What I did during April Vacation

The April vacation is almost over! I can’t believe it either. I hope you all got the rest you needed to finish off the year with plenty of energy and excitement. I wasn’t very productive I’m afraid, but I did almost finish three great little books that I highly recommend to anyone:

  • Madness: A Brief History by Roy Porter: We all think we know people who are “crazy”, but how were these people viewed throughout history? Learn how science and culture have helped to define, refine and distinguish madness from sanity. It seems that sometimes having a sense of creativity and a vivid imagination can have disastrous outcomes. 
  • Rats: Observations on the history & habitat of the city’s most unwanted inhabitants by Robert Sullivan: Just as madness has been with us since the beginning, so too evidently have rats. Peppered with fascinating stories about rats and their long relationship with people and cities. Who would want to read such things? A librarian, of course. 
  • A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the human spirit by Alan Lightman: Discovery is the outcome of a curious and restless mind, according to Lightman’s brief book. The author leads us through his own life and discusses how other thinkers including Einstein, Feynman, Maxwell, Teller and Rubin used their curiosity to lead them to fresh insights into the workings of the universe.

Besides reading, I have been checking out what offerings are available on television, and I am pleasantly surprised by a few of my finds:

  • America: The story of us: This program airs tonight (Sunday, April 25th) at 9pm on the History Channel. I hope it is as good as advertised and look forward to watching it. Its companion web site offers a bunch of clips and some other goodies. 
  • Is it possible? : I’ve never actually seen this show on television, viewing it exclusively on the web. From the clips I have checked out, it looks like a modern day version of Ripley’s “Believe it or Not!” with much better video and graphics to prove that the bizarre, extreme and unusual do exist in the world. 
  • How the states got their shapes: Another offering from the history channel, this video covers a lot of history in 61 minutes and uses good graphics and maps to tell the story. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the video online, but you can view a talk with the author of the book on which the show was based, Mark Stein, via webcast from the Library of Congress collection. (You will need the Real Player app installed to view it). 
  • National Geographic Channel: I know; how many times can one person recommend the same sight? But NGC gets it right so many times, especially when it comes to its photojournalism. Long before the digital age connected the world, the National Geographic Society’s photographers were taking some of the most stunning pictures we’ve been lucky enough to see. Their website is featuring some of the first photos from NASA’s amazing Solar Observatory Telescope … awe-inspiring.

Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you find something worthwhile. See you all tomorrow

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.

Documentary Films online

               I love documentaries. There’s something special about watching an hour long investigation or examination about a topic I find interesting. Granted, some documentaries tend to have an agenda or a position that they are taking and some are just plain kooky (911 conspiracies, Nostradamus, Crystal skulls, Bermuda Triangle, faith healers, UFOs, Bigfoot and on and on). But there are still a bunch of other doc films that look at serious topics with a more balanced eye.

               One of my favorite sites for these movies is the amazing Top Documentary Films. Here you can find hundreds of titles, even such popular movies as Al Gore’s controversial “An Inconvenient Truth” and Michael Moore’s many films including “Roger and Me”, “Bowling for Columbine”, “Sicko” and even his latest offering (listed below). You could spend hours just reading all the movie descriptions, so I’ll give you a short list of some of my favorites:

  •  Download: The True Story of the Internet: This is a documentary that I watched on television and totally forgot to tape and share. A fast paced documentary narrated by technology journalist John Heileman that follows the rise and global conquest of something we’re all addicted to now; the internet.
  • Capitalism: A Love Story: Michael Moore’s latest film takes a look at the financial meltdown of the very recent past and posits an explanation. Depending on your political views, you’ll either love this or hate this.
  • The Universe: Beyond the Big Bang: An interesting film by the History Channel that looks at the many different stories that humans have written and passed down about how we got here, and where we’re going.
  • The Enemies of Reason: Richard Dawkins (a personal favorite) takes a look at religion and the consequences of blind faith and dogma in the modern world.
  • Planet Earth: An amazing BBC documentary that covers the earth from pole to pole. Worth watching.
  • Blue Planet: Another BBC documentary that this times explores the watery parts that cover two thirds of our planet.
  • Biography of Barak Obama: A&E’s presentation of a bio on the United States’ first “bi-racial” president.
  • Gamer Revolution: What does it mean when an industry that didn’t exist 25 years ago is now a $25 billion a year money maker? Take an inside look with this documentary.
  • Consuming Kids: Ever wonder how your children who can’t yet read, can spot a McDonald’s or Burger King as you drive past it? Or why tweens, those 9 to 12 year olds in your house, suddenly have such a heightened “fashion and style” sense? Couldn’t be all those ads they watch. Or could it?
  • The Way of All Flesh: You’ve probably never heard of Henrietta Lacks, and even though she died in October 1951, her cells still live on today in labs all over the world. In fact, her “immortal” cells have been used to test everything from Salk’s smallpox vaccine to drugs that you buy every day at the pharmacy. Her cells were even sent into space before humans dared become astronauts. 
  • The Drugging of Our Children: As the parent of two rambunctious, inattentive, fidgety, and overly active children (who are also bright, happy, extroverted, intrepid and confident) I know that the world wishes they would just “be normal”. But if that means dosing my child with powerful psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs so that they could “chill out” or “sit still”, I’d watch this film a few times and do more research. This film will make you think a little differently about what we do as educators in “Special Education” and why we have to deal with all those IEPs.

               Oh, there are so many many more films worth watching, but I’ll leave it to you to find and recommend some for the rest of us. Thank you for stopping by and I hope that you find something worthwhile.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.

Read any good books lately?

Yeah, I missed my Sunday deadline again, but I hope you forgive me, as I was out enjoying the sunshine with my family (I hope you were able to do the same).

I am trying my best to pass along some quality recommendations to Ms. Malbon, and would appreciate any feedback. The English Department is looking to revise/ add more non-fiction titles to the 9th grade reading list, especially those with “text complexity” that are connected to the curriculum. It also doesn’t hurt if they are science or math oriented, since there is a scarcity of that kind of reading on our lists. We look forward to hearing from students and teachers,and in the meantime, I have passed along the titles below which can be found in our library collection.

Thank you for stopping by and I can’t wait to hear from you all.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.