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Showing posts from April, 2014

Short Story #119: The Outcasts of Poker Flat by Brett Harte

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Title:  The Outcasts of Poker FlatAuthor:  Brett HarteSummary John Oakhurst among a handful of others are rounded up and kicked out of Poker Flats in the midst of some attempt to become more civilized.  As they make their way across the untamed land, they eventually set up camp, unable to move further.  About this time, they encounter Tom Simson and his soon-to-be bride, Piney.  The two set up camp with them for the night and come morning are confronted with the starts of a storm.  The snow-storm rages on for days and keeps them from going anywhere.  However, food supplies and wood are running low and at least one member had fled.  Oakhurst attempts to help out Simson by creating a pair of snowshoes and guiding him to the path that he needs to take.  By the time that Simson returns, the entire group is dead.  Oakhurst is found near the gulch that he guided Simson to under a pine tree with a note on a tree.  He had shot himself rather than be a further strain on those back at the campsi…

Short Story #118: The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions

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Title:  The Beckoning Fair One Author:  Oliver OnionsSummaryA burgeoning writer, Paul Oleron rents a large and abandoned house from owners that has been empty for months.  He believes the space will serve well as he is about a third into a novel that is due in six months.  He moves in but slowly finds he is unable to do the work that he wants and also, that he wants to reinvent this novel—to start over and change what’s been written.  His friend, Miss Bengough finds the idea revolting.  She also states that he will not succeed in finishing his novel in this new place.  The two carry on conversations as Oleron settles into the house (and the house settles into him) but it becomes clear that Bengough’s prediction is correct.  Little progress is made.  Equally strange, Benough’s visits to the house result in violence against her—first a nail (that Oleron removed but returned to the wood) slices her finger and then a stair give way and she steps through it.  A strange love triangle develo…

Tales of Running: Marathon #2: Ok, At Least, I Finished!

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So I ran 26.2 miles yesterday for the second time in my life.  Interestingly enough, it was much harder this time around mentally and physically.  This is interesting because I feel like I've been training more properly for this race than I may have for the first marathon that I did.  I completed the run and feel I did accomplish something but that my time was nearly 15 minutes slower than my first marathon and I feel in much rougher shape today than I did the day after I did my first is a little disappointing.

I ran it in just under 4:50.  With my last 1.2 miles, being done at a 6 mile per hour clip (that is, 10 minute mile speed).  I feel some victory there in being able to still do 10 minute miles at the end of this run.  I also think this course was significantly different from the the first marathon in that it had a lot of hills and some steep ones for sure.  The Bay State Marathon had hills but they were gradual inclines for long distances.  The Earth Rock Run had hills.  It…

Short Story #117: Pillar of Fire by Ray Bradbury

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Title:  Pillar of FireAuthor:  Ray BradburySummaryWilliam Lantry awakes hundreds of years in the future after having died in 1933.  He awakes with a burning rage towards mankind and as he learns more about this futuristic place, it only grows.  He discovers that the graveyards of old have been destroyed and he was in one of the last ones.  He's unsure of why he has been brought back to life but he escapes being sent to the incinerator as is done with so many other humans.  Every town has a large incinerator where people dead or about to die are taken to to be cremated.  There appears no sadness in this but that this is merely part of the process.  This world no longer lies or commits violence.    Ceremonies and funerals are a thing of the past.  Enraged by this new world, William sets to killing people and destroying the incinerators.  However, in his travels, he meets a man named McClure who knows who Lantry is and wants to study him.  Lantry goes along initially believing that h…

Short Story #116: The Screaming Woman by Ray Bradbury

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Title:  The Screaming WomanAuthor:  Ray BradburySummaryThe protagonist introduces herself to the reader as Margaret and explains that she is a 5th grader who while in the empty lot behind her house, heard a screaming woman from beneath the ground.  When she tries to tell her parents, they won't believe her because they think she is playing some game.  She does convince her friend Dippy to help but his attention and aid is often limiting.  They try to dig the woman out and speculate on who it could be.  She eventually goes door to to door to see if any woman is not present at home.  She finds one person whom she suspects and the man keeps her in his house as long as he can, hoping that the buried woman dies before anything can be done.  But finally he lets her go home.  When she is home, she hums a tune that her father recognizes.  The tune was the song a woman sang to him before he married his wife who just happens to now be the wife of the man that Margaret suspected.  The father…

Short Story #115: Dark They Were, And Golden-Eyed by Ray Bradbury

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Title:  Dark They Were, And Golden-EyedAuthor:  Ray BradburySummaryThe Bittering family lands on Mars and the father, Harry, is already a bit resentful and would like to return to Earth.  They have left Earth in fear how it will self-destruct under the power of the atom bomb.  However, the family settles into life in the Martian town while Harry continues to long to return to Earth and even begins to rebuild his own spaceship to get him there.  He becomes worried about the Earth-life on Mars that is slowly being changed.  Peach blossoms do not produce the same kinds of peaches that were on Earth.  Harry refuses to eat and food grown on Mars.  He slowly digs into the preserves while his family and everyone else eats Martian food.  He notices changes in his family and others.  Their eyes slowly turn golden and their skin darkens.  People are becoming taller and thinner as well.   More changes come as somehow, Martian words slowly become used in lieu of standard English terms.  Eventuall…

Short Story #114: The Million-Year Picnic by Ray Bradbury

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Title:  The Million-Year PicnicAuthor:  Ray BradburySummaryA family lands on Mars and explores the area.  The father explains that they are going on a picnic.  They get to Mars and unpack all the food and supplies they got.  They then begin exploring.  The children are excited but unclear what is going on.  Eventually, they parents slowly explain that much of Earth is falling into chaos and destruction through atomic war and that they are one of the few families with spare rockets to make it out alive.  They continue to explore the planet and the parents let them choose the abandoned city that they want to live in.  All the while, the parents promise to show them Martians and such so once they are settled into the city they want to live, the father takes them to a water pool and points to their reflection to explain that they are now the Martians.  

ReflectionI kept wondering if they were going to be the Martians in the end--especially with the story's name.  I would need to go bac…

Short Story #113: Come into My Cellar by Ray Bradbury

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Title:  Come into My CellarAuthor:  Ray BradburySummaryHugh awakes on a nice sunny day in an optimistic mood.  He greets his neighbor who is generally a friend and intelligent older woman who is complaining about bugs and flying saucers.  He goes downstairs to his family and learns that his son has received an order for growing mushrooms and is off to the basement.  Later on, Hugh goes into town and runs into Roger who says he thinks something is going wrong with the world but he can't seem to put his finger on it.  He returns home and finds that his son's mushrooms are growing wild already.  Shortly after this, he receives a telegram from Roger telling him something weird is going on and he's trying to get to the bottom of it.  Hugh calls the police to help and get Roger but by the time get him, Roger has no memory of what he did.  Hugh knows something is wrong but he can't put his finger on it until he learns that other children have been ordering the mushrooms and t…

Short Story #112: The Trials of Arden by Charles Brockden Brown

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Title:  The Trials of ArdenAuthor:  Charles Brockden BrownSummary A man begins by talking about a recent trial that has grabbed his attention and how it lead to a conversation with a very old friend.  He explains the case to his friend and this triggers the memory of a similar case that the old man begins to tell.  A young man named Arden arrived in the town and despite lacking references was able to get a job as a tutor to the children of Mr. Finch.  The oldest of children was Harriet and she and Arden eventually fell in love.  Some time later, Harriet was found to be dead in a grotto by the river.  Circumstantial evidence leads everyone to believe that it was Arden.  It is presumed that Arden did this because it seemed likely that she was to be married to another local wealthy family.  Eventually, Arden ends up at trial and meets with a hung jury, with one many holding out despite any argument.  Arden is released and flees the area.  However, Loveden, the juror who withheld is all bu…

Other Publications: One Popular Culture Text To Rule Them All

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This post was published over on the Northeast Popular Culture Association site. Here's an excerpt, but be sure to follow through to the full article!

Balancing theory, historical context, and theory makes finding the right text for a popular culture course a supreme challenge. Some books offer all theory; others give the straight history (whatever that means). In various renderings of the popular course that I have taught over the last five years, I have tried no less than five different texts with various successes (and failures). This review looks at several different texts that may be useful for teaching a popular culture course.

There are a few things to note about my course that give context to the choices and critiques that follow. The course was originally designed as “Popular Culture and Media,” essentially blending popular culture and media studies. The content proved too much and the course was changed to “Popular Culture in the U.S.” This switch deemphasized media studies…

Short Story #111: Amelia: Or the Faithless Briton by Anonymous

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Title:  Amelia: Or the Faithless BritonAuthor:  AnonymousSummary Amelia and her father, Horation lives with her  have moved away from the fray of the Revolution showing no interest in the affairs.  However, she encounters a wounded soldier and helps him recover.  The solider, Doliscus is a young nobleman from England who was injured in a recent battle.  As he recovers, he sets to seducing Amelia and even tricks her into marrying him under false pretences so he can enjoy her carnally.  He succeeds but is then soon called to return to fighting and leaves, promising her he would take care of her.  However, he is called back to England upon the death of his father.  Realizing she is pregnant and that he may not return, Amelia decides to travel to London to confront him. When she does show up at his hom, he dismisses her and pretends he has nothing to do with the event.  She returnst o her room and the stress of it all causes he to have the child prematurely.  The baby dies shortly after gi…

Short Story #110: Somnambulism. A Fragment b Charles Brockden Brown

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Title:  Somnambulism. A FragmentAuthor:  Charles Brockden BrownSummary The story is introduced by referring to a newstory about a man who had slept walk and killed a woman without ever knowing it.  Moving from there, we are introduce to Mr. Davis and his daughter, Constantia, visiting the narrator at dinner.  They receive a message calling them away but the narrator, who is infatiuated with Constantia insists that they must stay.  He insists that if they go, they will face uncertain danger.  However, proper behavior prevents him from forcing them to stay.  Despite his insistence, they do leave and he is left to turmoil their fates while at home.  He falls asleep and has colorful dreams but awakens in the morning to find tragedy has struck.  While on the road, Davis and his daughter encountered a stranger who they think is the narrator but not sure.  The person disappears but then they encounter a local man who had some mental developmental issues and often roamed the night trying to sc…

Short Story #109: The Quadroons by Lydia Maria Child

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Title:  The Quadroons Author:  Lydia Maria ChildSummary The story starts with a cottage in Georgia prior to the Civil War, where two lovers live together, enjoying the off season when there are less people around because the woman, Rosalie, is a "quadroon" while her husband, Edward, is a young white Georgian. The two had married in a church but could not legally marry as it was miscegenation was illegal.  However, they enjoy their marriage and even have daughter, Xarifa.  The three live is peace until Edward becomes involved in politics and his success leads him to approach his personal life as political.  He decides he needs to marry a white woman in order to secure power, but tries to explain to Rosalie that this doesn't detract from his love for her after she has discovered he is to be married.  She refuses any kind of relationship beyond what they have and leaves.  The new wife, Charlotte, slowly learns of the loveless marriage she has entered into and how Edward stil…

Short Story #108: The Big Bear of Arkansas by Thomas Bangs Thorpe

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Title:   The Big Bear of ArkansasAuthor:  Thomas Bangs ThorpeSummary The story starts on a steamboat on the Mississippi wherein the narrator is reflecting about the nature of the people he meets onboard.  The  narrator introduces use to the Big Bear of Arkansaw, a man who has all sorts of stories to spin.  Some question the veracity of his tales but he insists on their truth.  He explains that Arkansaw is a wild place where things are bigger and stranger than the rest of the US.  Eventually, the story turns to a "big fish" tale about a bear that he hunted for several years.  At one point, he thinks he has killed it but realizes it isn't the bear he was after.  Shortly after, he has a final confrontation with the bear but rather than being able to kill the bear himself, the bear dies, leaving the man disappointed about not being able to claim it as his own kill.  

ReflectionI often enjoy stories like these that are voyeuristic in nature (that is, the narrator watching the e…

Short Story #107: Chrysalis by Ray Bradbury

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Title:  Chrysalis Author:  Ray BradburySummaryDr. Rockwell is called in to take a look at a man named Smith by his friend, Hartley.  Rockwell declares him dead and is about to leave when Hartley insists that he check his heart one more time.  When Rockwell checks, he waits a bit longer and discovers there is the slightest of heartbeats.  Hartley begins to explain that Smith went into this state a while back and had not decomposed but just lays there in an inactive state.  Eventually, Hartley also explains that Smith does emit some telepathic thoughts on occasion.  Rockwell is intrigued and takes him to his private laboratory.  Hartley becomes increasingly erratic and pressures Rockwell to destroy it but the doctor refuses.  He slowly makes sense of Smith and believes the man entered into a cocoon like state and would eventually come back in a new form.  Eventually, Hartley decides he must try to kill it himself but before he can, Smith returns to life, which further scares Hartley as …

Letter to the Editor: Abstinence a failed policy

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This is a letter to the Salem News from last week that I had published on sex education.  Enjoy!

"To the editor:

Joseph Sciola (”Condoms have no place in schools,” April 4) advocates abstinence-only education when he asks “Whatever happened to telling kids that sex outside of marriage is wrong, it’s immoral, it’s sinful?” The easy answer is that it failed, and horribly so. It fails to delay first sexual engagements, it fails to prevent teen pregnancy, it fails to halt the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and it fails to account for homosexuals (upward of 10 percent of the population) who cannot marry in more than 30 states."

For the rest of the letter, visit the Salem News opinion page.


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Short Story #106: Icarus Montgolfier Wright by Ray Bradbury

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Title:  Icarus Montgolfier WrightAuthor:  Ray BradburySummaryJebediah Prentiss has just built the first rocket.  In the excitement, he is asked what is his name.  This question sends him back through history to the pivotal moments and inventions that led to this moment from Icarus's first flight, to Montgolfier's first flight in an air balloon to the Wright brothers' first flight on a plane.  Finally, he answers the boy that his name is Icarus Montgolfier Wright.  

ReflectionIt's a short description but a very short story that again plays on a bit of nostalgia and hero worship for Bradbury.  While I can appreciate homage to the past figures, I felt this was a bit too heavy-handed.  However, as the ending story to this sci-fi anthology--it does make a certain poetic sense.  

Short Story #106 out of 365
Rating: 1 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/9/2014
SourceS Is For Space by Ray Bradbury.  Bantam Books, 1970.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check o…

Short Story #105: The Flying Machine Ray Bradbury

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Title:  The Flying MachineAuthor:  Ray BradburySummaryThe story takes place in China in 400 A.D.  A servant comes rushing into the Emperor's room explaining that he has witnessed a miracle that the Emperor must know about.  The Emperor plays coy with the servant but eventually lets the servant explain that he witnessed a man operating a flying machine.  The servant brings him to the man who flew and the Emperor questions the man.  After ascertaining that no one else knows about it and that this is the only one, he has the guards take him into custody and summons the executioner.  He then shows his own technology but explains that his technology just increases beauty whereas the beauty that this man has created would wreak havoc upon the Emperor's beautiful world.  

ReflectionThis is a bit of a dark story that reminds me of Frank Herbert's Cease Fire or Theodore Thomas's Day of Succession in its brute force and clear fear of the future.  This attempt to squelch knowledge…

Recent Blogpost on NSCC LETS Blog: Instructional Technology: The Green Solution

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This is a blog post, I wrote for the NSCC LETS Blog.  

An often unrealized potential of instructional technology is the ways it can benefit the environment and reduce waste.  Here are some of my favorite ways to reduce waste through technology.

Online Readings

By providing readings online and allowing students to bring digital devices to class to use when we are working on the class readings, means that students are less likely to print it out.  However, even if they do, I provide them with instructions on how to get the most out of printing by using double-sided and depending on their viewing preferences, possibly 2 pages per side of paper (therefore a 60-page document is reduced to 15 pieces of paper).  Particularly in courses that have massive (and often, overpriced) texts that have lots inside that may never be read, I like that I can provide just the necessities. And with a growing assortment of Open Textbooks that are online for free, it makes it even easier!

Read the rest of the bl…