Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Classroom on Mango Street

So, I am here, sitting in an empty classroom, taking down posters, stacking grammar books, and yes, pondering how I can be better at my job next year. How can I share the passion for literature, history, philosophy, politics, and world culture that I feel? How can I make the rising generation of tenth grade teens sit up and take notice of all that the realm of English Literature and Language has to offer?

I have a plan.

A good plan.

Want to hear it? Want to make suggestions? Want to help me mold young minds?

Term 1:

~Short Stories from Guy de Maupassant, Katherine Mansfield, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (learning MLA format, research techniques, and debate tactics)

~Short novel Iron and Silk--about a young Yale graduate going into Communist China to teach English and learn Martial Arts. Along with this is in depth information (including guest speakers and a martial arts demonstration)about Chinese history, politics, government, martial arts, and the world fascination with learning English (with a bit of statistics thrown in for fun!))

~Follow up with the awesome graphic novel American Born Chinese, and take what they have learned about Chinese culture, pair it with American culture to understand the two together, and explore current stereotypes.

Term 2:

~Julius Caesar--discussing power, politics, honesty, democracy, republics, and the importance of the vote. The will be keeping a close eye on the 2008 election, learning and defending their political stance, and discussing major political issues.
~Pair it with philosophical discussion from reading Plato's Republic and Machiavelli's Prince

~Anthem by Ayn Rand--objectivism, capitalism, communism, socialism, individualism verses the collective. Creating a Utopia. Free Trade verses Fair Trade
~Pair with readings from Naomi Klein and Generation Me

Term 3:

~House on Mango Street--explore and celebrate the customs and culture of Latin America, as well as Hispanic influence on America, immigration issues, and the importance of memoirs.
~Pair it with readings from David Sedaris and the Freedom Writers Diary

Term 4:

~The brilliant graphic novel Persepolis--Middle East past and current events (this could take an entire year, yes? How many of today's kids REALLY know what is going on with the war? With the surrounding countries, with the daily lives of those who live in the Middle East, is it only fear they feel? Why does America seem to foster the idea that American blood is more precious than the rest of the world? see past post about this!)
~Selections from Three Cups of Tea, educational systems throughout the world

~Poetry Unit--if time!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


fresh, crisp, clean, clear, couth, natural, fair, unclouded, flawless, free, brighten, lighten, brilliant, beamy, luminous, lustrous, shiny, cheery, chipper, sunny-side up, keen, sharp, vivd, incandescent, RAW!

So many things about the approaching, anticipated summer can be summed up in the word RAW.

RAW food--I'm going to try out vegetarianism this summer. Beautiful crisp peppers of yellow hues and orange tastes. Tomatoes in cherry, grape, heirlooms. Corn, on the cob and on the bbq. Strawberries with cottage cheese. And yes, finally some RAW milk! I found a resource, now I can actually drink milk!

RAW photos--shooting with my nikon on the RAW setting only. Chubby children, laugh lines, loud guffaws, shy smiles, tenderness, sweat, kicking the soccer ball....and best of all WEDDINGS! All you need is love!

RAW weather--Tuesday on the way to Emily's gig, I had my windows down, driving slowly down the avenue, windows down, hair blowing, a gust of wind suddenly took up a million dry tree buds and blew them in and around my car like I was being blessed with manna from above. The park has called to me. I've answered.

RAW skin--i bought my annual pair of summer sandals, the pair that I will wear out by mid-August. Skin and freckles and toes and legs and sun and shine!

RAW talents--music, music, music, paintings, watercolors, photos, songs, poems, food, parties...the endlessly surprising creations of others--exuding raw talent, make the season bright.

The Apostrophe

The apostrophe has three uses:

1) to form possessives of nouns
2) to show the omission of letters
3) to indicate certain plurals of lowercase letters.

Apostrophes are NOT used for possessive pronouns or for noun plurals, including acronyms.

Is punctuation really that hard? Really? My name is simple, French, poetic...and yes, somehow my parents decided to set me apart from the crowd and put that apostrophe in my name, and then pair it with Benincosa and then tie those two together with a tribute to my granny-Virginia.....

When someone comes from the town of Arcy (located in France) you would say they were Christian d'Arcy....a la Cyrano de Bergerac. That somehow got twisted into my name from some weird geography book my dad must have been reading at the time. D'Arcy. Living in France no one had a problem with it, in fact the woods next to my house were dubbed "Bois d'Arcy".

Thus you have the only person in the world (at least according to google) with my exact name, and that's sayin something. However if anyone else knows a D'Arcy Virginia Benincosa please let me know, I'd like to send them a birthday cake.

Most of my life has been me saying..."No, it's D apostrophe, capital A,

Then one day in September I just gave up. Seriously, I don't care anymore!!! Spell it how you will!! Darcy, Darci, Darcie, Darsey (that's what my order for Emily's birthday party was put under)!

It happened the birthday I got the cake with the semi-colon on it. That's right, bakers and punctuation don't mix. I have never had a birthday cake with proper name spelling and now I either request pie or a cake that says "Here's lookin' at chew Kid."

I have had the following on birthday cakes (after mother orders it on the phone with strict instructions regarding punctuation):







I guess I have to give people credit for trying....yet I almost gasp audibly when I tell someone how to spell my name and they ask me what an apostrophe is!!!!! This happens on college campuses and doctors offices all the time! So, yesterday a guy from Weber State who wanted to give me some money came down and had me fill out all the information. I put my correct spelling on everything. I got the check in the mail today--you guessed it, yet another D-arcy. I hope they will let me cash it.

And there you have it. Now you know why I teach English. I tell the kids all the time: it's so that when they are bakers at Bowman's market, they can get the cakes right!

I ask you, did the bass player of the Smashing Pumpkins have this much trouble?

Friday, May 9, 2008

One Heaven? One Truth?

Is there really only one heaven? One afterlife for everyone in the world to fit in? If that is the case, how could everyone be happy?

Is there really only one truth? One truth for everyone in the world to accept? If that is the case, how could everyone be happy?

Is Christianity, as I know it, the only truth? Most Christians seem to believe this idea. They believe that the world needs to be converted to Jesus as much as the Muslim believes that the Christian needs to be converted to Muhammad. Christians also claim that in the afterlife people will be taught the “truth” and decide whether or not to “accept” it. But, these same Christians also believe that we are the same person once we die. So, if that is the case, then, honestly, not many Muslims or Jews are going to be “saved” according to Christian standards. How sane is it to believe that everyone is going to have to convert to Christianity AND be happy about it? ...especially if they are the same person in heaven that they were on earth? If you die, and were then taught that some other faith had it all right, and you were wrong-- could you then so easily forget about your relationship with your Savior?**

As the world exists right now, the current religious breakdown is:
Christians 33.32% (of which Roman Catholics 16.99%, Protestants 5.78%, Orthodox 3.53%, Anglicans 1.25%), Muslims 21.01%, Hindus 13.26%, Buddhists 5.84%, Sikhs 0.35%, Jews 0.23%, Baha'is 0.12%, other religions 11.78%, non-religious 11.77%, atheists 2.32% (2007 est.)… really, all of these people are supposed to find joy (understanding that my premise for the afterlife is that there might be some semblance of joy and contentment...otherwise, it's hell, and let's not go into what I think about that right now!) ....ahem, as I was saying, all of these people are supposed to find joy in the exact same Kingdom as this white girl from Utah might? Hmmmm, I just don’t think so seems a bit absurd.

I recently finished The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan. It was a beautiful tale of spirituality, awakening, life and afterlife. The Chinese afterlife is so different from mine, and so lovely. Tan created an unforgettable character in Kwan.

"My sister Kwan believes she has Yin eyes. She sees those who have died and now dwell in the World of Yin...It was Kwan who taught me, if people we love die, then they are lost only to our ordinary senses. If we remember, we can find them anytime with our hundred secret senses." When Kwan is asked by her sister about the afterlife, she gives such a beautiful explanation that resonated with me. She explains that all those who love Jesus, will be with Jesus. Those who love Allah will go to "Allahland" (as Kwan called it!), and everyone will be where their truth resides, and it will be heaven for them.

So, my question--can heaven be as diverse as earth? Or, to truly be heaven, must we all be alike? I rather relish in differences, so I kind of hope it’s the former…just maybe in heaven we will all learn how to love each other for our differences, instead of trying to change everyone to see the truth as we see it.

When you google" "heaven" are some of the images that come up. I love the variations.

**Note: Whatever religion you are, I'm not trying to undermine it. Every religion assumes their view of heaven is the only view, and I accept that you, or many of you, may see your religion as the only truth and I respect that.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

It's a Swell, Swell Season!

So last night my life pursuit of being present in moments of music greatness reached another pinnacle. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who make up The Swell Season were at the Depot. I took along Alisa and we got there early enough to be front and center, to see the holes in Glen's guitar and the humility in Marketa's very being. She was very shy and quiet, and Glen kept the audience entertained with amazing stories (Alisa, let's not think two much about those two tiny pinpoints of light! This man knows how to weave a tale!). He gave a metaphor for the success they have found since Sundance and the Oscars (for my blog on the Oscars, go here)...(and I am paraphrasing a bit here...)

"You have this ball that you are kicking, and you have painted a goal post on the cement wall of your backyard. Your goal is to just get the ball into the boundaries of the line. Then you kick the ball, and it gets kicked so hard it ends up flying over your neighbors yard, over the city, over the country and reaches farther than you ever thought possible. And four/fifths of yourself is awed, amazing, excited, and breathless by your luck in the journey of the ball, and one/fifth of you just wants your fucking ball back."

Gustav asked me recently what my idea of a Utopia would be. The best I can think would be moving back to Ireland (maybe County Galway this time over County Roscommon) and spending every Saturday in the pubs of Doolin and Galway.

He sang several songs, many from ONCE, many from The Frames, some new ones, each one with a story. During the evening some guy from the audience requested that he sing the "Brokenheartedhooverfixersuckerguy" song (if you've seen the movie, you know what I am talking about!) He laughed, shook his head and said, "You work so hard perfecting your craft and your lyrics and making sure everything is just right, and then you make up a random song on the back of a bus in ten minutes and that's the one everyone wants to hear! That guy who requested it is going to go home and when he gets asked how the concert was he'll say, "Most of it was pretty depressing, but he sang the hoover song, and that was awesome.""

The finale ended with Marketa and Glen doing the most amazing version of "Into the Mystic"..a song that, up until now, I would have thought only capable by Van Morrison on such a passionate level...but hey, I like to be proven wrong in times like these.

I didn't bring my video camera ( I can't think why now!) but I did have my mini cybershot and got some video with that...I put some up on Facebook

Alisa, you were the perfect concert guest. Stina, it was awesome to meet you and Dave finally!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Utopia is a Utopia is a Utopia

Oh my, how I love my job some days!!! The 10th graders I teach have been working on Utopian projects for about a month now. We read Anthem by Ayn Rand and discussed at length what it takes to have great religious, economical, education, legal, and governmental systems. Then the students had to formulate their ideas to create their own Utopias, present them to the class, and see who would actually want to join (the winning Utopia gets a big prize). As these kids presented I was trying so hard not to die with laughter. Some of the things they said were just priceless!

"I will have religious freedom in my Utopia..." pause "of course, cults that commit mass suicide on a certain date will be banned." (said in deadpan seriousness)

"In my Utopia the President has to have at least a Masters Degree in economics and sociology so they know what's going on."

"In my Utopia the main punishment will be that a random hand will be chosen to be cut off....and no prosthetic limbs will be sold anywhere in my city."

"My Utopia is called 'Hybrid-e-a' a place where Capitalism and Communism come together in a happy medium."

"Men will be the workers, women will take care of the children." (and yes, I did give this kid quite a hard time after that statement!)

"My Utopia has a Three Strike Rule...after three strikes, you are out!"

"The leader must be female. I am tired of war. She'll be like one big mother."

"Utopias can only exist in space....and like, cuz there won't be no prison, you'll just release the bad people into the atmosphere."

"In my Utopia the leader will be picked by doing an American Gladiator match, cause I don't want a whimpy leader."

"My Utopia will be considered perfect because I will brainwash them all."

"The name of my Utopia is '24 Hour Party People'."

"Basically, my Utopia will drug people into being polite."

"No deity religions can exist in my Utopia."

"When people are bad they will be put in a big titanium box and shocked...and this will be in public, so no one else will want to break the rules."

"My Utopia will have jungle gyms for adults."

"In my Utopia, everyone will be vegatarian...except for Turkey, cause Thanksgiving is really cool."

"In my Utopia Starbucks will be owned by the governments so it is not so expensive."

"In my Utopia people need to care what they look like, I am tired of ugly, lazy people."

After today, I believe in Whitney Houston's words even more. The children are our future.