Helen and Teacher

Helen and Teacher
The Story of my Life

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Online Literary Magazine for CM 220, CM 107 Classes and Friends of KU: cm107 Unit 7 Sources

Online Literary Magazine for CM 220, CM 107 Classes and Friends of KU: cm107 Unit 7 Sources

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Yesterday was a literary milestone, albeit one overshadowed by the death of Prince, truly another artist and musical genius of his.  We must at this point, say, with no pun meant, "Good Night, Sweet Prince; Flights of Angels sing thee to they Rest."

Shakespeare was allegedly born, and did die, on April 23d.  He shares dates of birth and death with Miguel de Cervantes, author of "Don Quixote de la Mancha" and "La Gitanilla."  Some critics feel the greatest works of literature in the world are The Bible,  Cervantes' works, and Shakespeare's works, not necessarily in that order. James Joyce also died on April 23d, but in 1941.  He shares birth dates and death dates with V. Woolf, 1882-1941. 

I have had the privilege of teaching Shakespeare, and of co-authoring a published article about him, for several years.  I've amassed quite a library of my own materials on the immortal bard.  I have a lot of memorabilia, and I have twice been to the Stratford, Ontario Royal Shakespeare Festival. 

Yet, I am the first to say, no one can know all there is to know about him.  Still, I will say that 10,000 years from now, all of our other literature may be forgotten, but people will still be teaching Shakespeare.  He is enduring, he is adaptable.  His truths are universal.   He wrote of other cultures, of other worlds, of people of color, long before multicultural studies were born. His women are astounding individuals, brave and strong, and assertive.  He addresses major issues of the day, even to criticizing monarchs, as in Richard II,  The Henry Plays, and the most dangerous of all, Macbeth.
Most of what I learned about teaching I learned from him, and from my Shakespeare professor.

If I could only take one book with me on  a desert island, it would be The Complete Works of Shakespeare.

Happy Birthday, indeed.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Night and 60 Mins

Lately, I've been thinking a lot of "Our Town" and Emily's wish to go back to earth for just one more day, one more ordinary day with her family.  I often want that, just one more ordinary day with my mother, and my dad, the way things used to be.  We'd watch "Dragnet", or "Hec Ramsey," or "Dirty Sally," and I liked baking chocolate chip cookies.

Mom made orzo soup, or we ordered Harris pizza as a treat, with mushroom being my favorite. Usually, my homework was finished.  Before I had my dogs, Killer and Smokey, I might ride my bike in summer, or catch "The Wonderful World of Walt Disney."

If we had been to church, we ate out at Bishops Buffet.  Without fail, I had creamed chicken.  The first or last Sunday, we went to flea markets after lunch.  Then, I did my math homework.

When I was very little, I might get to watch "Bonanza" or "To Rome, with Love", then I took a bath.  For years, I associated the them from "Bonanza" with bubble bath scent.  I feel asleep to Tom Jones singing; my folks use to listen to him  sing on his TV show after "Bonanza".

Later, after I came home from school, we went out to Sunday brunch, and drove to flea markets or antique malls for short day strips.  The three of us could be very impulsive, and if weather permitted, Smokey dog would come with us, a puppy born to the open road.

Those were innocent times, and they seemed to go on forever.   Sundays have become stressful days, now, full of work and constant movement.  It seems to be always cold, and the sun doesn't shine much.  Dad isn't well, and the future is very uncertain.

At this point in my life, when I seem to be equidistant from 30 as from 80, I don't want much.  I just wish I could have one more Sunday with my family,  just one more batch of chocolate chip cookies for the road.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Physical Art of Handwriting; Some Thoughts

It's a shame so many schools no longer teach cursive writing.  Think about it; we are depriving our kids of the pleasures of writing the capital S's, G,s and L's in cursive, again to line drawing or contour drawing, similar to the ampersand and Treble Clef in drawing pleasure.  Each writer writes as uniquely as his fingerprint leaves images on objects.  Calligraphers and sign painters who do lettering know the beauty of physical writing, as well as the near mathematical precision.  Think the illuminated letters on The Book of Kells and other manuscripts.  Handwriting analysis proves the uniqueness of our own penmanship, and beautiful penmanship gracing old letters is itself a visual treat.  I have terrible handwriting, but I appreciate it. It's mine.  My penmanship tells my life story, and I never got carpal tunnel from it as I did from typing.  I love following the curves of small a's, and the tiny curves on b's and capital Ps.  I love handwriting notes in Spanish, too.  I studied a little Mandarin in college, and was intrigued by how the characters were brushstroked.  Creating a certain signature is also a pleasure, on that is lost for many kids today.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cat and Mouse

Alex Cross, Cat and Mouse, 1997. Hachette Book Group USA – Vision, 1998.

James Patterson is so prolific, that we might forget what a good storyteller he really is.  It is easy to dismiss him as a literary guppy that reproduces book after book after book, in every conceivable genre or media, which books then find their way onto drugstore, airport, and supermarket book racks.

Yet, Patterson is a powerfully successful author, and a riveting story teller, one who generously shares his craft by teaching classes, and by selecting co-authors to travel with him on his amazing literary journeys. (PS; if you read this Mr. Patterson, just Google me to contact me!).

Like Shakespeare, Patterson understands revenge tragedy, history, and passion.  He creates panoply of Everyman characters that appeal to everyone on the globe, which may be why he can boast that he can look out of his taxi window in Morocco and see a woman in the next cab reading one of his novels. The Women’s Murder Club series features law enforcement professionals of every ethnicity and social strata, who happen to be women as well as brilliant practitioners at what they do.  Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas is a brave, sad story of a doomed family, their love for each other, how they live with the devastation of loss, how they move on.  Rather than descend into the kind of saccharine melodrama that I’m ashamed to say makes me laugh, not cry, the book is consolation to anyone whose life has been interrupted by inexplicable and sudden loss.

Finally, we come to the magnificent and brilliant Renaissance man, African American detective, psychologist, sometime profiler, pianist, cop, family man, good friend, and devoted husband, Dr. Alex Cross.

What I find appealing about the Alex Cross series is how the titles borrow and incorporate themes of nursery rhymes, children’s games, and children’s literature. Mary, Mary, Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Four Blind Mice, London Bridges, The Big Bad Wolf, Along came a Spider, Jack and Jill, and Cat and Mouse skillfully incorporate themes of childhood into chilling stories of serial killers and depraved hearts that remind that Grimm’s Fairy Tales and many current children’s classics, did not begin as children’s stories at all.

Cat and Mouse, in particular, takes the reader on a true cat and mouse journey with Dr. Cross.  The already wild ride gets even stranger and wilder when Cross tracks two serial killers, one a cruel psychopath whose violence was triggered by a vintage set of Lionel Trains, and another dual personality killer who on the one hand, is a doctor detective tracking a vicious killer on two continents for the FBI, but on the other hand, is a murderous monster who performs autopsies on his still living victims. The second killer is also a curious allusion to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which was being performed as a play during the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888.  At one time, the actor in the starring role was a suspect.

Something particularly interesting in Cat and Mouse is that Patterson gives us a portrait, albeit a brief one, of at least one of the murderers’’ victims.  Many suspense/slasher mysteries  like this only tell us enough about the victim to reinvent him or her as piece of evidence crucial to solving the case.  What struck me as I read this novel was that Dr. Abel Sante, one of the victims brutally killed, is allowed to introduce himself to us.  We learn of his regrets, of his remorse for not marrying his long time girl friend, of his likes and dislikes, of his fear, of how he tries to give himself hope as he awaits slaughter at the hands of his killer.

So, once Dr. Sante [a pun on “health” and “saint”] reveals himself to us and becomes a real character, why is he killed off anyway?  His death seems abrupt to me, as if it were literally a loose end in the aftermath of sewing up after an autopsy. I’d like to read the novel of Dr. Sante’s life, and what in his life journey set him on the path of a collision with the derailed mind of a serial killer, one who is also a doctor.

Of course I understand that mystery writers cannot always develop their victims’ personalities as we might like.  They are there, as I said, to be evidence, and to give us enough information to rouse our emotions and outrage.  If people we like, who are like us, can die this horribly, why not us?   That fear, along with the gore and violence, help to move the story along.

Yet, it is a sad comment on the judicial system that in the real world, victims are nothing more than a piece of evidence, or a witness to the crime against the people.  In fact, it is the People of the State, or of the United States, who are the plaintiff’s in a criminal action.  The offense is against them as a society, not against the individual.  I have been on both sides of the bench in these matters, as someone working on criminal trial gathering evidence, and as a victim, barred from her attacker’s trial in the name of justice.
This is why victims’ rights advocates exist, if the victim can find one.  They aren’t much help to homicide victims, who are perhaps the ultimate collection of evidence there is.

So, without digressing further and giving the story completely away, read Patterson for the master storytelling, for his amazing portrayal of Dr. Alex Cross, for his literary allusions, and if you can admit it to yourself, for the thrill of the violence and the gore.  If nothing else, Patterson will make you want to reread you collections of children’s literature, young adult novels, Shakespeare, and even as I did, reread your copy of Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil.  Yes, that book, too, makes its appearance in Cat and Mouse.  It jumped out at me from my own bookshelf shortly after I began Patterson’s book.

One more thing, read Cat and Mouse in a well-lit room, preferably with other people present or a very big dog standing sentinel, and schedule your doctor’s appointments several months after you finish the book. 

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Ellen's Take from R. John Wright Blog

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: Ellen's Take from R. John Wright Blog: Her is a link to my post, and a huge thanks to R. John Wright, Rachel Hoffman, and the folks at R. John Wright Dolls!! http://rjohnwrightb...

Monday, April 4, 2016