Seven Years: A Blog Appraisal

I tipped over my seven years as a blogger at the end of July, and I am looking forward to the eighth year in 2020.

I thought to have a look at the current ‘All Time’ stats provided by WordPress in the ‘Insights’ feature.

Total views as of today.
277,610

Total visitors so far.
82,270

Follower totals.
WP 4,561
Email 37
Social media 218

Total 4,816

Posts Published.
2,710

Most popular day.
Monday

Biggest views on one day.
Sept 2nd, 2019

Most popular category.
Blogging

Most popular tag.
Guest Post

It’s important not to become obsessed with blog statistics, but I always find them interesting.

If you have just started out, take some encouragement from these figures.
And remember, my blog is small!

Postcards from blogging friends: Part Two

I am still getting cards, so if your one isn’t shown here, it will be in the next part. Maybe even Part Four!

Many thanks to all of you who have sent me cards for this feature, and also to anyone still sending them, or considering doing so.

Pit is originally from Germany, and now lives in the USA.
He sent me this card from his holiday in Alaska.

Marina lives in Athens, and designed this classical Greek card herself.
I see it was posted from France, so I presume she was visiting that country.

Darlene is Canadian, but now resides in sunny Spain.
This card shows a very inviting location, and she stuck some metal maple leaf designs on it too!

My wife Julie couldn’t resist joining in.
During a short break at a holiday camp with her grandson, she found this ‘retro’ card.

Lots more to come! If you ever want to send me a postcard, it will feature on this blog. 🙂
Thanks again, and best wishes to everyone.

Guest Post: Jennie Fitzkee

Jennie is an American blogger. She is a truly inspirational teacher of young children, with a real love of reading, books, and education.
She is not only the teacher I wish I had had, but the one we should all have had.

https://jenniefitzkee.com

Here is her guest post.

How Reading-Aloud Made Me the Teacher and Person I Am Today.

My very first day of teaching preschool in Massachusetts, thirty-two years ago, was both career and life altering. Lindy, my co-teacher, asked me to read the picture books to children each day after our Morning Meeting. Sure (gulp)! I was new, scared, and unfamiliar with many children’s books. I had not been read to as a child, except for The Five Chinese Brothers from my grandmother. I still remember the page that opens sideways, with the brother who could stretch his legs. One book, and to this day I remember it vividly.

The book I read to the children on that first day of school was Swimmy, by Leo Lionni. It was magical for me, and for the children. The story line, the art, the engineering, the words… it was a taste of something I knew I had to have. And, I couldn’t get enough.

The next few decades I consumed children’s books. I realized that the more I read aloud, the more the children wanted to hear stories and be read to. I displayed books in my classroom front-facing, so children were drawn to picking up and ‘reading’ the books. In this way, the children wanted to handle, hold, and turn the pages of books. This was a big deal! It was true hands-on learning, with exploding questions and interest. I was the yeast in the dough, or perhaps the books were the yeast. Oh, our Morning Meetings grew. We had to include a children’s dictionary on the bookshelf so we could look up words that were new. That was fun!

By this time I had become picky about good books. Whenever I read a good book, it sparked so many questions and conversations, that sometimes it took ‘forever’ to get through the book. The first time I read Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky, it took forty minutes to finish reading the book. I started with the inside cover, a picture of the courtyard, and simply asked questions; “Where is this?” “Does this look like Massachusetts?” “What is different?”

Reading picture books triggered big discussions. I often stopped to ask questions. Sometimes I would simply say, “Oh, dear…” in mid-sentence and let the children grab onto that rope. Yes, I was throwing out a lifeline, a learning line, and it worked. It was exciting, always engaging.

Before long, I started reading chapter books before rest time. This was unconventional for preschoolers, yet it felt right because children were on their nap mats and needed to hear stories without seeing pictures. I started with Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and have never looked back. The first thing children learned was ‘you make the pictures in your head’. This is thrilling, because we now have non-stop reading and multiple discussions, without pictures. Thirty minutes of pretty intense reading-aloud. My chapter books include the best of the best.

My teaching had become language based and child centered. Often there were ‘moments’, things that happened because we were reading all the time. Reading had spilled over into my curriculum. The day we had set up a restaurant in housekeeping, children were ‘reading’ menus and ‘writing’ orders on clipboards. I was spelling out the words to one child and listening to questions about the menu from another child. I doubt these moments would have happened had I not read so often in the classroom.

I wanted to tell families what happened, about moments of learning, and of course about reading-aloud. So, I started to write more information in my newsletters, and include details. I wrote, and I wrote, sharing small moments and relating those moments to the big picture in education.

I attended a teacher seminar, and Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, was the keynote speaker. As he spoke I wanted to jump up and rush over to the hundreds of teachers in the room, screaming, “Are you listening to this man?” “Do you realize how important his message is?” Instead I wrote him a letter and included one of my newsletters to families that spoke about the importance of reading-aloud. That sparked his interest in my chapter reading, and he visited my classroom to watch. I’m included in the latest version of his million copy bestselling book.

My public library asked me to direct a library reading group for second and third graders. This was another new adventure in reading. I read The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes, among many wonderful books. Again, these were new books to me, and I loved it. This past summer I embraced YA books, thanks to reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I read every Kate DiCamillo book I could lay my hands on. Every one.

My reading and reading-aloud continues to grow. Thank you Read-Aloud West Virginia for getting the message of how important reading is to the public. We are making a difference.

Jennie

I have followed Jennie’s blog for a long time now, and I don’t even have children. But I get inspiration and wonder from reading about her dedication to teaching, and her love of the kids she cares for. Please read her blog. And if you have small children, you will want to follow her heartwarming stories of a life devoted to education, kindness, and compassion.

Film Flops I Have Seen (1)

It might not surprise you to find out that many films have been financial disasters, failing to recoup a fraction of the cost it took to make them. I haven’t seen all of them, but I have watched my share over the years. It is easy to see why some of them failed, but many of the biggest cinema disasters are actually excellent films. In this occasional series, I will be giving my own opinion about some of the cinema industry’s greatest flops.

The Cotton Club (1984)

This film made no impact at the box office, despite the presence of the big star, Richard Gere. It was also written by Mario Puzo of ‘Godfather’ fame, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who made ‘Apocalypse Now’, so the talent was lined up. Along with Gere, we got Bob Hoskins, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Lawrence Fishburne, Nicholas Cage, and Allen Garfield. At least the cast list looked promising.

Then there was the story. The Mob, A Harlem Club, famous gangsters, Jazz, great music and dancing. Add to that the faithful recreation of the club itself, and the feel of 1930s New York, and it had to be a winner. When it was released, the critics loved it, and it got nominated for a slew of awards. It won a Grammy for the soundtrack, but that was all.

But the public didn’t get it. They didn’t flock in their droves to see it, and they didn’t rush to buy the VHS tape of the film either. It had taken five years to make, and the notoriously over-spending Coppola had been lavishing in excess of $250,000 a DAY on the sets, costumes, and musical arrangements alone. As well as arguing with the studio, Coppola took money from Las Vegas hoodlums and international arms dealers to keep financing the project. Puzo was replaced as the screenwriter, and one of the investors was killed in an alleged drug gang hit, when he failed to pay them the promised return.

It all started to go wrong, very quickly.

The film grossed less than $26,000,000 worldwide, leaving the investors out of pocket by an estimated $77,000,000.

I went to see the film, and I actually really enjoyed it. It was not by any means a ‘great’ film, but I liked the period atmosphere, most of the acting, and all of the music.
Sadly, my entrance fee wasn’t enough to save it from being number 23 on the list of all-time film flops.

How It All Began

I am reblogging this important post about female health. If you are a woman, have a wife or daughter, sister, aunt or even a grandmother. A female friend or partner, girlfriend, best friend or a neighbour you know well, then please bring their attention to this. If you are a blogger, please reblog it so more women can read it. If you are on Twitter or Facebook, please share it on those platforms too.
Once you have read this, please follow the rest of Melissa’s story on her new blog. She almost wasn’t here to be able to tell it to us.

My Unbelievable Journey To An Inevitable Hysterectomy

Let me start by saying that this story ends (spoiler alert) with a hysterectomy. If you are a woman in search of alternative methods of fighting your fibroid and looking for stories of success in that area, I encourage you to continue your search but also to continue reading – because, I WAS you. I get it. My story did not end the way I had played it out in my mind but my fate was decided for me. I’ll get into the how’s and why’s of that later.

It all started in February of this year. I went to see my OB for a regular well woman exam – complete with Pap Smear, Mammogram, and Pelvic Exam. I’m a healthy 44 year old woman, proud Mama of a beautiful 2 year old daughter, and lucky wife to an amazing woman. I have always had heavy periods. Oh wait. Let…

View original post 996 more words

Lyrically Evocative (23)

In 1991, I heard a great love song on the radio. It was very much of its time, a ‘Power Ballad’. Great saxophone work, and smooth vocals, I just had to get it. So I bought the CD album, by Curtis Stigers. Playing it over and over, I found that the lyrics of this song were very relevant to some situations in my life.
I haven’t played it for many years now, but I heard it again a couple of days ago, and it all came flooding back.

The Lyrics.

Love is a hunger
That burns in my soul
But you never notice the pain
Love is an anchor
That won’t let me go
I reach out to hold you
But you push me away
You always convince me to stay
And I wonder why
We hold on with tears in our eyes
And I wonder why
We have to break down to just make
Things right
And I wonder why
I can’t seem to tell you goodbye
Yeah, I wonder why
I’m no angel
With my selfish pride
But I love you more every day
Love is an anger
That builds up inside
As the tears of frustration
Roll down my face
Why does love always have to turn
Out this way
I don’t want to fight again tonight
About the little things please baby
I just want to find my way
Back to love
And I’ll meet you there, baby
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Curtis Stigers / Glen Ballard
I Wonder Why lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., The Bicycle Music Company

And here is Curtis performing the song. He plays that great Sax too.

Curtis is still performing and playing, mostly Jazz these days.
He is 53 now, and has much shorter hair.

Book Review: Clash of Empires

Ben Kane is a best selling author in the Historical Fiction genre, but this is the first time I have read one of his books.

At 448 pages, it took me a while to read it, but that is no reflection on his lively and authentic writing, which at times had me staying up far too late to finish a chapter. Kane interweaves real historical figures with fictional characters, setting them in and around actual recorded events. In this book, he deals with the enmity between the Macedonian Empire of Philip V, and the might of Ancient Rome. As well as those two main players, we have the various Greek states involved on both sides, and allies who can turn their coats for the right reasons.

Kane deals with the style perfectly. He uses some main characters from each side, and we follow the same events through their different viewpoints. Whether a new member of the fearsome Macedonian phalanx, or an experienced Roman legionary, the story is at all times completely believable, and feels very authentic too. We get the view from the nobles at the Macedonian court, and the behind the scenes political machinations of Roman senators and Consuls vying for power and wealth.

There are detailed descriptions of the training of the soldiers, the composition of the various regiments, and the fighting tactics. The effect of total war on the civilian population is covered too, as well as the incredibly harsh punishments inflicted in the armies. With the action switching from Rome, to Athens, then up to Macedonia, all locations are genuine, and maps are supplied too. We visit the camps of the different soldiers and see what they do when they are idle, then follow them to taverns and sporting events.

But it is without doubt during the battles and sieges that Kane’s skill excels. With compelling descriptions of formations in combat, the use of catapults and missile weapons, and the courage and fear shared equally on both sides, he delivers an edge of the seat experience that at times makes you imagine you are there. This shows real writing skill, and reminded me of the books of Bernard Cornwell and Steven Pressfield.

I wasn’t aware of it when I bought this Kindle version for just £1, but the book finishes leaving no conclusions, as it is the first in a series. The second one, featuring many of the same characters, and continuing the events from the last page, is now available.

I will certainly be buying more of his books, and this one is unreservedly recommended.