Sunday, August 27, 2017

Academic advice for Writing with a premier source

This is a fantastic resource for instructors of writing and students! 
Academic Advice for Writing

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The March of the Dinosaurs (full movie)

A great movie about dinosaurs  (both plant eaters and meat eaters)--and their habits and activities.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Beatles: Their Economic, Social, Political, and Business impact on the world

The Beatles: Their Economic, Social, Political, and Business impact on the world
  • A charismatic event of the modern era. "More popular than Jesus."
        Changed music: pop, recording, album covers, foreign music influences, instruments
        Changed social trends: clothes, hair, influence of drugs and escape
        Political change: U.S.S.R., peace movements, racial conflict
        Global awareness of poverty and suffering: Concert for Bangladesh
        Financial: income royalties that still continue to beat all catalogue. Sales of personal property. Remastered catalog.
        Entertainment media: cartoons, movies.
        Performances: sold-out shows that were hysterical for audiences.
**Rumor of Paul's death--and John's murder.
        Efforts to stop the Vietnam War.
        Their relationships with wives, media figures: the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
        Bringing guest artists (Clapton) to play.
        Their decision not to tour again--and to fight in the studio, then to go separately and release music.

"The Beatles promoted a cultural revolution in the former Soviet Union that played a part in the demolition of communism in that part of the world," said British Cold War spy and documentarian Leslie Woodhead. "The Beatles were totally illegal… the kids thought, 'the Kremlin told us this is evil music but it's not true. It's lovely music! Maybe they've been lying to us about other things as well.' That had a very corrosive impact."

Album covers and images that changed art and merchandising


$2.2 million dollar drum set at auction

Concert for Bangladesh: global social relief
A new report has valued the Beatles to be worth £82 million ($118 million) a year to Liverpool, the city’s local newspaper the Liverpool Echo reports.  

Thousands of fans from all over the world flock to the Fab Four’s birthplace every year to pay homage. Thanks to their devotion, the city employs over 2,300 people in what is described as the “Beatles-related economy”.
In an attempt to ensure the Beatles legacy is harnessed effectively, Mayor Joe Anderson commissioned a group of researchers from the University of Liverpool and John Moores University to put a figure on the group’s continued contribution to the city.
The report confirmed that the city can expect that contribution to continue for many more years as it’s growing by up to 15 percent a year.

Musical biography
The story of Paul McCartney, no ear required

May 4th 2016, 17:31 BY D.H.

PAUL MCCARTNEY is pure music, the first singer and multi-instrumentalist with sex appeal who breathed melody. He lived in our speakers and on our screens, and wrote the soundtrack of much of the 20th century. “Paul McCartney” is, by comparison, fair and solidly researched, with only a few errors of fact. The author’s British class consciousness can be catty, but as a whole, it fits the Beatles’, and McCartney’s, story. At a net worth of $1.3 billion dollars, Sir Paul is perhaps the most spectacular example pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, going from manual labourer to superstar all before turning 21, and a national treasure for more than half a century since.
When I look back at two cultural influences in my life, there are two events that I think totally shaped who I became and how and why. Of special significance for me is that I was a child of the '60s, growing up in some of the most creative and volatile eras that America has known. These two influences were both dramatic and violent in their outcome as well as overwhelming: the Beatles and the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy. I measure their impact on my life for several reasons right up until this very moment, and for what I believe, they will continue to influence me until my dying day. These two ideas: music and political themes—changed my outlook on society in every way possible. In particular, the Beatles—because EVERYTHING they did (as a group and then as solo artists)—was examined, analyzed, discussed, and thrashed out by us—in detail and with great conviction.
Four guys from Liverpool, England, who talked in a funny accent that vanished when they sang. I didn’t understand that—nor the fact that girls just screamed and shrieked over them. It was infuriating. But their music was something different—it was EXCITING in a way that I didn’t understand. And it wasn’t the same as the sugar-sweet singing that was a daily diet on whatever kind of cheap radio was in a car or at home. Not only their singing, but the way they looked—and kept changing their appearance. It was their clothes too: the Beatles influenced my clothes and how I looked. I wore “Beatle Boots” as a 5th grader, and it was the talk of the classroom. I didn’t know what was so important, but if ANYTHING these guys did could make me seem noticed, I was impressed.
If they said it was cool, then it was so. But it was the THOUGHT that they approved of it. And their music kept shifting. When they released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” in 1966, I was stunned. NO ONE understood it, but we all talked about it. Even adults found it mesmerizing. When the “White Album” came out later, it was the same thing all over: what the hell had happened to them, but more importantly, what was the message for us? The fact that radio stations that I could access on my cheap hand-held AM transistor radio MIGHT play a Beatles song was like looking for water in the desert: you KNEW it might be there, but you had no idea of when it would be found.
The end of the band as a unit was like losing a trusted family member—and there were the hopes that they would someday reform just one more time. When they released “Abbey Road,” it was like the magic had been made complete once again. And this new thing called “FM radio” was around now—and it was amazing! It was both underground and contemporary—and they PLAYED the Beatles with a passion. But the only way to get access to FM radio was to hope that my parents somehow got the idea that music was cool—and my mother got a large stereo console unit. It was like a doorway to a higher realm. In 1968, “Hey Jude” came out, and it was on the radio for WEEKS at length. It was the ONLY song that mattered—and the fact that it was much longer than anything else at the time was worth the difference. When the Beatles did solo material (George and Paul were the first), we all bought it like it was food for our ears. We also had our critical views of who did what and how it compared to the original group.
We changed when they changed their hairstyle. Guys either refused and wore short hair or became long-hair followers. Hippies were part of the “this is going to be me” ideal of my upcoming teen years, and at 17, I just stopped going to a barber. I remember that when I went to high school that year, someone noticed it and nudged a classmate in disapproval—but I didn’t care. The BEATLES were my role models.
The news that George Harrison was playing a concert in New York in 1971 was phenomenal. Not that I could have afforded a ticket nor a way to go, but the IDEA that a Beatle was playing so close was so tantalizing. And I remember hearing from people who went how they responded when Bob Dylan came out on stage. If the crowd was pumped up at George and his pals, the site of Dylan drove them into a frenzy. So it was the FRIENDS of the Beatles that made us wild too.
The end—or the realization that it was all over—came for me when I heard that John Lennon was murdered. That was like killing Michelangelo, or maybe Da Vinci. You didn’t kill an artist—not someone who had won our hearts because he declared so many times that “All You Need is Love.” That was our hope: that the violence of the ‘60s would end, and along with it, the atrocity of men and women lost in Southeast Asia in the Vietnam War. We had lost one of our Great Heroes; one of our Voices. We lost one of our emotional and social godfathers. We had lost one of our most precious Designers of our future.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A word puzzle to reinforce critical thinking and writing skills

In teaching in a foreign country where pedagogy and instructional methods are quite different than Western methods, I have found ways to bring creative thinking and reasoning together: what I call “fluid learning”. To me, this brings both left-and-right brain styles of thinking together in one complete package. As an example, I used a simple word puzzle this week in my writing class. 

My reasons were more than playing a game: it was serious from the start, because my Chinese students DON’T like to brainstorm or word-web out ideas. They just try to write in English, and in doing so, get bogged down and discouraged. But this lesson showed them a lot more than they expected.

First, I made up a word puzzle with business English vocabulary that they will likely encounter in their sophomore classes. Because I’ve taught this course as well, I know what words are commonly used on exams. In Asian countries, especially China, the emphasis is SO strong on “study-memorize-test”. There is no amount of critical thinking taught to the students. And I insist that they need this, especially as international graduate-degree-seeking young men and women.

Then I started the class. I knew they were apprehensive: their mid-term papers were due. And I wrote the word “test” on the board. It raised some of the tension, but then I wrote “con” in front of it: “contest”. It brought laughs and smiles. Yes, I said, this will be a fun exercise for you all, and you will learn to think and write in this lesson.

I gave out the word puzzle papers, FACE DOWN. That’s important: “DON’T turn them over!” I wanted them to learn to LISTEN to me first. Of course, within two minutes, several students had ignored me and begun to scan the paper. I stopped each time and mildly reprimanded them that “you need to LISTEN to me. If this was a job interview process and you read it and saw on the bottom that ‘Failure to listen means you are not qualified for the position,’ you’d be crushed with disappointment.” I reminded them that I wanted everyone to have a fair chance to be the winner of the contest. It doesn’t matter who has the highest grades, I said. This is different.

So then I signaled them to begin. And I could listen (even though I don’t speak Chinese) to their exclamations of surprise and delight when they found words in the puzzle. I watched their earnestness and determination as they pored over the combinations and searched for patterns. I observed them interacting with each other in pairs and groups as they shared results. 

When the first person sounded out that he had completed all the words, the others kept going. I let them continue: their progress was part of my goal. I wanted them to complete the process on their own initiative. We took a short break, and I still saw some of them trying to solve the missing words. What I noticed was that some of them instantly could figure it, while others tried different ways of seeing patterns in the letters. And everyone had his or her own way of doing it.

As a follow-up, I wrote out the list of results and methods that I wanted them to think about for writing a paper about this experience. Again, as noted, my students are NOT the kind who do brainstorming. They are much more inclined to try and memorize something, or to use their cell phones to surf for an answer. And I gleefully told them at the start that they were welcome to use their phones—but that the device would offer no help. They had to learn to THINK first.

I put a title on the board: Solving the Word Puzzle. My students need to learn how and why a title should be on a paper. My reasoning is “What is the idea to be explained in the content? That’s the title.” Then I wrote out a numbered list of items that they had experienced in the process as a way of showing them how to WRITE DOWN ideas and use it as a focal point to bring up more examples of thoughts for the paper:

1. Think independently. 
2. Work in teams; help others
3. Solve problems without directions
4. No phones needed—do this with your own brain power
5. Have fun—get excited!
6. Stay with an idea! Keep pushing for results and answers!
7. Listen first to directions!
8. Learn new vocabulary words
9. Learn word recognition
10. Not use “study-memorize” for results. Use creative-critical thinking.
11. Brainstorming ideas by writing them and seeing where they lead in other results.

My students thanked me and said it was really interesting. They enjoyed the class, and I reminded them that it’s just as important to THINK about writing and then to plan it out first—just like I had done for them with the examples that I listed. 

I said that we will write about this experience and that this list will serve as reminders of how and what and why they learned something, and how to remember it. And then I thanked them for helping me learn to be a better instructor.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Get that Life! Follow your dreams to success!!

(The Creative Classroom says, “I am happy to say Ericka is a friend of mine who has found success and her heart’s dream!”)

Get That Life: How I Turned a Failed Restaurant Into a Successful Food Truck
Ericka Lassair left a job that made her unhappy to create Creole-inspired hot dogs for a living.
By Heather Wood Rudulph – Cosmopolitan magazine
Mar 27, 2017

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Ericka Lassair left a successful job in finance to start a business that would help rebuild her hometown. She opened Diva Dawg, a Creole-inspired hot dog restaurant, in 2012 to local fanfare. A year later, competition drove her out of business, and Lassair took some time to figure out what to do next. Diva Dawg was reborn as a food truck in the fall of 2014. The business, which now includes the truck and a stall at a food market, has become a local hit, but Lassair has her sights set on national success.

Once I graduated [college] in 2001, I took a job with a finance company called Chrysler Capital to become a collections agent. The job was in Dallas and I was desperate to get out of Louisiana to see different parts of the country. After four years of cold-calling people about their late car payments, I started applying for different positions within the company. When an auditor position opened up that included frequent travel, I went after it. I spent the next two years flying all over the country.

At our main office, we used to do a lot of potlucks. It was the first time I discovered people outside of my family loved my food. I was creative with my dishes, which always had the New Orleans Creole flavor. I would get requests from coworkers to cook for their dinner parties; one of my coworkers would constantly buy my pies. I never considered cooking as a career before then. I thought, Who wants to be stuck in the kitchen all day sweating? Once people started requesting my food for their events, it got me thinking.

When Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, my parents and little brother came to live with me in Dallas. They thought it would be just until the storm blew over, but they couldn’t go home for eight months. They desperately wanted to get back to their life but I loved having them there. When they left, I felt so empty. I realized I wanted to be home in New Orleans. I started asking for assignments that took me to the city, and I would use my miles to fly home on the weekends.

I was moved up to become a retail credit analyst, the person who checks your credit when you buy a car at a dealership. I was stuck at my desk every day making calls or going through piles of paperwork. I was good at my job, but I was miserable. After a year, I knew I had to quit. My bosses offered me another promotion, [but] I turned in my company car, sold my house, and moved back to New Orleans.

Being home felt good. I got a retail job at Saks Fifth Avenue and tried to map out my plan. I was thinking of going into the food industry but I wasn’t sure how. I applied to a [two-year] culinary program at a community college and the prerequisite was to get a job at a restaurant. I interviewed at Commander’s Palace, which is a historic restaurant in New Orleans. I was intimidated but the chef gave me a chance. I worked in the dessert department making bread pudding soufflĂ©s earning $7 an hour.

I graduated from the culinary program in 2010. One day, I was craving hot dogs, and I bought some regular wieners and buns, and a can of chili. I added my Creole flavors to them and ended up eating them all week. The idea hit me to open a Creole-inspired hot dog restaurant. I started writing down recipes — like a chili dog with fried chicken, and a crawfish chili dog — and asked a friend of mine who owned a nursery for business advice. She recommended Good Work Network, which offers free small-business consulting. I started taking all the classes they offered. I discovered a small credit union that has a reputation for helping new business owners.

I knew I wanted to be on Magazine Street. It was always my favorite place to shop with my mom, and I love the architecture and boutiques there. When a spot opened up at the end of the street, I jumped at it.

That year at Jazz Fest, I was introduced to a vendor who had a sausage booth. I told him about my idea and he offered to make my hot dogs for me. I wanted something special, and when I tasted what he created for the first time, it was so good I cried.

Back then, I wasn’t really big on social media. I just spread the word by posting “Diva Dawg Coming Soon” on the door. I also took out an ad in a local paper. A lot of people heard about the restaurant from news coverage; I was getting a lot of write-ups from local journalists because another hot dog restaurant had opened across town, so now it was a trend.

I was so upset because I had been working on this idea for so long. I wanted to be the first. I went to eat there to see what they had to offer and it was nothing like what I wanted to do for Diva Dawg. They had basic hot dogs, sausages, and toppings. So I continued to move forward.

We opened in September 2012 and got a great turnout. The restaurant was packed. I could barely keep up. I hired one dishwasher, a cashier, and a cook. I trained my little cousin to help me with everything, and my boyfriend at the time and his two sons helped, and so did my mom. I was cooking, running the cash register, doing all the accounting, and talking to the customers. It was overwhelming, but I was so excited. I thought, We’re going to make it.

In March 2013, the other hot dog place opened up a new location on Magazine Street. The moment I knew I was in trouble was when a lady came in saying she left her credit card behind. Then she said, “Oh, it’s the other hot dog place.” My heart sank. It was a downward spiral from then on.
I started borrowing money to pay the rent. I didn’t want to ask my family for money, so I took out those quick, high-interest payday loans. I couldn’t pay my employees on time. I’d have one good day but then a week of hardly any business. I kept a smile on my face but inside, I was struggling. I would go home at the end of the night and cry.

In September 2013, I applied and got into a program with the Urban League called the Women-in-Business Challenge. It’s an incubator that helps small-business owners sharpen their skills with classes and networking, and at the end, there is a pitch competition and a $10,000 prize. We talked about our struggles and these other entrepreneurs gave me a lot of new ideas. I was starting to feel hopeful, but I was three months behind on rent and my landlord was threatening eviction. In November, I made the decision to close.
I thought I would have to leave the Urban League program because I lost my business but they encouraged me to stay. The classes helped me release the stress and encouraged me to try again.

I went back to working in retail, which allowed me to make a little money, but I was broke. I was relying on my parents and taking the bus every day. I was hiding my car at the dealership where my little brother worked because I didn’t want it to get repossessed. How ironic that I started in collections and here I was, hiding my car.

I have always been an upbeat, positive person but the stress of entrepreneurship is intense. It’s a risk you are taking with not just your life, but your employees' and your family's.

Even though I was in a funk, I followed through on the Urban League program. The pitch [competition] was in March and I put everything into it. My revamped business plan was to do a hot dog food truck. Even before I opened the restaurant, I thought a food truck was perfect for my concept but New Orleans didn’t have clear guidelines for running a truck in the city. I didn’t want to take the risk of getting a food truck and then not being able to be in business. But after the restaurant closed, I decided to go for it, [and] I won the $10,000.

I reached out to a local bank owner I knew to see if he’d help me, and he said I’d need a business partner [because of my bad credit]. I reached out to my cousin-in-law Andre who always supported me. When he said yes, I started to worry, What if this doesn’t work out? I don’t want to ruin his life too.

We got approved for the loan, and my meat guy told me about someone who was selling their food truck and moving back to L.A. The timing was perfect. We cleaned the truck, painted it, and rebranded it. I wanted to open in October, which is national chili month. We booked every [local] festival we could find with that truck. That first month, I probably slept 20 hours total. I was determined. I was not going to fail again.

It was just me and Andre for the first month. He was a police officer at the time too, so he would be working 24 hours some days. I would hire people now and then to help me when he was busy.

After two months [in business], we had money saved, and that’s when I knew everything was probably going to be fine. With the restaurant, there was never any money left over. With the truck, I don’t have to pay rent and electricity and employees for eight-hour shifts that only see two customers. I needed a fire permit and a health permit. It was much more manageable. We mostly worked lunches, parking the truck near the hospital and some office buildings.

Our first Mardi Gras [in 2015] was the true test for me. You can’t drive in this city during the festival. I had to park the truck in our location four hours before they started to close the streets off. I had to do triple the amount of prep work. My ankles were swollen and I was sleep-deprived. I cried in the corner on the truck like a baby because I was so overwhelmed and stressed out. But it was a huge success. The experience taught me the importance of delegating. I needed to learn to let go, to allow myself time to work on the business while not running every aspect of it. I think 2016 was the first year I was able to start doing that.
In November 2016, we opened a [stall] in Roux Carré, which is a food accelerator [market] that helps small businesses. Now we reserve the truck for festivals, catered events, and parties. Our schedule is always random and unpredictable, and we can get a call to do a job the same day.

What I’ve learned is not to do things too fast. I write down all my ideas, but focus on one thing first and do it well. I want to make Diva Dawg a national brand, develop my own line of sauces and cookware, and even host a TV show. But I will first focus on getting into the airport, then malls. It’s just a feeling I have. With everything that I pursue in life I have a vision first, then I have to bring it to life.

Get That Life is a weekly series that reveals how successful, talented, creative women got to where they are now. Check back each Monday for the latest interview.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Famous Faces: Why are they known?

Calling all history majors, English majors, journalists, advertising majors, and marketing reps--and a few instructors too: let's see you solve the puzzle of 16 Famous Faces. 
Here are 16 faces: who's who? (Hint: one just became a royal grandfather again.)

In 1995, I was substitute-teaching and saw a Wall Street Journal. (It's not my normal reading, but it was there.) In it, I saw an advertisement for Dewar's Scotch: these were the images used, and the selling point was something about so few leaders available for such good Scotch. My response: I showed initiative and pro-active thinking BY CALLING THE DEWAR'S ADVERTISING OFFICE AND ASKING TO SPEAK TO WHOMEVER DESIGNED THE AD. I WANTED TO KNOW WHO THREE (3) FACES WERE: I thought I knew 13, and I did. But the last three stumped me--and I wasn't giving up. Not me with my encylopedic-photographic memory. And they obliged me--and I was right about at least one. The other I recognize them.

And there was more. Dewar's sent me a color image of the ad, and I had it framed and hung on the wall for years. I've let it since go, but the significance is in their eyes: who ARE these people, what did they do with their lives to be this important, and why were they selected? 

(Another hint: at least 2 had the same position in life and circumstances as the background; two held the same position of service to their country, and two are notorious strategists. Fascinating, isn't it, what you can do when your curiosity does more than just push buttons on a phone?
       By the way, this would make an excellent history or education--or marketing! lesson--because of the strategic placement of some of the candidates. It's almost bitter irony in some instances.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Writing and reading in China with "Weird Al" Yankovic

Today at Jiangxi University, I was observed by a retired teacher who works in curriculum. And I'm one of the curriculum design instructors (thank you, Dean Chen). This was a writing class--but I try and work in a variety of ideas into my lessons. And this was my writing class--and one of my efforts to get them to learn about it.

First, I handed out a sheet with the lyrics, and then I read through MOST of it, highlighting key words and phrases and ideas. (Students dutifully followed. Not much enthusiasm. Not expected by me either.) Observing teacher looked on, making notes: this is typical "Eastern world" style: memorization and presentation.

And THEN I stopped--and said to the class that I knew they must not find it exciting--so I had ANOTHER way for them to learn it. And I cued up the mp3. (This is one help by my years as a music journalist and writer: I have editing software for videos and music downloads.) And the kids loved it! They were moving in their seats and even the observing teacher was bobbing her head along to the beat! The kids were reading and singing along.

And THEN I shifted gears again and put on the mp4 so they could watch the video. I could point out more ideas (quickly) to keep up with the frantic pace of Al and his song.

At the end of the class, the observer spoke with some of the kids in Chinese--and then she came up to me and we spoke about the vast array of ideas she had seen on the overhead screen on my USB drive. "They LOVE your class," she said. I acknowledged it--and it's only week 4 in the semester. "They are LEARNING to THINK!" 
Yes, they sure are: and that's what I do. Whatever it takes, I'll find a way to make it work for them because it's their future. I'm happy to help shape it.

Because there's a learning style for everyone (and some folks get their knowledge and education via kinetic movement and through auditory and visual effects)--PLUS there's a whole new world of animation out there for anyone who loves design and graphics--I present the following video with a smile and a glare.

This also goes out to all my students (and those who were not) who don't like to read, follow instructions, or just slacked off in school because they weren't interested--it shows. And it's not kewl like you think.
"Word Crimes"
Everybody shut up, WOO!
Everyone listen up!
Hey, hey, hey, uh
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
If you can't write in the proper way
If you don't know how to conjugate
Maybe you flunked that class
And maybe now you find
That people mock you online
Okay, now here's the deal
I'll try to educate ya
Gonna familiarize
You with the nomenclature
You'll learn the definitions
Of nouns and prepositions
Literacy's your mission
And that's why I think it's a
Good time
To learn some grammar
Now, did I stammer
Work on that grammar
You should know when
It's "less" or it's "fewer"
Like people who were
Never raised in a sewer
I hate these word crimes
Like I could care less
That means you do care
At least a little
Don't be a moron
You'd better slow down
And use the right pronoun
Show the world you're no clown
Everybody wise up!
Say you got an "I","t"
Followed by apostrophe, "s"
Now what does that mean?
You would not use "it's" in this case
As a possessive
It's a contraction
What's a contraction?
Well, it's the shortening of a word, or a group of words
By the omission of a sound or letter
Okay, now here's some notes
Syntax you're always mangling
No "x" in "espresso"
Your participle's danglin'
But I don't want your drama
If you really wanna
Leave out that Oxford comma
Just keep in mind
That "be", "see", "are", "you"
Are words, not letters
Get it together
Use your spellchecker
You should never
Write words using numbers
Unless you're seven
Or your name is Prince
I hate these word crimes
You really need a
Full time proofreader
You dumb mouth-breather
Well, you should hire
Some cunning linguist
To help you distinguish
What is proper English
One thing I ask of you
Time to learn your homophones is past due
Learn to diagram a sentence too
Always say "to whom"
Don't ever say "to who"
And listen up when I tell you this
I hope you never use quotation marks for emphasis
You finished second grade
I hope you can tell
If you're doing good or doing well
About better figure out the difference
Irony is not coincidence
And I thought that you'd gotten it through your skull
What's figurative and what's literal
Oh but, just now, you said
You literally couldn't get out of bed
That really makes me want to literally
Smack a crowbar upside your stupid head
I read your e-mail
It's quite apparent
Your grammar's errant
You're incoherent
Saw your blog post
It's really fantastic
That was sarcastic (Oh, psych!)
'Cause you write like a spastic
I hate these Word Crimes
Your prose is dopey
Think you should only
Write in emoji
Oh, you're a lost cause
Go back to pre-school
Get out of the gene pool
Try your best to not drool
Never mind I give up
Really now I give up
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

Go Away!