Jessica Oreck, documentary filmmaker and animal keeper at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, directed the animations of the etymologies of 26  words, one video for each of the letters of the alphabet. Each video took between 80 to 120 hours to complete. The series is called Mysteries of the Vernacular. “Clue” is featured at the top of this post.

Oreck loved biology in school but became enamored with filming it after viewing Attenborough’s Private Life of Plants. She is the founder of Myriapod Productions whose mission is to make inspired and inspirational films about nature and create a sense of wonder about the world around us. Her full-length documentaries Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (about the Japanese fascination with insects) and Aatsinki (about Laplanders) have met with very positive critical acclaim.

Posted in animation, books, videos | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is really hard to do


We’re in the midst of All Quiet on the Western Front now. I have assigned groups of students a different group of chapters. Each group is responsible to give and grade a reading quiz, and to prepare vocabulary, pertinent quotes, and interpretive questions for their chapters. They also lead a discussion in class.

Today during lunch, a group was huddled at a table in my room going over the quizzes they gave the day before. The group was trying to be consistent in their grading.

NW: Give him the 5 points.

WC: Why should I do that? He didn’t get it right.

NW: Yes, but his score is really bad and maybe we can give him the benefit of the doubt. Isn’t he your friend? I’m not his friend and I still feel sorry for him.

WC: I do feel bad for him but it doesn’t mean I can’t be professional about it. You don’t grade quizzes on a curve relative to their own answers.

SP: Then why don’t we just give them all three of our scores? A score from each of us.

WC: C’mon we can do better than that. You get it right or you don’t. You can even get it sorta right which is worth some points. But you can’t be so random about it. If you give someone a grade higher than they deserve then how will I ever be able to trust my own grades?

SP: BT has a 51%. I have gone over her quiz three times. I don’t see any way to raise her grade.

WC: How is raising her grade helping her ? Give her what she deserves. She deserves the 51%.

SP: Can you read this? Yo? Yell? Ugh. It’s only a couple of words and I have spent like 10 minutes trying to read this handwriting.

NW: Just mark it wrong.

WC: This is a reading quiz. It’s to see if students read or understood the reading assignment. Not to make anyone feel good.

SP: This is really, really hard to do.

From the mouths of babes.

Posted in school, Teaching | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Example of the Continuing Past Tense in a Hotel Room” by Lydia Davis


Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

64 years old today

Posted in aging | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Lilies in Lilliput


“Our Lily” and “Arum Lily” are the perfect visual gateway into April. The images above appeared in Lilliput Pocket Omnibus 1937/38 which was a humorous publication produced by Stefan Lorant, a photojournalist, author, and filmmaker. The magazine was known for Lorant’s juxtapositions of images for political or aesthetic effects. The left photo of the dancer was taken by Dr. Krohn from Praha (Prague). The photo on the right was taken by Felix Man. The synergy between these two images is visually stunning.

Born in Hungary in 1901, Lorant moved to Germany when he was 18 and was involved in the creation of 14 films, many of which he directed or wrote. He became an editor for Münchner Illustrierte Presse, a German photo magazine, whose work inspired the style of Life Magazine.When Hitler came to power, Lorant was imprisoned solely because of his work as an editor. When he was released 6 months later, he escaped to Great Britain eventually moving to the United States in 1940 where he died in 1996. (He wrote the book I was Hitler’s Prisoner documenting his experience, along with several other photo and history books.)

Here’s to the lilies — and to the provocative and stimulating connections of the seemingly disparate.

Posted in dance, flowers, photography | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bach’s 329th Birthday and our 29th Anniversary

Posted in music | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Onset” by Kim Addonizio


Watching that frenzy of insects above the bush of white flowers,
bush I see everywhere on hill after hill, all I can think of
is how terrifying spring is, in its tireless, mindless replications.
Everywhere emergence: seed case, chrysalis, uterus, endless manufacturing.
And the wrapped stacks of Styrofoam cups in the grocery, lately
I can’t stand them, the shelves of canned beans and soups, freezers
of identical dinners; then the snowflake-diamond-snowflake of the rug
beneath my chair, rows of books turning their backs,
even my two feet, how they mirror each other oppresses me,
the way they fit so perfectly together, how I can nestle one big toe into the other
like little continents that have drifted; my God the unity of everything,
my hands and eyes, yours; doesn’t that frighten you sometimes, remembering
the pleasure of nakedness in fresh sheets, all the lovers there before you,
beside you, crowding you out? And the scouring griefs,
don’t look at them all or they’ll kill you, you can barely encompass your own;
I’m saying I know all about you, whoever you are, it’s spring
and it’s starting again, the longing that begins, and begins, and begins.

Kim Addonizio, “Onset” from Tell Me. Copyright © 2000 by Kim Addonizio.

Posted in poetry, spring | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment