Sunday, April 20, 2014

Short Story #109: The Quadroons by Lydia Maria Child

Title:  The Quadroons 

Author:  Lydia Maria Child

Summary

Lydia Maria Child - The Quadroon
The story starts by setting the scene--a cottage in Georgia prior to the Civil War, where two lovers live together, enjoying the off season when there are less people around because the woman, Rosalie, is a "quadroon" while her husband, Edward, is a young white Georgian. The two had married in a church but could not legally marry as it was illegal.  However, they enjoy their marriage and even have daughter, Xarifa.  The three live is peace until the Edward becomes involved in politics and his success leads him to approach his personal life as political.  He decides he needs to marry a white woman in order to secure power, but tries to explain to Rosalie that this doesn't detract from his love for her after she has discovered he is to be married.  She refuses any kind of relationship beyond what they have and leaves.  The new wife, Charlotte, slowly learns of the loveless marriage she has entered into and how Edward still misses Rosalie.  A year later, Rosalie dies and Edward enters back into Xarifa's life, trying to care for her as best as he could.  However, the death of Rosalie wore upon him and he eventually dies in an incident involving alcohol and horse-riding.  In the aftermath of his death, history soons catches up with Xarifa in that her grandmother was not a free woman but a runaway slave--which by default, makes her a slave.  She is dragged back into slavery where she is sold and eventually forced into both physical and sexual servitude.  Shortly thereafter, she commits suicide. 

Reflection

The brutal end of the story is sad for a great many reasons related to American history.  However, the story is still enjoyable in the sense of the grace and sense of self embodied in both of Rosalie and Xarifa.  Things that were less than impressive for the story was the child's name, Xarifa.  This was an anagram for Africa with the "c" replaced by an "x".  The commentary at the end of the story where Child chides the reader and reiterates that this kind of thing is happening all the time in the South is a bit over the top or devalues her fiction and her readership.

Short Story #109 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  1/6/2014
Source:  The story can be found on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Short Story #108: The Big Bear of Arkansas by Thomas Bangs Thorpe

Title:   The Big Bear of Arkansas

Author:  Thomas Bangs Thorpe

Summary

The Big Bear of Arkansas by Thomas Bangs Thorpe
The story starts on a steamboat on the Mississippi wherein the narrator is reflecting about the nature of the people he meets onboard.  The  narrator introduces use to the Big Bear of Arkansaw, a man who has all sorts of stories to spin.  Some question the veracity of his tales but he insists on their truth.  He explains that Arkansaw is a wild place where things are bigger and stranger than the rest of the US.  Eventually, the story turns to a "big fish" tale about a bear that he hunted for several years.  At one point, he thinks he has killed it but realizes it isn't the bear he was after.  Shortly after, he has a final confrontation with the bear but rather than being able to kill the bear himself, the bear dies, leaving the man disappointed about not being able to claim it as his own kill.  

Reflection

I often enjoy stories like these that are voyeuristic in nature (that is, the narrator watching the event of storytelling take place) coupled with a character spinning tales.  A story about storytelling is in fact providing commentary about how we create and communicate stories and so valuable to any of us interested in this vein.  It's probably why I like The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain so much among other similar tales as well as epistolary tales.    

Side note: This selection of stories was read a few months back but I wanted to not post them until after they were covered in the course I was teaching that included them.  

Short Story #108 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  1/5/2014
Source:  The story can be found online for free at this site.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Short Story #107: Chrysalis by Ray Bradbury

Title:  Chrysalis 

Author:  Ray Bradbury

Summary

Ray Bradbury - S Is For Space book coverDr. Rockwell is called in to take a look at a man named Smith by his friend, Hartley.  Rockwell declares him dead and is about to leave when Hartley insists that he check his heart one more time.  When Rockwell checks, he waits a bit longer and discovers there is the slightest of heartbeats.  Hartley begins to explain that Smith went into this state a while back and had not decomposed but just lays there in an inactive state.  Eventually, Hartley also explains that Smith does emit some telepathic thoughts on occasion.  Rockwell is intrigued and takes him to his private laboratory.  Hartley becomes increasingly erratic and pressures Rockwell to destroy it but the doctor refuses.  He slowly makes sense of Smith and believes the man entered into a cocoon like state and would eventually come back in a new form.  Eventually, Hartley decides he must try to kill it himself but before he can, Smith returns to life, which further scares Hartley as he is showing the symptoms that Smith showed prior to his cocoon phase.  Rockwell does tests on Smith and everything comes out normal.  Smith takes his leave and when out of sight of everyone, he lifts up into the air and into space--revealing that he has become the next stage of human evolution.  

Reflection

A fun story and a decent opening for this anthology (I haven't read these stories in order).  I drift towards stories that often have a human/nonhuman at the center.  The essential "other" that looks like us but we believe isn't us and will generate enough fear that push people to want to take life.  The story also has a bit of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers to it and even hits a bit upon elements of Zero Hour to it.  


Short Story #107 out of 365
Rating: 3  (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/12/2014
Source:  S Is For Space by Ray Bradbury.  Bantam Books, 1970.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Letter to the Editor: Abstinence a failed policy

This is a letter to the Salem News from last week that I had published on sex education.  Enjoy!

"To the editor:

Joseph Sciola (”Condoms have no place in schools,” April 4) advocates abstinence-only education when he asks “Whatever happened to telling kids that sex outside of marriage is wrong, it’s immoral, it’s sinful?” The easy answer is that it failed, and horribly so. It fails to delay first sexual engagements, it fails to prevent teen pregnancy, it fails to halt the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and it fails to account for homosexuals (upward of 10 percent of the population) who cannot marry in more than 30 states."

For the rest of the letter, visit the Salem News opinion page.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Short Story #106: Icarus Montgolfier Wright by Ray Bradbury

Title:  Icarus Montgolfier Wright

Author:  Ray Bradbury

Summary

Ray Bradbury - S Is For Space book coverJebediah Prentiss has just built the first rocket.  In the excitement, he is asked what is his name.  This question sends him back through history to the pivotal moments and inventions that led to this moment from Icarus's first flight, to Montgolfier's first flight in an air balloon to the Wright brothers' first flight on a plane.  Finally, he answers the boy that his name is Icarus Montgolfier Wright.  

Reflection

It's a short description but a very short story that again plays on a bit of nostalgia and hero worship for Bradbury.  While I can appreciate homage to the past figures, I felt this was a bit too heavy-handed.  However, as the ending story to this sci-fi anthology--it does make a certain poetic sense.  

Short Story #106 out of 365
Rating: 1 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/9/2014
SourceS Is For Space by Ray Bradbury.  Bantam Books, 1970. 

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Short Story #105: The Flying Machine Ray Bradbury

Title:  The Flying Machine

Author:  Ray Bradbury

Summary

Ray Bradbury - S Is For Space book coverThe story takes place in China in 400 A.D.  A servant comes rushing into the Emperor's room explaining that he has witnessed a miracle that the Emperor must know about.  The Emperor plays coy with the servant but eventually lets the servant explain that he witnessed a man operating a flying machine.  The servant brings him to the man who flew and the Emperor questions the man.  After ascertaining that no one else knows about it and that this is the only one, he has the guards take him into custody and summons the executioner.  He then shows his own technology but explains that his technology just increases beauty whereas the beauty that this man has created would wreak havoc upon the Emperor's beautiful world.  

Reflection

This is a bit of a dark story that reminds me of Frank Herbert's Cease Fire or Theodore Thomas's Day of Succession in its brute force and clear fear of the future.  This attempt to squelch knowledge is a curious one at least coming from Bradbury who is so often fearing the future because of where technology has supposedly led us but also condemning the past for its limitations on the development of technology and knowledge.    

Short Story #105 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/9/2014
Source:  S Is For Space by Ray Bradbury.  Bantam Books, 1970.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Recent Blogpost on NSCC LETS Blog: Instructional Technology: The Green Solution

This is a blog post, I wrote for the NSCC LETS Blog.  

An often unrealized potential of instructional technology is the ways it can benefit the environment and reduce waste.  Here are some of my favorite ways to reduce waste through technology.

Online Readings

By providing readings online and allowing students to bring digital devices to class to use when we are working on the class readings, means that students are less likely to print it out.  However, even if they do, I provide them with instructions on how to get the most out of printing by using double-sided and depending on their viewing preferences, possibly 2 pages per side of paper (therefore a 60-page document is reduced to 15 pieces of paper).  Particularly in courses that have massive (and often, overpriced) texts that have lots inside that may never be read, I like that I can provide just the necessities. And with a growing assortment of Open Textbooks that are online for free, it makes it even easier!

Read the rest of the blog post on their website.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Short Story #104: The Trolley by Ray Bradbury

Title:  The Trolley

Author:  Ray Bradbury

Summary

Ray Bradbury - S Is For Space book coverThe story starts at dawn when the trolley is beginning it's last day of service.  The next day, it will be buses for everyone.  Mr. Tridden takes the young children on a ride on the trolley to the end of the line wherein they have a picnic and enjoy the day, reminiscing about the trolley and believing that a bus could never replace it.  Tridden rounds up the children and gets them back onto the trolley.  He returns them home and two boys try to imagine a world without the trolley and how the rails will be cemented over.  They try to memorialize it as best they can and believe they will never forget, and then they go and play kick the can.  

Reflection

Another one of Bradbury's nostalgia stories.  For a man of the future, he sure does praise the past an awful lot.  Of course, he equally damming commentary on children being mindless and easily distracted is another old chestnut that loves to be bandied about when thinking about children.  

Short Story #104 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/9/2014
Source:  S Is For Space by Ray Bradbury.  Bantam Books, 1970.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Short Story #103: Invisible Boy By Ray Bradbury

Title:  Invisible Boy

Author:  Ray Bradbury

Summary

Ray Bradbury - S Is For Space book coverCharlie is a bit of a pest to the witch, Old Lady but since his folks are away, she's left by happenstance for caring for him but he won't come out of his hiding spot until Old Lady promises to share her magic with him.  She promises to the make him invisible.  He agrees and she makes a potion that she claims will make him invisible.  However, since her magic never really works, he is still clearly visible but she pretends he isn't.  What follows is a cat and mouse game of Charlie trying to determine if he is really invisible and Old Lady trying to continue to pretend that he is.  Eventually, she claims that he becoming slowly visible and therefore will be able to return home soon (which is what she claims she ultimately wants.  When he becomes visible, he runs home and leaves Old Lady alone.  As Old Lady makes her way home, she knows Charlie is truly invisible now and following her home to stay with her forever.  

Reflection

The ending is a bit cryptic and a bit sad.  It could be indicating that Charlie was a hallucination from the beginning for an old woman who never had children.  However, the hallucination part could be largely the last part of the story when the real Charlie leaves.  However, in both cases, we see Old Lady in her house, clinging to a sack of sticks that she hopes will somehow provide her with the emotional fulfillment that she believes she is missing from a real child.  


Short Story #103 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/8/2014
Source:  S Is For Space by Ray Bradbury.  Bantam Books, 1970.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Short Story #102: Hail and Farewell By Ray Bradbury

Title:  Hail and Farewell 

Author:  Ray Bradbury

Summary

Ray Bradbury - S Is For Space book coverThe story begins with Willie leaving yet another family.  Willie is 43 years old but continues to look like an 11 year old.  He has made a life of travelling and finding couples that do not have children and providing them with a "child" for a temporary time.  However, that time has come to an end because after 3-4 years, people start to get suspicious since he doesn't grow up like the other boys.  As he leaves town, he runs into some of the boys he used to regularly play with and plays balls with them one last time before getting on a train.  He tells them he is going away for a short bit and wishes them goodbye, but they have largely moved on.  He flashes back to the conversations he's had to have with his "parents" and dreams about sometime in the future when he can revisit all the "parents" he's collected over the years.  Finally, he's gets on the train and ends up in a new tow.    

Reflection

In some ways, this is a fascinating reflection of Peter Pan in that Willie can never grow up and must taking on being a child as an occupation.  Here, childhood becomes not a nostalgic place to return to but a persistent existence which is inescapable and damning.  It is also filled with repression in that Willie must not think of himself as an adult with the freedoms and choices of an adult, but forever, as a child.  This contrasts interestingly with the adult-enforced repression that takes place in the world of children as they grow up.  

Short Story #102 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/8/2014
Source:  S Is For Space by Ray Bradbury.  Bantam Books, 1970.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.