Volume 6 Issue 1
Of all of the storytellers I have heard who would be capable of the monumental task of writing and recording an oral history of the United States, Jay O'Callahan would be my choice. His newest cassette, "Pouring the Sun" is a stunning installment in such an effort. Not that Mr. O'Callahan has made known any plans to perform such an undertaking as an oral history, but once you have heard his earlier cassette "Father Joe" and then "Pouring the Sun" you have a vivid, living mental picture of how it was to be in two of the other times in "other" Americas. Through his heart, his voice, and his writing, Jay O'Callahan has some inexplicable but tangible and powerful tap into the racial unconscious giving his storytelling a primal force that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, even when he is recounting something apparently commonplace. (I would NOT want to hear him tell a ghost story around a campfire on Halloween!)
"Pouring the Sun" tells the story of an immigrant family whose lives are centered around work in the steel mills of Bethlehem, PA in the 30s and 40s, centering on one Ludvika Moskal, who emigrated here from Poland when she was 18. She marries a man who works "in the steel" and her sons after him do the same -- some try to leave, others would never dream of it. The story of Ludvika's family serves as an archetype for many, many such families who built this country one girder or brick or car of coal at a time . . . railroad men, iron workers, sky-walkers, forgemen, fabricators . . . anyone who labored and sweated to create these things of permanence that we use today, though the men and their wives are long gone.
This cassette brings home the fact that after arriving in the U.S., many of the immigrants like Ludvika never saw their birth lands again. The more one meditates on this sobering concept, the more one realizes the powerful sacrifice all of the Ludvikas made for their children and grandchildren. One's love of country is not based upon how prosperous a living can be earned or how splendid the weather, but much deeper and more personally intertwined. Imagine then, going to a foreign world, leaving behind all that is familiar and comfortable to forge a new future in the gleaming New World! Ludvika Moskal carried within her Poland to this New World, and made it part of her children's birthright, their heritage. Our country today is powerful because so many great pioneer people braved the Great Unknown, and often a dangerous journey, and brought their vision and courage here.
Jay O'Callahan is a master of dialect and drama and he puts both to strong use here, as he becomes the "voice" of Ludvika. Lennon and I listened to "Pouring the Sun" in the car on a long ride and were spellbound the entire time. I want Lennon to understand firsthand the living history of the U.S., of all the incredible souls who have come before us - for Ludvika becomes a bright symbol of ALL of our ancestors, named Leppert, Carey, Kumbalik - or O'Callahan. After hearing "Pouring" Lennon has a clearer vision of the struggles, trials, sorrows, joys and triumphs of his forebears and everyone else's and I hope he see his place as the next in this long line of great men and women. I strongly recommend "Pouring the Sun" as a supplement to your American history curriculum for your child 12-1/2 to adult. For the same age group, I also recommend the aforementioned tape by Jay - "Father Joe." ($10 audiocassette only) It recounts the true story of Jay's uncle, a Catholic priest who was a Navy chaplain in WWII. It is powerful, riveting and expands one's vision of life. It is a must-hear. Jay O'Callahan has 22 different story cassettes in all. Be sure to visit his website to see the complete line. We will be reviewing another of his excellent tapes in the next issue of The Link, too!
The Basic Cozy Grammar CourseTM Video & Booklet
The course consists of two 77-minute videocassettes containing 27 lessons, and a 110-page combination study guide, exercise book, test book and answer key.
I cannot recommend this basic grammar course highly enough! I thoroughly enjoy watching a well-done video presenting material I care about and I love grammar as well as English in all its forms and all things "language". (Of course that is my adult opinion!) I consider the skill of language, written and oral, to be among the greatest achievements Man has wrought - as mysterious as algebra, but far more useful! Marshall McLuhan, the great analyst of media, said that the content of the medium of speech and of writing, both, is thought. However, one who has not developed the ability to speak and write well, may have difficulty convincing anyone that he/she possesses any thought! Nothing aids in developing the dual skills of speaking and writing like grammar. Yes, that hated and feared topic that we all had to sweat through as part of our elementary English (or any other language) skills. Now, as homeschooling parents, we are once more confronted with this "toothed beast" of English and have to find a way to impart it to our children so that they can speak and write to the world, revealing the intellectual light we parents know shines within. Help is here!!
Based upon the course's Introduction, Marie Rackham, is a veteran teacher of grammar who has experienced the loosening of grammar-teaching philosophies and standards over the past 30 years, along with the subsequent flabbiness of English ability in those generations of students. Even in the face of chiding by her professional counterparts, she did not -- and has not -- wavered in her dedication to teaching the real thing. Conservative homeschooling parents will cheer mightily at Ms. Rackham's approach and her assertion that discipline does not stifle creativity! I am among their number! I do not believe that discipline stifles creativity - one only need look to some of the greatest artists who ever lived to prove this truth: Bach, Beethoven, Michelangelo, DaVinci, Dali, Milton, Tolkien, Lewis, and many, many more, have been noted for their powerful discipline in the development of the technique of their art. The only element that seems to affect creativity is the presence or absence of creativity. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Marie Rackham calls grammar "the technique of English" and she demonstrates that a skilled development of grammar will enable one to speak and write clearly, intelligently and comfortably enough to communicate one's thoughts so that others wish to hear and/or read them. She mentions these uses for good grammatical writing and speaking skills: Resumes, job interviews, presentations, master's theses, e-mail that may be read by any number of people beyond the writer's knowledge and formal letters. In any of these cases, the writer/speaker has one "shot" to make a favorable impression of his intellectual skill. Considering the stakes, such an impression had better be the best possible.
The setting for the videos is Marie's home in British Columbia, a cozy, knotty pine sort of house on the ocean that looks the perfect refuge from a wintry rainstorm. Here, she illustrates and demonstrates each lesson with actions of varying sorts: Pouring tea, chopping wood, riding (or not riding) on an exercise bike, discussing the seagulls that populate the beach, etc. In this way, she has skillfully developed a way to teach grammar that satisfies any learning style a student may have. Watching Ms. Rackham move throughout her home and its grounds, creates an ever-changing atmosphere that makes for more interesting viewing than simply a "talking head" lecture approach in a static setting and her movements coinciding with the grammar material keeps the observer attentive and the information flowing! Ms. Rackham warns that this is an elementary course and that there are many excellent materials available to carry the study of grammar to the highest levels. However, because this set is so informative, clearly-written, comfortable to watch and remain attentive to, I wish she would consider quickly producing the necessary sequels to "Cozy Grammar" that she could recommend her own advanced courses, instead! I need a grammar review every so often!
At times one comes in contact with a product that is so well made, no amount of superlatives will do it justice. The Bose Wave™ Radio/CD is one of those! When I heard the great sound reproduction of this unit, I was speechless and wanted to be silent, just to enjoy the experience! We have used it to listen to such diverse artists as Shubert, Chopin, Dave Brubeck, The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Steely Dan, Keith & Rusty McNeil, Evren Ozan, Yo-yo Ma and Dinah Washington on CD as well as NPR Radio, including "Prairie Home Companion." That is as broad a cross-section of sonicity as such a unit is ever likely to encounter! In every case, the Bose® produced a completely clear, clean sound that was soothing and peaceful. We are not audiophiles, we are musicians. We are not tech-heads, either, so I cannot tell you what the ambience is that this unit produces . . . but I can hear it and feel it. I have listened to recording studio playbacks on some very, very expensive monitors and I have never heard anything to compare with the Bose Wave unit. Do you know how peaceful a room is when it is well-lit with non-electrical light - candle, lantern, whatever? The aural presence I can sense in our living-room when listening to the Bose® is similar. Although it is electrical, there is a non-electrical ambience surrounding one when it is playing. The engineers who created this product are obviously geniuses and way ahead of whoever is in second place. They won the Inventor of the Year Award for this design. If you care about faithful reproduction of sound - be it spoken word, jazz, classical, folk, choral, you name it - this unit will come through for you and pay for itself in a few months of use.Copyright © 2006 Modern Media