Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 31, 2011
The end of the year is a time to take stock, look back and figure out if this was a good year or a bad year. I think, for me, it was a transitional year.
I began – and completed – a Master’s Degree program in education. I also did a full year’s internship at Darien High School al to prepare me for being certified to teach Secondary Education English. As I have written before, the coursework varied from a waste of time to quite interesting. Still, I value my time in the high school which really has prepared me. In just a few weeks the adventure continues as I begin Student Teaching.
On the freelance front, it was a steady, albeit slow, year with a few nicely paying gigs that made up for the $100 and $200 jobs that were done more for love than money. The first six months of the year I was a Patch columnist although that dried up when I became a candidate for office. I did a few pieces for Star Trek Magazine, Marvel Spotlight, and Back Issue! I continued to review tons of stuff along with some news writing and interviewing for ComicMix.
I did a pile of writing and editing for Dynamic Forces which stretched my muscles in nice ways. I also edited the Dinosaurs and Animal Planet graphic novels for Silver Dragon Books with the latter scheduled to now finally show up around February.
I wrote 24 columns for Westfield Comics, letting me interview old friends and recommend stuff that might have been missed otherwise. My comics writing, though, was minimal: one Scooby-Doo story that has yet to see print.
Odd jobs included legal research for a publisher and being paid to write a sample chapter for a project that I really wished happened because I think my partner and I did a good job. On the other hand, some other stuff I did and can’t really talk about yet kept me busy with more to come.
I also dipped a toe into the digital world by helping launching Crazy 8 Press. It’s been an uneven six months but I did manage to get an older story back into print. “A Matter of Faith” has been available since October and has sold a whopping four copies so far. May the next offering, the second Latchkeys story (due in early 2012), do better.
Beyond that, Deb and I celebrated our 31st anniversary. We actually fit in a brief New Hampshire vacation along with spending Christmas week with Kate and our mothers. My mom turned 80 this week, surrounded by her siblings, children, and grandchildren so that was a special treat.
Looking ahead, I have to complete The Unofficial History of Star Trek in January and then hopefully other opportunities will present themselves. I suspect 2011 was a rebuilding year and all the time and investment of effort should pay off in 2012, making it a superior year.
Here’s wishing you all a Happy New Year!
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 23, 2011
My final week as an intern and fill-in teacher more or less went as scheduled and I have to say the time seemed to zip right by.
The World Lit kids had spent last week examining differing retellings of the Cinderella story so Monday we drilled down to the lessons one can learn from Hansel & Gretel. We watched the related Bugs Bunny cartoon and then got into the psychological underpinnings to a story of child abandonment, cannibalism, and the cruel duality of women. Tuesday we spent the day in the computer lab so they had time to complete their group presentations. My second World Lit class was slower on the uptake that there was a group project at all, so we spent a second day in the lab to give them a chance.
Meantime, the first class began presenting on Wednesday, finishing Thursday. They were encouraged to be as creative as possible, but clearly they went on autopilot so I got plain vanilla PowerPoint presentations. Some took it more seriously than others but my successor and I were equally disappointed in the lack of effort.
Yesterday, the second period kids did their work and it was more of the same. One had a great story to tell another had the most visually interesting presentation but it was still more PowerPoint. Now there’s a place for the program, and I admit to using it as well, but when 30% of the grade is given to the creativity of the presentation, they took the easy way out and the grades will reflect that.
My English 10 kids took a vocabulary quiz and were given a review on how to annotate a short story before we delved into Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Ones who Walked Away from Omelas”. We worked together annotating the first page before I let them pair off and work through the remainder. Then we spent Thursday in the computer lab, as they arrived to see which of the CAPT prompts I selected for them to work from.
I stayed until 4 yesterday and was back in at 6:30 this morning to grade all three periods’ worth of papers in the hopes of getting them back today. One, to demonstrate their work had value and was worth some effort on my part. It was also another measure of the progress this quarter and I wanted them to have some constructive feedback before taking the break. As you can imagine, nearly five dozen 1-2 page essays on the same topic can grow tedious but the quality of the writing and points raised was varied enough to keep things interesting. My successor checked over my grading and agreed with it, so I proceeded apace. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 20, 2011
With all the focus on school and graduate school, I’ve had all too little to say about my freelance life. All year long, it has taken a back seat to my other obligations but remains a daily constant.
This week we should, at long last, send the Animal Planet project for Silver Dragon Books to the printer. There were countless delays with approvals or communication while some of the talent I hired missed their deadlines with regularity. Overall, it looks pretty sharp and should be out in early 2012. There will be a Free Comic Book Day edition so you can sample it in May.
Due out this month is The Art of Howard Chaykin but there have been delays there, too, and only in the last few days I answered the final questions posed to me. This hopefully will also be out from Dynamic Forces in early 2012.
I worked on one project that had me write a sample chapter in about a week only to discover the publisher realized they botched the timing and couldn’t sell the project so it died. Too bad, I’m proud of the work I did. On the other hand, some writing I’ve done for a company has led to additional assignments but I can’t talk about it yet.
A different project I wrote an outline and sample chapter for was a ghost writing assignment and much to my disappointment, we couldn’t move the deadline meaning I had to bow out of the project since it overlapped with The Unofficial History of Star Trek.
That book is humming along. I have been delighting in researching but frustrated at the stop and start nature of it as school and other things get in the way. Fortunately, I seem to be building up a nice rhythm and should be pretty close with my deadline. It’s fascinating to see the conflicting accounts of how things happened along with really close versions so I am trying to sift my way through the accounts, apply some logic and my own knowledge to try and pin down what I think really happened. Similarly, I am trying to put a lot of the information into a context that I have not seen elsewhere so even those who think they know the history will learn a thing or two.
In case you missed it, my short story, “A Matter of Faith” is still available for the Kindle and the Nook. Plus over at Crazy 8 Press, we announced the imminent arrival of the Latchkeys series where I am a contributor. More on that in the coming weeks.
Due out this week is The Art of Spider-Man Classic where I contributed the 1970s chapter and some shorter material. Gotham City 14 Miles, the anthology dedicated to the Batman television series, is now available at a lower price.
I am also working to wrap a career retrospective issue with someone rarely interviewed in the fan press and look forward to completing that and delivering it to Back Issue! in the first weeks of the New Year.
So yeah, I stay busy.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 18, 2011
The week was a whirlwind as I struggled to stay a day or two ahead of the classes while sifting through the mountain of ungraded papers. By now the students had come to accept the new situation and there was a lot less anxiety.
On the other hand, I was making them work and they were unused to it in English classes. They also seemed to think assignments had optional due dates.
The World Lit classes began the week wrapping up Don Quixote. We started with songs and poetry written about the character, examining recurrent themes and how none focused on his madness. It gave me and opportunity to play “The Impossible Dream” from the Man of La Mancha cast album and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Don Quixote”. Tuesday they were to have come in with five questions to ask the class about the reading and I went around the room, randomly asking students to pose their questions. Sure enough, in both classes, at least one student had come without questions prepared.
The rest of the week was devoted to Fairy Tales. I prepared a PowerPoint presentation on their history and how they differed from Myth and Fable. I took them from the theories of their origins to the current resurgence of movies and TV shows using the fairy tales as source material. We then looked at the “Cinderella” story as told in seven different countries and had them work in small groups, analyzing the differences and discussing them with the class.
The English classes completed their work on The Whale Rider. We did an in-class lab studying Maori weaving patterns, what the symbols mean and had them design their own. On Wednesday, the classes participated in their first seminar-style discussion which would be their assessment for the material. Sure enough, they were a little uncomfortable not having done this before and they needed some direction but overall, all three discussions were quite different from one another and interesting. One girl warned me she hates public speaking and wouldn’t participate and I said her grade would reflect that. At the very last moment, as we wrapped up, she raised her hand, made some cogent comments and later told me she was shaking the whole time. I was proud of her. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 15, 2011
This has been a lousy week or so for comic book professionals and fans alike. In a very short span of time, we have lost of our earliest pioneers in the field and another fine artist, who I personally enjoyed working with.
Joe Simon was there pretty much at the beginning of the comic book industry. His collaboration with Jack Kirby made the pair stars and perhaps the first creators to be wooed from one company to another with their names emblazoned on covers. Simon was editing Timely’s comic line when he and Kirby created Captain America and created a sensation. DC wooed them away and they leapt after publisher Martin Goodman reneged over promises. They were better treated at DC but even so, they wanted to be their own masters and set out to do comic on their own. As a result, they created the romance comic genre. Simon on his own continued to write, draw and edit for numerous publishers, helping create the only competitor to Mad that had staying power. When he returned to DC in the late 160s and again in the early 1970s, his stuff was distinctive although it finally appeared to be a little out of touch with the current readership.
Simon has never shied away from continuing to mentor others and produce new works, writing no less than autobiographies that shine a light on those early days. That Titan is collecting the Simon & Kirby works is a testament to their variety and creativity.
I personally met Joe on a few occasions but never really got to know him or do any work with him but his loss is still keenly felt.
Jerry Robinson, though, I did meet more than once and we got to know one another during the production of Batman Cover to Cover. He was warm and gracious, willing to tell me stories he’s told countless times before. His work with international cartoonists and fighting to protect their freedom to publish their works is perhaps the least recognized accomplishment in an illustrious career, but could also be considered more significantly than creating the Joker. Again, this is a man whose career is more than any one character or publisher. Like Simon, his life story was recently recounted for posterity while his history of the field has been rightly republished. He was a gentle giant of a creator, preserving the field’s early days and passing the knowledge forward. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 13, 2011
In January, I began my graduate career and today it ended. In between, I logged 33 credits plus an additional six credits of supplemental required undergraduate literature. At some point in the near future, I anticipate receiving a diploma in the mail, a physical memento of the achievement.
My internship runs through the 23rd and boy am I having fun with the kids. In theory, I will then get a break before reporting back to Darien on January 24 to begin my twelve week student teaching run.
What I find interesting is that most everyone I spoke with this past year, all congratulated me on this course of action then told me what a waste of time grad school was. For something so universally recognized, it’s amazing the universities themselves aren’t revamping their programs to make them more relevant (and therefore more attractive, enhancing their own reps).
Most of my professors were enthusiastic and well-qualified but all but one of them were woefully out of touch with what is happening in schools today. There are rapid changes occurring that the curriculum has made no attempt to keep up with. For example, little was said about the changes to the Core Curriculum, Race to the Top or No Child Left Behind. We never discussed new trends such as the flipped classroom or the increasing debate over the value of using social media to teach.
There was also a tremendous amount of wasted time by curriculum overlapping one another, leaving other gaps unaddressed. And let’s not talk about how the University of Bridgeport campus was still using overhead projectors in the day of the Smart Board. There’s a lot left to be desired about UB’s lack of uniformity and consistency between what our teachers say and do in addition to general administrative befuddlement. The latter is another knock I hear aimed at most institutions of higher learning and that’s a real shame.
Did it make me any better prepared to become a secondary education English teacher? More that I readily give UB credit for but certainly not as well prepared as they could have. Nothing beats being in a school and the classroom and the teaching has to be in support of that experience.
I never thought I would take the time or find the need to have a Master’s Degree, but now that I have it (with an anticipated 4.0 no less), I will also admit it’s very cool.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 11, 2011
Obviously, the biggest issue of the day was breaking the news to the students that their teacher was gone and I’d be filling in, at least through Christmas break. There was a fair amount of jaw-dropping and questioning while I tried to keep them focused on the work to be done and moving forward.
Thankfully, the two English 10 classes were scheduled to break into groups and discuss The Whale Rider so I could wander from group to group and eavesdrop. My two World Lit classes were watching the end of Shutter Island and then talking about reality vs. fantasy which was a theme from previous works and the movie was used as a transition to the next work.
I also spent the day sifting through the few notes I was left to figure out what I needed to know and do before I went into free fall, that is, teaching without a net on Friday. I also met with the Special Ed faculty to be brought up to speed on students who had various accommodations. I also got some strong advice from the teacher who I will be working with when my student teaching begins in January.
I spent the evening building a PowerPoint presentation on Cervantes and Don Quixote to introduce the World Lit kids to the excerpt.
The third English class was stunned, even though they already heard the news. They were a self-aware bunch, telling me how concerned they were with not being ready for the mid-terms (beginning on January 17) and how far behind they were in comparison with others. It was also clear that this group in particular was struggling with The Whale Rider, confused over the names, relationships, and narrators.
I gave the World Lit kids a writing prompt to get started, largely so I could see their writing for myself and have something reviewed and returned in a quick fashion, clearly signaling I am not following the patterns of my predecessor. They seemed to appreciate the PowerPoint which got us into one of the world’s great literary works.
My other English class spent more time talking about the book.
I graded during study hall and kept drafting notes as to where to take each class between now and the Christmas break. It’s like when I ziplined in August; I felt lots of fear on the short platform but the thrill of exhilaration once I began moving. Lots of concern at my desk but lots of adrenaline when I was in the classroom. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 7, 2011
It was ten minutes before lunch yesterday when I was asked into the department coordinator’s office. One of the English faculty was leaving staff – almost immediately – and I was being assigned her classes for, at minimum, a week but more likely through the end of my internship on the 23rd.
The teacher left behind lesson notes through Friday and little else. Once she cleaned out her desk, we saw stacks of ungraded papers, and other details that require attention. There were no notes pointing me in a direction and I had just a few hours to prep.
Today I begin working with three 10th grade English and two World Literature classes. Thankfully, one of them dropped, so I got to ease into things. Once the kids picked up their jaws, we got to work. During my two off periods I spent time with the Special Ed teachers coming up to speed on the students in my classes who have IEP plans and what they knew about direction. I also spent time speaking with my cooperating teacher, getting her advice on how to finish the days before Christmas break.
I’ve been given a room key and access to the Aspen grading system, being treated like I’ll be in place for the duration – even though it’s a mere two and a half weeks. What comes next for the students is anyone’s guess. Me, I will complete the internship and return to Darien in January for the start of my student teaching.
There are certainly plenty of advantages to being thrown into the fire like this. It means I can immediately put my lessons into practice, get some classroom time under my belt before getting refined by my cooperating teacher, and with luck, make a good impression on the students and administration.
So, I sit here tonight, not relaxing with a magazine but finalizing a presentation on Cervantes and Don Quixote so we can begin the class as scheduled.
Exciting times ahead.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 5, 2011
I don’t often pull stories from other sources for discussion here, but this one really bothers me. After all, last night, Deb, Kate, and I sat down for our traditional viewing of The Muppet Family Christmas which we still find funny and adorable. While we wish it were uncut (sequences were dropped for copyright reasons), it certainly holds ups and makes the holidays feel real in our house.
A good friend sent me the following story, taken from the Huffington Post and just pisses me off. Read it for yourself and we can talk.
It ain’t easy being green, but according to Fox Business, Kermit the Frog and his Muppet friends are reds.
Last week, on the network’s Follow the Money program, host Eric Bolling went McCarthy on the new, Disney-released film, The Muppets, insisting that its storyline featuring an evil oil baron made it the latest example of Hollywood’s so-called liberal agenda.
Bolling, who took issue with the baron’s name, Tex Richman, was joined by Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center, who was uninhibited with his criticism.
“It’s amazing how far the left will go just to manipulate your kids, to convince them, give the anti-corporate message,” he said.
“They’ve been doing it for decades. Hollywood, the left, the media, they hate the oil industry,” Gainor continued. “They hate corporate America. And so you’ll see all these movies attacking it, whether it was Cars 2, which was another kids’ movie, the George Clooney movie Syriana, There Will Be Blood, all these movies attacking the oil industry, none of them reminding people what oil means for most people: fuel to light a hospital, heat your home, fuel an ambulance to get you to the hospital if you need that. And they don’t want to tell that story.”
Indeed, there was no mention of the benefits of oil drilling in the Muppets, but there was also no discussion of any other aspect of the industry. Richman, played by Chris Cooper, was out to destroy the Muppets theater. Kermit and his friends, then, were not committed environmentalists (though one must imagine the frog is concerned with his swampy homeland) but simply puppets looking to save a place they once loved.
Still, Gainor blamed the film, and its predecessors, for Occupy Wall Street and the environmental movement.
“This is what they’re teaching our kids. You wonder why we’ve got a bunch of Occupy Wall Street people walking around all around the country, they’ve been indoctrinated, literally, for years by this kind of stuff,” Gainor said. “Whether it was Captain Planet or Nickelodeon’s Big Green Help, or The Day After Tomorrow, the Al Gore-influenced movie, all of that is what they’re teaching, is that corporations is bad, the oil industry is bad, and ultimately what they’re telling kids is what they told you in the movie The Matrix: that mankind is a virus on poor old mother Earth.”