March 2010

Ron’s #13: Churchill by Paul Johnson

March 24, 2010 // 1 Comment

Winston Churchill has been on my mind lately for no apparent reason. I thought it was time I read something about him. This slim book was a nice introduction to this great man, even though most of it read more like an encyclopedia than a passionate account of one of the greatest personalities of the 20th century. When the timeline reaches World War II, the narrative begins to sparkle and offers more dimensions to this mythical, larger-than-life statesman. Here are a few interesting facts that I’ve learned from this book: Churchill hated the movie Citizen Kane. (Strangely enough, I couldn’t stop making comparisons between these two men.) Churchill’s son-in-law was a stand-up comedian. He became a prolific painter later in life, amassing over 500 pieces. He has little tolerance for whistling and those who did it. Coincidentally, Hitler was a notorious whistler. His famous pseudo-angry blurb regarding the prepositions at the end of sentences: “Up with this I will not put!” Churchill is often cited as the source of the V-sign (for victory) and the terms “iron curtain” and “cold war.” Winston Churchill is a politician to be admired, especially during wartime. He provided his countrymen leadership, determination, pride, and […]

Mark’s #11: The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Aurthur Conan Doyle (500 pages)

March 22, 2010 // 1 Comment

This is the first time I’ve read any of the Shelock Holmes adventures. The book consists of the 24 original short stories.  Each story offers a creative tale of intrique, suspense, and logical deductions by the world’s most famous detective – Sherlock Holmes. Since each story is about 20 pages long, this book would have probably been better if I spread it out over time and occasionally read one of the 24 original Sherlock Holmes adventures. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the classic work by Aurthur Conan Doyle.  Not surprisingly, I found the stories to be more captivating than most, if not all of the modern Sherlock Holmes renditions, be they on the movie screen or stage. If you’re looking for some good short story mysteries, does anyone do it better than Arthur Conan Doyle?  I think not. No mystery on my rating of this book… “Elementary my dear Watson!” 4 stars.

Ron’s #12: Chew On This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson

March 21, 2010 // 1 Comment

I read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation several years ago and loved it. It opened my eyes to specific problems in the fast food industry. Chew On This is the teenage version of that book, and I bought a class set to teach to 8th graders next month. It should be fun, and I think they’ll like it, mainly because of the gross-out stuff. My favorite part of the book is the history of the key players. Like the computer industry, I love reading about how these world-changing companies were started by some key personalities. Ray Kroc is the Steve Jobs of hamburgers. Best parts: history of the industry, slaughterhouse descriptions, advertising campaigns Weakest parts: too much time with the Yupiks in Alaska, the blow-by-blow account of one girl getting a soda machine removed from school, and the Edible Schoolyard narrative. Kids will skip over these dull parts, and I wanted to as well. My main criticism of this book (and other books and articles that attack the power of big companies over what people buy/eat/consume) is that they ignore the other “forces” out there that attempt to manipulate culture. Where are the outcries about what TV shows teenagers watch, […]

Ron’s #11: Why Don’t Students Like School? By Daniel T. Willingham

March 21, 2010 // 1 Comment

I get tired of hearing the phrase, “Brain research shows…” to prove whatever point teachers are trying to show at the time. Whether it is about the importance of play, the use of movies, standing on your head before a test, or studying on the toilet, educators pull these three words and throw them down on the table like the trump card they’ve been saving to illuminate a point. The problem is that most teachers, including me, have no idea about brain research or even where to begin. Because of this, I sought to find a book to offer a basic understanding for dum-dums like me. The subtitle of this book is, “A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for your classroom.” This is a better explanation for the information, as I still don’t know why students don’t like school (perhaps it has something to do with me!). I suppose I could sum up the book as follows: People are naturally curious. Teachers create “problems” far too easy or too difficult. Students do not have background information necessary to engage a problem, thus making it easy to quit. Teachers present information in a […]

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