Friday, December 14, 2007

Winter English 190 Classes

Welcome Winter English 190 students. If you have attempted to register and found that the class is closed, please see me on the first day of class in AD242 and I will add students to my class up to the number of chairs I have available. If you are enrolled, be sure to show up the first day, or I will give someone else your seat.

This semester is very short (only 6 weeks, M-Th) and class will go by very quickly, so you must GET YOUR BOOKS as soon as possible. If you have my old English 188 text, Introduction to Critical Reading, by McCraney, we will be using the same text, but with different passages. You'll need to buy or download a new English 190 Syllabus, which you must fill in as we work the class and turn in at the end. See more about how to get your books on the class web page This semester, you will be required to read an outside recreational reading book and do a book report according to my particular standards. We will discuss this in the second week.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What I'm Reading Lately

On October 24, former White House aide under President Richard Nixon, John Dean, spoke at the Glendale Public Library as part of their monthly speakers series. He gave a wonderful talk, full of his insights from his years in government. I purchased one of his recent books Conservatives without Conscience and had him sign it.

This book is highly critical of the current crop of conservatives in government, including President Bush and those around him. He believes that conservatism has lapsed into an amoral, power-hungry, intolerant authoritorianism, which bears little resemblance to the conservatism of Dean's mentor and friend, Barry Goldwater. He cites example after example of cases in which those who claim to be conservative, appear to have given up the pro-freedom, small-government, tolerant, nearly libertarian views that characterized older conservatives. It was a great read; he predicted the loss of the Congress and Senate by the Republicans in the last election.

The other book that I recently finished was John Grisham's The Summons. Grisham, you may recall ,write novels mostly about the legal profession in the South. They made movies of his other books, The Pelican Brief, The Client and The Firm, staring Tom Cruz. This book isn't quite as exciting as those other stories, but it involves an inheritance of millions of dollars, hot persuits by bad guys, and a twist at the end. It was an easy read and fun.

Another thing that I'm reading regulary is a blog in the Irish Language called Hilary NY. This blogger is a Gaelic speaker in New York City and writes weekly of things that happen to her in the city. She evidently is a teacher and is involved heavily in the Irish community in the City. Her level of writing is just about right for me, an intermediate learner of the Irish language. It is challenging, yet well written and not impossible for me to read. As I've mentioned in class, studying another language is a great way to actually build your intellgence. Learning a language is like growing another lobe in your brain; it gives you insight only another culture can give you.

Schedule for November 28-29

Just a reminder that I need to serve on a hiring committee for a new English professor on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. All my classes are cancelled on these days.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How the New Digital World is Changing Us

As you recover from the recent midterms, check out this video about the impact of the new digital world:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mid-term schedule for Reading Classes

All English 190 classes meeting MWF- the midterm will be on Monday, October 22.
The English 190 class meeting T-Th will have the midterm on Tuesday, October 23.
The English 188 class meeting MWF will have the midterm today, October 17.
The English 188 class meeting T-Th will have the midterm on October 18.

Monday, October 1, 2007

What I'm Reading Lately

On my long trip to Pennsylvania last week, I was able to bring along some light reading on the plane. Recently I finish the third book in a series linked to the Showtime cable network drama called "Dexter" about a serial killer who works with the police and only kills bad people. It's a far-fetched concept but both the TV series and the books have been wonderful. Last year I read Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the first of the series and closely related to the television show. The second book, Dearly Devoted Dexter , has a story line completely different from the TV series, but was still quite rewarding. Over the weekend I read, Dexter in the Dark, in which Dexter's dark inner-self which compells him to kill people abandons him while he himself becomes the target of another, more powerful dark force. The books and television incisively explore the inner and outer versions of self that we present to ourselves and other. Well worth the read.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What I'm Reading Lately

My goal over my summer break was to read the entire set of Harry Potter books. Well, I've finished book 7 and I also read a commentary on the books and have been listening to some podcasts by Harry Potter geeks. Taken as a whole the entire set is a wonderful story, one that ranks, at least in theme and ideas, with many other works of western literature. It is deep in many ways, touching on many myths, a very spiritual series with positive ethics. I highly recommend the Harry Potter series; best to start at the first book as there are characters in the book that aren't in the movies.

Currently, I'm nearly done with a book on genetics and British and Irish history called "Saxons, Vikings and Celts". The author, Bryan Sykes has done research using the DNA of the inhabitants of Britain, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in order to see if various legends and historic accounts of the movements of various peoples into and around the isles can be proven by looking at their DNA. It's a fascinating account. Some of his preliminary studies may change what we think about when Celts came to Ireland. It was believed that Celts from around Austria may have emmigrated into Ireland about 300 to 500 years BC. But Syke's research implies that the Celts may have arrived much earlier, around the time of the invention of agriculture about 5000 years BC and from around Spain. On the whole, a great read.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Is there bias in the mainstream media?

Some say that mainstream media has a bias favoring liberal, Democratic or progressive politics. They cite statistics from polling which shows that the majority of newspaper and electronic media reporters are themselves somewhat liberal. But reporters alone do not determine what is actually published or broadcast over the media. Those reporter's bosses, editors, and managers are actually more likely to be more conservative and support Republican politicians. And owners of the media and the higher management of these vast corporations that own the media outlets are much more likely to be conservative. Rupert Murdock, the owner of Fox News and hundreds of television outlets, newspapers, and radio stations, is relentlessly conservative, donates heavily to conservative politicians all over the world and promotes conservative ideas through many of his holdings. As we experience more media consolidation, media tends to grow more conservative, not wanting to risk annoying corporate advertisers or damage even slightly other corporate holdings.

If there is a media bias, it is more in the decisions as to what is deemed worth reporting. As we saw in todays' Los Angeles Times print edition and online version, among other things, something gets reported if it involves:
-conflict (U.S. tip led to German terror plot arrests)
-happens to celebrities (Paris Hilton, US Senator Craig)
-is about sex (Sex, violence cram TV's 'family hour,' study says)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Famous Former Student

Yesterday, I opened the local newspaper and on the front page above the fold was a story about a woman who had been stabbed to death outside of a south Glendale alcoholics anonymous meeting last Wednesday. The accused killer was a 23 year old homeless male by the name of Hector Marroquin.

Not mentioned in the article was that Hector was a Glendale College student; in fact, I had Hector twice in my developmental reading classes, English 188 and 190, a few years back. I knew that he had problems; he was somewhat odd, showed some strange symptoms, laughing inappropriately; I had to take him out of class for him to refocus, and I tolerated his need to leave early; he freaked if he wasn’t allowed to sit in his particular seat; had frequent absences; seemed like he was off his meds sometimes; other times he was quiet and serious. I tried to get him to go to the health center for evaluation. He put in the lab work hours and finished assignments. We got along; he responded to positive attention, but seemed to crave respect. He passed both of my classes. He seemed to have a big problem with women; he didn’t get along with women instructors.

Now he’s finally killed someone, a woman he probably didn’t even know. In retrospect, it seems obvious that the guy was borderline schizophrenic when he was at GCC. This might have happened on campus.

I think we need to have some kind of campus dialogue about this. We instructors are frequently the first to notice odd behavior in students. We need to know what to do, who and how to refer the person. We need to think seriously about how to interrupt behavior which could become lethal.

Over the years, I’ve had the clearly paranoid, depressed and openly delusional. One student revealed to me that he was actually Jesus Christ; I told him that if he was Jesus Christ, he would know that I drop students who don’t show up for two weeks. I hope he really wasn’t Jesus.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What I'm Reading Lately

Up to this point, I haven't been very interested in the Harry Potter series by J.Rowling. But with the completion of the last book, year 7, I thought I'd read the entire set over the summer vacation. I wanted to see how the author and her characters have progressed from book to book. I've just finished books 1 through 5 and am working on book 6. By far, I felt that 5 was the best so far; deep, integrated, complex and satisfying, with a embedded critique of facist government in response to outside threats. As Harry has matured, so has the books, with book 1 quite the child-like romp through the magical wizarding world. Book 6 is promising to be even better; I like the message that permeates the books that adults don't have all the answers and have their own mix of good and bad motivations as well as times when they are simply stumped.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hi Reading Students,

Classes start Tuesday, September 4 for the Tuesday-Thursday classes and on Wednesday, September 5 for the M-W-Friday classes. Mr.Doyle has a meeting off campus on Friday, September 7, so those classes won't meet on that day. If you wish to add any of the classes, please show up on the first day. Enrolled students who don't show up the first day of class will be dropped and replaced by added students.

Now that the business is taken care of: Welcome to class. Hopefully in this class you'll pick up tips to improve your college reading, including vocabulary building, better comprehension of what you read, the ability to read critically, and to help you better think for yourself.

Please show up on time, commit to the class, get your books ASAP. You are expected to respect the educational environment. You will be required to do at least an hour of lab work online each week from our class web page at

The main textbook is "Introduction to Critical Reading". It is a collection of readings, poems, stories and articles. Everyone needs a copy. I use the same book for English 188 and English 190, so you may already have this book. New and used copies of the book are in the bookstore, but if you can find it cheaper on the internet at, or any other bookseller, you can get it there. Just make sure you get the latest edition. The other book is the class syllabus. This book is available from the bookstore for about $10, but you may also download and print a free copy off the internet by going to our class web page ay Everybody needs a copy of this. We will work on the lessons in class, and the book must be filled in as we work and be finished by the final exam. Part of your participation grade is determined by completion of the syllabus book.

This first week we will go over classroom basic information and procedures. We will also do a preliminary standardized reading test for which you'll need a pencil and a scantron answer sheet. You must also finish the first week of lab work at

I have a meeting off-campus on Friday, September 7, so classes meeting on that day are cancelled this week. Buy your textbooks and do the week 1 lab work. See you next week.