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Archive for October, 2010

An Interview with Nancy Werking Poling

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Louder Than A Bomb – Inspirational Students

Thursday, October 14th, 2010


By:  Ellis Goodman

This last Monday, I saw the Chicago premiere of the new Jon Siskel, Gary Jacobs documentary feature, “Louder Than A Bomb” at the Chicago International Film Festival.  Jon Siskel and Gary Jacobs are the Emmy-Award winning directors of “102 Minutes That Changed America,” the brilliant documentary about 9/11. “Louder Than A Bomb” is a beautifully made, moving and emotional movie which follows the efforts of four Chicago high schools as they compete in the Louder Than A Bomb poetry slam competition. 

The students as both individual and team performers rattle off their incredible stories, mainly from their own personal and social environment experiences.  The movie follows the four schools and their teams as they move through the preliminary rounds to semi-finals and the nail-biting finals.  The personal stories of four of the leading students are dramas of their own.  For the most part, they come from broken homes with single mothers and often drug or alcohol problems.  These young people of 16 and 17 are mature beyond their years.  Their personal family responsibilities range from a young woman raising an autistic brother from the date of his birth to his teenage years, to a handsome young man who preferred books to playing basketball and hanging out on street corners, protected by his grandmother and eventually his former drug-addicted mother, who realized that he had real writing talent, to a cocky rapper who had the gift of the gab and real leadership qualities that had to overcome the limited resources and low expectations of one of the toughest schools in Chicago, to a brilliant young writer, whose warmth, kindness and genuine concern for his fellow man endeared him to all.

I urge you all to see this incredible movie which will move you to tears.  It made me realize that, despite the failures of our current educational system and the high drop-out rates, crime and violence in our schools and neighborhoods, success and a sense of community can still be achieved by talented and committed young people.  All four of these leading students are currently doing well in major prestigious colleges.

Go see this movie.  It will leave you with a warm and uplifted feeling.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

Rethinking the Good Old Days: My Dictionary or the Internet?

Friday, October 1st, 2010
American Heritage Dictionary of the English La...
Image by hatcher.library via Flickr

by Nancy Werking Poling

author of Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman

and Out of the Pumpkin Shell

Ah, I have my baby back! Returning from his office yesterday, my husband dropped it on the coffee table. My American Heritage Dictionary.

Three and a half years ago we sold our condo in Evanston, Illinois, listed our furniture on Craigslist, and put the items we were sentimentally attached to in a ten-by-ten commercial storage unit. We then traveled for a year. Not until this past spring did we move into what we intend to be our permanent home in North Carolina. As we settled in, I unpacked every box of books in anticipation of finding my old friend. There was no sign of the dictionary.

Now we’re back in Evanston for the semester, and my husband is clearing out his office. Maybe because I so treasured my dictionary and didn’t want to mistakenly get rid of it, we placed it on one of his shelves.

I know, using a dictionary of paper and ink is out of fashion. I’ve tried to adapt. Really I have. A few clicks and the word pops up, along with its pronunciation and definition. But it’s not the same. This morning my spell check refused bonafide (which strangely it just now accepted). I turned to my American Heritage Dictionary. There was bonafide, right below Bona (Mount), in Alaska, the highest peak in the Wrangell Range. And on the opposite page a picture of a bongo, not the drum, but the animal, an antelope.

It was through checking my dictionary several years ago that I came upon a character in the novel I’m currently working on. I don’t recall what word I was searching for, but on the same page I saw a picture of Mary Surratt, the woman accused of being a co-conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Just as I would rather use a dictionary I can hold in my hands, I also prefer a newspaper over reading about current events online. Each morning my husband and I dismantle the paper, strewing pages all over the table, fumbling to locate the first page of an article we discover continued on page eight or nine. I have to do the Sudoku before I start my day.

Is it age, being stuck in the mud, that draws me to resources that are familiar and tangible? (I just had to find out where that expression originated. In the 1620s, according to the internet, it referred to being in difficult circumstances; in the 18th century it became a derogatory word, meaning a person who enjoys being there—in difficult circumstances.)

I want to avoid the habit of praising the old ways. From an environmental perspective, on-line resources certainly are better. Using less paper, we destroy fewer trees. Fewer toxins from printing ink end up in our dumps then make their way into our water supply.

Currently my husband, retiring from academia, is sorting through a forty-year collection of books. What does he do with these friends, some comfortable companions from the past, some more recent acquaintances? Students will take a few, as will libraries and fund-raising book sales. Many, he fears, will end up in the recycling bin or trash.

Dictionaries, newspapers, books. Maybe it’s time to order a Kindle.

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