Christmas Genre: The Green Book

Segregation. A term that regrettably should not have been coined and listed in the dictionary. Yet it has been, because of years of history where whites were degelated to their worlds and blacks (or being more politically correct, colored) to theirs. A place where only whites could have the fancies of hotels, restaurants, restrooms and schools where the colored had the run-down facilities. A place where even a world-renowned artist, like pianist Dr. Don Shirley, feels like a loner not being accepted anywhere in society because of race and social background.

 

That is until he meets a person who opens his eyes to a world that he had never knew existed. One where he is accepted after opening up.

 

If there’s a comment that marks the start of this film critique The Green Book, it would be this: “It doesn’t take a genius but courage to change people’s hearts.”

While this comment came towards the end of the film, it definitely sums up the motive of Dr. Don Shirley’s trip to the Deep South- the southeastern corner of the United States, a region that has a storied history of slavery and segregation of blacks; a region where despite intervention from Washington in terms of war (The Civil War) and laws (including Lincoln’s Emancipation declaration, and Martin Luther King’s Equal Rights Movement), the gap between the white society and the society of the colored people still exists to this day.

The setting of the story was the last couple months of 1962, less than a year before Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech and its subsequent Civil Rights Laws that followed by 1964.  It featured two very different characters from two contrasting worlds. In one world, there’s Dr. Shirley, the pianist who plays like a genius and with passion. He lives in “his own kingdom” above Carnegie Hall, rather spoiled because of the performances in rich settings and high expectations. Playing with only the Steinway piano is a fraction of the high-end life he was used to, whereas his passion for classical music is bordered with the popular culture presented by his chauffeur and body guard, Tony Vallelonga (a.k.a. Tony Lip), the other main character of the story.

Unlike Dr. Shirley, who is sensitive but a philosopher and psychologist with patience, Tony Lip is a very colorful character. Lip is a chauffeur who is unemployed after Copacabana closes for repairs. He had been in a brawl with two members from a mafia who harassed a woman during the concert His ability to annihilate “unwanted” guests, combined with his colorful and sometimes emotional interaction with people in general and creative strategies to either persuade others to do something they don’t want or reject offers that are fattening were the primary reasons why Dr. Shirley hired him to be his chauffeur and bodyguard for the tour in the Deep South. Tony Lip is Roman Catholic and has an extended family, all living in the Bronx, and all who have a passion for Italian culture and baseball.

Dr. Shirley hires Lip to take him through the Deep South where despite his musical performance that impresses the communities they visited, he deals with several forms of segregation that were typical in reality but none that the characters have ever seen before.

Any ideas what they may be?  Use this mindmap below and list them, there are more than what the six points are mentioned:

Segregation

Note: This mind map can be used at the beginning of the film as well as at the end when listing the examples of segregation that Dr. Shirley and Tony Lip witnessed in the film.

Inspite the differences between the two there were many reasons why Dr. Shirley hired Tony to do the job. Likewise there were just as many reasons why Tony took it on, despite the fact that he would be on the road in “No Man’s Land” for two months, away from his family in the Bronx.  An activity below will give you a chance to look at the two characters carefully and help answer the question of why this arrangement took place.

Tony Vallelonga (a.k.a.) Tony Lip Dr. Don Shirley
 

Profession:

 

 

His character:

 

 

 

His weakness(es):

 

 

 

The reason(s) for taking the job as Dr. Shirley’s chauffeur?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Profession:

 

 

 

His character:

 

 

 

His weakness(es):

 

 

 

The reason(s) for hiring Tony Lip to be his chauffeur?

This can be done after the scene when the two characters are on the road and have stopped at their first concert.

 

But most importantly, we also have the Funnel-Theory, where certain elements merge into one and the differences the two characters have become non-existent. Here we have two different Funnels- the classic one and the reversal one.

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reverse funnel

With the second one it has to do with finding common values which led them to becoming friends in the end.

The Green Book does have an underlying meaning as it goes beyond receiving the tour guide for blacks. It has some grave differences between black and white society that goes well beyond the food and the lodging. It has to do with the mentality that existed in the Deep South and the struggle to accept the values that had been ingrained in the fabric of their culture during that time. A lot of the underlying divisions seen in the film exist even today in the US, but also in other countries, where minorities are sometimes treated as second-class citizens.

Yet the Green Book takes place at Christmas time, where in the end, after breaking down the barriers, both Tony and Dr. Shirley became best friends and were accepted in the other’s culture. It opens the pages to something new and opens the hearts of many that welcome new people who just want to be included and part of society, despite different backgrounds. The film does both- eliminates the barriers and opens the door to new cultures which we can accept and embrace. It’s something we should take with- even beyond the holiday season.

 

 

Genre of the Week: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstien (extended version)

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Instead of talking about Black Friday today, I would like to show you a poem that deals with giving. It’s entitled the Giving Tree, written by Shel Silverstein. Mr. Silverstein wrote hundreds of children’s  poems, many of which he narrated.  And while Runny Babbit may be one of his well-known signatures, the Giving Tree is perhaps the most famous of his poems. It deals with the tree and its hundreds of uses, all of which the person took advantage of until there was only a stump left. The poem was written in 1964 and a narration version was released in 1973 (which can be seen below).  The theme behind the poem has to do with giving and taking. When one takes more than he gives, then there’s nothing left to give to the person.  Therefore one should consider alternatives to consumption and shopping, such as giving back, donating your time and supplies and helping others. Even the tiniest gestures of kindness can play a key role. Only when we learn to give will we be sure about our future after all.

 

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Genre of the Week: I am a Teacher

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One of many German schools.

Author’s Note: A while back, I ran across this poem through one of my English teaching colleagues who is in the same teaching network as I am. Teaching is a tough profession where one has to have strong nerves and courage to not just order to the classroom, but to teach the students the essentials that will help them in their career path. This poem is for all the teachers out there, regardless of which subjects you are teaching, and regardless which age groups, educational institution and backgrounds. Behind every person is- a teacher

I may be a School Teacher

I may be a College Lecturer

I may be a University Professor!

 

Behind that Doctor,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Engineer,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Statistician,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Nuclear Physicist,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Mathmatician,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Scientist,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Zoologist,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Entomologist,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Botanist,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Economist,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Entrepreneuer,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Lawyer,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behiond that Political Scientist,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Psychologist,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Architect,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Astrologer,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

Behind that Astronomer,

It’s Me, a Teacher.

I don’t qualify for a bungalow, or a villa, nor earn enough to buy an expensive house or a car, like corrupt officers or corrupt politicians,

But yes, I’m a Teacher.

Some think or even say that I have too many holidays. They never know that I spend those holidays either correcting papers or planning what and how I’m going to teach when I go back to the blackboard or whiteboard…….

Because I am a Teacher.

Sometimes I get confused and even get stressed by the ever-changing policies over what and how I have to teach…..

Despite all that, I am a Teacher and I love to teach and I am teaching….

On pay-days, I don’t laugh as corrupt officers and others do. But by the next day, I love to come with a smile to those that I teach…..

Because I am a Teacher;  yes, I am a Teacher

The main source of my satisfaction is when I see them grow. I see them succeed. I see them having all those assets. I see them bravely face the world and its challenges. And I say yes, I have taught in spite of living in a world opened by Google….

Because I am a Teacher…… Yes I am a Teacher

It doesn’t matter how they look at me

It doesn’t matter how much more they earn than I do

It doesn’t matter that they drive while I walk because all they have is through me, A Teacher

Whether they acknowledge me or not, I am a Teacher.

 

This poem is dedicated to all the teachers, lecturers, professors and students (past and present), who have seen teachers toil through the papers, tearing up when grown-ups don’t cry, and take pride in the work in the classroom and on paper. Each of us have a favorite teacher or two. Many teachers still keep in touch with their former students to find out how they are doing. And sometimes torches get passed down because of how the teacher teaches in the classroom and how the students enjoy the class and take something with them as they move on to the next chapter in life. This one is for you. 🙂 ❤ 

 

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Genre of the Week: ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig

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This excerpt alone should be the incentive to read the book on how to survive the World without going insane. There have been many issues facing us in the past decade. In the last two years alone, the number of problems affecting us has increased exponentially. Yet before considering radical measures that could potentially backfire, one should take a look around us from an objective point of view, even from others, like this author did. Once that is done, we can take the measures needed to change the things we need to change in our world. Every little thing we do will have a huge impact on how we live, both long and short term.

A little food for thought while you order this book via Amazon or even pick it up at the library. 🙂

 

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Germany at 70: The Constitution

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May 23rd, 2019. On this day 70 years ago, the West German government, together with the western allies of the US, France and Great Britain ratified the German Consititution, a set of basic laws that are binding and foster equality, freedom of speech and Democracy. The basic laws were the basis for establishing a democratic state, the first since the Weimar Republic of 1919. And unlike the Republic, which was dissolved with the rise of Adolf Hitler, who ushered in the era of Naziism 14 years later, the German Constitution has become the solid rock, one of the examples of how Democracy works even to this day, despite going through the hardships in the sense of politics, society and the economy.  This was even adapted by the former East German government in 1990 as part of the plan to reunify the country.

While there are booklets in many languages that have the Basic Law of Germany, there are some questions that are still open as to how it works in comparison to those in other countries, the US included. This documentary, produced by a bunch of American scholars, gives you an in-depth coverage and discussion to the laws that exist. Albeit Long, one can skip to some of the laws discussed or just simply play it in ist entirety. For those wishing to live in Germany in the future, even temporary, this is rather useful.

Enjoy the documentary! 🙂

 

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Speed Limits in Germany: Should they be enforced nationally?

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Entering the Autobahn in Hamburg. Photo taken in March 2017

It is one of the main anchors of German culture. It is a place where you must try when visiting Germany. It is also one where if you don’t know how to take care of yourself, you could end up endangering yourself and others too. It’s the German Autobahn. Introduced over a century ago and expanded during the 1930s, the Autobahn became the quickest way to get from point A to point B. It also became the shortest way to get to your destination. With its famed unlimited speed limits, as seen on the signs, you can get from Munich to Berlin in five hours without any traffic jams; seven when going from Cologne to Dresden. In some cases, travelling by the Autobahn is faster than traveling by train, especially when the Deutsche Bahn (DB) has to handle delays and cancellations on a daily basis. 70% of all Autobahns in Germany do not have a speed limit, whereas speed limits are enforced in blackspots, construction areas and in big cities, and they limit based on the density of traffic on the highways.

Sadly though, it is one of the deadliest places to drive because of reckless driving, disobeying traffic regulations, disregarding other road-users and sometimes, poor conditions on the pavement themselves. In comparison to other European countries, the German Autobahn has the highest fatality rate of all the member states, plus Great Britain. The rate of deaths on the Autobahn per 1000 kilometers is 30.2%, according to data provided by the European Union. The European average is 26.4%. Per billion kilometers, the fatality rate in Germany is 1.6 is double that of Great Britain’s. Comparing that with the US, the fatality rate per mile is still less but the rate may become on par with the Americans in a few years. On 25 of the most dangerous interstate and federal highways in the States, the average death rate is 0.62 per mile. Along the six deadliest, the rate per mile is 0.9!  Given the increase in cars on German Autobahns, combined with distracted driving and even reckless driving, the statistics are sobering.

 

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Attempts were made in January 2019 to introduce a “blanket-style” speed limit on all German Autobahn to ensure that people obey the speed limits. The reason for the proposed enforcement is to ensure that drivers stay within the limit and not race with speeds of up to 250 km/h (in the US: 155 mph.  While this proposal was dead on arrival in the German parliament, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be resurrected at a later time. There are several arguments for and against a nationwide speed limit:

Proponents for the Speed Limit Opponents of the Speed Limit
Other countries in Europe have them: Poland has the 140 km/h limit (85 mph). The Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Austria, have the 130 km/h (80 mph) limit (which had been proposed by the German government) Belgium and Switzerland have a 120 km/h (75 mph) limit.

 

A map of the countries with the speed limits can be found above.

The enforcement of the speed limit would increase the cost for mobility in Germany, especially with the subsidies involving e-cars, tax hikes for gas, introducing incentives to replace old diesel cars with newer ones conforming to standards and enforcing a ban on diesel cars in big cities.
“Reducing speed limits would bring down the number of fatalities, which is one in four-“  an argument presented by Michael Mertens, Chair of the German Police Officers Union in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Money should be spent on expanding public transportation services, such as trains and busses, as well as bike trails for they provide healthier choices.
He adds further: “By even reducing the speed limit to 130, it would help prevent serious accidents and tailbacks (traffic jams)” To add to his argument: A report showed that 2018 was the worst year regarding traffic jams as over 745,000 were reported, an average of 2000 per day. This was a 3% increase since 2017. The Autobahn is a tourist trap and visitors to Germany would like to experience driving the Autobahn and stop at well-known rest areas and eateries along the way.
Speed limits would reduce carbon dioxide emmissions- in 2017 alone, 115 million tons of CO2 released in the atmosphere in Germany came from cars. The rate has increased steadily since 1990. Reducing the speed on the Autobahn would hurt car sales, especially with the likes of BMW, Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, etc.

 

A report on mobility was expected to be released at the end of March, outlining the details on how Germany can reduce carbon dioxide emissions without being penalized millions of Euros by the authorities in Brussels. Already the government has come under fire for admitting that its goal of reducing emissions by 8% by 2020 would not be reached due to several factors, including weening itself off of coal by 2038, lacking support for European measures to tackle climate change and the like. Yet the report is expected to include the enforcement of speed limits on Germany’s Autobahn system. While a general speed limit already in place on most streets and two-lane roads, the question is why not introduce it onto German highways, just like in every other state?

This is where the question between culture and conformity come to mind- Are we ready to rein in speeding at the cost of tradition or do we have bigger environmental issues to tackle and speeding “…defies all common sense,” as mentioned by German Transportation Minister, Andreas Scheuer?

 

 

Questionnaire: Should Germany enfore its speed limit on its Autobahn system? If so, what speed is acceptable?

Feel free to vote and also write your thoughts in the comment section. Click on the highlighted links to read more about the speedlimits. 

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fast fact logo 16131_tempolimit_130_km_h_zulässige_höchstgeschwindigkeit:

  1. According to German Traffic Laws, drivers are allowed to speed up to 100 km/h on all roads and 130 km/h on expressways and designated stretches of the German Autobahn. When in town, the speed limit is 50 km/h unless posted. Some speed limits allow for 60 km/h.

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2. Beware of the magic number! The 60 km/h limit is the most commonly used speed limit in Germany, used on many different occasions. One will find it inside the city,  on speed limit signs designated for trucks (although the maximum speed is 80), and in construction zones- even on Autobahns.  The second most common speed sign is the 70 limit, which is found in cities but is required at all highways intersections.

3.  Blackspots are defined as areas that are most proned to accidents. They can be found construction sites as well as areas along the highway- curves, intersections, built-up areas in the city and other dangerous spots where accidents  most often occur.

 

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Photo Flick 13

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This photo flick gives us a true meaning of the classroom learning exercise known as “Think, Pair and Share.”  All you need are two chairs, a table, a notebook with pen and a good environment to brainstorm and exchange ideas, like this art exhibition room in a district in Dresden’s Neustadt, taken in April 2019. 🙂

 

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TED Talk: The Disarming Case to Act Now on Climate Change by Greta Thunberg

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There have been some talk about the Fridays for the Future Demonstrations and all of the advantages and disadvantages of students walking out of school to demonstrate for climate change. On one side of the spectrum, skipping classes to demonstrate has had a resounding effect on politics and policies of each country, forcing governments to reconsider their laws and heed to the demands of the demonstrators. There are enough examples, big and small, that support this argument, including the top three that I have:

  1. The college demonstrations in the US against the Vietnam War- Starting in 1968, these demonstrations, albeit bloody, resulted in President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for a second term in office. He was replaced by Richard Nixon, who wound down the war efforts by withdrawing troops and contributing to brokering a deal between North and South Vietnam. The war ended when the North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon and the rest of South Vietnam in 1975, hours after the last US troops left.
  2. The Monday Night Demonstrations in East Germany- Starting in September 1989, the demonstrations that started every Monday evening at St. Nicholas Church ended up becoming a nationwide demonstration demanding change to a communist system that was considered broken. The end result was the downfall of Erich Honecker on 19 October and the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November. In the end, the peaceful protest also marked the beginning of talks for a reunified Germany, which happened on 3 October, 1990, and the domino effect that led to the end of Communism in 1991.
  3. The Parkland Massacre Demonstrations of 2019- After a shooting spree that resulted in the deaths of 17 people at a high school in Florida, a group of high schoolers started a protest to address the use of guns in the US and the lobby group NRA. The end result is a shift in tide from the right to have guns to the right to protect our children, even if it means voting out every single NRA supporter who rejects stricter gun laws.

But by the same token, many teachers and parents, as well as some politicians feel that skipping school to protest climate change is just a waste of time and that time should be spent discussing this in the classroom.

But as you can see in the TED-Talk speech by 16-year old Greta Thunberg, there has been too much talk and too little action. Many turn a blind eye for the sake of popularity and money. Too much  money has been wasted for conferences and speeches. And when the situation becomes unbearable where even the youngest generation walks out to protest the changes in our environment which are slowly becoming irreversible, then the time for talk is over and the time to act is now. The talk looks at the origins of the Friday for the Future demonstrations and how it has evolved since she started the walk-out process at her high school in Sweden.

Watch or listen to this speech and ask yourself what can be done to stop the destructive changes that are taking place to our planet. There are enough things to be done without talking about it.

 

 

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TED Talk: Poverty- The Lack of Cash Not Character

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While we have been talking about the fall of capitalism and countries in Europe introducing a general income for all, some of us wonder if there is a correlation between poverty and intelligence, or poverty and health. While there have been many (and sometimes important) studies that definitely confirm the latter, there is very little written or even spoken about the former.

That is until a TED-talk session in 2017, where Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, debunks the claim that poverty and intelligence are related. Bregman specializes in the history of economics and society and has done talks and written many pieces in this field. In this TED talk session, Bregman claims that the correlation relating to poverty has more to do with one lacking cash for the basic necessities: food, education, shelter and clothing, and less with the character of the person him-/herself. Even the brightest persons in the world happen to be poor. As a result, he pushes for a national general income for all program to encourage people to have these necessities and not treat them as a luxury. Interestingly enough, it was introduced in the Netherlands in the 1970s and produces surprising results.

Details are in his speech. Watch it and ask yourself if a general income for all would be of advantage to your country’s population and if so, how?

 

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Documentary: Deaths in Despair: The End of the American Dream

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A while back, I wrote an essay on the American Dream and how it has changed over the past half decade to a point where it has become diverse in many ways, shape and form. In theory one can achieve the dream through hard work. In praxis, however, it is a totally different league. And especially within the last decade, this American Dream has become more and more materialistic, divided based on money, power and even social, ethnical and cultural backgrounds, and especially since Donald Trump has taken over, more dysfunctional than at any time in American history.

No wonder why these dystopian variants are leading to the breakdown of families and friendships, the rise in violence and in many cases, as we can see in this documentary below, the rise in the rate of suicides. Nobel prize-winning economist Angus Deaton, and his wife, fellow Princeton Prof. Anne Case, have traveled together with Wall Street Journal’s Jason Belini from coast to coast to find out what is leading to the disappearance of the American Dream, and how it is impacting other countries in many ways, shape and form. In this 10-minute documentary, produced by Moving Upstream, the three take a look at this and whether suicide and other social pathologies are causing this almost seven-decade long dream to become a memory.

Watch this clip and have a look at the questions you can discuss below. For the American expatriates residing overseas, like yours truly, this is definitely worth watching and discussing for elements of the American Dream are impacting other countries, including those you are living in.

 

 

  1. What has changed in the American Dream over the past decades?
  2. What variants could benefit keeping the American Dream alive?
  3. Aside from the suicide rate, what variants are contributing to the death of the American Dream? 
  4. If there was a luxury that you had growing up as a child (be it 30 years ago or more) that you miss in today’s society, what would it be and why?
  5. If you were the president of the US and had to look at the problems facing America, especially in this clip, what would you do to make the lives of Americans better and help them fulfill their happiness?
  6. How is the American Dream affecting other countries? 
  7. How is social media affecting American society?
  8. Is it true that the high rate of suicide in the US is negatively affecting the American Dream? If not, what other factors are contributing to its demise? 

 

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