Saturday, May 12, 2007

Useful sites for advanced learners and teachers

"He that knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool. Shun him
He that knows not, and knows that he knows not is a pupil. Teach him.
He that knows, and knows not that he knows is asleep. Wake him.
He that knows, and knows that he knows is a teacher. Follow him.
(Arabic proverb)
1. A good site for all sorts of things for students and teachers.

2. BBC Learning English – a place to listen to English to help your listening comprehension.

3. More online listening for learners – lots and lots of different topics

4. Keeping a reflective journal – something you can do for the rest of your life.

5. Style Manual for everything from how to punctuate sentences to when to use italics in your writing

6. Untangling the web – help with online research

7. Counseling services and information and advice on all sorts of personal problems

8. Feeling homesick – find your local newspaper on this site – wherever you come from in the world

9. A good place to start to find information

10. Health issues – find help here, but talk to someone too

Robert L. Fielding

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Al Ain Theatre Society does it again!

Al Ain Theatre Society
An Inspector Calls
J.B. Priestley
Al Multaqa Auditorium
May 3 2007

Set in a millowner’s home in 1912 and watched over by portraits of Queen Victoria and Edward VII, Priestley’s moralistic tale of the alleged, imperious neglect, high handed philanthropy and reckless treatment of a young woman by the members of the property owning class of the day, An Inspector Calls was as well performed tonight as it probably ever has been.

Inspector Goole (Mel Tyers) interrupted celebrations in the Birling household, enraging the arrogant millowner, Birling, (Keith Wiggle) toasting the engagement of his daughter Sheila (Libby Stack) to Gerald Croft (Ben McGrath), watched by his wife (Carol Boardman) and by the flippant waster of a son, Eric (Rick Johns), Edna (Caroline White-Goettsche) attending to the family and their guest.

Jeff Weiss directed this great performance, marshalling a somewhat unassuming, but not deferential inspector into the midst of the evening after Arthur Birling had toasted an amalgamation of two great families in the midlands town of Brumley.

Once Goole turned up the heat with the revelation that a lass had burned out her insides with disinfectant and died in a local hospital, the guilty party crackled apart like so much popcorn in a pan.

In a tour de force impersonation of arrogance and selfish indifference, Keith Wiggle as Birling, did his level best to dismiss Goole from the evening’s joviality.

Goole, however, persisted magnificently, peeling off the onion-like layers of guilt and implication perpetrated by each one present.

Sheila’s culpability came after her father’s, and her fiancé fared little better with the news to all that he had had an affair with the girl sometime earlier, using her and dismissing her as it suited him.

A sort of telescopic philanthropy had been denied the girl in her hour of need by Sybil (Carol Boardman), throwing the girl further into dismay and ruin.

Eric, by now, well in his cups, told all that he had dallied with the girl, though her name had changed again as each tale unfolded. Constantly berated by his father, Eric stood up to the awful indifference to the girl’s fate in the face of Birling’s altogether more selfish reaction to the news of her suicide.
The news that the girl had also been pregnant was the icing on a very distasteful cake. Goole left and the party reflected.

In a brand of wishful thinking, they soon reached the same conclusion; that Goole was not a real policeman, confirmed by a phone call, and that the girl in each case was a different individual.

Another phone call confirmed that no such suicide had occurred. Birling and his wife breathed a sigh of relief, audible and hypocritical, while Eric and Sheila could not forgive themselves so easily.

The final hammer blow came as another caller announced that a girl had just been admitted to the hospital, and had died of poisoning.

Priestley’s play, though perhaps too heavy handed to have been written today, did highlight the fact that we are all ultimately responsible for each other.
Robert L. Fielding

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The sources of creative writing

Creative writing, it sometimes seems, is all things to all people. It’s storytelling, writing poetry, sketches and skits, but would you call writing a diary entry creative writing – most definitely not. What about so called ‘cause and effect essays’? Again, the answer is no.

So what is it that defines creative writing from all the other kinds of writing we do? Well, for a start, the answer is in the phrase – it’s creative (to create – to bring into being Collins). That doesn’t get us much further. Let’s see what the practitioners say it is – the gurus of wikipedia, no less.

Creative writing is a term used to distinguish certain types of writing from writing in general. The lack of specificity of the term is partly intentional, designed to make the process of writing accessible to everyone and to ensure that non-traditional, or traditionally low-status writing (for example, writing by marginalized social groups, experimental writing, genre fiction) is not excluded from academic consideration or dismissed as trivial.

Verbosity doesn’t seem to enlighten, and this entry looks as if it’s part of a UN charter. So I’ll have a go. Creative writing is that type of writing that spells out in words what can be but isn’t, what could have happened but didn’t. To quote Albert Szent-Gy-rgi, talking about discovery, which seems to be involved in the process of creative writing, it consists in seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.

All this needs illustration – something people writing creatively do well. If, as Arthur Schopenhauer says, ‘every man takes the limit of his field of vision for the limits of the world’, creative writers go beyond their field of vision. How else would you account for the novels of Jules Verne or HG Wells, but also of Jane Austen who, we are told, never married, and lived most of her short life within her parish boundaries in the south of England.

For doesn’t creative writing stem from two areas – from your imagination, and from real life experiences recreated and tweaked to fit into a story. Again, best to illustrate.

I recently came across the name of one of my college lecturers on a website. I recalled taking part in his seminars and reading out my first seminar paper for him. He sat idly gazing out of his study window as I rattled on, but quickly spun on his chair to confront me with a point I was trying to make or had made.
“So he was listening,” I thought.

Of course, he didn’t remember me from the multitude of students who passed through that room – how could he, but I did – well!

Now, if the bulk of our memories of our past experience of living lies under layers of our subconscious, what brings one particular experience to the fore is present significance. Creative writing can give a past experience present significance.

If I were to write up my experience of reading my seminar paper to my group and my tutor, that could hardly be called creative writing. If that man who probably still sits looking out onto the green lawns outside his study while undergraduates sweat and toil with their seminar papers, were to write it up, adding what he could not recall exactly, and drawing upon his experience of just such a scenario, that would be creative writing.

In recreating that moment, embellishing it for effect, substituting a spotty youth with, let us say, a beautiful young woman, he would be taking what Marcel Proust calls the real voyage of discovery, ‘which consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes’.

Having stayed in his book lined study, and turning from the view from his window for a moment, the tutor would be drawing upon his experience of life, colouring it with his imagination, until, half way through the seminar, he writes, an irate young man rushes into the room and drags the young woman out by her hair.

It didn’t happen that way, but it could have done – it did happen that way on the page caught in a ray of sun streaming in from the window at the writer’s back. That is what creative writing is – using what God gave you and what you know to create – recreate in this case – something that can be but isn’t, what could have happened but didn’t.

The art comes in making something so believable that readers turn the page. They wouldn’t want to read about another day in the life of a university lecturer per se, but they would if it involved the solving of a murder.

Ascribing motives to somebody who never existed to explain what never occurred is at the heart of what creative writing is about. You don’t need to go hunting for big game in Kenya before you include it in a story – it just helps if you do.
Robert L. Fielding