain's "Heart Shaped Box," but this saddens me at people's lack of literacy, as it is very very obviously related to Nabokov's book Lolita, but then not so much because there aren't actually heart-shaped glasses in the book. Those were the vision of Stanley Kubrick in his film adaptation. I still like the song, though, even though it's a far cry from Manson's traditional, yelling, (and to me, not-so-enjoyable except at very specific times) style of singing. At first I thought the lyrics were silly, (the chorus goes: "Don't break my heart and I won't break your heart shaped glasses"), until I started thinking (probably too hard) about it, and liked the idea of relating one's "glasses" to their "world view," which I think Kubrick illustrated well when he decided to give the youthful Lolita red, heart shaped frames through which to view the world.
A side note - I've been interested in the idea of character point-of-view ever since reading the chronicles of Seymor Glass in the short stories by J.D. Salinger. The concept of "See-More-Glass" was an epiphany to my 12th grade self.
Returning to the subject - why have I never seen a Nabokov book on a required reading list in all my years of school? I'm especially surprised at this absence after the success of Reading Lolita in Tehran. I read that book while working on Martha's Vineyard, which lead to my devouring of texts such as Lolita, Ada, etc. And yet little to no nod towards the genius of Nabokov - could censorship be at play here!?
Maybe Manson's new album will inspire some kids to read the famous Russian. Nabokov didn't just get me to read more, he also got me take French in college, so that I could understand more of what he was saying! I guess Spanish won out for me, though. It's because I'm a bad speller and Spanish is much more phonetic. The French add letters to words for fun. no comment.
In a closing note, (how did this get so long?) the Smashing Pumpkin's new album Zeitgeist is out July 10th. I love the single, although it is more Zwan like to me than classic SP's, but I'm OK with that. Again, a good season for new music!