Asterix and Obelix

Most of the comics I have reviewed so far on TMW have been created and published in the United States. However, today I want to share an older European comic called AsterixAsterix is an entertaining series written by R. Goscinny and A. Uderzo. Both men were born in France and published the Asterix stories in French publications. The comics follow (big surprise!) Asterix and his friend Obelix, two Gauls who live in a small village surrounded by Roman legions. They spend their days eating boar, hurling menhirs, smashing Romans, and having many adventures.

Even though the stories were originally published in French, the dialogue is still very clear and witty in translation. The stories make plentiful use of wordplays in the dialogue, and all the names carry some humorous reference to the character of their owners.  Asterix is largely character driven, and the interplay of personalities in the different situations is always humorous to read. The stories provide a good mix of wit, both historical and mythological settings, and an ancient Roman cast of characters to continually keep the adventures  interesting.

Not only are the dialogue and stories well done, but the comics are also splendidly made from a visual standpoint.  The panels are laid out in a grid pattern and are easy to follow. The artwork is very clear and well rendered, and Uderzo does an excellent job of exaggeration in his art, adding a humor outside of the dialogue.  These factors make the comic very easy to read.  Finally, regarding color, either the comics were originally printed at a very high quality, or the illustrations have been masterfully re-colored. Needless to say, these comic books do not look like they were printed nearly fifty years ago, but are sharp and vibrant.

If you want some humorous, light reading, give Asterix a look. With witty dialogue and stories –accompanied by a superb cartoon style –you can’t go wrong.

 

Note: My original posting of this review can be found here.

10 Student Teaching Axioms

I’d like to share a few axioms I found whilst student teaching. Enjoy.

1) If you believe that people are basically good, you should try teaching a high school class.

2) Words of wisdom are rarely given to those who appreciate them.

3) Never invest your professional happiness on universal success of your students.

4) Your students are always twice as dumb as you think they are, until they prove otherwise.

5) Your students are not so dumb as to not look for your buttons and push them daily.

6) Your students will get away with as much as you let them. If your classroom is out of control, it’s your fault.

7) The teacher’s lounge is a hotbed of dissent, gossip, and drama. Avoid it.

8) Think very carefully before speaking. What you say has an odd ability to be twisted.

9) Teach for the ones who want to learn. Let success or failure be owned by the student who earned it.

10) There is nothing better than seeing a student’s face light up with understanding. Savor those moments.

A Cup of Life

Geoffrey knew he had made a mistake by not going to his usual coffee shop. There, they were used to his oddball habits. Here, when the barista handed him his coffee and he started to hurry out of the store, instead of immediately taking out his multitasker and snapping a picture like a normal person, the employee called him back.

“You forgot to take the picture, sir,” reminded the woman, smiling indulgently.

Geoffrey tried to brush it off.  “Well, I forgot my multitasker today, so I guess I’ll just have to live without it.”

The woman’s expression changed to one of horror.  “Oh!  I’m so sorry!”  Then she brightened.  “But no worries for right now.  We keep a store multitasker on hand.  One use for only $5. Of course, it won’t automatically upload photos to your LifeBook account like your personal one will, but just enter your email & the photo will be sent to you. Don’t forget to upload it later!”

“I’m in a hurry this morning. I’m sure one day won’t kill me,” Geoffrey insisted, again moving towards the door.

But this employee was annoyingly persistent.  “But sir!  The Resurrector Corporation’s recommendation is that recording specific details every day is the best way to ensure your continuation.”

Geoffrey just managed to suppress a snort.  He had his own opinions concerning the Resurrectors’ oh-so-hallowed “recommendations.”  He remembered, just a few years ago, they were insisting that potential clients should try never do the same thing twice.  Thus, customers came to coffee shops and ordered a different drink every day. Spontaneity was the key. Variety is the Spice of Life. We’ll Add Spice to Your New Life, the corporation promised. An archaic poem about “what little girls were made of” was dragged out of some obscure anthology and plastered on posters. You’ll be the sugar, we’ll add the spice. It was a very neat little advertising campaign. But then the Resurrector Corporation “had a new breakthrough in continuation technique” and pretty much changed its mind. It turned out that having consistent habits was better for capturing the true essence of a person. You still needed to document it, of course, but that’s what your LifeBook was for.

Instead, Geoffrey smiled, a bit too sardonically, perhaps. “It’s been a long week. At this point I’m not really sure I want to be resurrected.” Then he turned from the barista’s puzzled expression, and finally resumed his trek to work.

He wondered if she herself had every been resurrected—continued was the politically-correct term—and thus knew first hand the wonders of the process. Or perhaps she was merely parroting for a product she had never used, and with her paycheck, perhaps never would. The process was still fairly expensive. They were working on that, the government and the corporation, working to make a new life available to all, to make this refurbished American dream true for everybody.

When you first met a person, you initially never knew if they had the face they had been born with, or merely the mind. The person might tell you, or you might connect the dots and figure it out for yourself. If the body looked thirty-five, but gave its birth date as 2037, you knew. Then, of course, there were the people who weren’t at all shy about telling you that this was their second body. Geoffrey distinctly remembered one particular fellow that he had met at a college party, nearly twenty-five years ago now, back when the Resurrectors were just getting their start (and their advertising space.)

“So, what’s your major?” Geoffrey had dutifully asked the person sloshing his drink next to him.

“Phil-oso-phy,” said the guy, with an absurd amount of gusto. He took a gulp of his drink with just a bit too much relish.

“Oh,” Geoffrey responded, vaguely. “What made you choose that?” He was actually genuinely curious.

At this, the man looked exceedingly important, and much more superior than an evidently intoxicated individual ought to. “Well, in my first life I’s a physicist, ya know, and a good one. I liked it, ya know? Died at the ripe ol’ age of ninety-four. But now I’ve another shot at life, and I figure, ya know, what’s the use of knowing all these facts, the hows, if ya don’t have some idea of the possible whys? So, I figure, I’m young again, might as well go back and major in philosophy.” He took another loud slurp of his drink. “This’s the first college party I’ve been to in…in seventy-five years, ya know? Don’t have to worry about getting busted this time around, though.” He raised his cup. “Here’s to the Resurrector Corporation, and it’s ‘continuation from twenty-one’ policy.”

Geoffrey dutifully drank, and the man continued, unabated: “Who knows, since now we get as many cracks at life as we want, in my next body I might come back and get another degree in physics again. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more advances by then, and like I said, I don’t have any particular objection to my old life, and I’m still the same self.” He coughed. “I think.”

Here, Geoffrey screwed up his courage. At this point, he had never actually personally met someone who had been continued, and so he asked: “Do you know…do you know who your body was?”

The man had grinned. “Certainly do, I lived in it for ninety-four years, ya know…”

Geoffrey interrupted. “No, who…who this body was. Where it came from. Did they tell you that, during the process?”

The man looked slightly lost, even a tad uncomfortable. “What? No. I mean, that’s not really necessary to know. Just a test-tube kid, ya know, probably. They warn ya, when ya undergo the process, that they body you’re going to be continuing in may have a predisposition for certain ailments, ya know, hard as they may try to weed deficiencies out. The Resurrectors aren’t liable, of course. And that, my boy, is why ya need good insurance.” He clapped Geoffrey on the shoulder a couple times, for emphasis, and then staggered off.

He hadn’t really answered Geoffrey’s question. Geoffrey knew, like everyone else, about the embryos implanted, born, and then raised in sterile rooms, with scientists trying their best to prevent them from developing a personality, all the better for someone else’s to take their place. A lot of people hadn’t liked that, when the process first became public. Geoffrey still wasn’t sure he did. But then, what else were they going to do with all those frozen embryos? That was a topic for the philosophy majors, maybe. But what he really wanted to know was what people had only heard rumors about: mother’s selling their infants to the Corporation, to be raised in the same sterile environment.

There had been an investigation of the Resurrector Corporation shortly after this long ago college conversation. Nothing really turned up, just one nasty incident in one of the backwater offices. Nothing to shake the entire company, upon whose promise of continued existence many people were beginning to stake their hopes. It didn’t stop Geoffrey from wondering, whenever he met someone who had been continued, someone whose old mind was inserted in a new, young body, who that body might have become.

He had said as much, just a month ago, to a coworker, a friend, really. His friend had commented on Geoffrey’s lack of activity on his LifeBook. Geoffrey, in a rare moment of un-ironic honesty, had explained his reticence to be continued by the Resurrectors. His friend had looked at him a bit blankly, then with a concerned gleam in his eyes. “Well, all any body is going to become is a pile of ashes ultimately. This way, with the Resurrector Corporation, it doesn’t end there.”

Geoffrey was about to respond with something about this being an extremely temporal view, when his friend had reached and put his hand on his should. “Are you doing all right, Jeff?”

“Yes, of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”

His friend had talked to him a bit more, and then let it go for the day. But the next day, Geoffrey’s boss, a good man, and a kind man, was speaking to him about possibly seeing the company psychologist, for depression.

“Why, might I inquire?”

“Well, Jeff, John was telling about a conversation you and he had yesterday. I hear you don’t seem like your planning on being continued.”

Geoffrey didn’t take him seriously at first. “Yes, well, it seems a lot of effort,” he responded, with exaggerated weariness. All those pictures, all those statuses clogging up your LifeBook. Seems like it would be hard to get at what really matters.”

His boss didn’t take it so lightly. “But Geoffrey, it’s more life. Why wouldn’t someone want that?” Then he had addressed Geoffrey in a more business-like way, about how he was an excellent employee, one of the best, and liable for a promotion any day. How Geoffrey was getting on in years, how the opportunity to be continued would be available to him before he knew it, how the company could use a young, enterprising man again, and Geoffrey, freshly resurrected, would be just the one.

Thus Geoffrey, to avoid a fuss, went to see a psychologist about his “death wish,” as Geoffrey secretly termed it. Because that was the kind of place the world was becoming, a culture fixated on life.   The psychologist said she wanted to see progress, to see Geoffrey move towards life, not death. So, she said, add her as a friend on LifeBook, and she would regularly check to make sure he was properly documenting his fantastic, beautiful life.

But she was a busy woman, with many clients, and Geoffrey had shortly discovered that if one picture of a cup of coffee was missing, she’d never know. Every morning now, except for today, when he had been running late, he went to one particular, back-alley coffee shop. He would go back there tomorrow, like usual, late nor no. The owners there were so desperate for customers they didn’t ask stupid questions, like where is your multitasker? Or, don’t you want to take a picture of your extremely ordinary and common cup of coffee? It was a cup of coffee. It was hardly a matter of life and death.

Mystery, Murder, and William Monk

the-face-of-a-strangerVictorian London–a dangerous place. When detective William Monk wakes up in a hospital, he can’t remember anything–a carriage accident two weeks previous leaves him without memory. Frightened of what will happen if his superiors realize what has happened–being fired and left to work in a sweatshop–Monk quickly decides to hide his amnesia as best he can while tackling the most challenging case of his career.

A novel with a strong focus on characters, The Face of a Stranger centers on Monk, his police superior Runcorn, and Hester Latterly–a nurse recently returned from Crimea. Monk is faced with finding the murderer of Joscelin Grey–a well-to-do third son of nobility and veteran of the Crimean War. Grey was found dead in his room with his head bashed in–and evidence that the killer had continued beating Grey for some time after his death.

Not only searching for evidence of a murderer, Monk is also trying to piece together his own identity. Unable for the most part to tell others of his amnesia, Monk is left guessing what sort of man he once was and discovering that he’s not altogether fond of the person he once was.

Anne Perry is something of a veteran at mystery novels, and she is very good. The plot keeps the reader guessing throughout while also developing characters that are both realistic and relatable. Two other Perry novels that I also enjoyed: A Funeral in Blue and Southamption Row. I would highly recommend both the William Monk detective series as well as the William and Charlotte Pit detective series.

Keys to Successfully Conquering the World: An Interview with Alexander Philipson

Column of Macedon: I, along with all the readers of Column, am so glad you could spare some time to answer a few questions.

 

Alexander Philipson: Thank you.

 

CM: What was your childhood like?

 

A: Overall, it was great.  I loved hunting, had an excellent teacher, and owned the best horse that ever lived at age 12.

 

CM: About Bucephalus, do you plan to continue riding him at the beginning of each battle?

 

A: Of course!

 

CM: Can you describe your parents?  How did they influence you?

 

A: My father was inspirational.  He was tough and challenged me, but I think it was his way of preparing me to fulfill his dream of a Macedonian empire.  My mother was very attached to me and supportive.  Sometimes her snakes escaped, and I would find them in my bed!

 

CM: From your experience, how would you advise parents to raise children?

 

A: With discipline, affection, and high goals.  Encourage ambition and help your children to accomplish their dreams, even when it means being tough on them.

 

CM: Thank you so much for sharing your time and wisdom.  May the gods grant you victory.

 

A: Thank you.  It was a pleasure.

Alexander Taming Bucephalus

I wrote this fictional interview between a Macedonian newspaper and Alexander the Great for school, weaving in some of the facts of his life that I learned about in Alexander the Great by John Gunther.  This biography is well-written, informative, and fun to read.