Author Archives: Len


Mole Monster for Monster Legends

Das Uber Mole


Posted by on November 11, 2015 in Penn's Diary


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The Research Process

While studying the ideas of Student Centered teaching versus the age old Transmission manner of teaching, I came across several articles that all call for teachers to get their students involved in the teaching process. This type of teaching will help students understand where they are going in the classroom. Setting up road maps and sign posts for your students will keep them steadily plowing toward the end result that you intended all along.

I had no trouble finding sources concerning these topics. Voices in the Middle and English Journal both provided me with ample articles. NCTE was also a wealth of knowledge. I will post my finished paper here once it is completed.

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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Penn's Diary


Creating Maps for Students in the Classroom

For those of you who may not know, my name is Len Weatherly and I am working toward my English (licensure) degree at the University of Southern Mississippi. I am required to do a research paper for my Intro into Literacy class. Since I am already studying theories for teaching, I decided to use these theories as a catalyst for my research paper.

I have been doing some reading on creating road maps for your students to follow in the classroom. If students understand where we, as teachers, are wanting them to go then they stand a far greater chance of actually reaching these destinations. Using at least four sources, I intend to show the benefits of student choice, classroom presentation, and remixing and tinkering. Teaching students how to talk about themes and ideas will vastly improve their ability to understand the text. By allowing the students to defend their own thoughts as opposed to forcing them into correct answers, we allow them the ability to read the text with their own ideas in mind

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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Penn's Diary


Guimbellot: The Swamp Riddler


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Posted by on August 13, 2015 in Penn's Diary


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Cobra Commander Paint

Cobra Commander Paint


My family and I were painting on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and this is what I ended up with. Hope you like it.

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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in From the Desk of the Author


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Allannon the Dragon Hunter


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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in Penn's Diary


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Fighting at Work



Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Penn's Diary


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Utopia Through Sexuality and Regeneration

Utopia through Sexuality and Regeneration

For D.H. Lawrence, there seemed to be two distinct paths to utopia: sex and regeneration. Through sexuality, wholeness can be achieved and the feelings of solitude fade. For sex is based on companionship and a mutual consent toward a common goal. Regeneration is based on the idea that a utopian society cannot truly be reached without there first being suffering. For how can one know the heights of happiness unless they have been pulled through the darker places of life? It is only after we have an understanding of how terrible life can grow that we can begin to set for ourselves any hope of something better. D. H. Lawrence understood these concepts, and did not shy away from his religious parallels regarding them. Although these two distinct forms of comparison seem to initially work against one another, Lawrence finds a unique manner in which to ensure they coexist. Through his use of tortoise imagery, he makes the sexual nature less obtrusive and at the same time allows there to be some semblance of self-retreat from the seemingly ceaseless suffering.

  1. H. Lawrence used sexuality in his poetry to portray a sense of utopia for his readers. He was criticized for what some considered pornographic images in his poems, but there can be no denying that these were used to deliver a utopic feel throughout. Lawrence first ensures that the reader has a complete understanding of the loneliness which accompanies life before the sexual consummation. We are “born to walk alone” until, through the act of sex, we are “dragged out of an eternity of silent isolation” (Lawrence 295). There is a desperate “need to add himself on to her”, for he is only a “partial being” without his partner (295). With a clear understanding of the lonesome nature of life without sex, Lawrence then sets up the utopic principles which he believes can be reached through sexual completion. “Sex, which breaks up our integrity, our single inviolability, our deep silence,” becomes the catalyst into heights of splendor that can only be categorized as utopic in nature. There is a “grim necessity from within”, an “awful need to persist” that drives us to reach this ultimate destination (295). It is here that Lawrence believes we can become “whole again throughout the universe” (299). Sex is necessary to propagate a species; this makes the act of sex a regenerative in nature.
  2. H. Lawrence uses regeneration in his poetry as a facilitator for utopic thought. Throughout his poems, he uses the idea of loneliness to set tone. It is through this sort of self-suffering that he believes we are able to truly experience happiness. Over and over again, Lawrence uses language that suggests how “tiny” and “fragile” we are (285). He ensures that we understand that “isolation is his birthright” (290) and that we are “enveloped in isolation” (293). We may be “tiny from under the very edge of the farthest far-off horizon of life” (298), but “out of life’s unfathomable dawn” (296) we remain “driven” (295). Although we are “ponderous”, we take immense pride in our “indomitable will” (296).

Regeneration requires that there be some semblance of suffering. D. H. Lawrence understood suffering, for he was stricken with tuberculosis and was often ill. His objection to the war put him at odds with the law, and his sexual writing put him at odds with his peers.

“complex, manifold involvedness of an individual creature” (289)

Baby Tortoise

“You know what it is to be born alone,”

“alone, with no sense of being alone”

“Do you wonder at the world,”

“Your little round house in the midst of chaos”

“All life carried on your shoulder”

Tortoise Shout “Torn to become whole again, after long seeking what is lost”

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Posted by on April 9, 2015 in From the Desk of the Author


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Wolf in White Van

Wolf in White Van

Our Choices Define Us

Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014, $24.

Wolf in White Van is unlike anything I have ever read. John Darnielle plunges the reader into a maze of unsynchronized thoughts and chronologically displaced views. The narrator’s mind is a labyrinth into which he invites not only the reader but anyone willing to join in his mail-in role playing game. The cover does a masterful job of conveying the complexities of this novel to anyone lucky enough to happen upon it in a bookstore. Like the cover, the novel offers no way through the winding tunnels of the subconscious. Darnielle is also the lead singer of the musical group Mountain Goats, and his lyrical writing is displayed in flowing sentences that parallel the novel’s intricacies.

The entire novel focuses on the idea of choices and the effects the choices we make have on our lives. Sean Phillips, the main character and narrator of the novel, begins the journey in the middle of its entirety. There are two tragic accidents in which Sean is involved. One of these involves him directly, where the other indirectly implicates him. However, in both situations it is the choices that Sean makes that deliver the tragic outcomes.

After Sean’s self-destructive accident, he is forced to delve deeper into his own mind. Never knowing if he will ever be able to see or be a part of the world of his body, Sean begins to build an intricate and detailed world in his mind. He calls it the Trace Italian, and it becomes a role playing game that generates enough income for him to live on his own. Sean states, “It was later, lying supine and blind for days, faced with the choice of either inventing internal worlds or having no world at all to inhabit, when I started to fill in the details”. Even as a child, Sean imagined himself as a conquering ruler. “I ruled a smoking, wrecked kingdom with a hard and deadly hand. It was dark and gory. No one liked living there, not even its king.” These childhood thoughts seem more than the workings of a child’s imagination. Instead they make us wonder about Sean, and his motives later in the story.

As the game master of the Trace Italian, Sean sets the scene for the characters involved. In a post-apocalyptic United States, there is not much hope for those who plunge into the game. The players mail their moves to Sean and he dictates the outcome of their choices. Sean never killed off any of his players for making one poor choice, but instead coerced them into making better decisions on the next turn. Only after several terrible turns would Sean feel the need to kill off a character. This idea of one poor choice not dooming someone to death seems to have been inspired by Sean’s own accident. The players were searching for a haven located in Kansas, the Trace Italian. Oddly enough, Sean never actually created the place. It seemed as if he never intended anyone to make it to the Trace.

A young couple, mailing their journey to the Trace Italian from Florida, makes the choice to try to find the Trace in the real world. Their decision leads to terrible consequences, leaving one of them dead and the other in a precarious state. Sean is called in to court, to be held accountable for the effects his game had on the young people. Ultimately, Sean is not help responsible, but it does not stop his mind from wondering if perhaps he should have been. Sean talks about one of his players, “I pictured him acting out his dreams in real space, pantomiming his moves in a room somewhere before he wrote them down”. He proceeded to send the boy a scalpel through the mail in honor of one of the boys more courageous turns. Sean even drew comparisons between this particular player and the couple who ended up exactly what he imagined. Certainly, he did not feel that he was completely innocent.

The book deals with the decisions we make and the outcomes that come after, but Darnielle does a masterful job of taking these elements and tangling them in the mysteries of the mind. The structure of the novel is worked so masterfully that both of the horrific events, although taking place many years apart, become both the beginning and the end of the novel. Wolf in White Van is an interesting read for anyone familiar with the intricacies of role playing games. The novel is intelligent, yet very comical in a real way, at the same time.

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Posted by on April 9, 2015 in From the Desk of the Author


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All Quiet on The Wasteland

All Quiet on the Wasteland

All Quiet on the Western Front drops the reader right into the Great War. Here we follow a young German soldier, Paul Baumer, as he takes up a journey of self-discovery. Remarque, through Baumer, allows the reader a glimpse into the young and impressionable minds of the soldiers during the battles of World War I. The text describes not only the atrocities of war but also the hopelessness these men felt. The soldiers struggled to understand the reasoning behind the war, and they also tried to carve for themselves some hope beyond the war. Throughout the novel, Baumer shows his detachment from humanity. Sometimes he likens himself and his fellow soldiers to animals, and other times he understands that being a soldier is something completely different than being a human. Through it all, Baumer realizes his disillusionment and that he will never be the same, no matter how the war ends. Remarque takes a modernist approach in All Quiet on the Western Front which followed the terrors brought out during the war. This approach allows a nice parallel to T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow Out of this stony rubbish? – T.S. Eliot

Initially, Baumer is critical of the male elders. These men called Baumer and his peers the Iron Youth. In response he states, “Iron Youth. Youth! We are none of us more than twenty years old. But young? Youth? That is long ago. We are old folk.” (Remarque 10). The recruiters and teachers took something from these boys that they themselves never had to sacrifice. Baumer felt that “they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity” (7). “The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief” (7). The older men, the ones who convinced these boys to give their all for Social Darwinism ideals, had real lives before the war and were therefore more likely to fall back into that rhythm of being. “We had as yet taken no root. The war swept us away. For the others, the older men, it is but an interruption” (11). Baumer and his friends try to determine the reasoning for the war in Chapter Nine, but in the end they come to the conclusion that “the wrong people do the fighting” (22). They had been deceived by the very people they trusted the most, “And that is why they let us down so badly” (7).

I will show you fear in a handful of dust. – T.S. Eliot

In the terrors of the war, Baumer detached himself from his humanity and instead gave himself and his fellow soldiers animalistic qualities. “By the animal instinct that is awakened in us we are led and protected. It is not conscious; it is far quicker, much more sure, less fallible, than consciousness” (27). To view the war through an unfiltered lens could drive the men insane, and they protected themselves using whatever mentality it required to survive. “Just as we turn into animals when we go up to the line, because that is the only thing which brings us through safely” (65). The way in which these troops were treated lends itself to feeling little more than an animal, an unthinking and reactionary creature used up for the cause of man in his Great War. “They flock together like sheep instead of scattering, and even the wounded are shot down like hares by the airmen” (61). Baumer, himself, recalls, “I feel like a pig” (125). A man can kill an animal without much regret or loathing for his actions, however to kill a man for no reason other than the commands and decrees of unseen leaders is something else entirely.

I had not thought death had undone so many. –T.S. Eliot

To Baumer being a soldier was something far different than being a man, and in some ways one could never be both. His troop, his outfit, and the war began to define him. “I am no longer a shuddering speck of existence, alone in the darkness;–I belong to them and they to me; we all share the same fear and the same life” (106). Baumer speaks about his uniform and the manner in which it transforms him from a skinny and malnourished boy into something far more intimidating, a German soldier. As the troops press forward into battle, Baumer recalls that they more closely resembled “A column–not men at all”. When he returns home while on leave, he laments, “I used to live in this room before I was a soldier”.  Here we can see that he believed it was impossible for him to be the person he once was. The war had stolen his identity and left only the husk of soldier. “But now I see that I have been crushed without knowing it. I find I do not belong here any more, it is a foreign world”. In the end, Baumer felt more comfortable on the battlefield than he did in his own hometown. The transformation was complete.

Baumer is detached from his humanity during his time serving in the war. He understands that the war has left nothing for him. He speaks of his mother “Who else is there that has any claim on me but you.” However, Baumer allowed the recruiters and teachers to steal that claim. He is stuck somewhere between youth and manhood. In Chapter One he speaks of not being a youth anymore, yet in Chapter Seven he laments, “I would like to weep and be comforted too, indeed I am little more than a child.” Although Baumer is convinced that the war has rendered him something less than human, his actions while on leave back home suggest something quite different. He denies his mother’s claims that the war is bad with the gas and everything. He swears to Kemmerich’s mother that he died quickly and without pain. All of these things suggest that Baumer has not lost his humanity during the war. In fact, it could be argued that being on the front lines and experiencing death in such an intimate fashion has rendered him more in tune with the realities of what it means to be human. Society focuses on truth, yet truth has no place in the words spoken to parents dealing with the loss of their children. The truth is something cold and calculated, and serves not the individual. In some ways, Baumer’s truth is the war, and he “would swear to anything” to keep those back home from that truth. “We know only that in some strange and melancholy way we have become a waste land.”

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Posted by on April 8, 2015 in Penn's Diary


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