Friday, October 30, 2009

Was it a meteor strike?

Today in class we read an excerpt of a National Geographic article on how a meteor strike could cause the Apocalypse. If you want to read the entire article, click here. The date of the catastrophic meteor strike has been updated to 2068. Check out Dr. Tholen's latest findings.

One of the scientists featured in the article was Dr. David Tholen, who is the uncle of English 10 teacher Ms. Rachel Tholen Hatten. So Ms. Hatten contacted her uncle for more details about what the world would be like so that we could prove or disprove that Cormac McCarthy thought a meteor strike would cause the end of the world as we know it.

Here's the email response from Dr. Tholen:

From: David Tholen
To: Rachel Tholen Hatten
Sent: Mon, October 19, 2009 1:16:11 AM
Subject: Re: Meteor strike

Ms. Hatten: Question for you. Next week, I'll start teaching Cormac McCarthy's novel, The Road, to my sophomores. I don't know if you've read it,

Dr. Tholen: Nope, haven't read it.

Ms. Hatten: It's the story of a father and son struggling to stay alive in a post-apocalyptic world. McCarthy never explicitly says what the cataclysmic event was that destroyed the earth and civilization, but I think it was probably a meteor strike. When you have a second, could you email me a description of what the world would be like if Earth suffered a major meteor strike, both short and long-term effects?

Dr. Tholen: Well, a lot depends on the size of the strike. We had a strike last October over the northern Sudan, but all we got out of it was a bright flash and a nice collection of Ureilite meteorites. A strike the size of the one that killed off the dinosaurs raised enough dust into the
stratosphere to block out sunlight for years. If you've ever seen the sky after a major volcanic eruption, you might begin to imagine what it's like, only many times worse. Also, it's believed that a major firestorm would be triggered by the impact, generating a lot of soot that would remain in the lower part of the atmosphere for a shorter amount of time. With sunlight blocked off, photosynthesis stops, and plants die out. Without plants for food, livestock starts to die out.
Without livestock for food, people start to die out. It becomes a fight over dwindling food supplies. Very much the sort of thing imagined for the so-called "nuclear winter." Unlike nuclear winter, where radioactivity can persist for a long time, depending on the isotopes producing the radiation, asteroid winter lasts only a few years. As the atmosphere begins to clear, the Earth starts to warm up again. But wait! The impact released a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, from the carbonate locked in a lot of bedrock. Now we've got the greenhouse effect going, and the Earth could be too hot for decades until plant life regains a foothold and starts to consume the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Ms. Hatten: I'd like to be able to share your response with the students, so they could have some real knowledge of what we'd be facing if something like that happened.

Dr. Tholen: Some books have been written about it. Might make for a non-fiction reading assignment for your students. A few years ago, Gaddy Bergmann sent me a copy of his book, The Migration of the Kamishi, which is intended to become a trilogy. In this fiction, Apophis did hit and nearly wiped out humanity. But some did survive, basically sending mankind back to the stone age. Interesting book. The author's power of description of living things is what caught my eye. The plot isn't quite as strong, and I did encounter some technical errors (the waning crescent Moon is a before dawn sight, not an after dusk sight).

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Today in class we are going to transform our vocabulary words by changing the word into its other parts of speech so that we discover how all of our words become verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs. William Shakespeare loved to transform words, and if you understand word affixes (prefixes and suffixes), you can uncover Shakespeare's meanings.

Passage Analysis Paragraph

Point: Identify rhetorical elements and introduce the effect on the reader
Illustration: Quotes
Explanation/Analysis: Pull out ideas about how the style of the quote is connected to the theme of the entire novel

McCarthy’s asserts that the post-apocalyptic world is both literally and figuratively hell on earth, in which evil threatens to overtake any remaining goodness in the world. He begins literally by vividly describing the entire country as being “looted, ransacked and ravaged. Rifled of every crumb” (McCarthy 129). McCarthy’s precise diction creates the picture of utter destitution, of a barren landscape that has been robbed by circumstance and humanity of its life-sustaining properties. Additionally, McCarthy’s metaphoric comparison of night to “casket black” suggests that the entire world is a tomb. The boy and the man are the occupants, struggling to push open the door of the casket in order to see light, to maintain hope. Finally, in crafting this picture of hell on earth, McCarthy draws the comparison, through simile, that the world islike a dawn before the battle” (129). The word “battle” implies that the boy and dad must fight everyday to scavenge for scarce resources and to fight off would-be attackers. Yet, more importantly, this day’s battle, like the sun rising at “dawn,” is part of a larger symbolic war in which survival represents a triumph of humanity and perseverance in a world that has become a living hell.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ely, The Prophet

Check out an email that I just received from Ms. Hatten:

So, looks like the prophet Elijah is the harbinger of the apocalypse—the “great and terrible day of the Lord.” Oh, McCarthy. You’re so cool.

“According to the Books of Kings, Elijah raised the dead, brought fire down from the sky, and ascended into heaven in a chariot. In the Book of Malachi, Elijah's return is prophesied "before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord,"[2] making him a harbinger of the Messiah and the eschaton in various faiths that revere the Hebrew Bible.”

Roehl note: Eschaton means judgement day or end of the world. I had never heard that word before.

Rhetorical Elements and Literary Strategies

Strong writers master the art of rhetoric. Literary devices are a subset of rhetoric. Strong writers are able to incorporate elements of rhetoric in their own writing, and reading and analyzing literature for elements of rhetoric is an important step on your path to strong writing.

Click here to review a brief list of rhetorical elements.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Close Reading of a Text

Close reading can and should promote insights and questions about texts beyond the specific passage under consideration. Close reading should develop your ability to:

1) Identify specific rhetorical elements and literary strategies within a short passage.
2) Consider the effect these techniques have on a reader’s perception of tone and content.
3) Explain ideas about how the style of the entire text is connected to the content and theme of the entire text. These deep explanations are what is missing in your E's of your PIEs.

The Passage:
“He found pieces of flint or chert in a ditch but in the end it was easier to rake the pliers down the side of a rock at the bottom of which he’d made a small pile of tinder soaked in gas. Two more days. Then three. They were starving right enough. The country was looted, ransacked, ravaged. Rifled of every crumb. The nights were blinding cold and casket black and the long reach of the morning had a terrible silence to it. Like a dawn before battle. The boy’s candlecolored skin was all but translucent. With his great staring eyes he’d the look of an alien” (129).

1. Underline any word, phrase, or line that jumps out at you, even if you’re not sure why. Think about sound, diction, anything that even suggests style, whether you can put a name to what’s going on or not.
2. With a partner, see how many of your underlined words or phrases you can label. If you don’t know the actual name of the technique, or if you aren’t certain, describe the effect as best you can. Write your ideas in the margin.
3. Make a thematic connection to the underlined words or phrases. How does this stylistic element add to the text as a whole? Reflect not just on the element, but on the whole text—how are they related?

Try it again with one of the following passages:

“They scrabbled through the charred ruins of houses they would not have entered before. A corpse floating in the black water of a basement among the trash and rusting ductwork. He stood in a living room partly burned and open to the sky. The waterbuckled boards sloping away into the yard. Soggy volumes in a bookcase. He took one down and opened it and then put it back. Everything damp. Rotting. In a drawer he found a candle. No way to light it. He put it in his pocket. He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like groundfoxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it” (130).

“When he woke again he thought the rain had stopped. But that wasnt what woke him. He’d been visited in a dream by creatures of a kind he’d never seen before. They did not speak. He thought that they’d been crouching by the side of his cot as he slept and then had skulked away on his awakening. He turned and looked at the boy. Maybe he understood for the first time that to the boy he was himself an alien. A being from a planet that no longer existed. The tales of which were suspect. He could not construct for the child’s pleasure the world he’d lost without constructing the loss as well and he thought perhaps the child had known this better than he. He tried to remember the dream but he could not. All that was left was the feeling of it. He thought perhaps they’d come to warn him. Of what? That he could not enkindle in the heart of the child what was ashes in his own. Even now some part of him wished they’d never found this refuge. Some part of him always wished it to be over” (154).

For the second passage that you selected, write a paragraph in which you sum up how the style of the passage is instrumental in conveying the idea of the text as a whole.

Active Voice

Avoid weak structures like there is and it is at all costs!

There is another videotape that tells the story of Charles Darwin.
Rewrite: Another videotape tells the story of Charles Darwin.

It is important that hikers remain inside the park boundaries.
Rewrite: Hikers must remain inside the park boundaries.

Avoid weak to be verbs!

Escaping into the world of drugs, Gogol was rebellious about many rules set down by his parents. Rewrite: Escaping into the world of drugs, Gogol rebelled against many rules set down by his parents.

The subject of sentence should do the action!

The fly ball was caught by Hernando.
Hernando caught the fly ball.

Revise the following sentences into active voice:
1. The tree was hit by a car.
2. These planes are flown by experienced pilots.
3. There are five students studying Japanese.
4. The car was washed by us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Song On the End of the World

Friday in class students read the Milosz poem below, annotated the poem looking for lines that show imagery, tone, mood and irony. Students also gave each stanza a title to try to get at the main message of the poem. After discussing the poem, students individually answered the following closing questions on the back of their poem.

What is Milosz message to us about the end of the world?
What would McCarthy say to Milosz about the end of the world?
Which one has it right? Why do you say this?

To watch a visual retelling of the poem that concentrates on images, click here.

To see a video of the poem being read over some haunting images, click here.

A Song On the End of the World
by Czeslaw Milosz
Warsaw, 1944

Translated by Anthony Milosz

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Road Reading Schedule

The date indicates the due date for the reading selection. Be prepared for discussion or a quiz.

Oct 20: pgs 3-27
Oct 21: pgs 28-mid 52
Oct 22: pgs bot 52-mid 77
Oct 23: pgs bot 77-102
Oct 26: pgs 103-top 129
Oct 27: pgs mid 129-top 161
Oct 28: pgs 161-mid 180
Oct 29: pgs bot 180-204
Oct 30: pgs 205-top 231
Nov 2: pgs mid 231-256
Nov 3: pgs 257-287

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sorry I've been sick

So my fever is still over 100 degrees, and school policy for H1N1 precautions does not allow me to return to school until my fever drops below 100 degrees for 24 hours.

I am sorry that I have been missing discussions on Siddhartha; however, I hope that I will be back on Tuesday so that we can have one full day to discuss the book before you take the 25-question multiple choice final exam on Wednesday, Oct. 14. Vocab will not be on Wednesday's exam, so you should just think of the test as a big reading quiz. The vocab test will be after the long weekend, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, so that you have the weekend to study the words.

Read the blog posts below. They summarize the Siddhartha unit and assignments.

Siddhartha Extra Credit

For your second extra credit opportunity of the quarter, consider writing a paragraph on Siddhartha that answers one of the prompts below. The paragraph is worth five points, and although you may not think that five points is a lot, it really does help your grade. If you are also completing "The Overcoat" extra credit, due this Tuesday, those 10 points would really boost your grade.

Typed paragraphs are due by Friday, October 23. Remember that a paragraph should have at least two PIEs, and make sure your points, illustrations and explanations prove your topic sentence (which is basically your thesis). Remember that direct quotations are the best illustrations for your analytical points.

Paragraph Prompts
  1. Discuss the influence of Kamala on Siddhartha’s life.
  2. Discuss the influence of Vasudeva on Siddhartha’s life.
  3. Discuss a thematic aspect of discontent as it is found in Siddhartha.
  4. Discuss Hermann Hesses’s success in teaching concepts of Buddhism in the novel Siddhartha.
  5. Discuss Hermann Hesses’s success in teaching concepts of Hinduism in the novel Siddhartha.
  6. Discuss a thematic aspect of learning or education as it is found in Siddhartha.

Siddhartha Hinduism and Buddhism Terms

In class last week, you should have completed the Hinduism and Buddhism sheet by defining the term and offering a quotation or example from the book that shows this element of Hinduism or Buddhism in the text.

Hindu Terms


Buddhist Terms

Four Noble Truths
Eightfold Noble Path
Nirvana / Enlightenment
Historical Buddha (Sakyamuni)

Siddhartha Vocabulary Words

You should be making flash cards to study for your vocabulary test on Tuesday, Oct. 20. If you made a four-square vocab on each index card, you would really learn the words as you go.

Here are the words to know:

vocation (4)
orator (oration) (4)
atone (atonement) (5)
ascetic (9)
austere (18)
ostracize (45)
prudent (63)
compel (66)
desolate (desolation) (66)
concede (70)
formidable (79)
permeate (94)
diligent (95)
carouse (97)
benevolence (147)

Siddhartha Reading Schedule

Here are a few reasons why you should care about Siddhartha:

1. Reading about him improves your knowledge and cultural literacy about world religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.
2. He is a dude who is searching for more in life. He wants to move beyond all of the worldly trappings of jealousy, lust, and greed to find ultimate inner-peace. Sounds nice, right?
3. Siddhartha's quest is a classic story of discovery. It is one that is patterned after The Odyssey. Knowing his story helps us to better understand the single monomyth that is told and retold throughout different times and different cultures. Think about Gladiator, Star Wars, Finding Nemo, Siddhartha; these are all the same basic quest stories.

Reading Schedule

The date indicates the due date for the reading selection. Be prepared for discussion or a quiz.

Oct 6: Chapters 1 & 2
Oct 7: Chapters 3 & 4
Oct 8: Chapters 5 & 6
Oct 9: Chapters 7 & 8
Oct 12: Chapters 9 & 10
Oct 13: Chapters 11 & 12
October 13: Final Discussion
October 14: Final Test

Vocabulary Test: October 20