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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt - My Review

I believe as we grow older, our lives become filled with memories; some joyous and and some regrets. One of my regrets is never having met Frank McCourt.

I read both Tis and Angela's Ashes when they very first came out and I recall how McCourt could tell a story that could make you laugh at one instant - and in the next - it could deliver such a melancholy moment filled with irony and pain.
Teacher Man is McCourt's memoir which recounts the stories covering the years inclusive of repatriated young adulthood and his range of experiences - as an adult - up to the point just prior to his writing of Angela's Ashes when he retired from teaching in New York. I found his stories to be effective in that they did not paint him in some heroic light. He told stories that were touching without being schmaltzy.

I wish I had met him because he seemed like a decent Human Being - in my book, such a reference sits among the highest of compliments I could ever give someone.
As I recently explained to a friend, the stars aligned recently that I was given an opportunity to tutor at-risk High School kids in Mathematics. They attend a local Charter, night-school whose aim is to utilize construction, engineering and architectural topics as the curriculum. As it turns out, I have had a modicum of success in getting through to these kids and I have been asked to assume more responsibilities since the teacher hired for the position didn't work out. Thus, at least for the short run, it looks like I am the night school Math teacher.

Feeling woefully under prepared, I decided to seek out books and materials that might help me to be of better service to my recently inherited clientele.
McCourt's book is one of the few that seem to have found their way to me and I really do appreciate it. He has a way of pointing out that real teaching goes on when a connection is made and that makes sense to me because in some way or another, all the jobs I've ever had have been of the variety where some form or other of pedagogy was involved. I am not certain whether our brains have the ability to seek out information germane to our respective wants or current conditions but I found so much of what McCourt had to say as helpful and full of wisdom.

Regardless of whatever the case may be, all I have to say is. 'thank you' to the man. Again, I so wish I had met him and gotten to know him as a person. Regardless, I take comfort in having his written work not only as human interest stories but as personal communiques that this Human Being took the time to reach out across the time-space continuum for future beneficiaries of such a remarkable rendition of his ordinary yet heroic life.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art & Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer - My Review

Unimpressive - This is a great example of how misleading a book title can be.

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art & Science of Remembering Everything
reads like a long magazine article - which is kind of where I found out about the book - The NY Times - last week. Having read the article, I was sufficiently impressed to get online and order the book. It arrived four days later and I couldn't wait to get started.

At the onset of Foer's book - which does have a snappy title - he was very clear this is not a 'how to' book but rather, it is an account of his one-year journey from being a journalist-spectator to becoming winner of the US Memory Championship. Maybe that's where I got off track. The NY Times article, detailed as it was, failed to mention that part. Its a critical detail - more than an oversight - in my estimation.

Foer has a decent writing style - again, like a magazine article. This book is written in the vein of Malcolm Gladwell's books and it does have information but not quite as polished or as jam packed. So far, hardly anything that wasn't already mentioned on the NY Times synopsis has been written and little has been added to what I already read so I am feeling just a little bit ripped off - the subtitle seems to imply that the book will talk about, "the art and science of remembering everything..."

For the sake of accuracy, it should read; "My year-long journey toward becoming the US Memory champion with a few interesting tidbits about memory thrown in for good measure."

I am going to be recommending the NY Times synopsis - penned by the author and - which turns out to be $14.00 + shipping cheaper - not to mention, the article is (ironically) more directed at hard examples of just how memory techniques can be applied. I suppose if there is anything redeeming about Foer's book is its extensive bibliography. Other than that, save your money and check this book out at your local library where you can also photocopy the bibliography because it will offer more detail germane to the topic.

I'd give this book a grade of "B+" for style and an overall grade of "D" because it was not at all what it was hyped to be.

The discontinuity between Foer's book title and its content are such that if I ever come across this writer's books again, I am going to be hard-pressed to trust him enough to plop down my hard-earned money because I will be less likely to fall for that trick twice.

Foer's synopsis on the NY Times deserves an "A" - moreover, since he failed to expand the book that's where the material should have stayed.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


"...Life, love - Wonderful
the affection of a woman
who only loves you?  Miraculous..."

Meraviglioso *

E’ vero

credetemi e accaduto

di notte su di un ponte

guardando l’acqua scura

con la dannata voglia

di fare un tuffo giu uh

D’un tratto

qualcuno alle mie spalle

forse un angelo

vestito da passante

mi porto via dicendomi

Cosi ih:


ma come non ti accorgi

di quanto il mondo sia



perfino il tuo dolore

potra guarire poi


Ma guarda intorno a te

che doni ti hanno fatto:

ti hanno inventato

il mare eh!

Tu dici non ho niente

Ti sembra niente il sole!

La vita



il bene di una donna

che ama solo te


La luce di un mattino

l’abbraccio di un amico

il viso di un bambino




It's true
Believe me, it happened
one night, on a bridge
watching the dark water
with the damned desire
of making a dive
someone [was] behind me
maybe an angel
dressed as a passer-by
took me away telling me
but how can you not realize
how much the world is
even your pain
could go away then
Look around you
the gifts given to you:
invented for you,
the sea!
You say you don't have anything.
Does the sun seem nothing to you?
the affection of a woman
who only loves you?
The light of a morning,
the hug of a friend,
the face of a child,
Miraculous...ah!…(while the song keeps playing)

...Look around you
the gifts they gave you:
they invented for you
the sea!
...You say you don't have anything.
Does the sun seem like nothing to you?!
The night was over
but I was still feeling you
life's love

* I translated this song and am in no way fluent in Italian, so my words may be literal.  No matter, the spirit of this wonderful song comes across loud and clear.  

'Meraviglioso' can mean, 'miraculous,' 'marvelous' or 'wonderful' - take your pick.

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