Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The End of This Blog

I'm still blogging at ...

Black Raku Tea Bowl, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, from our visit there last month.
I'll be continuing to write about many interests including Japanese art and literature, international food, and travel.

I started this blog in April, 2006, when I was about to leave for a month in Israel. On a previous stay in Israel, I had recorded my impressions in a series of emails, which I collected later, and I realized that a blog would be a better way to let friends share my experiences.

Later that summer, I decided to separate my blogging activity into specialized streams: particularly, to separate food posts. Thus I began my food blog. Now I intend to re-integrate all my blogging into a single stream: my food blog. In 2016, I'll include posts about travel, wildlife, and reading there even if they aren't about food.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Favorite Poetry

In today's New York Times Book Review: "What's your favorite poem?" Responses to the question are from a number of well-known writers.

I'm not much of a poetry reader, but several of the poems listed are also among my favorites. Here are some of the beloved poems from the article, and my own memories of them:

TA-NEHISI COATES: Robert Hayden’s “Middle Passage.” I reread this poem just now. It's an incredibly powerful evocation of what it would have been like to be a captured slave on a slave ship in the Middle Passage from Africa to the new world. The poet Robert Hayden was a neighbor of ours for a few years in the 1970s and I remember greeting him as he walked his dog named Sadie. This adds to my appreciation of the poem.

ALAN CUMMING: Yeats’s “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.” Another that I remember loving a long time ago when I took a course about William Butler Yeats.

KATIE COURIC: John McCrae's “In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row” is her favorite, and she also mentions a poem I often recited when I was a child: “The Swing,” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

MO WILLEMS: Dr. Seuss’s “Hop on Pop.” What a great choice. What parent or grandparent doesn't love to remember reading this to small children and then seeing them learn to read it for themselves!

I suspect that you might find some of your favorites in this engaging list!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"Ungifted" by Gordon Korman

My book club is going to discuss Ungifted by Gordon Korman. Though we are all adults, we're reading a YA book, so I have written some questions that seem usable by an adult discussion group. I enjoyed the book and found it very amusing. though somehow the questions seem rather serious.

1.         Since we’ll get around to it eventually anyway, who wants to tell a story of their own Middle School/Jr. High experiences?

2.         Alice who is 12 and liked the book suggested two discussion questions about Donovan Curtis, the central character:

     A.          If he would stay at the gifted school would it be good or bad for him?
     B.           Why did Donovan’s sister feel so comfortable with the gifted kids?

3.         Donovan’s perceptions of the differences between the schools are a key element of the book. Sort of typical, a passage written by Donovan:

“Classes at my new old school weren’t better, exactly, but at least I understood what was going on. I’d been faking it for so long at the Academy that it was startling to suddenly know actual answers. I even raised my hand a few times in math, until Sanderson bounced a spitball off my skull and hissed, ‘Dude— this isn’t the Academy!’

“And I couldn’t help thinking, No, it sure isn’t. You can see it in the paint  job, and taste it in the bad cafeteria food. You can hear it in the dead air that hangs in the classroom when the teacher asks a question. You can smell it in the sweaty gym socks— so different from the synthetic-oil aroma of a set of Mecanum wheels.”  (p. 215).

A.         Do gifted kids in our society really get treated better to the extent that the book implies?

B.         In this and many other passages when Donovan describes the situation at the school, the relationships between the teachers and students, the attitudes and social pressures among the kids, and much more, he’s incredibly perceptive and his observations are amazing. Is this convincing? Is he a believable observer?

4.         Did you find the portrayals of the kids/teachers/administrators excessively stereotyped? Is there balance between the predicted behavior of  the “gifted” and the “ungifted” and their self-awareness as revealed in their alternating narratives?