Sunday, November 30, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
It features winners from their recent poetry competition; a guide to the 2010 Leaving Cert comparative texts (including a section on one of our choices, The Story of Lucy Gault (by Old Columban William Trevor); ideas for teaching first years; fiction choices for junior pupils (such as Anthony Horowitz's Raven's Gate, and Sharon Creech's Replay); 14 ideas for working on a class novel; and an interview with teacher John Clarke from Clonkeen College in Dublin about his album-project with TY pupils. See below for the full magazine. For previous posts on earlier editions, click on the TE Mag label at the bottom of this post.
Ms Smith writes : During the winter timetable the last lesson of the day takes place in darkness. This is new to the Primaries, and it prompted them to write about their most memorable experiences of darkness. They wrote under the title 'Travelling by Night'. Here are three of their pieces:-
Clambering up the metal stairs that glinted in the moonlit sky, we got into the colossal flying machine. It slipped off quietly into the dark night sky. As we flew I nodded to the minuscule white stars that shone brightly in the black sky. I glanced down below through the oval window. I gazed at the white horses’ heads; a message that indicated the arrival of yet another unknown land. I leaned back onto the comfy chair, listening to the soft hum of the engines, which soon called the darkness to take over me.
I am in a car, in the middle of the night. The light is dim as if it’s twilight. I cannot see my legs or my arms. On my left, golden orange streams go by at intervals, on my right is the black silhouette of hedgerows against a silver, moonlit, night sky. In front, crimson lights up every part of my vision. At my back, a reassuring seat.
The best place to watch shooting stars in Russia is a place not far from Moscow; on the roof of a cinema. My story starts when my friends and I were climbing up the metal stairs to this great place; the roof of the famous cinema. The long shadows of trees were falling below the great night sky. Although we knew we weren’t allowed to be up there, it was still one of the most important nights of the century for us.
We were pleased to be up there at last, waiting for the meteor shower to begin. It was time. It should have been happening. We turned our heads to the sky. No movement, no stars, no moon, just dark sky. We were waiting for one, two, three, four, five minutes. Nobody believed it would happen anymore. Some of my friends were ready to go home. But then something made the sky shine. We all put our heads up and saw how beautiful it was; lights and stars falling like shattered glass.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The freshening-up starts with Gerard Bourke's set, which features big sloping slashes of corrugated iron topped by an ironic deeply-blue Mediterranean sky and a disconnected gate which goes from nowhere to nowhere. It also helps that the Mill is a small space, with the audience close to rather than physically distanced from the performers. It's clear that Beckett is the greatest dramatic influence on MacIntyre, and if the play is to work, it needs to echo not just his techniques, but his tenderness with his characters. There's plenty here that seems to come from Godot, Happy Days or Endgame - the bleak landscape, the snatches of language, the repetitive rituals, the comic set-pieces, the silences, the gesturalism - but thankfully the actors also manage to imbue a sense of warmth and humanity to their characters.
We admit that here at SCC English we're hardly disinterested, but the greatest credit goes to Evan Jameson in the central role of Patrick Maguire. A big presence on stage, Jameson uses his size and expressive face to powerful effect, dominating the production (he is on for almost all of the 100 minutes). He plays Maguire as a big gawky child, with touches of Max Wall and John Cleese, bewildered by life, innocent and sometimes infantile (he ends the production in a foetal huddle). At one stage (as on the poster), he spends several minutes upside down on the gate, an arresting image of the freshness he brings to the part. It's a hugely demanding and physical role, and he's the main reason why this production is emotionally engaging.
The rest of the cast support effectively, especially Maguire's male friends Francis Cahill as Malone, John Canning and Packy and Oran O'Rua as Joe, and the women Jacqueline Dooley (Mary Anne), Judy McKeever (Agnes), Niamh Daly and Siomha ni Aonghusa. Significantly, the Schoolgirl as played by Niamh Holland often seems the most mature individual in the story. In this production, the women's sexuality is rapacious and hungry, whereas the men are baffled innocents (a barnyard animal sex scene descends into schoolboy giggling).
[added June 2009 - click here for a podcast review with Evan Jameson about the production]
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Before long it'll be time for all those newspaper 'Books of the Year'. We'll be pleased to highlight our own visitors' Books of the Year, too: please email any contributions to scc'dot'english'at'yahoo'dot'ie, and we'll gather them up and post before the end of term (or just Comment at the end of this post).
Monday, November 24, 2008
Good luck to a member of our Department, Evan Jameson (left, upside down...), who tomorrow night opens in the lead role of Patrick Maguire in the Balally Players' production of Tom MacIntyre's 1983 dramatisation at the Mill Theatre, Dundrum. In the words of their website:-
The story is centred on the life of Inniskeen farmer Patrick Maguire. He is a lonely man, living a physically and emotionally isolated life. While the play draws a very clear picture of the frustrations associated with such an existence, it has hilarious as well as brutal and tragic moments. Maguire has occasional and ultimately futile skirmishes with Agnes and the 'local girls'. This, and his failure to communicate with the other women in his life, his mother and sister, is very well portrayed. In contrast to this, he finds with 'the lads' a camaraderie and a sense of fun that lifts his spirits. This is a piece of physical theatre where the lines of the poem are used sparingly and appropriately.The play is directed by Geoffrey O’Keeffe, All-Ireland Winning Director and Chairman of Balally Players this year. This adaptation of Patrick Kavangh's poem of the same name became a touchstone for fresh and exciting approaches to Irish theatre when it was first produced in The Peacock Theatre in 1983.
Friday, November 21, 2008
"On Friday 14th November at 7pm,the school gathered in the Big Schoolroom to watch the eagerly anticipated adaptation of the Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, My Fair Lady…
The play opens on a rainy night in Edwardian London as the opera patrons are waiting under the arches of Covent Garden for cabs. A cheerful mood engulfs us, until a chance meeting between the eponymous 'fair lady' (Poppy Vernon) and the aristocratic Freddie (Shane Lavin) leads to Colonel Hugh Pickering’s (Michael McBurney) challenge. Linguistic expert Professor Henry Higgins (Oli Smith) has six months to turn this 'creature' into a sophisticated lady.
The staging was excellently done, and succeeded in adding a certain atmosphere to the play. There was one backdrop for the entire play, which managed to fit universally into every scene. The frequent scene changes, executed by Josh Buckingham and Ian Fraser, were witty and kept a lightness to the play.
The acting in this play can not be faulted either. Each actor carried out his or her role exceptionally with pitch-perfect vocals. However, three stars seemed to stand out in my mind, and to everyone I spoke to as well. Poppy Vernon's unique portrayal Eliza Doolittle, Oli Smith's excellent performance as Professor Henry Higgins and Michael McBurney's take on Colonel Hugh Pickering were the talk of the evening. There were also many other actors who stood out, such as Fred Mann's illustration of Alfie Doolittle, Shane Lavin as the love-struck Freddie, Anna Traill as the empathetic Mrs. Higgins and Gina Mirow as Mrs Pearse.
The play was exceptionally directed by Jeremy Stone and Julian Girdham, who managed to combine strict direction with the talent of each of the actors, and the music was directed by Geraldine Malone-Brady
This was a very demanding portrayal of the adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. However it was enjoyed by all, and I would just like to say congratulations to everyone who took part. "
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
It was good to be back in the Big Schoolroom on Friday evening last for the first night of My Fair Lady, this year's senior play/musical, produced by Jeremy Stone, Julian Girdham and Geraldine Malone-Brady. It is a very demanding piece, with some very large individual roles, ensemble singing and frequent scene changes (the latter masterfully executed by Josh Buckingham and Ian Fraser who added their own quirky touches).
The two main roles (pictured) were perfectly cast. Poppy Vernon as Eliza sang and acted with exceptional confidence. Her scene at Ascot where she mingles with English high society was particularly effective. Oli Smith made the misogynist Professor Higgins unusually likeable. Michael McBurney as Pickering was very assured as Higgins's bemused sidekick.
The production looked terrific: the huge number of costumes (well done Helen Roden and Karen Hennessey) and the clever set. Both Oli and Fred Mann (as Alfie Doolittle)made good use of my grandfather's top hat. It was great to see so many pupils from Sixth Form down to Primary taking part, especially in the choruses; Geraldine Malone-Brady had worked her usual magic.
The smaller roles were also strong. I particularly enjoyed Shane Lavin's lovestruck Freddy, Gina Mirow as Mrs Pearce and Anna Traill as Mrs Higgins.
It was hugely enjoyed by pupils and adults alike in the audience. I know just how much work goes in to bringing it all together. Congratulations to everyone.
Many thanks to John for his kind comments. Later this week we'll have a full pupil review
Stephanie Brann has read John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (previously also recommended by Robbie Hollis and Kate Boyd Crotty) :- "This book is set during the Second World War. A young boy whose father is a high soldier in the Germany Army moves to a house in the country beside a Jewish concentration camp. Bruno is very adventurous and decides to investigate the area around his house, even though he is specifically told not to.
I like this book because it is very realistic and detailed. The ending is very sudden and makes you think how awful life must have been - and not so many years ago. This book can be read by people of all ages as it contains very simple language, but is still full of interesting moments."
Rebecca Moran has read Damaged, by Cathy Glasss :- "This book follows the story of a young girl's tragic life, and the events that take place in her foster home. As she grows to love her new family she reveals the horrors of her past. I really enjoyed it because the storyline, although haunting, is extremely gripping. What makes this book so heart-breaking is that it is a true story. I would recommended it to anybody who is interested in the psychology of a disturbed child."
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
This is a truly mesmerising read. You’ll pick it up and you will need a strong will to put it back down. I found it an exhilarating, emotional, truthful and hilarious read. It is the story of Sniper One platoon and their horrible, repulsive tales of Afghanistan.
What makes this so compelling is that it is true autobiography encompassing astonishing tales of warfare. You might have thought things were cooling down over there but you will realize things are still worse than hell. The book uncovers the worst aspects of warfare in Afghanistan.
The programme, with cast list, can be seen here.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Dalton Tice has been reading Elie Wiesel's classic memoir Night: "This is the memoir of a young Jew who describes his experience of the horrors of life in Birkenau concentration camp during the Second World War. Wiesel was one of the few Jews who survived Hitler's effort to destroy his people. He vividly describes the atrocities he witnessed and leaves the reader with a sense of complete horror, as you realise the level of hatred the human race has fallen to."
And Carl Ibe has been reading The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak : "This book is about a young girl, Liesel, who moved to Munich during the Second World War. On the way, her mother and brother are killed by an Allied attack, so she now lives with her aunt, where she has to start anew. She finds new friends, and all seems to work out all right, until her 'father' brings home a Jew with whom she becomes good friends. Of course it is a dangerous thing, having a Jew hiding in the cellar. I think that this is a really good book to read, being funny, well-described and because it is impossible to know what will happen next. I chose this for my Extended Essay, because it is set in Germany during the War, and so it is suitable for my theme, Children in War."
See the book's website here, including audio readings.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men's are, dead.
Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.
So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
They were not ours:
We never heard to which front these were sent;
Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.
Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild train-loads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
Up half-known roads.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Rob Nolan's is James Frey's controversial A Million Little Pieces: "I got the idea to read this book from a few pages of a friend's copy while on holiday. I soon bought one myself on my return to Ireland. James Frey's memoir tells the story of his time in rehabilitation centre following his long ongoing struggle with drugs and alcohol. His unique writing style is very honest and fearless. Often he doesn't use punctuation, and is very direct.
The book is both shocking at times, and very amusing at others. It gives a great insight into the mind of an addict. Though parts of the memoir have supposedly been fabricated, I thought it was definitely a great read, and would certainly recommend it to others."
And Amelia Shirley writes about Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl: "This book is about the relationship between the 'new girl' Stargirl and the narrator of the book, Leo Borlock. Stargirl is different. She has come from nowhere and is full of confidence, and doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. This soon makes her hated by all the other pupils. They are burdened by insecurities that lead them to see her free spirit as a threat.
Throughout the book Leo and Stargirl's relationship grows stronger and stronger and they begin to realize that they are falling for each other. The story unfolds to reveal Stargirl's spontaneity and Leo's surprising profundity. This means that the book finishes with an unexpected twist. It is an extremely enjoyable story, and lets readers lose themselves in the extraordinary lives of these two young people."
Friday, November 07, 2008
Miriam Poulton recommends Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns (as did Andrew Martin here):- "I have just finished this book. It follows the story of two women, Mariam and Laila, in Afghanistan. The two are separated by their age but are linked when the embittered Rasheed takes Laila as his second wife. The political climate in their country changes dramatically over the course of the book, and the two become more and more oppressed.
This book gives us a real insight into the lives of the people in Afghanistan during the rule of the Taliban. It is also a portrait of friendship in unlikely situations and a story of how people will go to extremities for what they believe in and those they love. I really enjoyed and highly recommend it."
Igor Verkhovskiy is reading Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and writes:- "This book is about a ward in an Oregon mental institution, and how daily life and the tyrannical regime of Nurse Ratched is disturbed by the arrival of a new patient, McMurphy. There's nothing wrong with him: he faked a mental condition to escape a sentence on a work farm. He tries to make men out of his fellow patients, and opens their eyes to Ratched's tyranny, and how she makes rabbits out of grown men.
The book is about a struggle against a greater power - the Combine as it's called. Everything McMurphy does or tries to do goes against the regime, and the idea is that at least he tried, while the others watched. In the end Mac, as they call him, does an outrageous thing, bringing hookers and alcohol into the dorm. He is punished for this, but the men now see that there is a way against the Combine, and the regime is losing its power over them."
Thursday, November 06, 2008
It was 8 o’clock in the morning and it was another beautiful day. By the time I was dressed and downstairs, my wife had already laid out my breakfast. When I was finished my breakfast, I gave my wife a kiss and went off to work. When I got to the World Trade Centre, Tower 1, it was 9am. I was halfway up the stairs to Level 9 when I thought of the tough day ahead of me. And that’s when the first plane hit.
The full story is here.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
It was the first time I had ever set foot on an aeroplane. The air-hostess greeted me as she greeted everyone who boarded the plane, with the same blank smile on her face. We all passed by her and walked down the corridor, reading and searching through the numbers and letters written on the ceiling for the one that was meant for us. I felt as if I were playing a game of “Battleships” searching for an enemy ship.
Once I had sat down in my tightly confined yet still comfortable seat, I watched as passenger after passenger boarded the plane, businessmen with shiny suitcases and families looking to get away for the holidays, and then I thought to myself, “How on earth would this great chunk of metal carry all these people high into the sky, miles from the ground?”
The door shut with a cushioned “thud!” Then as if on cue, the engines of the great metal beast began to purr louder and louder like my cat Garfield, until it was roaring like a majestic lion making the whole plane shudder in fear.
The aircraft made its way down the runway accelerating as it went. It was a whole new exhilarating, yet slightly scary sensation for me. I could feel the ground slowly slipping away until miraculously there was absolute nothingness between the runway and the base of the plane in which I sat.
I peered out my window, now midway through my journey (neck hurting from craning my head in this position) in total awe at the sight. The blue, blue sea below was as blue as the paint I had used to whitewash across my canvas in art class last Tuesday. It was as rippled as the tasty meringue tart I had had that morning.
I had always wondered how it was possible that the world was round when it always looked so flat from wherever I stood on the surface yet as I looked out my window I gasped, now totally converted into Christopher Columbus’s way of thinking. There outside my tiny little porthole was the gleaming curved horizon.
I don’t have a photographic memory but I shall always remember when I looked out that window, my first ever time on an aeroplane.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Transition Year Extended Essays are to be completed in just over two weeks. Here are two more recommendations :-
Virginia Peck is reading Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's (original film trailer above), and comments:-
This is set in the 1940s in New York City, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour to breakfast, at Tiffany's. Nice girls don't, except of course Holly Golightly. Pursued by mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a free spirit and an eyeful of tawny hair, a turned-up nose, a heartbreaker and a tease. She is definitely 'top banana in the shock department', in Capote's words. Holly is one of the greatest women in American fiction, and this book tells the tale of a reckless romantic through the eyes of a besotted writer. Set in the glitter and shimmer of the Manhattan Upper East Side, Breakfast at Tiffany's is a classic, but remains fresh and it can easily be read in one sitting. I think this is due to the way it is written, which is very beautiful - and a thing of beauty remains a joy for ever. It is such a heartbreaking story, and it may even reduce you to tears!
One of Thomas Emmet's books is very different, Darren Shan's Bec :- This book is fourth in the Demonata Series. Set during the ninth century, it is about a trainee priestless (the titular Bec) going on a quest to stop a demon crossing. As with all Shan's books, there is a large amount of gore. All the characters are well-rounded and the first person narration is a great story-telling device, giving us an insight ionto Bec's thinking. This is the best book in the series so far, but can be read as a stand-alone novel. It's highly recommended.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
The Golden Spider Awards are an annual event honouring Irish individuals and organisations for their outstanding achievements online and celebrating the successes of the Irish internet and digital media. The awards not only reward Irish businesses and community organisations but also individuals for their creativity and innovation. The Golden Spiders provide an important opportunity to recognise and showcase online excellence.
On Wednesday 22nd October, members of IV, V and VI, as well as several members of staff, gathered in the Cadogan, to hear Belinda Seaward give a talk on her recently published book Hotel Juliet. It was an extremely successful evening. Belinda spoke confidently on the process of writing Hotel Juliet and her experiences of being a writer. She described events vividly, involving you in her experiences. She spoke of the difficulties she had had with writing the novel, such as not being able to write for months at a time and then writing non-stop. Overall it took her 10 years to complete Hotel Juliet.
She also talked about what inspired her, landscapes being the main idea, especially mountains. She described how the moment she arrived in Africa the first time she visited it, she knew that it was going to have a profound effect on her life. She talked about how characters can be created. She said they can come from a passing sentence a phrase or just a movement. One of the main characters in the book is based on a couple of lines from a story she heard while in Africa, showing how the most abstract and apparently random event can perhaps be useful to a writer, like Belinda.
She talked about how she found the effects of events more interesting than the events themselves, describing this as like dropping a rock into a pond which creates a ripple effect in the water; but rather than examine the ripples (or events) she would prefer to examine the gaps between the ripples instead (the effects of the ripples). She also spoke on the more technical aspects of being a writer, such as a typical working day (finding your best times to work, in her case early in the morning) and how the process of getting a book published worked (agent & editor).
She has not always been a full time writer, being an English teacher previously, and this showed when she answered questions. She answered questions with honesty and precision which is always important at events like this, when you’re talking to a relatively young audience. She also used just the right amount of detail, keeping us interested without overwhelming us.
Overall I very much enjoyed the talk, and having not yet read Hotel Juliet plan for it to take pride of place on my bedside locker, as my reading for half term.