ISP 3510: Intermediate Reading & Writing

Interdisciplinary Studies Program, Wayne State University

Detroit, Michigan, USA

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.—Stephen King

ISP 3510: Tentative WEEKLY SCHEDULE for the First 5 Weeks

(Optional) CLASS ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK 1 (Thursday, January 15, 2004, 6:00-9:40 p.m.)

Technicalities: Coursepack sale ($10) (volunteer treasurer is needed); creating a class roster on my laptop (volunteer computer operator is needed); Receipts; Coordinated late night departures?

Oprah Winfrey on education, followed by class discussion. (note: if you want to re-listen to that interview, go to: and then click "Oprah Winfrey").

In-class assignment: In a single written paragraph, introduce yourself to the group. Make this introduction as interesting and memorable as you can. It can be amusing, or sad, or touching—anything your classmates would enjoy listening to. Once done, have your work edited by a classmate. Submit it to class instructor, and then talk to the class—without it please. (If speaking in public makes you nervous, now’s the time to get over this. If you don’t want to, that’s all right too— write it down all the same, then pass when your turn to talk comes).

Interacting with texts: Mr. Ryan. Discussion questions (this is also your next week’s assignment, so take notes):

1. briefly summarize Mr. Ryan in your own words.

2. What point(s) is Roth trying to make?

3. Do you agree with Roth? Do you like this song—why or why not? If you like it, is there something about it that you don’t like or don’t approve of? What? Why?

4. What is the meaning of this song to you? Explain. Can you somehow connect it to your own life?

Class reading and discussion: In Praise of Literacy

Today’s fun puzzle: Who made this sound?

Discussion of next week’s assignment


Due date: Next week

Please read the two cardinal rules below, re-read the lyrics of Mr. Ryan, and then answer in writing the four questions above. Bring your assignment to class next week (or, better still, e-mail it instead to: Thanks.

Two cardinal rules for all writing assignments in this class:

Closed Book Rule. Each and every assignment in this class must follow the closed book rule. For example, by summary of a short story I mean: Read the story as many times as you need to remember it well. Then, close the book and retell that story in your own words, the way you remember it. When done, and only when done, compare your version to the book’s for accuracy. Or, to take another example, by interpretation of a film I mean: watch the film, and explain in writing the point that the screenwriter and director are trying to make. If I’m under the impression that you summarized a story while the book was open, or that you consulted the internet, articles, or books for somebody else’s opinion about the film, the assignment will be returned to you unread and it will be recorded in my little red book as a missing assignment.

Rationale: You can only learn by doing such assignments on your own. It's your voice, your thinking, your worldview, your reading and writing skills, that we are trying to enrich and improve, not someone else's. If these skills need work, that is one reason why you are going to school; if you work hard, these deficiencies will not stop you from comfortably passing the class and improving your skills. But if you take someone else’s words and present them as your own, or if you take someone else’s words and substitute them for your own, you will learn and earn nothing.

Sixth-Grader Rule. Your main task, in each and every assignment, is to convince the reader that you know what you are talking about. To accomplish this goal, paradoxically, you must imagine that you are writing that assignment for a sixth-grader who knows and understands nothing about the subject. So, keep that child in mind. Use words that come naturally to you. Don’t try to impress anyone, but to communicate and explain.



One more reminder before you start writing: Every assignment in this class—and eventually, your senior essay—must be preceded by a title. Have you ever read a book that has no name? Seen a title-less film? Met a nameless person?

A title-less assignment falls, more or less, into one of these very sorry categories. Why? Well, first, a good title tells the reader what to expect. Second, a good title is an invitation to the reader to go on reading. It is perhaps one of the most important parts of a piece of writing.

For an instructor, especially, a title is a treasure trove. I once graded titles only, then graded the papers themselves. In almost all cases the two grades were uncannily close. Why? Because a good title shows that the student understood what the assignment was. And usually this is the biggest problem—most people write about what they imagine the assignment to be, instead of finding out what it really is.

Now, what is a title? If you are working on Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, could that be the title of YOUR essay? Absolutely not!!! Why, because that's the name of Hemingway’s book, not of your essay. Also, how does your reader know what it is that you're trying to do with this book? Are you going to review it? Use it as a source of information about the Spanish Civil War? Explore the impact of that war on novelists? Explain the UK’s and USA’s pro-fascist policies? So this is better:

A Review of Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls.


[Give your name here]

A title, especially if it involves creative writing, can be more imaginative and inviting, relying often on subtitles. For instance, Silent Bells: A Review of Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. But for the moment, for the kinds of assignments we are doing in the first few weeks of this class, a merely informative title will do.


Thank you Mr. Ryan

David Roth

The first time that I heard that song was a time I well remember

It all goes back some 20 years to Mr. Ryan’s classroom

One day he brought his old guitar and sang his favorite songs for us

And the single one that I remember most was "All My Trials"

Something in his simple singing touched my very sixth-grade soul

The harmonies he taught us are the ones that I still know today

The verse about the Tree of Life was wondrous to a 12-year old

And many times these twenty years I’ve wished that I could say



Thank you for the music Mr. Ryan

The simple gift you gave that day is one I’ve treasured dearly

I’ll always see you sitting up there singing "All My Trials"

You’ll never know how much it’s meant to me


I went home to see my folks in June, the town that I grew up in

Three of us were sitting in the kitchen having coffee

I mentioned Mr. Ryan, how I wondered what became of him

Mother said she’d heard that he’s still working at my school

I grabbed my coat and ran outside, retracing old familiar routes

The shortcut through the playground and the echo of the hallway

And there he was in Room Eleven, wiping off the blackboard

I took a breath and cleared my throat and stepped back into time




We sat and talked for quite a while, I don’t think that he remembered me

But I told him of my work and where I’ve been and what I’ve done

And finally he leaned back and said "It’s amazing that you come today

Just last night my mother and I were talking until one"

"She asked me was I happy, I said ‘yes, I love my teaching

But I’m sad I never married, that I never fathered children . . .’

‘Oh yes,’ she said, ‘oh yes, my son, you’ve fathered several hundred . . .’

And now I look across this cluttered desk, and here you’ve come"


"Thank you for the visit, my dear child

The simple gift you gave today is one I’ll treasure dearly

I’ll always see you sitting up there filling in these 20 years

You’ll never know how much it’s meant to me"

Wondrous: exciting wonder or surprise: wonderful, astonishing, marvelous, e.g., 1. a wondrous fairy tale; 2. wondrous ways to kill bacteria


(Optional) CLASS ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK 2 (Jan. 22)

Technicalities revisited

Mr. Ryan Revisited.

Review and unfinished business: Week 1.

One Piece at a Time: Answering the same 4 questions

Student Show & Tell (almost anything goes, as long as it’s interesting)

The Gossips: Still answering the same 4 questions

Ballad of the Landlord: Still answering the same 4 questions

Celebrating MLK Day (Jan. 19)—our way

Class discussion: Practical examples of the value of reading. 1. Buying toothpaste, yogurt, new car. 2. Your dentist and X-rays. 3. Gambling. 4. City ordinances about "noxious" weeds. 5. Do you "treat" your lawn, contaminate our water supply, and poison your kids and pets? 6. A critical look at your TV (or is it TVs?). 7. Is the USA a democracy? Is it a country for the people, by the people, and of the people? Or is it, as some people would have it, for the rich, by the rich, and of the rich? How do we find out? TV, radio, newspapers, OR BOOKS? 8. Interacting with an article from today’s newspaper.

Consulting a dictionary

Today’s fun puzzle: What’s the next figure?

Time’s permitting: A sermon from the podium. Topic: The Virtues of (free) BOOKS ON TAPE This will be followed by a practical demonstration: Kiswana Browne

Getting started with next week’s assignments.

Tuition Advisory: Last date for penalty-free withdrawal from this class--Monday, January 26, 2004 (?).


Due date: Next week

 Please read the following comments first—they are meant to save you time and re-writes!

Before anything else, I must understand what any writer is saying. In an essay, literal comprehension often implies the ability to restate the argument. In novels, short stories, poems, and plays, it implies a concise retelling of the plot in my own words. At this point, we shall focus primarily on this first, basic level of interacting with texts.

As an example, let's summarize the fable of the three little piggies, a traditional tale known to most Westerners. It has several variations, of which only one will be given here:

Once upon a time there were three pigs. The first pig built a house of straw; the second, of sticks; the third, of bricks. A hungry wolf was able to devour the first two pigs by blowing down their houses, but could neither eat the third pig nor blow down the house of bricks. The angry wolf then entered the brick house through the chimney. While the wolf was implementing his chimney strategy, the third pig placed a bowl of boiling water in the fireplace. The wolf landed in the water and died and the third pig lived happily ever after.

Assignment 1. Submit a copy of your entire Log of Lapses.

Assignment 2. Imagine that you need to read and then retell the first poem (Ballad—see below) to someone who has never read it before. So read it carefully. If necessary, read it a few times. Then close your Coursepack (or strike it off your screen) and retell the poem FROM MEMORY. Start with the background, giving title, author, time, and place, if known. Then re-tell the poem in your own words. Make sure that you don't forget anything important and that you are telling what actually happened. At the same time, try to make your summary short. Then read the poem again, making sure that you re-told the poem accurately, succinctly, and well. After you have your first complete and accurate draft, edit it as well as you can. At this point, check grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. As soon as this is done, e-mail me your draft. After receiving my reply, edit the story once more and e-mail me your last version.

Assignment 3. Now proceed to carry out the exact same process for the short story "Shep's Hobby" (see below).

Plagiarism Advisory: Under no circumstances should you consult the internet or books while writing this assignment. You can only learn anything from this class by struggling with the material on your own. It's your voice, your views, we are after, not someone else's. If I have reason to believe that you borrowed just once from any other source, apart from the assigned readings themselves, your grade for this entire course will be lowered by one full grade point (e.g., instead of a B in this class, you'll get a C.)



Johnny Cash
 Well, I left Kentucky back in '49
 An' went to Detroit workin' on a 'sembly line
 The first year they had me puttin' wheels on Cadillacs
 Every day I'd watch them beauties roll by
 And sometimes I'd hang my head and cry
 'Cause I always wanted me one that was long and black.
 One day I devised myself a plan
 That should be the envy of most any man
 I'd sneak it out of there in a lunchbox in my hand
 Now gettin' caught meant gettin' fired
 But I figured I'd have it all by the time I retired
 I'd have me a car worth at least a hundred grand.
 I'd get it one piece at a time
 And it wouldn't cost me a dime
 You'll know it's me when I come through your town
 I'm gonna ride around in style
 I'm gonna drive everybody wild
 'Cause I'll have the only one there is a round.
 So the very next day when I punched in
 With my big lunchbox and with help from my friends
 I left that day with a lunch box full of gears
 Now, I never considered myself a thief
 GM wouldn't miss just one little piece
 Especially if I strung it out over several years.
 The first day I got me a fuel pump
 And the next day I got me an engine and a trunk
 Then I got me a transmission and all of the chrome
 The little things I could get in my big lunchbox
 Like nuts, an' bolts, and all four shocks
 But the big stuff we snuck out in my buddy's mobile home.
 Now, up to now my plan went all right
 'Til we tried to put it all together one night
 And that's when we noticed that something was definitely wrong.
 The transmission was a '53
 And the motor turned out to be a '73
 And when we tried to put in the bolts all the holes were gone.
 So we drilled it out so that it would fit
 And with a little bit of help with an adaptor kit
 We had that engine runnin' just like a song
 Now the headlight' was another sight
 We had two on the left and one on the right
 But when we pulled out the switch all three of 'em came on.
 The back end looked kinda funny too
 But we put it together and when we got thru
 Well, that's when we noticed that we only had one tail-fin
 About that time my wife walked out
 And I could see in her eyes that she had her doubts
 But she opened the door and said "Honey, take me for a spin."
 So we drove up town just to get the tags
 And I headed her right on down main drag
 I could hear everybody laughin' for blocks around
 But up there at the courthouse they didn't laugh
 'Cause to type it up it took the whole staff
 And when they got through the title weighed sixty pounds.
 I got it one piece at a time
 And it didn't cost me a dime
 You'll know it's me when I come through your town
 I'm gonna ride around in style
 I'm gonna drive everybody wild
 'Cause I'll have the only one there is around.
 (Spoken) Ugh! Yow, RED RYDER
 This is the COTTON MOUTH
 Huh, This is the COTTON MOUTH
 And negatory on the cost of this mow-chine there RED RYDER
 You might say I went right up to the factory
 And picked it up, it's cheaper that way
 Ugh!, what model is it?
 Well, It's a '49, '50, '51, '52, '53, '54, '55, '56
 '57, '58' 59' automobile
 It's a '60, '61, '62, '63, '64, '65, '66, '67
 '68, '69, '70 automobile.


The Gossips


Advanced Dictionary Skills

Part I: Paper Dictionaries

A good dictionary tells us what words mean, how they sound, where they came from, and how they are used. Most people are aware of all that, but they may not be aware of two special features of dictionaries that are particularly useful:

I. For advanced writers and speakers, perhaps the most useful feature of a good, comprehensive dictionary is usage. Only the larger dictionaries (such as the Webster's International or the Complete Oxford) provide practical examples of how words are used in actual speech

The entry below (moratorium) is reproduced from Webster's Third International Dictionary. One of the definitions given for moratorium is "waiting period set by some authority: a delay officially required or granted." Now, this is a bit too abstract, and doesn't tell me how the word may be used in the real world. To remedy that deficiency, in a comprehensive dictionary such a definition is normally followed by a living example of how someone used this word in that particular sense. Here, we are told, somebody by the name of Douglass Cater said or wrote: "usually there was at least one day's moratorium on news coming out of such background briefings."

mor a to ri um \ n, pl moratoriums or moratoria [NL, fr. LL, neut. of moratorius dilatory, retarding] 1 a : a legally authorized period of delay in the performance of a legal obligation or the payment of a debt <asked the legislature for a moratorium of one year on farm mortgage payments> b : waiting period set by some authority : a delay officially required or granted <usually there was at least one day's moratorium on news coming out of such background briefings —Douglass Cater>— compare Indulgence 3c 2 : a suspension of activity : a temporary ban on the use or production of something <so thorough was the moratorium on brains that nobody in power dared do any primary thinking —J. R. Chamberlain> <a moratorium on new systems —C. W. Thornthwaite>

Part II: Internet Dictionaries.

Internet dictionaries accomplish a great deal that cannot be accomplished by paper dictionaries. To begin with, as you probably know from direct experience, you have to be a wizard to figure out the correct pronunciation of words from a conventional dictionary. Also,  in some cases, it’s difficult to visualize what they are talking about: no paper dictionaries can adequately explain, with mere words, what an aardvark or abacus look like. Moreover, the really good dictionaries, especially those providing examples of usage and origins of words, are expensive. As well, for those interested in foreign languages, both expense and pronunciation pose serious problems. Some internet dictionaries are free, and are often accompanied by sounds and pictures. One such dictionary is the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

Another is the Oxford Dictionary, available to you as a Wayne State University Student through Wayne State Libraries, which you can access from your home.

So, if you are not sure about shades of meanings of a particular word, you go to a mammoth dictionary like the Merriam-Webster International; if you are scheduled to give an oral presentation and are unsure about pronunciation, you may wish to either buy a speaking dictionary or get one, free, on the web.


Langston Hughes: A Biographical Note

James Langston Hughes (1902-1967), a leading interpreter of the Afro-American experience, was born in Joplin, Missouri. His poetry is strongly influenced by such traditional black art forms as spirituals and the blues. He earned a B.A. from Lincoln University in 1929, a year which also saw the publication of his first novel, Not Without Laughter. Other works include Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951) and Simple States a Claim (1971).

Langston Hughes's short stories won him a large audience. His stories open a window into the lives of ordinary, struggling African-Americans in the United States. The edge of bitterness in Hughes's work does not take away from its essentially humane, comical, and ironical aspects. His satire of both whites and blacks establishes the extent of social injustice in America and creates a cast of characters who are resourceful and helpless, courageous and reticent, altruistic and self-serving. The colloquial vigor of Afro-American speech (but do not try to follow this in our class—keep it for creative writing assignments; at the moment, our focus is standard English) is clearly seen in the ballad below.


Langston Hughes

Landlord, landlord,

My roof has sprung a leak.

Don't you 'member I told you about it

Way last week?

Landlord, landlord,

These steps is broken down.

When you come up yourself

It's a wonder you don't fall down.

Ten Bucks you say I owe you?

Ten Bucks you say is due?

Well, that's Ten Bucks more'n I'll pay you

Till you fix this house up new.

What? You gonna get eviction orders?

You gonna cut off my heat?

You gonna take my furniture and

Throw it in the street?

Um-huh! You talking high and mighty.

Talk on—till you get through.

You ain't gonna be able to say a word

If I land my fist on you.

Police! Police!

Come and get this man!

He's trying to ruin the government

And overturn the land!

Copper's whistle!

Patrol bell!


Precinct Station.

Iron cell.

Headlines in press:





Shep's Hobby

"James Herriot"


"Shep's Hobby" has been taken from James Herriot's Dog Stories. Some of Mr. Herriot's animal stories were serialized on the BBC Television series, All Creatures Great and Small.

James Herriot


Mr. Bailes's little place was situated about half-way along Highburn Village, and to get into the farmyard you had to walk twenty yards or so between five-foot walls. On the left was the neighbouring house, on the right the front garden of the farm. In this garden Shep lurked for most of the day.

He was a huge dog, much larger than the average Collie. In fact I am convinced he was part Alsatian, because though he had a luxuriant black and white coat there was something significant in the massive limbs and in the noble brown-shaded head with its upstanding ears. He was quite different from the stringy little animals I saw on my daily round.

As I walked between the walls my mind was already in the byre, just visible at the far end of the yard. Because one of the Bailes's cows, Rose by name, had the kind of obscure digestive ailment which interferes with veterinary surgeons' sleep. They are so difficult to diagnose. This animal had begun to grunt and go off her milk two days ago, and when I had seen her yesterday I had flitted from one possibility to the other. Could it be a wire? But the fourth stomach was contracting well and there were plenty of rumenal sounds. Also she was eating a little hay in a half-hearted way.

Could it be impaction . . . ? Or a partial torsion of the gut . . . ? There was abdominal pain without a doubt and that nagging temperature of 102.5N—that was damn like a wire. Of course I could settle the whole thing by opening the cow up, but Mr. Bailes was an old-fashioned type and didn't like the idea of my diving into his animal unless I was certain of my diagnosis. And I wasn't there was no getting away from that.

I was half-way down the alley between the walls with the hope bright before me that my patient would be improved, when from nowhere an appalling explosion of sound blasted into my right ear. It was Shep again.

The wall was just the right height for the dog to make a leap and bark into the ear of the passers-by. It was a favourite gambit of his and I had been caught before; but never so successfully as now. My attention had been so far away and the dog had timed his jump to a split second so that his bark came at the highest point, his teeth only inches from my face. And his voice befitted his size, a great bull bellow surging from the depths of his powerful chest and booming from his gaping jaws.

I rose several inches into the air and when I descended, heart thumping, head singing, I glared over the wall. But as usual all I saw was the hairy form bounding away out of sight round the corner of the house.

That was what puzzled me. Why did he do it? Was he a savage creature with evil designs on me, or was it his idea of a joke? I never got near enough to him to find out.

I wasn't in the best of shape to receive bad news and that was what awaited me in the byre. I had only to look at the farmer's face to know that the cow was worse.

"Ah reckon she's got a stoppage," Mr. Bailes muttered gloomily.

I gritted my teeth. The entire spectrum of abdominal disorders were lumped as "stoppages" by the older race of farmers. "The oil hasn't worked, then?"

"Nay, she's nobbut passin' little hard bits. It's a proper stoppage, ah tell you."

"Right, Mr. Bailes," I said with a twisted smile. "We'll have to try something stronger." I brought in from my car the gastric lavage outfit I loved so well and which has so sadly disappeared from my life. The long rubber stomach tube, the wooden gag with its leather straps to buckle behind the horns. As I pumped in the two gallons of warm water rich in formalin and sodium chloride I felt like Napoleon sending in the Old Guard at Waterloo. If this didn't work, nothing would.

Next morning I was driving down the single village street when I saw Mrs. Bailes coming out of the shop. I drew up and pushed my head out of the window.

"How's Rose this morning, Mrs. Bailes?"

She rested her basket on the ground and looked down at me gravely. "Oh, she's bad, Mr. Herriot. Me husband thinks she's goin' down fast. If you want to find him you'll have to go across the field there. He's mindin' the door in that little barn."

A sudden misery enveloped me as I drove over to the gate leading into the field. I left the car in the road and lifted the latch.

"Damn! Damn! Damn!" I muttered as I trailed across the green. I had a nasty feeling that a little tragedy was building up here. If this animal died it would be a sickening blow to a small farmer with ten cows and a few pigs. I should be able to do something about it and it was a depressing thought that I was getting nowhere.

And yet, despite it all, I felt peace stealing into my soul. It was a large field and I could see the barn at the far end as I walked with the tall grass brushing my knees. It was a meadow ready for cutting and suddenly I realised that it was high summer, the sun was hot and that every step brought the fragrance of clover and warm grass rising about me into the crystal freshness of the air. Somewhere nearby a field of broad beans was in full flower, and as the exotic scent drifted across I found myself inhaling with half-closed eyes as though straining to discern the ingredients of the glorious melange.

And then there was the silence; it was the most soothing thing of all. That and the feeling of being alone. I looked drowsily around at the empty green miles sleeping under the sunshine. Nothing stirred, there was no sound.

Then without warning the ground at my feet erupted in an incredible blast of noise. For a dreadful moment the blue sky was obscured by an enormous hairy form and a red mouth went "waaahh!" in my face. Almost screaming, I staggered back, and as I glared wildly I saw Shep disappearing at top speed towards the gate. Concealed in the deep herbage right in the middle of the field he had waited till he saw the whites of my eyes before making his assault.

Whether he had been there by accident or whether he had spotted me arriving and slunk into position I shall never know, but from his point of view the result must have been eminently satisfactory because it was certainly the worst fright I have ever had. I live a life which is well larded with scares and alarms, but this great dog rising bellowing from that empty landscape was something on its own. I have heard of cases where sudden terror and stress has caused involuntary evacuation of the bowels, and I know without question that this was the occasion when I came nearest to suffering that unhappy fate.

I was still trembling when I reached the barn and hardly said a word as Mr. Bailes led me back across the road to the farm.

And it was like rubbing it in when I saw my patient. The flesh had melted from her and she stared at the wall apathetically from sunken eyes. The doom-laden grunt was louder.

I decided to have one last go with the lavage. It was still the strongest weapon in my armoury but this time I added two pounds of black treacle to the mixture. Nearly every farmer had a barrel of the stuff in his cow house in those days and I had only to go into the corner and turn the tap.

It was not till the following afternoon that I drove into Highburn. I left the car outside the farm and was about to walk between the walls when I paused and stared at a cow in the field on the other side of the road. It was a pasture next to the hayfield of yesterday and that cow was Rose. There could be no mistake she was a fine deep red with a distinctive white mark like a football on her left flank.

I opened the gate and within seconds my cares dropped from me. She was wonderfully, miraculously improved, in fact she looked like a normal animal. I walked up to her and scratched the root of her tail. She was a docile creature and merely looked round at me as she cropped the grass; and her eyes were no longer sunken but bright and full.

As the wave of relief flooded through me I saw Mr. Bailes climbing over the wall from the next field. He would still be mending that barn door.

As he approached I felt a pang of commiseration. I had to guard against any display of triumph after all the poor chap had been worried. No, it wouldn't do to preen myself unduly.

"Ah, good morning to you, Mr. Bailes," I said expansively. "Rose looks fine today, doesn't she?"

The farmer took off his cap and wiped his brow. "Aye, she's a different cow, all right."

"I don't think she needs any more treatment," I said. I hesitated. Perhaps one little dig would do no harm. "But it's a good thing I gave her that extra lavage yesterday."

"Yon pumpin' job?" Mr. Bailes raised his eyebrows. "Oh that had nowt to do with it."

"What . . . what do you mean? It cured her, surely."

"Nay, lad, nay, Jim Oakley cured her."

"Jim . . . what on earth . . . ?"

"Aye, Jim was round 'ere last night. He often comes in of an evenin' and he took one look at the cow and told me what to do. Ah'll tell you she was like dyin' that pumpin' job hadn't done no good at all. He told me to give her a bloody good gallop round t'field."


"Aye, that's what he said. He'd seen 'em like that afore and a good gallop put 'em right. So we got Rose out here and did as he said and by gaw it did the trick. She looked better right away."

I drew myself up. "And who," I asked frigidly, "is Jim Oakley?"

"He's t'postman, of course."

"The postman!"

"Aye, but he used to keep a few beasts years ago. He's a very clever man wi' stock, is Jim."

"No doubt, but I assure you, Mr. Bailes . . ."

The farmer raised a hand. "Say no more, lad. Jim put 'er right and there's no denyin' it. I wish you'd seen 'im chasin' 'er round. He's as awd as me, but by gaw 'e did go. He can run like 'ell, can Jim." He chuckled reminiscently.

I had had about enough. During the farmer's eulogy I had been distractedly scratching the cow's tail and had soiled my hand in the process. Mustering the remains of my dignity I nodded to Mr. Bailes.

"Well, I must be on my way. Do you mind if I go into the house to wash my hands?"

"You go right in," he replied. "T'missus will get you some hot water."

It seemed to take a long time to reach the end of the wall and I was about to turn right towards the door of the farm kitchen when from my left I heard the sudden rattle of a chain, then a roaring creature launched itself at me, bayed once, mightily, into my face and was gone.

This time I thought my heart would stop. With my defences at their lowest I was in no state to withstand Shep. I had quite forgotten that Mrs. Bailes occasionally tethered him in the kennel at the entrance to discourage unwelcome visitors, and as I half lay against the wall, the blood thundering in my ears, I looked dully at the long coil of chain on the cobbles.

I have no time for people who lose their temper with animals but something snapped in my mind then. All my frustration burst from me in a torrent of incoherent shouts and I grabbed the chain and began to pull on it frenziedly. That dog which had tortured me was there in that kennel. For once I knew where to get at him and this time I was going to have the matter out with him. The kennel would be about ten feet away and at first I saw nothing. There was only the dead weight on the end of the chain. Then as I hauled inexorably a nose appeared, then a head, then all of the big animal hanging limply by his collar. He showed no desire to get up and greet me but I was merciless and dragged him inch by inch over the cobbles till he was lying at my feet.

Beside myself with rage, I crouched, shook my fist under his nose and yelled at him from a few inches' range.

"You big bugger! If you do that to me again I'll knock your bloody head off! Do you hear me, I'll knock your bloody head clean off!"

Shep rolled frightened eyes at me and his tail flickered apologetically between his legs. When I continued to scream at him he bared his upper teeth in an ingratiating grin and finally rolled on his back where he lay inert with half-closed eyes.

So now I knew. He was a softie. All his ferocious attacks were just a game. I began to calm down but for all that I wanted him to get the message.

"Right, mate," I said in a menacing whisper. "Remember what I've said!" I let go the chain and gave a final shout. "Now get back in there!"

Shep, almost on his knees, tail tucked well in, shot back into his kennel and I turned toward the farmhouse to wash my hands.

I was surprised when, about a month later, I received another call to one of Mr. Bailes's cows. I felt that after my performance with Rose he would have called on the services of Jim Oakley for any further trouble. But no, his voice on the phone was as polite and friendly as ever, with not a hint that he had lost faith. It was strange . . .

Leaving my car outside the farm I looked warily into the front garden before venturing between the walls. A faint tinkle of metal told me that Shep was lurking there in his kennel and I slowed my steps; I wasn't going to be caught again. At the end of the alley I paused, waiting, but all I saw was the end of a nose which quietly withdrew as I stood there. So my outburst had got through to the big dog—he knew I wasn't going to stand any more nonsense from him.

And yet, as I drove away after the visit, I didn't feel good about it. A victory over an animal is a hollow one and I had the uncomfortable feeling that I had deprived him of his chief pleasure. After all, every creature is entitled to some form of recreation and though Shep's hobby could result in the occasional heart failure it was, after all, his thing and part of him. The thought that I had crushed something out of his life was a disquieting one. I wasn't proud.

So that when, later that summer, I was driving through Highburn, I paused in anticipation outside the Bailes's farm. The village street, white and dusty, slumbered under the afternoon sun. In the blanketing silence nothing moved—except for one small man strolling towards the opening between the walls. He was fat and very dark—one of the tinkers from a camp outside the village—and he carried an armful of pots and pans.

From my vantage point I could see through the railings into the front garden where Shep was slinking noiselessly into position beneath the stones. Fascinated, I watched as the man turned unhurriedly into the opening and the dog followed the course of the disembodied head along the top of the wall.

As I expected it all happened half-way along. The perfectly timed leap, the momentary pause at the summit, then the tremendous "WOOF!" into the unsuspecting ear.

It had its usual effect. I had a brief view of flailing arms and flying pans followed by a prolonged metallic clatter, then the little man reappeared like a projectile, turned right and sped away from me up the street. Considering his almost round physique he showed an astonishing turn of speed, his little legs pistoning, and he did not pause till he disappeared into the shop at the far end of the village.

I don't know why he went in there because he wouldn't find any stronger restorative than ginger pop.

Shep, apparently well satisfied, wandered back over the grass and collapsed in a cool patch where an apple tree threw its shade over the grass; head on paws, he waited in comfort for his next victim.

I smiled to myself as I let in the clutch and moved off. I would stop at the shop and tell the little man that he could collect his pans without the slightest fear of being torn limb from limb, but my overriding emotion was one of relief that I had not cut the sparkle out of the big dog's life.

Shep was still having his fun.


Puzzle: What’s the next figure?



Review; Unfinished Topics: Weeks 1 and 2.

Editing game: In small groups, please edit the sentences below. The groups will then compete for first place (rules to be explained in class).

Listening to and getting the most of "The Swallows."

Show & Tell

Scanning and correcting some mistakes you made in your last assignment

The apostrophe

Today’s fun puzzle: Cups

Strategies for identifying and avoiding common writing errors: its, their, you’re . . .

"Past and Present"

Essay Writing: Responding, choosing a topic and preparing an outline: in-class writing exercise.



Due date: Next week

Submit a copy of your Log of Lapses

In one paragraph, please compare your life to the life of the narrator of "The Swallows."

Summarize and interpret Herodotus’ Astyages’ Revenge (below).

Prepare a five-minute class presentation on the topic: My favorite book (or movie, or song, or activity, or ?) is. The book is about . . . My reasons for loving this particular book are . . .

Before starting your assignments, please read these comments—they are meant to save you time and re-writes!

We have discussed already the first level of interacting with texts—retelling (or summary, or literal comprehension). But there is more to reading than retelling a story. Another crucial aspect of reading is interpretation (or moral, or hidden message, or unstated point).

Thus, key points of works of fiction and nonfiction are often implied (and not directly stated). The art of inferring these key points is called INTERPRETATION. At this point, I am concerned with the moral of the story or with the hidden message the writer is trying to convey. As a reader of a short story, for example, I must decipher the meaning behind the plot. Often, this level also involves the question: Can some points be extended to circumstances beyond those directly touched upon by the author?

Again, let's make this abstraction clear by looking at the three pigs. We used to tell stories such as this endlessly to our children to entertain them, of course, but also to educate them. Now, what kind of education went on here (even if we were not conscious of what we were doing)? Obviously, it's through such stories that kids learn to communicate well and become socialized. But such stories serve other purposes; and here’s where the hidden message comes into play. So, let’s try to interpret the pig story.

The teller of this story is probably trying to convey to us one or more of these messages: Build your house on solid foundations. Or: invest in your future. Or: Better safe than sorry. Or: If you fail to invest in your future, you may have to pay a terrible price.

Note that finding the moral of a story involves some creativity and hard thinking on your part. Note also that any such interpretation contains an element of uncertainty—this might be what the writer is trying to say, but we can't be sure. For this reason, this part of your homework must contain an explanation. For instance, "I believe that the author is trying to tell us that we must work hard to secure a safe future. I believe that this is the hidden message in the story because the first two pigs cut corners, avoided expenses of time and money, built their house of flimsy materials. This nonchalance cost them their lives. On the other hand, the pig who worked hard and paid cold sweat and hard cash for a strong house, survived. His house, but not the others', was truly his castle.



Editing Game:

1. Soon I began to teach at Wayne State. First teaching underwater basket weaving and later teaching moonshining.

2. Diane was elected top editor in this class. And was provided with an honorary pencil.

3. They did not recognize me. My beard gone and hair turned white.

4. We were trying to follow directions. Which were confusing and absurd.

5. Mary stutters whenever she see Joe. And whenever she see her math instructor.

6. She was not an outstanding success at her first job, she was not a complete failure either.

7. I ran over some broken glass in the parking lot, it did not puncture my tires.

8. The tiny storms cannot be identified as hurricanes therefore, they are called neutercanes.

9. The train departs at a reasonable late hour.

10. The diver was experience.

11. Our swimming pool is more deeper than Lake Michigan.

12. This guy is really the most craziest guy I have ever seen.

13. Seven candidates entered the mayor race in Detroit.

14. He didn't guard no goal.

15. It ain't nothing but a rooster.

16. I hate this job, but with an annual salary of $120,000 I couldn't hardly afford to quit.

17. These differences aside the resemblance between 1972 and 1980 is striking.

18. The boy is black handsome and smart.

19. An experienced teacher generally speaking doesn't run up against this kind of problem.

20. Today native Americans are still exploited not for land but for minerals.


Las Golondrinas

Vinieron en tardes serenas de estío, 
cruzando los aires en vuelo veloz, 
y en tibios aleros formaron sus nidos, 
sus nidos formaron, piando de amor.

Que blancos sus pechos, sus alas que bellas, 
que bellas sus alas formadas en cruz 
y como alegraban las tardes aquellas, 
las tardes aquellas bañadas de luz.

Así en la mañana jovial de mi vida, 
Vinieron las alas de la juventud, 
amores y ensueños como golondrinas, 
como golondrinas bañadas de luz

Mas vino el invierno y sus ráfagas frías, 
la rubia mañana llorosa se fue
se fueron los sueños y las golondrinas
y las golondrinas se fueron también.


The Swallows

Lyrics: Luis Rosado Vega

Music: Ricardo Palmerin

They arrived in the summer’s quiet afternoons

Crisscrossing the air in swift flights,

Building their nests under warm eaves,

Building their nests and chirping of love.


How white were their chests, how lovely their wings

How lovely their wings shaped like a cross

How they brightened those afternoons,

Those afternoons bathed in light.


Thus in the cheerful morning of my life

My wings of youth came with

Loves and fantasies as flighty as swallows

Like swallows, bathed in light


Then winter came, with its chilling gusts of wind,

The fair morning left in tears, 

The dreams and the swallows departed, 

And the swallows departed as well.


Spotlight: The Long-Suffering Apostrophe

For most people, the little apostrophe is an enigma—they know it’s being used in English, but they know not when or how. Yet, the rules are pretty simple, and, with will power and discipline, can be acquired by anyone. And it’s certainly worth it: Mastering it would add clarity to your writing, and will save you needless embarrassment.. So, if you are a lousy apostropher, please, please, read the following and, for the next few weeks, ask yourself while you edit your work: Did I follow the simple rules for the use of the apostrophe?

We must begin though with plurals. In English we say:

One boy / two boys

One lady / five ladies

One kiss / one million kisses

Note the ABSENCE of any apostrophe whatsoever above. We simply add an s, or a ies, or es—nothing more.

But, unlike, for example, Spanish or Hebrew, English has a wonderful way of saying that something belongs to someone.

Hat of the boy = The boy’s hat

The hobby of Shep = Shep’s hobby

The trip of the vet = The vet’s trip

The e-mail of everybody = Everybody’s e-mail

But what do we do when we wish to say that something belongs to more than one person or object? We move the apostrophe to the right:

The hat of the boys = The boys’ hat

The hobbies of the dogs = The dogs’ hobbies

The trip of the vets = the vets’ trip

Profiles of students = Students’ profiles

That’s (almost) all there is to it. Now, do you really want to go on botching something that simple for the rest of your life, or are you willing to take a hard look at these rules, and conscientiously apply them to your work until they become second nature?


Past and Present

Thomas Hood

[Note:  This poem—perhaps one of the most touching in the English language—was published in 1826]

I remember, I remember,
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon,
Nor brought too long a day,
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!

I remember, I remember,
The roses, red and white,
The vi'lets, and the lily-cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,—
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember,
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!

I remember, I remember,
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from heav'n
Than when I was a boy.




Astyages' Revenge



After all this, Cyaxares died, having been king for forty years (if you include those years when the Scythians held sway), and Astyages, his son, succeeded him.

Now Astyages had a daughter whose name was Mandane, and Astyages saw her in a dream making water so greatly that she filled all his city and flooded, besides, all of Asia. He confided this dream to those of the Magi who were dream interpreters, and, when he learned the particulars of their exposition, he feared greatly. When Mandane was ripe for a man, Astyages, since he dreaded his dream, gave her to no one of the Medes who were worthy to marry into his house but to a Persian called Cambyses, whom he found to be a man of good house and peaceable temper; and he thought this Persian was much below a Mede of even middle class.

When Mandane was living with her husband in their first year, Astyages saw another vision; it seemed to him that out of his daughter's privy parts there grew a vine, and the vine shaded all Asia. This, then, he saw; and again he entrusted the matter to the dream interpreters and sent to recall his daughter from where she lived among the Persians, she then being big with child. When she came, he kept her under ward, because he wished to destroy whatever should be born of her. For from his vision the interpreters among the Magi had read the signs to mean that the child of his daughter would become king in his place. It was against this that Astyages guarded, and so when Cyrus was born he summoned Harpagus, his kinsman, the faithfullest of the Medes and the steward of all that he had. "Harpagus," he said, "here is a matter I am entrusting to you; by no means mishandle it, nor yet deceive me and choose others: should you do so, you shall thereafter bring upon yourself a fall into ruin. Take this child that Mandane bore and bring it to your own house and kill it, and afterwards bury it in whatever way you please." Harpagus answered, "My lord, never yet have you seen even a hint of what is untoward in me, and I shall give heed that in the time to come, too, I shall not offend against you. If it is your pleasure that this be so, then it shall be mine to serve you duly."

So Harpagus answered him. When the baby was given him, all decked out for his death, Harpagus went weeping to his house, and on coming there he told his wife all the story that Astyages had told him. "And now what is in your mind to do?" she asked. "Certainly not what Astyages has ordered me," was his answer; "not though he shall be even more frantic and mad than now he is will I fall in with his judgment and be his servant in such a murder. There are many reasons why I will not murder the child: because he is akin to me and because Astyages is an old man and childless in male issue. If it should happen that after his death the crown should devolve upon his daughter, whose son Astyages has killed by my hands, what is left for me, from then on, but the greatest peril? Yet for my own safety the child must die; but it must be one of Astyages' folk that will be its murderer and none of mine."

So he said and at once sent a messenger to that one of Astyages' herdsmen whom he knew to graze his flocks in the pastures most suitable for his purpose and in mountains where wild beasts were most common. The man's name was Mitradates, and he lived with a woman who was a slave like himself and was called in Greek Cyno and in Median Spako; for the Medians call a bitch Spako. The foothills where this herdsman grazed his cattle were to the north of Ecbatana and toward the Euxine Sea; for at this point the country of the Medes, toward the Saspires, is hilly, high, and with dense thickets, but all the rest of Media is a flat plain. When the herdsman arrived in great haste at his summons, Harpagus said: "It is Astyages' command to you that you take this child and expose it on the loneliest part of the hills, that it may the soonest perish; and he has ordered me to tell you that if you do not kill it, but in any way bear a hand in its survival, he will cause you yourself to die the most terrible of deaths. I myself have instructions to supervise the child's exposure."

When the herdsman heard this, he took up the baby and went the same road home until he came to his homestead. Now his own wife was near her time all that day, and, as God would somehow have it so, she gave birth when her husband had gone to the city. They were much in one another's thoughts, these two; for the man was afraid for his wife in labor, and the woman for her man, whom Harpagus, in so unaccustomed a fashion, had summoned to his presence. Then he came back and stood before her, and the woman, as the sight of him was unexpected, was the first to ask him why Harpagus had been so instant in sending for him. The herdsman said: "Wife, I came to the city and saw and heard something I wish I had not seen nor that it should have happened to our masters. For the whole house of Harpagus was in a tumult of lamentation, and I went into it bewildered. When I came in, I saw a baby lying there, struggling and crying; he was decked out with gold ornaments, and his clothes were finely embroidered. When Harpagus saw me, he bade me take up the child speedily and go and expose it on the hills where the beasts are thickest; he said it was Astyages who had laid these commands on me, and he added many threats if I should disobey. I took up the child and bore it here, thinking it must be from one of the household, since I had no inkling where it should have come from. But I marveled to see the gold and the raiment and the lamentation so manifest in Harpagus' house. As I came along the road, I learned the whole story from one of the servants, who escorted me out of the city and put the baby into my hands. He said it was the child of Mandane, the daughter of Astyages and of Cambyses, son of Cyrus, and that it was Astyages' command that it should be killed. So now, here he is."

Even as he spoke, the herdsman took the covering from the baby and showed it to her. When his wife saw the child so big and beautiful, she burst into tears, and taking her man by the knees she besought him by no means to expose it. He said he could not do otherwise; for spies were to come from Harpagus to oversee the matter, and the herdsman would die a cruel death if he disobeyed. So when the woman could not persuade her man, she said next, "Since I cannot persuade you not to expose it, you must do this—if a child must necessarily be seen exposed. I, too, have given birth, and the baby I bore was dead. Take then the dead boy and expose it, and let us bring up, as our own, this child of Astyages' daughter. So you will not be detected in cheating our masters, and we shall ourselves have arranged our business well enough. For the dead child will have a royal burial, and the survivor will not lose his life."

The herdsman thought that his wife counseled very well in his present trouble, and he immediately did as she said. The child he had brought and of whom he should have been the deathman he confided to his wife; but his own child that was dead he took up and placed in the box wherein he had brought the other. He put on the dead body all the ornaments of that other child and bore it off to the loneliest part of the hills and left it there. When the third day came on the exposed child, the herdsman went to the city, leaving one of his underlings to guard it, and came to the house of Harpagus and said he was ready to show him the body. Harpagus sent some of the trustiest of his bodyguard, and through their agency saw and buried the body that was the herdsman's child. So that one was buried, and he that was afterwards called Cyrus was taken over by the herdsman's wife and brought up by her, though of course she put another name on him and not Cyrus.

When the child was ten years old, the following thing happened to him and revealed him. He was playing in the village where the herdsmen's houses were, playing in the road with other children of the same age. The children in their play chose him for their king—him who was called the cowherd's son. So he made his several orders for all of them to build houses and those to be bodyguards, and one of them, I suppose, to be the King's Eye. And to another he assigned the privilege of carrying messages to him. To each of them he gave his special function. One of the children the boy played with was the son of Artembares, a man of distinction among the Medes. This boy refused to discharge an order of Cyrus, at which Cyrus bade the other children arrest him; and when they obeyed him, he treated the rebel very roughly and had him whipped. As soon as he was let go, the child became even angrier (for he felt that he had suffered in a way unbefitting his rank) and went back to the town and complained to his father of how he had been dealt with by Cyrus, though of course he did not call him "Cyrus" (since that was not yet his name) but "the son of Astyages' herdsman." Artembares was very angry indeed and went to Astyages, taking his son with him and declaring that what he had suffered was not to be borne. "My lord," he said, "it is at the hands of your slave, the cowherd's child, that we have endured such insults as this," and he pointed to his son's shoulders.

Astyages listened to him and saw what had been done and wished to avenge Artembares' son, because of Artembares' high position, and so he sent for the cowherd and his son. When they both came before him, Astyages glanced at Cyrus and said, "You are the son of such a father as this, and did you dare to chastise so shamefully the son of one who is of the first honor with me?" The boy answered him: "Master, I did this to him, and with justice I did it. For the children of the village, of whom he was one, in their play made me their king; they judged that I was the most suited to the office. All the other boys did what I bade them do, but this one was deaf to my orders and would none of them, until finally he was punished for it. So if for this I deserve to suffer some ill, here am I to take it."

As the boy spoke, Astyages was visited by a kind of recognition; besides, the look on the boy's face seemed to him to resemble his own and his style of answering to be too free for what he appeared to be; also, the date of the exposure seemed to jibe with this boy's age. The king was thunderstruck by all this and for a time could say nothing. Hardly, at last, he rallied himself and—anxious to get rid of Artembares so that he could examine the cowherd privately—he said, "Artembares, I will so deal with this matter that neither you nor your son will have grounds of complaint." So he sent Artembares off; and the servants, at Astyages' command, took Cyrus inside. Then, when the king and the cowherd were quite alone, Astyages put his question to him: "Where did you get this child, and who gave him to you?" The man said that the child was his own and that his mother was still at home. Astyages said: "You are not well advised to want to bring yourself to the extremity of what you may suffer," and with these words he gave a sign to his bodyguards to seize the man. The cowherd in his desperation told the real story. He began at the beginning, followed the truth of it right through, and ended with entreaties, begging Astyages to pardon him.

When the cowherd revealed the truth, Astyages took less account of him then and there; but he was furious with Harpagus and bade the bodyguards summon him. When Harpagus came, Astyages asked him, "Harpagus, what sort of death did you use to destroy my daughter's child, whom I entrusted to you?" Now Harpagus saw the cowherd in the house, so he did not turn to the road of lies, in which he would surely be discovered and refuted, but said: "My lord, when I received the child, I debated with myself how I might do your pleasure and be clear of offense toward you but also how I might not be a murderer in your daughter's sight and in your own. This is what I did. I summoned this cowherd here and gave him the child, saying that it was your command to kill it. And in so saying I told no lie; for you had indeed given that order. So I gave it to him with instructions in this sense, that he should expose it on a lonely mountain and stand by and watch it till it died; and I used a world of threats if he should not do all of this. He did my commands; the child died, and I sent the trustiest of my eunuchs; and by their means I saw him dead and buried him. This, my lord, is exactly how it was, and this is how the child died."

So Harpagus told the story straightly; but Astyages concealed the anger he felt at what had happened, and first of all he told over to Harpagus what he had heard from the herdsman in the matter, and afterwards, when it had all been told twice, he ended by saying that the child was alive and that the business was well enough. "For I suffered greatly," he went on to say, "at what was done to this child, and I took it as no light thing to be estranged from my daughter. So since the luck has turned out well, will you send your son here to join this newcomer among us and will you yourself come to dinner? For I propose to celebrate a ceremonial sacrifice to those gods to whom honor is due for this saving of my grandchild."

Harpagus, on hearing this, did obeisance; and regarding it as a great thing that his offense had come out so well, and appositely, and that he was invited to dinner on such a fortunate occasion, went to his house. As he came in, he met his only son, a boy of about thirteen years, and sent him off to Astyages, telling him to go there and do whatever the king ordered him. And in his delight he told his wife all that had happened. When Harpagus' son came to Astyages, the king cut his throat and chopped him limb from limb, and some of him he roasted and some he stewed and, having dressed all, held it in readiness. When it was the dining hour and the other guest had come, then for those other guests and for Astyages himself there were set tables full of mutton, but, before Harpagus, the flesh of his own son, all save for the head and the extremities of the hands and the feet; these were kept separate, covered up in a basket. When it seemed that Harpagus had had enough of his meal, Astyages asked him how he liked the feast. "Very much indeed," said Harpagus; and then those whose instruction it was brought in the head and the hands and the feet of his son, covered; these men stood before Harpagus and bade him uncover and take what he pleased from it. Harpagus did so and, uncovering, saw the remains of his son. But when he saw them, he gave no signs of disturbance and remained quite himself. Astyages asked him if he new what wild thing it was whose flesh he had been eating. "Yes," he said, "I know; whatsoever my lord the king does is pleasing." So he answered and, taking up what was left of the flesh, went home, resolved, I suppose, to gather all together and bury it.

This was the penalty Astyages laid upon Harpagus; but when he came to think about Cyrus, he summoned those same Magi who had expounded his dream in their sense. When they came, Astyages asked them how it was that they had expounded the dream. They answered in the same terms as before, declaring that had the boy survived and not died first, he must needs have become king. At this he answered them: "The boy lives, he has survived; and when he was living out in the country, the children in the village made him their king. He did all the things that real kings do: he appointed bodyguards and sentries and messengers and made all the other arrangements, and so he ruled. Now I would know toward what you think all these things tend." The Magi said: "If indeed the boy survives and has become king with no connivance, be of good cheer and good heart: he will not come to rule a second time. Some, even of our prophecies, issue in very small matters, and in all that pertains to dreams the fulfillment is often in something trifling." Said Astyages: "I am myself strongly of your opinion, Magi—that since the child has been called king, the dream has come out, and so the boy will be no future threat to me. Yet I would have you counsel me carefully, with heedful concern for what will be safest for my house and for yourselves." The Magi answered, "My lord, that your rule should stand safely is of the utmost importance to ourselves. For otherwise the crown will fall into alien hands; it will devolve on this boy, who is Persian, and we, being Medes, will be enslaved by the Persians and become of no consequence with relation to them, since we will be foreigners in our own land. But so long as you are king, who are our countryman, we have our share in the rule and great honor from you. So we must certainly look out for you and for your authority. If now we saw anything to be feared in this matter, we would have told you everything. As it is, the dream has issued in something trifling; we are ourselves quite confident and bid you be the same. So send the boy away from your sight to the Persians and his parents."

When Astyages heard this, he was very glad and summoned Cyrus and said to him, "My boy, I did you a wrong because of a vision I saw in a dream, a vision that found no fulfillment; but through your own destiny you have survived. Go then, and fare you well, to the Persians, and I will send an escort with you. When you get there, you will find a father and mother of different style from Mitradates, the cowherd, and his wife."

With these words Astyages sent Cyrus away. When the boy came to the house of Cambyses, his parents received him; and after they had received him, they heard all; their welcome was full of joy, for they had understood him to have died so long ago; and they questioned him as to how he had survived. He told them, saying that until now he had himself not known of it but was greatly astray, but that on the road he had learned all that had happened him; he had believed that he was the son of Astyages' cowherd, but as he had traveled thither he had heard the whole story from his escort. He had been raised by the cowherd's wife, he said, and, as he told it, he was continually praising her, and indeed, in the tale he told, everything was Cyno. His parents caught at the name, and, so as to make the Persians think that their son's survival was even more a thing of God's contriving, they spread the rumor that Cyrus, exposed, had been suckled by a bitch.

From this, then, that legend has grown. But when Cyrus had become a young man and, indeed, of all those of his age the bravest and the most loved, Harpagus courted him with gifts, for he was eager to take his own vengeance on Astyages. He saw no possibility of any punishment coming upon the king from one who was only a private person, but, as he observed Cyrus growing up, he tried to make an ally of him; for in the shape of Cyrus' sufferings he saw his own.


The Cups Puzzle: Three glasses contain liquid, and three are empty.  Rearrange the glasses so that they alternate—one with liquid, one without, one with liquid, one without, etc.  You are allowed to touch or move only one glass.





Sign up for an individual consultation next week.

Scanning and correcting some of your writing oversights

Review of weeks 1-3

Student presentations

Class reading and discussion: She Sings me to Sleep wit Laughter

Today’s fun puzzle: balance scale

Writing an EPE-style essay.


Due date: Next week

Choose a title and write an outline for an EPE-style essay responding to Oprah Winfrey’s views on books and freedom (note: if you want to re-listen to that interview, go to: and then click "Oprah Winfrey").



She Sings Me To Sleep With Laughter


Don White




I understand exhaustion. Exhaustion and I have a longstanding and deeply intimate knowledge of one another. He knows how to slip into my life and make me miserable and I know that he enjoys doing it. Over the past thirteen years I have carved out a small career as a singer-songwriter while simultaneously maintaining a marriage, raising two children and holding one, and sometimes two, day jobs. The currency with which I have paid for this music career is sleep. Exhaustion is the constant companion of all of us who choose to trade in this particular currency.

My daughter's bedroom is next to the bedroom where my wife, myself,  and exhaustion sleep. There has never been a real door on her room. We installed one of those flimsy folding doors that slides on tracks and opens and closes like an  accordion. It has given her some privacy but has deprived her of one of the key ingredients of a complete adolescence—a door that slams. I must admit to several moments of quiet glee over the years when the door slamming exclamation point at the end of a teenage melodrama was replaced by little squeaky wheels sliding across aluminum runners.

One night when my daughter was fifteen, I was in a particularly profound state of exhaustion. It was 11:30. I could hear the six am setting on the alarm clock actually taunting me. "I'm going to ring as soon as you close your eyes." My daughter was on the phone with one of her girlfriends. She was laughing. It was the kind of laugh that can only come from a fifteen-year-old girl. As something of a comedian, I have spent a disproportionate amount of my life studying the different sounds of laughter. In addition to the obvious fact that each person has their own unique laugh (It's kind of like a fingerprint when you think about it), there are several different types of laughter. The one that I am always shooting for in my shows is the "I can't believe it, that's just like my mother" one. This laugh is characterized by high pitch screams that seem to contain within them the name of the person in the family who is just like the person you are talking about. I always hear the sound of recognition in this laughter. To the discerning ear of the knowledgeable comic, this sound is magic. It's like striking oil. When a room is filled with it, you can't help but feel like you are flying. In the continuing effort to design an act that will manifest as much of this kind of laughter as possible, I have learned to recognize the other, less evolved, types of laughter. The "Oh my God, I can't believe he is talking about this," shock laugh. The polite, unenthusiastic, almost obligatory, laugh. The "This guy is really scary" nervous laugh. And the very unique laughter that comes from mean-spirited, victim-oriented humor. (What's up with these idiots from other countries in the tollbooths, who can't even speak English let alone make change for a dollar ha, ha.) I have often thought that this is the sound of the laughter that one would hear on the nightclub circuit in Hell. To the untrained ear, all of these sound pretty much the same. However, the laughter of a fifteen-year-old girl on the telephone with her best friend is a sound unlike any other on earth.

I am lying in bed. I am so tired I could cry. I am not only being taunted by exhaustion and my alarm clock, but also by the realities inflicted upon my life by every poor decision I have ever made. Sleep, even just a little bit of it, is the only remedy. Unfortunately, I am being denied this cure by the shrieks and wails of hysterical teenage laughter devilishly dancing out of my daughter's room.

I resolve that I must address the situation. I then begin the process of deciding which of my two available dad identities I should manifest in the bedroom doorway of my inconsiderate daughter. So I wonder: which dad persona that will bring blessed quiet back to my domicile as quickly as possible with the least amount of energy output and subsequent ramifications?

The first dad incarnation that comes to mind is the stereotypical blustering version. This is the one where I storm over to her room and with all the self-righteous indignation available to the dad number one stereotype, I identify her crimes against humanity and the reasons why they are personally offensive to me. Then, using the loud, severely agitated and totally unreasonable dad number one voice I say, "I'm trying to get some sleep here! You don't care that I have to get up at six in the morning. Why should you? You get to sleep till noon. All you ever think about is yourself. It would never even occur to you that other people might actually be living in this house!"  Then I flex my dad number one dictatorial muscle by saying, "Hang that phone up right now," and then there is quiet. Quiet anger, quiet resentment and quiet plotting of revenge. You see, dad number one always gets much more quiet than he bargained for. That's because he is one hundred percent bluster and bravado and zero percent circumspection. His shortsightedness is legendary. The method by which he attains his immediate goal actually fortifies the resolve of the opposition. He wins the battle at the expense of the war. He is, generally speaking, a byproduct of exhaustion and lives a life that alternates between explosive bravado and the need to apologize for it.

Once dad number one is finished blowing off steam and asserting his authority in my mind, he gives the podium to dad number two. This dad is also motivated by exhaustion but he lacks the will to fight. Instead, he is a pleader. His method is to crawl out of bed looking as pitiful as possible and to speak in a defeated monotone. "Ariel honey, I have to get up early. Can you please use the phone downstairs?" Although sad and emasculated, this dad usually accomplishes his goal without creating a situation that he will feel obligated to repair later.

I choose to manifest dad number two. I conjure up my defeated monotone and roll it around in my mouth. I am preparing to climb out of bed and address the situation when a hitherto unknown door in my mind opens up and out walks dad number three. He speaks, "Dad number one is an asshole and dad number two is an idiot. The problem here is not with the sounds in this house, it is with the way you are choosing to hear them."  I think, "Great, dad number three is a good-for-nothing philosopher." I say, "Is this going to take long? I really need to get some sleep." He tells me to shut up and he continues, "Let's take a look at what we actually have here. You are about to take action that will curtail the sounds of laughter in your home. Is this really what you want? Would you prefer your home to be filled with the sounds of anger or crying? The sounds that fill a home are part and parcel of the memories that are created there. Quiet is what happens in a home when you are alone in it. Be careful how much of this you wish for." Then he says it again. "The problem here is not with the sounds in this house, it is with the way you are choosing to hear them."

And then I get it. I don't just get it a little bit. I really get it. I completely get it. I get it in the center of my solar plexus. It must be like this when all of a sudden you understand jazz or Shakespeare. I say to myself "What kind of a father can't go to sleep to the sound of his daughter laughing" Instantly, as if the asking of the question initiated the metamorphosis, all the sounds emerging from my daughter's room are transformed. They become music. They become summer rain. I lay back and let them wash over me. All the pores in my body open up and absorb them. I drink in the miracle of my daughter's teenage laughter. It is magic. It is giddy. It is a sound so complete that it seems as if every one of her molecules are laughing. There is no separation between my daughter the young adult and laughter itself. It is all one glorious symphony, light and lovely. She sings me to sleep with laughter. I dream of woodwinds and of small birds dancing gracefully upon delicate breaths of wind. In the morning I awake refreshed. Exhaustion is gone and will not return until the day has wrestled from me my zest.

There is a distinct lightness in the early morning quiet of my home. I glance in upon the sleeping figure of my daughter, beautiful and at peace. I whistle a line from The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and begin my day.  


Spotlight: Writing an EPE-Style Essay

In the next couple of classes we’ll use the EPE (WSU's English Proficiency Examination) format as an introduction to essay writing. Here’s the basic structure of such an essay.


Paragraph 1: Summary and Interpretation of the passage you are responding to (e.g., the author of the passage says that the sky is red, and from this she draws the moral that war is inevitable)


Paragraph 2: Thesis (e.g., in this essay I am going to argue that everlasting peace is possible)



Paragraph 3: 1st support of thesis (e.g. everlasting peace is possible because the author got her argument all wrong: the sky is blue, and, even if were red, what does this have to do with war?) Develop this point.


Paragraph 4. 2nd support of thesis (e.g., everlasting peace is possible because some societies, e.g., Inuits, are peaceful). Develop this point.


Paragraph 5. 3rd support of thesis (e.g., everlasting peace is possible because war is caused by people who profit from it, and we can reduce their power). Develop this point.



Paragraph 6: Conclusion


Insert on top a title that reflects the thesis (e.g., Peace at Last?)


Edit your essay: check organization, understanding of passage, required length, grammar, spellings, punctuation, incomplete sentences, your Log of Lapses, it’s vs. its, there vs. their, etc.



 Two Puzzles

1. A jeweler has 3 diamonds. They all look exactly alike, but one diamond is heavier than the others. How can she identify the heavier diamond by using a balance scale just once? Please outline your argument as carefully as you can.



2. Same as above, but now the jeweler doesn't know whether the odd diamond is lighter or heavier than the other two. By using the scale twice, how can she tell (i) which is the odd one, and (ii) whether it is lighter or heavier?



Week 5 

Individual consultations with class instructor. Make sure to bring all your work. If it’s on a computer disk, bring the disk as well. If you have a laptop, bring it too. This meeting will give us a chance to get to know each other, discuss your work and progress in this class, any concerns you may have, and any suggestions you may have for the next 9 weeks.

The schedule for the remainder of the term will be determined after consultation with class participants. It may include more songs and short stories. It will place greater emphasis on essay writing. We may have a writing and information access workshop in a computer lab at least once during the term, and we may cancel one class and go to a play instead. More books on tape? A movie about my own work with elephants? Would you be interested in making a substantive contribution to the class? Any other ideas?

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