Sunday, April 28, 2013

More of This Year's Doodles: Whiteboard Platypus

Picture 1 features an Autumn nymph just getting ready to dance upon the wind as the leaves begin to fall.  Picture 2 depicts the epic battle between those eternal rivals the Water Donkey and the Vampire Possum.  Picture 3 focuses on the Water Donkey in its undead form with all the relevant statistics.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Doodling the Inklings: Whiteboard Platypus

What could be cooler that J.R.R. Tolkien brandishing the Lance of Longinus along with a Grail-toting C.S. Lewis, and an apparition of Charles Williams, riding on a rocket bear with dual chain guns for arms?

Pro-mo for the school's Inklings reading club.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

What My Students Did: Academic Platypus

So, I'm already proud of my little band of 9th through 12th graders that managed to put on Sophocles' Antigone at the beginning of this month.  Putting on a Greek Tragedy with a working Chorus is no small deed.  For the seniors, however, an even greater challenge was just around the corner.  This week concluded our school's annual senior thesis presentations.

All seniors at the school where I teach are required to present a senior thesis as part of their graduation requirements.  The senior thesis is composed of an 18-24 page written draft on a topic of their choosing and a 10-13 page oral draft which is memorized, presented to the community, and defended before a panel made up of a teacher, the headmaster, a member or two of the local clergy, and a board member or outside expert (the panel is civil and polite, but they ask real questions -it isn't just for show).  It's a daunting task.  Most students in the United States will not experience this sort of thing unless they go for an advanced degree.

What particularly impressed me this year was the uniform level of performance of the students.  We had highs, but we didn't have lows.  Every student rose to the occasion and strove through to end with self-possession and determination.  Students like this, whatever they choose to do, are going to find themselves becoming leaders -even when they choose to follow.

I don't know where these seniors will end up or what they will do with their lives over the next decade, but I do know that I am proud of them.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Contemplating Summer Reading: The Platypus Reads Part CXII

It's mid-April (the cruelest month), and Summer is still a month-and-a-half-away.  Nonetheless, sunny days and vacation time are beginning to peak at last over the horizon and my mind is contemplating 2013's course of Summer Reading.

On the docket:

A return to "The Summer of Shannara" with Terry Brooks' prequel The First King of Shannara

Liveblogging my read through Robert E. Howard's Conan stories

Learning a little more about the Spartans with Paul Cartledge's Spartan Reflections (I'm reading his The Spartans now).

Going back to world of historiography with Confessing History, a series of essays on practicing the historian's craft written by Christian historians.

Keeping up on my Tolkien with Caldecott's The Power of the Ring (formally released as The Secret Fire)

I have a trip to New England (Home, The Motherland) planned this summer so reading on Puritan New England will continue until moral improves (I'm already working on Demos' Entertaining Satan and Ryken's Worldly Saints).

As you know, what actually gets read never matches my initial prospectus, but that's ok.  We'll see which volumes make to awards time in August.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

A Return of Greek Theater: Creative Platypus

Last night, my students staged a production of Antigone by the Greek poet Sophocles.  Though Antigone is the most frequently staged of all the Greek Tragedies it was an ambitious project and I was glad to see the students pull it off (I wonder if they know how great a theatrical triumph that was?!?).  The audience was enthusiastic and the cast ended the night on an ecstatic post-production high with the consuming of many pancakes.

I haven't been involved in such a project since senior year of college when we put on an adaptation of Aeschylus' Oresteia.  Returning to Greek theater has been a real joy for me and I've benefited greatly from the opportunity to take a deep-soak in a classical work.  As with ancient hair-styles, boat-building, composition-in-performance, or recipes, there are things that can only be learned by doing.  Back in college, I had dryly theorized that Antigone's actions are portrayed as "wrong-headed" and that the real focus of the drama are the male characters who are unable to successfully navigate the play's "problem" and put the woman back in her place.  Typical Athenian misogyny.  Seeing the the play actually performed made me wonder if the drama is even really about Antigone so much as it is about Creon and the inherent limits of hereditary monarchy as a form of government.  "Antigone" (masc. Antigonus), after all, means "unyielding" -a word that applies to Creon every bit as much as to the title character.  -just a thought.

More to the point, I am glad that my students have now had a chance to see a book they had all read for class "from the inside."  No longer were they interacting with the world of ancient art and ideas as mere consumers, but they were going on to extend that art and those ideas as creators in their own right.  No longer were they merely experiencing "The Great Conversation," they were participating in it and, in a small way, expanding it.  That makes me happy.

P.S.- When I have pictures I will post them so that you can get a look at costumes, set design, etc.