Tuesday, April 28, 2009

To a new generation of Bears...

...it's time to honor the past.

Twenty years ago today, I received my admission letter to Berkeley (and met my husband...it turned out to be a pretty pivotal day, huh?). I know a lot of you are about to send off your Statements of Intent to Register...so I thought I'd fill you in on some Cal history that may not show up in books.

This is an article about the most amazing professor I had at Cal, Alan Dundes. He taught for decades, I can't even imagine the thousands of students he influenced throughout his years at Cal. I took four classes with him, and he came very close to convincing me to give up my adolescent dream of becoming a high school English teacher to pursue a Ph.D in Folklore (the main reason I didn't was that the four Folklore programs in the US were at Bloomington, Texas, UCLA and Penn...none were places I wanted to live for the seven years it takes to earn a Ph.D).

Part of the reason I am so interested in taboo, and examining the twisted, humorous underpinnings of literature is because of Dundes' influence. So, when we have our borderline obscene discussions in class, you know who to thank...or blame.

Anyhow, I'd always hoped that some of my high school students would go to Cal and take classes with Dundes, but by the time I had kids who were old enough (and Berkeleyish enough) to go there, he was dead. My other favorite professor, Andrew Griffin, just died in March, of Alzheimers. The Cal you're about to enter is a very different place than the one I experienced. That's got its good side and bad side, I guess. It's like that line from Avenue Q:

If I were to go back to college, think what a loser I'd be,
I'd walk through the quad and think "Oh my god, those kids are so much younger than me."

Next year, when you come back to visit Wash at breaks, you'll see firsthand how that feels.

As you guys phase out of high school and into this next, dynamic period of your lives, please take some time to think back--all the way to pre-school and kindergarten--and honor the teachers, aides and other school-related folks who helped you get to this stage. They don't get enough credit for the foundations they built.

Plus, you're going to need to pull up those memories for your K-12 project in June.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Background info on M. Butterfly

An excerpt from the book that chronicles the true story of Shi Pei-Pu and Bernard Boursicot. If you're puzzled as to how a guy can be fooled into thinking his "mistress" is a woman for 20 years when he's really a man (and a biologically normal one, at that), this is the closest you're going to get to an explanation.

Here's a photo of Shi as a young man in full opera regalia, and one from his French years. And a French newspaper with him and Bouriscot together.

By the way, the 2009 Pulitzers were announced today. Check out the list of past winners...how many are in the curriculum?

In addition to DHH winning a Tony for Best Play, B.D. Wong won for Best Featured Actor, and John Dexter won for Best Direction...his other Tony was for the 1975 production of Equus (better known as the play that has Harry Potter naked).

And a warning: there will be full frontal male nudity at the climax of the play. If you don't want to see it, you'll get plenty of warning before he strips down all the way...cover up your eyes, leave the room, do whatever you need to do. Just don't freak out afterward because you saw some actor's junk.

And just for a point of reference with regards to the economy, the current value of 100 yen is just over a dollar, exactly $1.01455.

Monday, April 06, 2009

List of all WHS texts

To assist your memory, here are all the books we teach at WHS from 9th-11th grades plus the AP texts. Cram sheet due on Thursday! 50 points! NOT extra credit!

(For those who asked: the BOLDED titles are not by white males, the italicized titles are by living writers.)

Hiroshima by John Hersey

The Miracle Worker by William Gibson

The Odyssey by Homer

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Maus I by Art Spiegelman

Maus II by Art Spiegelman

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Albee Plays by Edward Albee

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Black Boy by Richard Wright

The Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson


1984 by George Orwell (novel)

Beloved by Toni Morrison (novel)

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (novel)

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (novel)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (drama)

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (drama)

M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang (drama)

Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O'Neill (drama)

The Once and Future King by T. H. White (novel)

The Oresteia by Aeschylus (drama)

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (drama)

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (novel)

Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare (drama)

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (novel)

Wit by Margaret Edson (drama)

Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez (drama)