“Children’s Lit” class reading

This semester, I took “Children’s Literature” (English 127) at a local community college—I had my final on the sixth of this month—wherein we had a textbook (and a half) and multiple books that were required reading. Here, I’m going to name each book (beginning with the text) and give some brief thoughts, if I have any. I won’t be summarizing any of the books’ plots or we’d be here all day.

The Textbook (and a half)
I say “textbook and a half” because we actually only had one textbook, but the professor made pages and pages of photocopies from another text (probably more than was legally allowed, even considering educational and fair use).

Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood, by Maria Tatar
Of the two, this was the book we read all the way through, and it was clear that the teacher’s preference (and mine) was for this book over the other, of which we only read excerpts.

Children’s Literature: A Developmental Perspective, by Barbara E. Travers and John F. Travers

The Required Reading
The BFG, by Roald Dahl

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
Many people apparently like this book, or did in high school when they first read it. But, I didn’t read it in high school (and I don’t think it was required reading at my high school in any class, because I don’t know any high school friend who read it, either), and I didn’t really like reading it for this class. Meh. To each their own.

The Opportunity
In May, we were given the opportunity to meet with one of the producers of the upcoming movie based on Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games on the condition that we read the book so we’d be prepared to actually have a decent conversation with the producer, Allison Thomas. We also read excerpts of The Tale of Despereaux and watched excerpts of the (very different) movie of the same name. (I also watched it in its entirety before the meeting with the producer to get a better feel for the movie as compared to the book excerpts we read.)

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
It was okay. I’ll probably see the movie when it comes out. I haven’t read Catching Fire or Mockingjay, though I bought all three as a box set in anticipation of reading all of them. We’ll see if I get around to reading the other two. (My sister read them all and liked them. She also went with me for the discussion with the producer.)

The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
Let me just say this: the book and the movie are completely different.

The Tale of Despereaux (2008)

Other Reading
Inevitably, I had to give presentations and write papers in this class. Would it really be a class without such things? Anyway, these are the books I chose to present to the professor in one form or another.

Meet Molly: An American Girl, by Valerie Tripp
I gave a presentation on this and the first thing the teacher told me about the images I had presented to the class was, “It seems… very white”… which is true, but… come on. Sigh. I guess I can be irritated by that because I’m represented in the images I showed (that is: I’m Caucasian), and it would probably be very different if I didn’t have all the privileges my skin color affords me.

Animorphs #6: The Capture, by K.A. Applegate
My favorite of the Animorphs series. I used to own the entire series up through #37 or #40 or something, but I sold a bunch of them on eBay a few years back in an effort to free up some shelf space. I kept #1-6 and a few random ones, like #23.

Beauty & the Beast, a fairytale
Haha, my thoughts on this could get their own post. Maybe someday.

Sweetbitter

Saturday started out a good day. I didn’t have work, I didn’t waste the day sleeping, I didn’t have to make breakfast (someone made it for me), and I actually cleared out some of the emails that have been languishing in my inbox for ages (“achievement unlocked!”). I managed to get to a dress rehearsal on time and didn’t complain about how long it was (three hours!). I got to hear Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity played live by a full orchestra and I fell in love with the music all over again. I shipped off a box of coffee to a friend (I hope she’s a friend, at least!) who writes great 1×2 fanfiction. I picked up a couple of (expensive! ugh) choral music folders so that my sister and I can stop borrowing from the school for every concert.

There was a moment while I was driving yesterday afternoon on Colorado in Pasadena and I had to stop for a red light. No big deal; I’m not in a hurry, I like people watching, and heaven knows that Saturday afternoon in Old Town is exactly the right time to be people watching. I just happen to be at a light that has a catty corner crosswalk—the type of crosswalk that allows pedestrians to walk diagonally across the street as well as at right angles. So the rhythm of the street light at that corner is: drive forward, stop and wait for cars to cross, all cars stop and wait for people to walk. I sat there in the midst of… so much life… watching people use the diagonal crosswalk and just felt… happy. It’s silly, I guess, but I really love the streets, being able to mingle with people even without knowing them, sharing lives for just a split second while waiting for a chance to cross. It reminded me of New York City and I thought to myself, “Maybe I’m starting to like this city the way I loved New York.”

I went home and had a good evening with my parents. We had soup for dinner and I baked banana bread with pecans for a family friend’s birthday (“See?” my mother said when she tasted it, “you are a cook!”—“Well, I can bake,” I said, “but I’m not really exactly a cook.”). We watched an episode of Keeping Up Appearances and then sat in amiable silence working on separate projects for maybe two or three hours.

After my parents went to bed, I finished up editing some accepted submissions for the June issue of Hippocampus. I started answering neglected emails and as the next couple of hours progressed, I’ve become more and more homesick. (I don’t think it’s helped that I’ve been listening to “Black Balloon” and “Iris” on repeat, either, since those tracks are especially nostalgic for me.) I think it started after I watched a great performance of the poem “The last love letter from an Entomologist…” though I wasn’t really thinking about it seriously until I realized that I was homesick.

I was confused at first; how can I be homesick? I already am home. Literally: I’m sitting here in the house where I grew up. I have my own room, the room that I painted dark blue (my mother refused to let me paint it black) with red trim during the summer between my junior and senior years in high school. I have shelves and shelves of books, my own bed, and a desk. I eat the food from the fridge and am happy to see my family when they get home (and when I get home). I don’t hate my job, and I even like my coworkers. I can’t be homesick; I’m already home.

But then I realized that stupid idiom is true: home is where the heart is. (Curse you, Pliny the Elder, for… for just knowing things in the first damn century CE!) I like it here, and I love my family, but it’s not where my heart truly is. My first thought was to Yager, one of my waterbrothers, whom I haven’t seen in more than a year and then only for less than a week and then I had to screw everything up like I always do when I love someone and that person has a significant other who doesn’t understand.

And then I thought of New York City, the mistress who damned me and left me to die. I thought of the catty corner crosswalk I saw last afternoon and realized I liked it because it was a tiny bit of New York, not because I was finally beginning to like the city in which I was already living. It had reminded me of New York, after all, why I hadn’t I seen it before?

I thought of another waterbrother, here where I live now, and I thought of picking up the phone—even at this late hour—and calling him and telling him I was heartsick. I know he’d come. He always does, when I need him. But I talked myself out it; I just hurt him when I need him like that, especially since I’m never able to return the gesture when he needs me in his own way. It’s amazing: a waterbrother who doesn’t understand his own position because I, sworn to him a tovarish forever, have failed at explaining it or making him feel it or communicating it properly in some way.

My heart is lost in a place where it can feel no heat. It hurts. If I am home and yet feel homesick, where does my heart really lie?

swallow the light from the sun

“The King and I” at Flintridge Prep

The King and II attended Friday (March 11) night’s performance of The King and I at Flintridge Preparatory School. I knew I’d be taking the bus (the school is on the other end of town from where I live), so I headed out the door a little after 6:30 to catch the bus in time for the curtain at 7:30. I got to the bus stop and waited. And waited. And waited. And finally called the number on the bus stop sign to check for the bus schedule, which said that the last bus of the evening came around 6:30. Since I’d left the house at around that time, I knew I’d already missed the last bus and, if I really wanted to see this show, was going to have to walk the rest of the way. Since one of my (now former) coworkers was in the show, I knew I wasn’t going to miss it if I could help it, so I started walking.

I got more than halfway from the bus stop to the school when… wouldn’t you know it? A godsdamned bus passed me. Damn, I was so angry, then. But I knew that I really had missed the last bus by that time (even though I’d just seen it fly by /anger & frustration), so I resolved to be angry (if I still felt like it) after I arrived at the school’s auditorium. When I finally made it to the auditorium foyer, I stood in line for my will call tickets (“Just one?” the guy behind the table asked. “Yes,” I said, and he handed it to me in a white envelope.) and as the guy handed them to me, the foyer lights began to dim and come back to full strength intermittently, which means that the audience should take their seats, if they haven’t already, because the show is about to begin.

Tuptim and Lun Tha
Tuptim, played by I. Weiss (a senior), and Lun Tha, played by Z. Myers (a junior)

I found my seat, about midway back from the stage on the far house right. (Unfortunately, this meant that I was unable to see the map of Siam, England and the world during the scene wherein Anna is teaching her students that Siam isn’t as big geographically as they think it is.) In any case, I settled in and tried to ignore the screaming high school fangirls who seemed to be completely surrounding me. (Ugh.) I told myself over and over that I could put up with it because, after all, it was a high school play, and I would put up with it for the sake of my friend in the production. (He played Lun Tha, Tuptim’s forbidden lover from Burma, on two of the four performance nights. See photo above.)

One thing I found interesting was the director’s note in the production’s program, in which he says, in part, “I told the cast on the very first day that we must cling to very important foundation points: tell the story as honest[ly] as we can and be as truthful and celebratory of the Siamese/Thai culture as possible.” My friend told me about this aspect of the musical in his excitement while the cast was still rehearsing, and it was that—aside from my willingness to support a friend in the arts—that made me want to see Flintridge Prep’s version of the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. The opening prayer and all the non-English dialogue was in either Pali or Thai, not just Asian-sounding gibberish, which—I admit—I was expecting from a high school production. I am, needless to say, glad that the director and cast rose above that.

Opening prayer
The opening prayer, which “celebrates the respect and pursuits of a learned mind”
according to the production’s program

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I is, of course, a grand and beautiful display of 1950s racism and sexism based on a film from the 1940s, which—in turn—was based on a book, Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon (which is itself fictional and based on the original Anna‘s admittedly already racist/sexist memoirs, The English Governess at the Siamese Court [1870] and Romance of the Harem [1872]). Talk about a game of Telephone! There is little doubt in my mind that any of the cast, or the director himself for that matter, ever read any of the source material to see for themselves how bad it actually is. (And it is bad.) The irony of having a mostly white American cast wasn’t lost on me; though now that I think about it, I’m not sure people of Siamese/Thai descent would actually want to be a part of something that degrades them so obviously.

Putting aside the content of the musical (over which, I understand, the director had no control, except that he chose it in the first place), the production itself was actually pleasantly surprising in terms of acting, costuming, and direction. My friend who played Lun Tha was especially surprising for me because I didn’t know before seeing the musical that he could sing at all. (In fact, I had playfully called him Justin Bieber, something to which he took offense, and something I now officially retract. He’s much better than said popstar.) I also thought it was a neat idea to have the principal roles split between two actors each so as to spread the love, so to speak, and take some pressure off of said principals to perform perfectly four nights in a row. Except for the King, who was played by the same actor in every show, the primary roles were split between actors who performed either Thursday and Saturday or Friday and Sunday. (I don’t know why the King’s role was reserved for just one actor, though I admit he was pretty good.)

King and I cast
The entire cast of Flintridge Prep’s The King and I

As I had never been to Flintridge Prep before, I was also surprised by the free refreshments during the intermission. I partook of two chocolate chip cookies and a cup of Zen green tea. I also bought a lavender rose for my friend (“Proceeds go to the theatre department”), complete with a tag with space for a note, just in case I didn’t see him after the play was over.

I think, if I wanted to, I could really delve deeply into the racism and sexism that’s built into the musical and think about why Flintridge Prep decided to stage its production here and now, but this review is already long enough so I’ll save my theories for another post when I have more time. (More time? What’s that?)

Photos courtesy of Flintridge Prep.

————
(Haha; new rule from now on: if I don’t write the damn review within a month of finishing the book/movie/event, I’m just not going to. Almost two months after the fact is just ridiculous.)

Happy Exelauno Day!

More about Exelauno Day below.
(In ancient Greek, I’m told, exelauno means “to march forth”… Oh, puns; you amuse me.)

First Things
The Roxbury Latin School
TV Barn, which includes:

…Exelauno Day, a holiday drummed up by some clever classics prof who realized that the verb exelauno means “to march forth.” It’s most prominently featured in the military text Anabasis, a popular first-year text thanks to its sentence structure, which is more repetitive than a George Bush press conference.

Hippocampus

I encourage all my readers who write to consider submitting to Hippocampus Magazine, an online publication featuring creative non-fiction that will be debuting in May. It was dreamed up by a friend of mine, Donna Talarico, while we were still in school getting our M.F.A.s in Creative Writing. I’m really excited about the first issue (and the ones after that, too!)—and not just because I’m on the reading panel to choose what is accepted!

The magazine is named after a part of the brain that controls long-term memory and spatial reasoning, which in turn was given the Latin name for “seahorse” because that’s definitely what it looks like!

To learn more about Hippocampus, please read the mission statement. I’ve included abbreviated submission guidelines below. (“Abbreviated” means I’m only including the short version; for the full submission guidelines, please check the website.)

Submissions
Hippocampus Magazine enthusiastically accepts unsolicited submissions in the following categories: memoir, personal essay, reviews, interviews, & craft articles.

Memoir excerpts and personal essays – up to 2,000 words.
Memoir and nonfiction craft articles – up to 1,000 words.
Review of memoirs or nonfiction craft books – up to 800 words.
Interviews – send us a pitch first; tell us which notable writer or literary industry individual you would like to profile and why.
Have another memoir-related idea? Send us a query.

Hippocampus Magazine is a non-paying market; however, every published contributor gets a bio and link to his website or blog from the published article and a contributor page. One contributor from each issue can win bragging rights AND a prize if his piece is deemed “Most Memorable.”

Today, I drove

Sometimes, it’s not worth it to chew through the restraints in the morning.

Today, I had an appointment to meet with my writing professor at the community college I attend (mostly for fun) to go over the new part-time position I’ll be holding for the college’s literary journal, Eclipse. The intern who is leaving was also coming to this meeting to show me the ropes and basically transfer all the paperwork, etc., to me. And, the department secretary (or chair, I’m not sure which) was going to be there to meet me and file all the paperwork and make it official and whatnot. Three people coming together to teach me something. It’d be in my best interest to show up, wouldn’t it?

The appointment was at 9:30 am. I had been planning on taking the bus, but I woke up later than I meant to; still, I wasn’t late yet. If I drove, I wouldn’t be late at all. I had time. For those of you who don’t know me, I don’t drive. I have a disorder called OCD that, in shorthand, prevents me from driving. It’s not that I can’t drive—I do have a license—but, well, I can’t. It’s somewhat complicated, but trust me when I say that getting behind the wheel is a big deal for me.

My sister was still asleep and, though I’m sure I could’ve woken her up and asked her to take me, I thought to myself, This is a good time to test my skills. I have to jump in sometime, right?

I grabbed the extra key from the wall (where we hang our extra keys) and headed out. I knew if I thought about it too much, I’d freak out, so I tried to do what my father says he and my brother do when they drive: be angry. Be angry at other drivers, poor parking jobs, traffic, whatever… so as to distract myself from the monumental task (at least for me) I was about to undertake.

I got in the car and turned the key; the engine sputtered to life, a good sign. I decided to take it slow (ie: avoid the freeway) since I hadn’t driven in, well, a while. I rolled down the hill and to the first stop sign. So far, so good. Turned right, then left at the next stop sign. When I got to the light, I turned on the radio to distract myself.

I thought, This could end up having been a Very Good or Very Bad Idea.

I turned left at the light and eased into a stop at the corner of H— and V—. When the light turned green, I slid through the intersection and headed down toward the college. After Verdugo, it’s basically a straight shot down to campus, so I relaxed a little and took a look around me. I started thinking about the position I was about to inherit (a paying job in my field of work!… even it was only a student job).

Right before I got to the part of the street where V— and L— meet (in front of the Magic Wok, if you know where that is), I glanced to my right. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a car roll out of a parking lot—right into the side of my car. There was a huge jolt, like I was playing bumper cars, and then nothing.

My first thought was, Blue sky and spidered windshields.

(That probably doesn’t make sense to anyone, so let me explain briefly. On 31 December 1999, my cousin and I were driving on a hilly gravel road in Texas outside of Austin in a Suburban SUV-type vehicle. The road was really only wide enough for one car, so when another truck came hurtling over the hill in front of us, my cousin (who was driving) swerved to avoid hitting it. He swerved back the other direction to avoid hitting some trees, and we flipped the SUV and landed upside down in a ditch on the other side of the road. I remember looking at the beautiful blue sky through the front windshield, which had cracked to look like a spider’s web.)

When my brain thinks there’s danger, I usually work well until the (immediate) threat has passed, at which time I completely fall apart. That instinct kicked in. I pulled over, put the car in neutral, and got out to wait for the other guy. He immediately pulled to the side (he’d just been pulling out of the parking lot, anyway) and got out with profuse apologies. I looked over my car where he’d hit it—there wasn’t even a dent. Not a scratch. It was practically a miracle. His car wasn’t that much worse off for the wear, either—just a dented bumper, which is exactly what bumpers are for, after all. He was an older man in a fishing hat and coke-bottle glasses; it’s possible he miscalculated the distance between my car the space his car was taking up—I have no idea. We exchanged information and I headed back home; no way was I going to have a break down in my professor’s office in front of people I didn’t even know.

As soon as I got home, I called my professor and tearfully explained the situation. He was sympathetic and, amid my repeated apologies, rescheduled all of us for another time. I sat down immediately to begin writing what happened (just in case something comes of it, which—admittedly—I doubt) when I remembered I’d left something in the car. I headed back out to get it and, for some unknown reason, decided to start the car again. I mean, I guess I was amazed everything was okay and it looked like nothing happened at all, especially because I felt like I was falling apart inside. My reaction was completely disproportionate to the occurrence, it seemed to me, but that didn’t stop me from reacting so.

The car didn’t start. The engine didn’t turn over—not even a sound. Turning the key to the ‘start’ position did… nothing. I started to panic; I’d just killed the car.

Why did I even do that? I thought to myself angrily. It’s not like I want something to be wrong with the car. Maybe it really was too good to be true.

I went back inside, debating what to do. I looked at the clock; it was after 11 am by this time. Shortly, my sister came down dressed for work. Oh no, I remembered, today is her first day of training.

I explained the situation as briefly as I could manage. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“Physically, I’m fine,” I said. Then, everything started to rip at the seams in my mind. “It was scary.” I started to cry.

She came over to me and hugged me tight around the shoulders. “We’ll figure it out. As long as you’re okay, we’ll manage.” We headed out to inspect the damage together. She couldn’t see any scratches or dents—as I’d told her. We got in and she turned the key in the ignition; no response.

We went back inside. I called my dad. He was angry. Or rather, he was frustrated with the whole thing. (We’d just had the clutch replaced for almost more than the car was worth, for example, among other things.) This was just another worry on his plate.

“When you tried to turn on the car, did you hold down the clutch pedal?” he asked my sister. She couldn’t remember. “Check the lights,” he said. So, we went out and tried again.

“Are the lights on?” I asked.

“Oh.” She turned them to the ‘off’ position and said, “That might be it, actually. Did you have the lights on when you went down to school?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t mess with the lights,” I said.

My sister headed off to her training with more assurances that we’d figure it out when she (or Mom, or Dad) got home. Since she drove another car, obviously, I was left alone with the dead one.

Well, the day’s not over yet.

Fall 2010 and Yard Sale

More lost and found! I found this class schedule at Glendale College on Monday afternoon.

Fall 2010 @ gcc

It reads in purple ink:

[Fall 2010 @ gcc]

ethnic studies 132 (1314)
M & W (140 pm – 305 pm)
Administration 223

Health 106 (3251)
M & W (1045 am – 1210 pm)
Sierra Nevada Gym 101

Math 100 (2020)
M & W (910 am – 1015 am)
T & Th (910 am – 1000 am)
San Fernando 107

Sociology 104 (1788)
T & Th (1045 am – 1210 pm)
San Rafael 115

On my way home from classes that afternoon, I found this sign stapled to a telephone pole. It had no date (as you’ll see), but it was after 1 PM when I found it, so I decided to rip it down. When I noticed the back of the page, however, I was intrigued.

YARD SALE

The front is written in faded marker and reads:

YARD SALE
8a – 1pm
corner of Hilldale
+ Waltonia

THE GIFT TO KNOW

From the back, it’s clear that the page used to be (bright?) pink and has since mostly faded. The typeface looks like Times or Times New Roman to me. It says:

THE GIFT TO
KNOW

Anyone know what “the gift to know” means?