happy birthday Theodore Roethke


from WA:
Roethke was passionate about teaching. He called teaching "one of the few sacred relationships left in a crass secular world." And he once wrote in his journal: "The teaching of poetry requires fanaticism."

a favorite poem:


working with our hands


If the goal is to earn a living, then, maybe it isn’t really true that 18-year-olds need to be imparted with a sense of panic about getting into college (though they certainly need to learn). Some people are hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, against their own inclinations and natural bents, when they would rather be learning to build things or fix things. One shop teacher suggested to me that “in schools, we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement. Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”


on walking


from The Book Bench:
There’s Thoreau, who devoted an entire treatise (“Walking”) to the moral superiority of amblers, stating, “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art,” which anyway “comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker.” Thoreau himself spent at least four hours a day walking through the woods, and he did not understand those who toiled indoors, though, he writes, “they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.” (Thank you, Thoreau!)

Then there’s Rousseau, a Herculean walker, who traipsed as a young man across the Alps from Geneva to Turin and back, and then to Paris and back; who said that he couldn’t think unless walking; and who suggests, in “Reveries of the Solitary Walker,” his final work, that only he who wanders alone can become “self-sufficient like God.” (Not that Rousseau didn’t whinge on other occasions about the lack of a walking companion.)


ballet at the Vaganova

Ballet at the Vaganova

from the NYT.


creative expats


ANECDOTAL evidence has long held that creativity in artists and writers can be associated with living in foreign parts. Rudyard Kipling, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Gauguin, Samuel Beckett and others spent years dwelling abroad. Now a pair of psychologists has proved that there is indeed a link.


in defense of the liberal arts


Lane Wallace:
In an increasingly global economy and world, more than just technical skill is required. Far more challenging is the ability to work with a multitude of viewpoints and cultures. And the liberal arts are particularly good at teaching how different arguments on the same point can be equally valid, depending on what presumptions or values you bring to the subject. The liberal arts canvas is painted not in reassuring black-and-white tones, but in maddening shades of gray.
What's the "right" solution to the conflict in Sudan? What was Shakespeare's most important work and why? Was John Locke right in his arguments about personal property? Get comfortable with the ambiguities inherent in a liberal arts education, and you're far better equipped to face the ambiguities and differing viewpoints in a complex, global world. (The late David Foster Wallace expanded on this point in his acclaimed 2005 Kenyon College commencement address, which, if you missed it at the time, is worth taking the time to read.)


from Scientific American:
Many scientists now think that gestures can help the person making them -- that moving your hands can help you think. Researchers have become increasingly interested in the connection between the body and thought – in the ways that our physical body shapes abstract mental processes. Gesture is at the center of this discussion. Now the debate is moving into learning, with new research on how students learn to solve math problems in the classroom.

freeway interchanges

From The Infrastructuralist:


beautiful from the air, not so much from the road.

holy crap

The Rumsfeld Bible verse CIA briefings, from GQ:



Sully on Obama


I like his reading:
Cheney is taking the torture bait from Obama even as Obama refuses brilliantly to take the terror bait from Cheney. Obama is resisting the red-blue reductionism of the past while forging a new and powerful center. And the more Cheney and Kristol and Limbaugh posture as the future of the GOP, the worse they will do and the more likely it is that more sane and sensible conservatives will eventually fight back.

Obama at Notre Dame

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses commencement ceremonies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, May 17, 2009.

from CQ Politics:
In this world of competing claims about what is right and what is true, have confidence in the values with which you’ve been raised and educated. Be unafraid to speak your mind when those values are at stake. Hold firm to your faith and allow it to guide you on your journey. Stand as a lighthouse.

But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It is the belief in things not seen. It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us, and those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.

This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, and cause us to be wary of self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open, and curious, and eager to continue the moral and spiritual debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works, charity, kindness, and service that moves hearts and minds.

happy birthday Frank Capra


I wish I had time to do him justice, but man do I love his movies, especially from the 1930s and 40s. Just briefly:


teens and technology


from apophenia:
@mirroredpool: What borders to teens place of social networking sites and education? How would they react to using an SNS to do class work?

@annejonas: i'm curious if they want schools involved in social networks or if they like it as a social space outside the realm of formal edu.

This is messy. Many teens have ZERO interest in interacting with teachers on social network sites, but there are also quite a few who are interested in interacting with SOME teachers there. Still, this is primarily a social space and their interactions with teachers are primarily to get more general advice and help. In some ways, its biggest asset in the classroom is the way in which its not a classroom tool and not loaded this way. Given that teens don't Friend all of their classmates, there are major issues in terms of using this for groupwork because of boundary issues.

Interesting read.

on Strunk and White


from The Smart Set:
That is the best thing about The Elements of Style — absolute clarity mixed with absolute befuddlement. Both stances are delivered straight up, no apology to be found. It amounts to the recognition that we know language because it is ours, we inhabit it completely. We can use the written word to say what we want to say and be understood in doing it. This is a marvelous turn of events. Mysterious at its core, the process works. So don't screw it up. Omit needless words. 


death penalty map

from Good:

deathpenheader Transparency: The Death Penalty Around the World


catcher in the rye inscription

from The Guardian:
The last we saw of Holden Caulfield, he was in a mental hospital in California, reminiscing about the days he spent roaming New York City, watching his sister Phoebe ride a carousel. Now JD Salinger's much-loved teenage misanthrope is back, thanks to an unauthorised sequel to The Catcher in the Rye, which sees a 76-year-old "Mr C" flee a nursing home to journey again through the streets of New York.

Wow. What a terrible idea.


around town


I don't know why, but I love seeing art students out doing sketches.

View helsinki in a larger map


Scouts Train to Fight Terrorists, and More

From the NYT:
The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.

Scouting isn't perfect, but I quite liked it when I was in jr. high. But this isn't something I'd like my kids to be involved in.

the power of daydreaming


from Science Daily:
The findings suggest that daydreaming – which can occupy as much as one third of our waking lives – is an important cognitive state where we may unconsciously turn our attention from immediate tasks to sort through important problems in our lives.

I knew it!

happy birthday Emily Dickinson

A poet I love to read and hate to teach. Each poem works better as a nexus for thought and imagination rather than a thing to be pulled apart.

And I like this drawing of ED as a child:

I don't know how authentic it is, but I like how it offers something different from the familiar photos.

Here's a poem I've had rattling around in my head for twenty-five years.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

http://a1.vox.com/6a00c2252b348e549d00d41441a9c9685e-500piI read this as a potential read for my students, but in the end it's too long and too silly. I love the use of food and the whole magic realism thing. Many characters are great, although the love interest Pedro is not sympathetic enough. The ending sucked. Really. The whole last chapter was a mess. But the food as plot device was amazing and worth the read.


Women of Sand and Myrrh by Hanan al-Shaykh

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51YSQM7JSRL.jpgThis is a hell of a book, looking at the lives of women living in a desert country of the Arabian peninsula, going through the indignities of a life without any status of their own, being shifted around and married under bizarre circumstances. At some point, fr me at least, it became too much. I could see that it was all probably realistic, but it became like an unfunny satire. Still, it has changed the way I think about the women I see occasionally under their burkas and the status of women in families generally.


he who pities fools

In this interview by Bizarre magazine, Mr. T doesn't seem bizarre at all. In fact, he seems all too middle class and conventional. Which is part of his appeal, I think.

Mr. T is one of the best characters created for and by tv. It's appropriate that he mentions Peewee Herman in this interview -- they are both characters that transcend their media contexts and become real people.


'Boring Within or Simply Boring?'

from Inside Higher Ed:
Bad lecturers violate nearly every rule of good communication. They never vary voice timbre or pitch. They either stare at their notes or ignore them altogether and ramble onto whatever topic comes to mind. They never make eye contact with their audience or use visual aids and handouts. Everything comes out at the same speed, and they never, ever show the slightest bit of life when discussing the very subject that supposedly excites them. Check for a pulse; if you can stay awake!

Happy birthday Gary Snyder


from an interview at Caffeine Destiny:
Q: Can poetry change the world?
A: Ha.

More stuff:

at poets.org

at WA

to check out...


The Age of the Unthinkable by Joshua Cooper Ramo

around town

Outside Kiasma



boycotting movies

In a remarkable measure of cultural prickliness, most of the major movies opening this month have someone, somewhere, rumbling about a boycott.

Oh brother.


Happy birthday, Orson Welles

"My greatest regret, above all else, is that I never met anybody who wanted to see me do a magic trick"

What a young man could do in the 1930s: Welles was 21 when he directed Macbeth, and 25 when he did Kane.

poem about movies




The Age of Perpetual Crisis:

Which is not to say that newscasters, writers, commentators, and politicians don't believe their own hype. Sadly, many of them do -- even those who should know better. The paranoid style in American politics has metastasized. No longer confined to the radical right as it largely was when historian Richard Hofstadter first diagnosed it in his classic book, generalized paranoia has now spread beyond politics and into the culture at large, infecting nearly everything it touches, transforming otherwise thoughtful Americans into modern-day doomsayers anxiously awaiting imminent civilizational apocalypse.


to check out

Wilson Picket

Wilson Pickett

Wilson Picket

on peace

John A. Widtsoe, “The Obligation of the Church,” Ensign, Apr 2009, 10–13

Elder Widtsoe delivered this important address about missionary work during general conference in October 1946; capitalization and punctuation have been modernized.

It is a curious commentary on human nature that men who cry for peace look upon peace as something that may be picked as an apple from a tree, something that lies about within easy reach of humanity. If I pick an apple from a tree, I have first planted the tree, cared for it, watered it, brought it to maturity. Then in due time I may have the fruit.

So with peace. It is not a thing by itself to be picked up casually; but it is the fruit of something precedent. Like the tree, something must be planted and nourished and cared for if we are to obtain peace.


to check out:

Flaming Lips


Flaming Lips


Flaming Lips

Album front cover

the invisible car

Ms Watson, a second year student, said: "I was experimenting with the whole concept of illusion but needed something a bit more physical to make a real impact."

Sara Watson in front of her car

'make it rain'

artwork by Scott Campbell made from laser-cut one dollar bill stacks.

Happy birthday, Bartolomeo Cristofori

Here's what he did:

The first true piano was invented almost entirely by one man—Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655–1731) of Padua, who had been appointed in 1688 to the Florentine court of Grand Prince Ferdinando de' Medici to care for its harpsichords and eventually for its entire collection of musical instruments.



From The Guardian:
There are lots of people these days with figurative underpants on their heads. That's because in the internet age, the exclamation mark is having a renaissance. In a recent book, Send: The Essential guide to Email for Office and Home, David Shipley and Will Schwalbe make a defence of exclamation marks. They write, for instance, "'I'll see you at the conference' is a simple statement of fact. 'I'll see you at the conference!' lets your fellow conferee know that you're excited and pleased about the event ... 'Thanks!!!!'", they contend, "is way friendlier than 'Thanks'."



'Music' by Anne Porter

swine flu 'relatively mild'

LA Times:
As the World Health Organization raised its infectious disease alert level Wednesday and health officials confirmed the first death linked to swine flu inside U.S. borders, scientists studying the virus are coming to the consensus that this hybrid strain of influenza -- at least in its current form -- isn't shaping up to be as fatal as the strains that caused some previous pandemics.

spring temple

Helsinki Temple grounds, 3 April 2009

around town: vappu

Balloons for sale on the day before Vappu (30 April).

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