Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Zorro and History

Far from 6th grade ss scope and sequence, but who cares at this stage, I tried to work in a combined Zorro history/literacy/tech lesson with the largely Spanish ELL learner's in Ms. Diaz's class. I used the 1940 movie previously mentioned and did an activity where they used a word template to explain some of the spanish expressions used in the movie dialogue. Here's some info on the real Zorro and Isabel Allende's recent book on the tale: "The recent release of a new Zorro movie has rekindled interest in the masked freedom fighter of colonial Mexico. Stars of the big screen Antonio Banderas and Sir Anthony Hopkins are the central characters of the hit film “The Mask of Zorro,” but behind the mask of the real Zorro was an Irish Soldier of Fortune, a native of Wexford. The masked hero and freedom fighter “Zorro” was the creation of Johnson McCulley, and first appeared in August 1919 as a serial in a pulp fiction journal entitled All-Story Weekly. Originally featured as a 5-part tale entitled “The Curse of Capistrano,” numerous pulp fiction magazines carried the various tales of Zorro between 1922 and 1959, including Argosy, West, Short Stories for Men and Cavalier Classics. Historically, whenever and wherever oppression exists, the people who are subject to it look for a heroic figure to defend them and to punish their persecutors. Such a paladin was Robin Hood, another is the legendary Zorro. One of my favorite authors, Isabel Allende, has reached deep into her ample well of talent and brought forth a hero who is more human than demigod. She has breathed fresh life into the Zorro of myth, and gifted him with a heart, a soul, a good mind, an indomitable spirit and human fallibilities. This beautifully told tale of adventure and classical romance is chock-full of swashbuckling swordplay, ocean voyages, pirate attacks, Native American lore and rites, detailed fencing episodes, social injustice, secret underground societies, evil villains, duels at dawn, damsels in distress, unrequited love, gypsy camps, noble drawing rooms, drama, rollicking humor, vivid characters, tremendous energy...and so much more."


I remember, as a kid, watching The Mark of Zorro with my father and crying at the ending. That's the part where father and son are fighting together against the Spanish soldiers led by the evil Basil Rathbone. My father would cry too, as tough a guy as he was, at a lot of sentimental war movies. Maybe with Zorro it touched me that I imagined us joining together in some way, which we rarely did. Here's the rousing theme by Alex Newman. More on Zorro later.

An Infomercial

For those of you that are non-sirrius users who are looking for a replacement for Howard Stern, (BTW, I'm just as immature as the next guy and I listened to Stern years ago, but my god isn't it boring after awhile!) from Time Out Magazine: "Rachel Maddow WLIB (1190 AM), Mon–Fri 7–9am Right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh make fun of Air America's low ratings, as well as the liberal radio network's reliance on "celebrity" hosts like Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo. But Air America's future is found in Rachel Maddow, a fast-talking, openly gay 32-year-old former Rhodes Scholar, who talked her way from a Western Massachusetts AM station to a cohosting slot on Air America's Unfiltered (with Chuck D and Daily Show cocreator Lizz Winstead) on the occasion of the network's launch in 2004. After Unfiltered dissolved early last year, Maddow was given her own hour-long news program at the ungodly time of 5am—but apparently people were listening. As of this month, The Rachel Maddow Show has been promoted to a two-hour slot in the middle of radio's morning prime time. "With Howard off the air, it's going to blow open the way people try to get ratings in the morning," says Maddow. "Everybody's going to be trying something different. We'll have quite a bit of absurdity but the point is to be a news show, with interviews. People want to hear news on the radio and right now the news on the radio blows."

Monday, January 16, 2006

Martin Luther King

I was looking through my files for Dr. King resources to post and wanted to supplement one of my slide shows. I did a search.
Well, if you go to you get redirected to a porn site. If you go to you get a racist, anti-semitic site. The latter, a David Duke work, mentions Kings' tie in with "commies" like Bayard Rustin and Stanley Levinson.
Well, so what. I was watching Cinderella Man and the scenes of despair caused by the depression (which I'm sure were a lot worse than those portrayed) were really upsetting. If it weren't for the "commie" influences on FDR we wouldn't have social security and other safety net programs. And what about those "horrible" things called trade unions? Yes, in the name of communism millions were slaughtered in Russia. How many in the world's history have been slaughtered in the name of religion or democracy? Here's two slide shows-one uses resources from kids discover magazine and the scholastic site on Rosa Parks.The other comes from this excellent site which has history in the form of comics.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Walking Tour: Architectural Scavenger Hunt

So here's my idea. Part of the proposed Harlem/LES collaborative project could be neighborhood walking tours. On those that I have been on with kids there has been the usual talking and explaining, but also an activity. (You need something more interesting than just taking notes). In these instances the additional activity has been drawing. I thought that with some prior knowledge of architectural terms, along with the viewing of images from the proposed walk, there could be a scavenger hunt. The kids could have thumbnail pictures of some buildings and they would have to figure out their addresses as well as define the architectural term highlighted in the picture. Not every sheet would be the same. It could be configured as a smaller group activity and a hint given that the answers could be found in a geographically limited area that could also coincide with an adult fellow traveler. Here's the sheet for a Mount Morris tour in Harlem

New York Detail: A Treasury of Ornamental Splendor

This is a beautifully photographed book by Yumiko Kobayashi and Ryo Watanabe. In my opinion I think it lacks sufficient explanations of the multitude of architectural objects present in the photographs. For a slide show I combined some of the book definitions with those found on the illustrated glossary from a Buffalo website. The book uses two buildings to highlight some of the terms, 106 Forsythe Street and 376-80 Lafayette Street. I took pictures of these buildings to supplement the drawings. In this slide show I used Forsythe, on this I used Lafayette. There's a logic for all this.

Harlem On My Mind: Children's Literature, Dinner At Aunt Connie's House

From "Faith Ringgold grew up during the Depression years and was nurtured by hope. Now she creates bold, brilliant children's books that shine with color. Ringgold celebrates the hope that once nurtured her, and offers it to children living in another difficult era. Ringgold's finds a new freedom when she writes for children. "One of the things you can do so well with children is to blend fantasy and reality. Kids are ready for it, they don't have to have everything lined up and real. It's not that they don't know it's not real, they just don't care." Dinner at Aunt Connie's House (1993, Hyperion, Ages 6 and up, $14.95) Ringgold's third children's book, is a story built on concentric rings of hope. First, Ringgold offers hope to Lonnie, an orphan newly adopted by Aunt Connie. The story is told by his cousin Melody, who falls "in love with him the first time I saws him." Not only does Ringgold sustain Lonnie with a caring cousin and the magic of immediate relationship, she fortifies him with the strong Swahili proverb "A good tree grows among thorns." Readers get the sense that he's taken the strength to heart. During a game of hide-and-seek, Lonnie and Melody discover portraits created by their Aunt Connie. From the walls of Aunt Connie's attic gallery, twelve African-American women speake with an inspiration as strong as Ringgold's art. Ringgold introduces children to Fannie Lou Hamer, civil rights activist; sculptor Augusta Savage; actress Dorothy Dandridge, and others including well-known figures like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. All the women faced difficult situations and have an important message of hope to bring to today's children.
Ringgold believes, "since we are going to encounter scary situations, we need reinforcement when we do. We need to be aware that life is very scary. We also need to understand what other people have gone through in their lives-to understand who they are and why they are as they are. Children learn by seeing people doing things. If all they see are people that don't try, it's going to be difficult for them to try. People who reinforce us in these desperate times are to be celebrated, like Harriet Tubman, they came through." Ringgold's art provides her with hope too. "Hope isn't something you get, and then you've got it, and you don't need it anymore. You need a daily dose of it. Sometimes you need it three, four, five times a day."
Here's part of the book in slide show form

Mount Morris Walking Tour

A couple amazing things about living in New York City. There are 8 million people here, but the connections that exist between people are countless. Also, you can live here your whole life-58 years worth, and still discover new and amazing places. I took my new digital camera, an excellent value-a Panasonic Lumix, up to the Mount Morris area to take some pictures. I followed Andrew Dolkart's walking tour book. I saw brownstones more beautiful than I have ever seen in my neighboring Park Slope. Here's a slide show of my pictures.. Next, here's a slide show from an excellent site that the nyc planning commission created on Harlem

LES-Harlem Connection

Here I'll try to explain the synchronicity referred to before. I'll begin working up in Harlem in a little while. I've been planning a Harlem Renaissance unit. In looking for children's literature to support this topic I discovered, "Dave At Night." I found it amazing that Dave's story closely paralled my own family history. Dave Karos' father came from Greece, he was a Sephardic Jew. So did my grandfather, who was named David Belelis. Dave Karos' family came from Salonika, my grandfather came from neighboring Janina. The main reason for immigration was the same-a war over control of the territory between Turkey and Greece. Dave Karos' father died in a fall in building accident. My grandfather died almost the same way in an elevator collapse. Dave was left fatherless at 8, My own father was left fatherless at 10. Dave went to an orphanage. My father didn't, but my aunt on my mother's side did when my mother's father died father in 1926 (the same year that Dave's father dies). Pretty spooky, isn't it? I'm "migrating" my work location from the LES to Harlem as Dave is migrated his life. The experience of the early immigrants to the LES at the turn of the last century is that once they were able to secure some economic stability for themselves they moved to a better neighborhood, Harlem. Why Harlem? Ease of transportation, IRT Elevated Lines connected the areas. Many people continued to work on the LES, but lived in Harlem. Wouldn't it be great to get the Harlem School I'll be working in do a joint immigration/migration project with some kids from PS42? They can even read Dave At Night together digitally. They can visit each other's neighborhood and do walking tours. On Friday, I after a year and a half, I visited principal Rosa O'Day again and explained my plan and she loved it. I love her. The map attached is a 1904 subway and trolley map. Click on it to expand it. The trolley lines are in blue.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Dave At Night

The main character of this book attends PS42 on Hester Street. Here's a portion of the review: "In Dave at Night, Newbery Honor award– winning author Gail Carson Levine brilliantly describes in gritty detail an orphan’s journey from loss to fulfillment. Fans of her previous novel, Ella Enchanted, might be surprised at Gail Carson Levine's departure from the world of fantasy with her realistic new book, Dave at Night. Inspired by Ms. Levine's father's experience in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York, this is the story of eleven-year-old Dave Caros.The year is 1926. Dave’s beloved father is dead, and his stepmother doesn’t want him. Only the HHB will take him in. Hebrew Home for Boys. Hell Hole for Brats. Dave is tough, a troublemaker. He can take care of himself. If he doesn’t like the Home, he’ll run away and find a better place. Only it’s not that simple. . . .This stunning new novel by Newbery Honor award–winning author Gail Carson Levine takes Dave from the poverty of the Lower East Side of New York City to the misery of the Hebrew Home for Boys to the hope and magic of Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. It tells a tale of terrible loss and hard-won gains, of cruel relations and kind strangers, of great poverty and great wealth. Most of all, though, it tells a tale about the power of friendship." Here's the first few chapters as a slide show. I'm on my way to whole book. What's great about this book is that it has an audio version. Here's a segment as an mp3.

The Benjamin Altman School: PS42

Anyone who actually reads any of this blog knows the high cynic factor (not to be confused with the O'Reilly Factor), so here's a refreshing change of pace about a wonderful school: "Kids learn at impressive rates here. Test scores have so improved that PS 42 is on the state's list of most improved schools and the chancellor's list of 209 schools exempted from having to install a new standardized curriculum. At the same time, Principal Rosa O'Day insists that staffers "take teaching and learning very seriously, but not at the expense of humanity." During our visit to the school, we were glad to see teachers get excited over children's fluffy renderings of baby chicks or comment knowledgeably about students' home lives and work. The warmth apparently starts at the top. When O'Day entered a first grade classroom during our visit, children eagerly swarmed around her to show off a project they were working on -- creating tiny folded slips that opened to reveal drawings of the people they wanted to be when they grow up. Despite coping with a cold, O'Day listened patiently as each student -- including those struggling with English -- described his or her aspirations. One boy hopes to be mayor one day. In another first grade class, we saw three teachers and a staff developer taking notes on the math lesson being presented. These teachers were using the "Japanese lesson study" method, in which they jointly draw up lesson plans and then observe their strengths and flaws. The point is to figure out what works and what doesn't in teaching their kids. In a 3rd grade class, some students read on their own, others read aloud with the teacher, and the rest wrote responses to their books -. Fifth graders publishing a class newspaper were researching story topics of their choice in order to draft articles. An English-as-a-second-language class wrote letters to Mayor Bloomberg protesting the closing of a neighborhood firehouse that the kids had visited earlier in the year. The arts propel literacy. The parent community stands behind PS. 42's belief that the arts serve as a wonderful vehicle for developing literacy, self-esteem, cultural and cross-cultural appreciation. "My personal goal," Rosa said, "is to educate the whole child. Children don't know what they're good at or what they like until they're exposed to a lot of different things." The print-rich environment of PS. 42 exposes students to new ideas with every turn in the five-story building's hallways. Here, as at every great school we've visited, student artwork springs to life; vibrantly colored walls and enormously high ceilings showcase projects; and children's books wallpaper every available surface - at heights advantageous for both kindergartners and fifth graders, of course. Teachers skillfully take advantage of the rich opportunities that lie just beyond the school's walls, too. As residents of one of the most culturally diverse cities, students only need to walk a few feet to be in another world. Around the corner from the school, for example, the Eldridge Street Synagogue stands as a reminder of the neighborhood's Jewish roots. Second graders explored the synagogue this year and sketched its elaborate exterior. Two years ago a week before the school year was to begin I walked into this school's office and shared with Rosa Casiello O'Day the excitement of my Al Schacht story and she actually didn't think I was nuts. She even called down her 5th grade teachers to listen. I was invited back to come look for any record cards in the basement that might belong to Al and his teammate Robert Berman. I never did, but... anyway here's a PS42 slide show.

Synchronicity Explosion: Al Schacht, PS 42, Dave At Night, Harlem

Now what would these four things possibly have in common? In August of 2004 The American Jewish Historical Society created a commemorative baseball card set, called "Jewish Major Leaguers: America’s Jews in America’s Game." Each set contained 142 cards of every identifiable Jewish Major League baseball player from 1871 to the 2003 All-Star break. After reading online the biographies many of the players I discovered this gem about a Robert Leon Berman: "Berman, a catcher who played two games for Washington in 1918, later became a physical education instructor in the New York City public school system. Career Highlights: Born on New York's Lower East Side to Russian immigrants, Berman began playing baseball at P.S. 42 with future major leaguer (and Clown Prince of Baseball) Al Schacht. A catcher, he played through high school and then attended CCNY (City College of New York) for two years before he was signed by the Washington Senators in 1918.On June 12, 1918, Berman played the ninth inning of a 6-4 Washington victory over the St. Louis Browns. Although he did not bat, he was fortunate enough to catch the great Walter Johnson during his inning of work -- Johnson won 23 games for the Senators that year. Berman later appeared in one other game as a pinch-runner. He played errorless ball in his two-game major league career.Berman played in the minors for the next few years and then returned to college. In 1925, he graduated from the Savage School of Physical Education and became a health education teacher and baseball coach. Berman eventually became the Dean of Boys for the New York City Board of Education. He retired after 43 years." This sounds a lot like a Jewish Moonlight Graham of Kinsella's great book, "Shoeless Joe." But more amazing to me was the knowledge that Baseball Hall of Famer, A Schacht, attended PS42 in the heart of the LES on Hester Street. Uncle Hyman Genee (aka the King of the Romaniotes) attended PS42, so did many of the Confinos from Tenement Museum fame. More on the synchronicity theme later. In the meantime here's a Jewish Baseball inspired slide show I did in August 2004. It's one of my favorites.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Post Game Interview

Rafael's post game interview never recorded so we caught up with the two stars of the victory in the school yard on Monday. We were rushing because it was time to line up.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

5835 Osage Avenue, Part 3

While in Philly I purchased "The Jewish Community of West Philadelphia" at the U of Penn bookstore to learn more about the Ferman side of my family. Fascinating stuff. When you think about the history of neighborhoods in our big cities, so much of it is the same. The early immigrants left the Lower East Side when the subways provide a way out. In Philly the move from south and central Philly was helped by the trolley system. Later there's that whole unfortunate white flight phenomenom to the suburbs. Here's a slide show from part of the book.

Letterman's Kahones

Speaking of Cindy Shehhan...Well, maybe Letterman only "whipped out one" of them, because he did get slightly rattled unnecessarily so by that degenerate creep. In any case, a rare show of conscience by the mainstream media. This is a 2.4 clip of part of the interview which is available at Letterman's site. You'll wait a long time to see Jay Leno do that.

The Mummer's Parade

While in Philly during the New Year's weekend I caught my first glimpse of the Mummer's Parade. I kept asking myself,
"Isn't this politically incorrect? Mostly Philly white ethnics getting a chance to be minstrels and strut? The guy pictured is safe to say not a big fan of Cindy Sheehan. Nevertheless, the whole Philly experience sure beats the crap out of watching a parade in New York-No fighting for space and food at reasonable prices. The cooks from the Ritz Carlton were selling huge egg and sausage sandwiches for $5 on Broad Street. Here's the "podcast"

Basketball Victory

The Silver Stars beat PS34 on Thursday, 57-35. The game was close for the first half, but Steven went on a scoring tear towards the closing minutes of the half to start a roll that continued into the second. Some great passing and teamwork. Chris, Angel, Dennis, Joshua, Jonathan and Terrence all contributed as well as the reserves. Chris was especially tough off the boards. The spirited cheerleaders also provided a lift for the team. I got Rafael and David involved in the post game interview with a couple of wise-ss 34ers. Here's the "podcast"

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Hanukkah at the Kranks

You've heard of Christmas at the Kranks, now we have ....

Monday, January 02, 2006

5835 Osage Avenue, Part 2

I refused to pay for Internet service at the very nice, but overpriced hotel we were staying at, Sofitel. I relied instead on the concierge for advice on the best way to get to 5835 Osage, which was in the poor West Philadelphia section. While I was talking to him one of the other hotel staff chimed in, "Why are you interested in Osage Avenue?" I told him of the family link and he said that he lived right around there. He also mentioned that the 6200 Osage block was the sight of the Move Fire! For those of you who are unfamiliar or forget that incident here's a pdf package of articles about it as well as articles on West Philly history. Another interesting tidbit I acquired was that Paul Robeson lived his last years less than a mile away from 5835 Osage on 50th and Walnut. The image shown is the census page for the 5800 Osage block, with the Ferman's circled in red. Here's a slide show of pictures I took on our drive through along with others found on the web

5835 Osage Avenue, Part 1

So we're off to Philadelphia for the New Year's weekend (aka "taking the dysfunctional family on the road"), and I remembered the unfinished business with my Ferman family roots. The story was a major one in the early days of this blog "Celebrity" Cousin Michael Lemonick had left me on the trail of a great aunt who might fill in some major family history blanks, but a system crash lost the phone number and it was too late to contact him again. Instead I did a census search for an Uncle Isadore Ferman. It found him living in 1930 with his parents and a sister at 5835 Osage Avenue in Philly. I knew it was the right Isadore since his age at the time, 35, matched with his social security death index file. I had met Isadore as a teenager when my mother and I once took a trip to Philly. I knew that he married and had a family relatively late in life. I now discovered for the first time what my great grandparents' names were: Morris and Rebecca. Morris was a presser in a clothing factory. He was 60 years old then and it appeared from the records that he either owned the home valued at $4,000 or rented it for that much a year. I then used Google Maps to locate where 5835 Osage was. The image attached shows that along with a photo I took of it when I got there. But there's more to the story to follow.