Tag Archives: readings

Golden Section

Golden Section: (golden mean) A geometrical proportion known at least since Euclid and regarded as a universal law of the harmony of proportions in both art and nature. The common formula is: to divide a finite line so that the shorter part is to the longer part as the longer part is to the whole.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

ARPAnet

This reading on ARPAnet, which it will tell you, was the precursor to the Internet, has invariably been a high interest item for the students with whom I’ve worked over the years. Here is its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

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.

Finnegan’s Wake

Finnegan’s WakeA radically experimental modernist novel (1939) by James Joyce (1882-1941). He began work on it in 1922, but was too superstitious to reveal the title; sections were published (1927-1930) in New York as ‘Work in Progress.’ Finnegan’s Wake is a record of a night, in which the mind of the sleeping H.C. Earwicker is interpreted with great virtuosity and invention of language, with meaning piled upon meaning. Joyce illustrated his literary method by saying that he was tunneling through a mountain from two sides. The structure largely follows the Italian philosopher Giovanni Battista Vico (1668-1744), who divided human history into three ages, divine, heroic, and human, to which Joyce added a fourth, return, emphasizing Vico’s theory of evolutionary cycles in civilizations. The circularity of Joyce’s work is emphasized by the fact that the last sentence merges into the first:

‘riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve to shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.’

The punning title derives from and Irish-American ballad about Tim Finnegan, a drunken hod-carrier who falls from his ladder and is killed. A splash of whiskey at his wake awakes him and he exclaims ‘Do ye think I’m dead then?’ The title also suggests the return (awakening) of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, mythical hero of the Ossianic cycle of stories.

Among the many coinages in Finnegan’s Wake, one in particular has come into wider usage. It was from Joyce’s phrase ‘Three quarks for Muster Mark” that the US physicist Murray Gell-man (1929-2019) took the word ‘quark,’ which he applied to what were then hypothetical elementary particles making up the protons and neutrons in the nucleus of an atom. Intriguingly, quarks have such properties as charm colour, and strangeness.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Daniel Willingham on Reading and Mental Overload

“Just how much unknown stuff can a text have in it before a reader will just declare mental overload! and call it quits? This quantity surely varies depending on the reader’s attitude toward reading and motivation to understand that particular text. Still, studies have measured readers’ tolerance of unfamiliar vocabulary, and have estimated that readers need to know about 98% of the words for comfortable comprehension. That may sound high, but bear in mind that the paragraph you’re now reading has about 75 unique words. So 98% familiarity means that this and every paragraph like it would have one or two words that are unfamiliar to you.”

Excerpted from: Willingham, Daniel T. The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2017.

Book of Answers: Jason and the Argonauts

“What classical writer told the story of Jason and the Argonauts? The most complete treatment is the Argonautica by third-century poet Apollonius of Rhodes.”

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

Homer

I have to assume that people somewhere in the nation–even with its rapidly declining and increasingly unsophisticated literacy–are still teaching The Iliad and The OdysseyThat means someone, somewhere, unless I very much miss my guess, might need this short reading on Homer as well as its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

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.

3 Parts of an Atom

“Proton (positive) * Neutron (neutral) * Electron (negative)

The proton is stuck like a plumb pudding together with its neutron partners, wround which whiz the much smaller electron particles, within a space known as the electron cloud. This whole mysterious building block of life is held together by the power of electromagnetism to form atoms, which are listed in all their wonderful variety in that evocative list known as the Periodic Table of Elements.

Democritus, who brilliantly analyzed that the entire universe was ‘all in flux’ back in the fifth century BC, was the first to speculate about an atom–though our focus on the essential building block of life has somewhat shifted back a bit, since we have learned that quarks like beneath the surface of both protons and neutrons.”

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.