Friday, March 31, 2006

SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER

Wow. I don't know what else to say. I took some theatre students to Concordia College in Moorhead, MN tonight to see their play She Stoops to Conquer, featuring Paul Vonasek, an alumni of East Grand Forks Senior HIgh School, where I teach. He could do no wrong on stage; that audience loved him. And so did we, frankly. It was five junior and senior boys and I in attendance, all who appreciated the free tix from Paul to come see him in a period (1773) English satirical comedy. More than a little out of our normal play viewing, but it was terrific and perfectly accessible to the students I brought, as well as to the entire (packed!) audience. Paul has such great comic instincts, and they served his character and the play very well. Afterward Jason Ray, another EGF alumni, gave us a tour of the enormous two-story, rotating set of a mansion. What a great night. I know the guys thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'm glad to have given them the opportunity to see some theatre so well done.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Getting a Handle on Postmodernism

American Literature On-line Discussion

We're moving into our final "-ism" of American Literature: Postmodernism. It includes the present--the literature being written right now. So how do we know what the characteristics are of current (or relatively recent) literature and how it is influenced by current (or recent) events? Well, here are some resources to get you started:

Peruse them and be prepared for some understanding mixed with some confusion.

Then, post a comment that does two things:

  1. Write about something that you do "get" about Postmodernism. What did you read that you understand, or that seems reasonable, or that you can make sense of? It might be that you've already read something that now seems Postmodern to you, or it might be that you can now think of movies that seem Postmodern, or it might be that you can see how Postmodernism is similar to or different from another "-ism" we have studied, etc.
  2. Write about something that you do not "get." Ask some questions that you'd like other students to respond to. Tell what seems confusing to you. Explain where your understanding gets muddled--and what's muddling it.

Also in your post, you should address the questions of others who have posted comments before you. Make this a conversation in which you "speak" to one another, ask one another questions, and respond to one another. Let's see how much you "get" about Postmodernism as a result.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Going for the Gold

We have a new dishwasher! It's our second major appliance purchase of our marriage, the first being the clothes washer and dryer we bought in 1997 to replace those we lost in The Flood. (Technically, we had bought the ones that eventually got flooded, too, but replacing them just a few months later qualifies as a "wash," doesn't it? That's a pun on at least a couple levels!)

The old dishwasher's internal parts--the dish racks, their levers, the wheels--had been deteriorating for quite some time. Each time some plastic part cracked or broke off, Susan improvised with rubber bands to hold something in place, or made do without (and rolling a loaded dish rack in and out with three of its four wheels missing makes for exercise). "Someday" we would have to get a new dishwasher.

The straw that broke these camels' backs was the first weekend of February when Susan's family stayed with us to celebrate a late family Christmas. The dishwasher chose that weekend, of all weekends, to spring some inexplicable leak, and the solution was to stuff a towel under the door of the dishwasher each time we ran it. We could have called an appliance repairperson to take a look at it and charge too much to patch a machine that needed replacing anyway; but clearly it was a sign, the dishwasher reaching out to tell us to pull the plug, put it out of its misery, and to buy fresh.

So we did. Or, rather, Susan did. She found a dishwasher she liked at Lowe's: a Whirlpool Gold. Lowe's contracted Custom Aire to deliver and install it, which they did this afternoon. The installation involved a shutoff valve that didn't, water spraying all over the kitchen floor, and some post-installation mopping. However, Susan already has had the opportunity to run a load of dishes in it, and says she, "I like it. It got our dishes clean, and I would drink out of our glasses. It didn't leak. It wasn't any softer [quieter] than our old one, but it's not particularly loud. Lots of room. And I had help loading because the girls thought it was kind of novel to use the new dishwasher."

There you have it, folks--incontrovertible proof that it was a purchase well made. Next major purchase: a laptop computer. Stay tuned!

Do You Speak American?

American Literature On-line Discussion

A year ago, PBS aired a television series called Do You Speak American? that examines the way American English varies depending on the area of the country where one lives. It is a fascinating look at how certain words and expressions developed over time in particular places and how the way Americans speak can define them--as belonging to a certain region, to a certain group of people, to a certain time period, etc.

PBS has maintained a Web site to accompany the series. It has essays, word lists, activities, audio clips, quizzes, and much more related to the topic of variety in American English. Click here to check it out.

Do something having to do with the DYSA? site--read one of the articles or do one of the activities, etc. (There are a lot of options linked from the DYSA? home page, so take your time exploring before you commit to a choice.) The, post a comment in which you tell
  1. what you read/did,
  2. what you learned from it about American English, and
  3. how your new knowledge connects with what you read (on American English) this week from the maroon textbook.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sunday Metaphors in Performance Spaces

What does church have to do with a play about bugs? Bear with me . . .

This morning we attended church at the Chester Fritz Auditorium in Grand Forks, ND. Our church is Calvary Lutheran Church in Grand Forks, but it canceled its regular services in order to invite all members to one combined service at the Fritz at 10:00 A.M. for the installation of our new lead pastor Roger Dykstra. The stage was set up with our altar and baptismal font and lectern, with the instruments for the band that usually leads the contemporary services in our fellowship hall each Sunday (while traditional services are going on in the sanctuary at the other end of our church), with a baby grand piano, with chairs for a brass ensemble, and with risers and an acoustical shell for the church choir. Hanging above it all was an overhead projector screen upon which were projected lyrics to the hymns sung, words to the prayers recited, etc. We all had printed programs in our hands, but we didn't need them; we could follow along on the screen the entire service.

The background image for each slide projected on the screen was a barren landscape: arid, parched land with cracked soil (like a mud puddle that has been baked dry in the sun), punctured in the foreground by a few posts forming the corner of a fence. I think there were mountains or hills in the far background, too. Our friend Erin sat with her kids behind me and our kids (Erin's husband Jay and my wife Susan are both in the choir, so we had our respective children alone), and both Erin and I agreed that the image reminded us of Matthew Shepard and The Laramie Project--not exactly the right mood for a pastor's installation and a church's celebration! But the image was meant to suggest our church's Lenten metaphor: thirst . . . for the saving "water" of Jesus, of God's word, etc.

And this metaphor was literally "on stage" in one of the largest performance venues in the Grand Cities. Performers included Bishop Foss, who presided over the installation; Pastors Jenny, Marty, and Roger, who led us in worship; and all the musicians, including Susan (in the adult choir) and Suzanna and Abigail (in the children's choir) in a combined-choirs version of "Here I Am, Lord." Okay, one metaphor and one performance space down.

After church, we drove through Burger King and ate on our way to Fargo. We dropped the girls off with Susan's sister Cassie at her apartment, and then we two went to Moorhead, MN to the campus of Concordia College and found the Frances Frazier Comstock Theater, where we attended a performance of The Butterfly's Evil Spell by Federico Garcia Lorca. Michael, a former student of mine, was in the play, so we wanted to see it and support him. (We sat next to two other former students, by the way--Paul and Kelsey.) All the characters in the play were bugs, and Michael's intended to eat most of the other ones. That's about all I got out of it, plot-wise; I suspect the relationships between the bugs was intended to be metaphorical about life--but my brain didn't get that far.

However, I did enjoy Michael's movement and the movements of so many others in the cast; the interesting, suggestive (of a forest of bugs, that is) costumes; the simple but effective seven-foot-tall cardboard, painted sprigs of grass that served as scenery; and the evocative, very unusual music chosen for pre-show, set changes, and post-show. The lab theater had just a few vines and fake foliage hanging from the ceiling or taped to the back wall, but it was enough. I liked how the actors hid behind the sprigs of grass and then moved them around the stage for scene changes (very choreographed), accompanied always by the right snatch of strange music.

So there's the second performance space . . . and, I'm sure, a metaphor or several. I just can't analyze it too deeply right now. I can, however, recollect that we did not leave town until we had eaten at The Olive Garden. Yum. Next: a trip back to Concordia March 31 to see another former student in the next play, She Stoops to Conquer.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Harlem Renaissance

American Literature On-line Discussion

Visit the Perspectives in American Literature site on the Harlem Renaissance. Read it to get a good overall impression of what the Harlem Renaissance entailed in terms of its
  • important features,
  • notable artists (writers, musicians, etc.),
  • important events and publications (in the timeline), and
  • overall significance.

Then, choose something that you learned from reading the site, and post a comment that does the following things:

(1) Explain what you learned as well as why, from all the info available to you on the site, you chose this particular info to share.

(2) Explain how what you learned connects with (a) something that someone before you has commented on, or (b) Their Eyes Were Watching God, or (c) the Harlem Renaissance poetry that we're reading in class this week, or (d) what you already knew about the time period from history class.

(3) Explain how what you learned connects with some aspect of contemporary American culture: literature or authors, music or musicians, movies or TV shows or actors, art or artists, politics or leaders, etc. You may consider today's black American entertainers and artists and politicians to answer this question, but you need not necessarily. After all, the legacy or influence of the Harlem Renaissance in America today, nearly 100 years later, is likely to be found in many aspects of American life, not just those associated with one particular color of skin.

As always, do NOT merely repeat the same thing someone before you has said. If your contribution is "I have nothing new to contribute," then don't.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Comps

After school today, Susan stopped by the high school with a letter I had received from the Educational Leadership department at UND. It began thusly:

Dear Kevin,

The purpose of this letter is to provide you with the results of your departmental comprehensive examination that you completed on January 8-9, 2006. Congratulations; we are pleased to inform you that you have passed your "comps."

Yea! My fellow doctoral cohort members and I have been growing really impatient these past months, waiting and waiting for news about our comps. We were told that some would have to rewrite part or all of their comps, and none of us looked forward to being told we were part of that group. I don't know how others did, but as for me, I'm glad to have this milestone completed and checked off my list of steps toward becoming Dr. Moberg.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Is Hurston a Modernist?

American Literature On-line Discussion

Got your Modernism reading guide handy from early in the semester? Just in case, here are some other resources on Modernism:

Is Their Eyes Were Watching God a Modernist novel? State your position ("yes"? "no"? "maybe"?) and support it with references to both the novel and to information from one of the sites above (or to the Modernism reading guide you have).

As always, refer to the writing and thoughts of your classmates when making your own case--to agree with them, to disagree, or perhaps partially to do both. And do NOT merely repeat what someone before you has already said. Add NEW information, thoughts, perspective to the discussion.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Cantoring

Our entire family cantored for Lenten services tonight at our church, Calvary Lutheran in Grand Forks, ND. It required a bit of tricky planning: Abigail had ballet class after school, and she and Suzanna had church choir rehearsal before church. Also, we sang for both the 5:30 and 7:00 P.M. services and had to find a way to eat supper in between. The solution? Sing the opening of the 5:30 service, rush to the fellowship hall to gulp down supper, and then make it back to wrap up the 5:30 service. We all stayed the whole way through the 7:00 service.

Susan and I robed up and began the service from the back of the church, singing the opening while walking up the aisle with the pastor and the candle-bearing liturgical dancers (yes, liturgical dancers) to the altar. From there, we led the congregation in singing the first third of the service. We sat for the next third: the sermon and communion. We returned to the altar for the last third, and all three girls joined us to sing the prayers for the congregation. The congregational refrain asks the Lord to hear our prayers, but it is preceded several times by individual prayers--and those are what the girls sang alone. They had a hand-held microphone (Susan and I wore lapel mics) and sang very clearly, musically, and confidently. Not surprisingly, Susan and I were mighty proud.

Calvary folks are generous with their praise, and we heard a lot of "cute" about our family's singing. We have friends (and fellow Calvary members) who call us the Von Mobergs, an allusion to the singing Von Trapp family from The Sound of Music. These friends also indicated being a little intimidated by our "holiness" after having seen us serve in a pastor-ly capacity in church. That is something that anyone who knows me well will find extremely ironic!