Monthly Archives: May 2021

Book of Answers: Upton Sinclair’s EPIC

“What did Upton Sinclair’s campaign slogan—EPIC—stand for? End Poverty in California.” It was the umbrella term for his democratic platform for his 1934 campaign as governor. This platform contained such programs as a graduated income tax and retirement pensions. Sinclair won the Democratic nomination, but after a bitter campaign lost to Republican candidate Frank Merriam.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Dashiell Hammett

On Memorial Day 2021, here is a reading on Dashiell Hammett along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

Why Samuel Dashiell Hammett, the author of numerous short stories and several novels, including The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man (from which a successful six-part film franchise, then a television series, was produced) on Memorial Day? I don’t think most people realize that Hammett served in the United States military twice, enlisting in 1918, then again in 1943. At the height of his literary fame, at the age of 48, he joined the army as a private and was stationed in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, where he edited The Adakian, the camp newspaper.

Hammett identified as a leftist, which made his voluntary service in the U.S. military even more baffling to his left-leaning social circle, including his lover, playwright Lillian Hellman. In fact, after the war, Hammett began teaching writing courses at the Jefferson School of Social Science, operated by the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) in New York City. Later, famously, Hammett was summoned to testify on his activities with the Civil Rights Congress, of which he was elected president in June of 1946. He inculpated himself in the group’s activities, but refused to name the other people involved in the organization. For his refusal to name names, this veteran of service in two wars with the United States Armed Services served a six-month jail sentence for contempt of court.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.


“Hinduism: Oldest of the world’s major religions. It evolved from the Vedic religion of ancient India. Though the various Hindu sects rely on their own set of scriptures, they all revere the ancient Vedas, which were brought to India by Aryan invaders after 1200 B.C. The philosophical Vedic texts called the Upanishads explored the search for knowledge that would allow mankind to escape the cycle of reincarnation. Fundamental to Hinduism is the belief in a cosmic principle of ultimate reality called Brahman, and its identity with the individual soul, or Atman. All creatures go through a cycle of rebirth, or samsara, which can only be broken by spiritual self-realization, after which liberation, or moksha, is attained. The principle of karma determines a being’s status within the cycle of rebirth, The greatest Hindu deities are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The numerous other Hindu gods are mostly viewed as incarnations or epiphanies of the main deities, though some are survivors of the pre-Aryan era. The major source ofs of classical mythology are the Mahabharata (which included the Bhagavad Gita, the most important religious text of Hinduism), the Ramayana and the Puranas. The hierarchical social structure of the caste system is important to Hinduism; it is supported by the principle of dharma. The major branches of Hinduism are Vaishnavism and Shaivism, each of which includes many different sects. In the 20th century, Hinduism has blended with Indian nationalism to become a potent political force.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Weekly Text, 28 May 2021, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Week IV: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Chandragupta Maurya

This week’s Text, the final for this year in observance of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2021 is a reading on Chandragupta Maurya and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya Empire, which enjoyed a long run–from 322 to 180 BCE. We know about Chandragupta Maurya and his eponymous empire from a variety of sources. India was known to the ancients in the West, including Pliny the Elder and Plutarch (and don’t forget that Alexander the Great fought briefly in northwest India); the Roman historian Justin also left biographical details about Chandragupta. He is also mentioned in the Arthashastra, a Sanskrit book on statecraft. Since the Mauryas oversaw the rise of Buddhism in India under King Ashoka, Chandragupta’s grandson and the third of the Mauryan emperors,. Buddhist texts also supply facts about Chandragupta and the Mauryas. Finally, a wealth of archaeological evidence underwrites both Chandragupta’s reign as well as the broader history of the Maurya Empire.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Chinese Poetic Forms

“Chinese Poetic Forms: The two most important forms of Chinese are the shih (poem) and the tz’u (lyric). The shih form was first used in the Book of Songs. These songs are of varied length; the lines are usually four characters long, and are marked by the use of end rhyme, most often at the end of the even-number lines.

Around the first century AD, the four-character line was replaced by the five- and seven-character line. The T’ang dynasty (618-907) saw the development of regulated verse or lu-shih, which were shih poems that used lines of five or seven characters, were eight lines in length, made use of a single rhyme throughout, and required strict verbal and tonal parallelism. The great T’ang poet Tu Fu was a master of this particular style.

The t’zu or lyric form also began to gain popularity in the T’ang dynasty, although its heyday was during the Five Dynasties (907-960) and Sung (960-1289). Originally written to musical tunes from Central Asia, the tz’u is essentially a song form with prescribed rhyme and and tonal sequences (“tunes”) and lines of differing length. Although, by the Sung Dynasty most tz’u were not written to be sung, poets retained the tune title to indicate the metrical pattern they were using. One of the most famous tz’u writers was the woman poet Li Ch’ing-chao.

Other poetic forms include the ballad (yueh-fu) and the prose form (fu). The ballads tend to use the five- or seven-character line, but are much more flexible about total length of the poem and prosody and meter. Traditionally, this form has been used to describe the hardships and sufferings of ordinary people, or to express direct or indirect criticism of the government. A common subject of the yueh fu is the abandoned woman who languishes away while her husband is away fighting on the frontier. These can be read as love poems, as criticism of a government policy that sends men away from the fields to fight a distant enemy, or the complaint of a neglected official who feels “abandoned” by his ruler.

Fu is translated variously as ‘prose-poetry,’ ‘rhyme-prose,’ ‘verse-essay,’ or ‘rhapsody’; however, because of its strong rhythmic and metrical qualities, it is generally considered to be closer to poetry than prose. The golden age of the fu was the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). Writers of fu, such as Ssu-Mar Hsiang-ju (179-117 BC), were usually officials patronized and favored by the court. They were in many cases lexicographers, a fact reflected in their long (the longest is 10,000 lines), elaborate, almost encyclopedic rhymed descriptions of the splendor of the cities, gardens, and palaces of the Han dynasty. Fu continued to be written even after the Han, many of them taking on a more philosophical tone.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Cultural Literacy: Asia

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Asia. This is a half-page document with three questions–in other words a general introduction to the topic as a continent.

Like so many places in the world, the Romans named this continent, lifting the word Asia (as with so many other things) from the ancient Greeks. In fact, Herodotus was evidently the first person to use the word, though in reference to Asia Minor–or Anatolia, if you prefer–rather than the entire landmass we moderns envision when we think of Asia.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Rabindranath Tagore on Bigotry

“Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hand

With a grip that kills it.”

Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies (1928)

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Cultural Literacy: Ho Chi Minh

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Ho Chi Minh. This is a full-page document with five questions, and room, with supplemental material, for quite a few more.

Ho’s importance as a world historical figure is well established, even if his biography suffers from lacunae. He is known to have used pseudonyms freely. If you’re interested in taking your students for a slightly deeper dive in Ho Chi Minh’s life and struggle for Vietnamese independence, you’ll find a reading and comprehension worksheet under that hyperlink.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

108 Stupas on the Wall

Genghis Khan’s city of Karakoram, the tented capital of Asia, was encircled by a wall that was decorated with 108 stupa-shrines. This remains a highly propitious and symbolic number in Central Asia, India, and the Far East. In India it is the emergency phone number, while in Japan the temples ring out the old year with a toll of 108 bell strikes, one for each of the 108 lies, 108 temptations or 108 sins resisted. The number can be satisfactorily resolved into three groups of thirty-six, a third dealing with the past, a third with the present, and a third with the future.

Rosaries and belts with 108 beads are also most commonly worn and counted by Hindu, Zen, and Buddhist monks and priests. For, linked with the list of 108 earthly moral temptations, each and every Hindu deity has 108 distinct names, titles, and epithets (they seem to derive from the 54 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet which, when recited in both their masculine and feminine forms, produces 108).

But the most beloved piece of symbolism behind the attraction of 108 seems to be in the order and shape of the numbers themselves. In Eastern philosophy, the 1 stands for the essential unity of creation; 0 for the nothingness of our future existence; and the 8 means everything; so, together, the create a chant of ‘one-emptiness-infinite.’”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Cultural Literacy: Afghanistan

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Afghanistan. This is a full-page document with with fifteen questions, which befits a topic as complicated and omnipresent as Afghanistan. Of course, this is a Microsoft Word document, like almost everything on Mark’s Text Terminal, so you can bend it to your needs, reformat it, or leave it as is.

The United States has technically been at war there since 2001, making it this nation’s longest-running conflict. Two weeks ago, on May 9, 2021, a girl’s school was bombed in Kabul killed upwards of 90 students–all girls and young women. No group has claimed responsibility, but it’s a safe bet that the Taliban, the group the United States sought to extirpate from Afghanistan, is culpable in the tragedy. In any case, if you need any insight into the attitude of Muslim fundamentalists toward the education of women, you might try Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, I Am Malala. On September 11 of this year, United States forces will leave Afghanistan after nearly twenty years there. This has provoked justifiable anxiety on the part of United States policy makers and Afghans themselves.

So in other words, a bundle of current history to unpack here.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.