Why you should read 19th century novels; Victor Hugo´s Notre-Dame de Paris.

From the time of the ancient Greeks until the 15th century, the preferred format for literature was poetry; epic poetry, sonnets, pastourelles, so on. By the 15th century theatre took hold as the preeminent platform for writing; the different characters able to portray different points of view, and the fact that you did not need to know how to read to follow along, helped. The dominant format of the Enlightenment was the essay as we scrambled to put “order” into the world. And although my dear Cervantes basically “invented” the novel in 1600 (the word novella comes from the Italian, but these were not long narratives), this format did not fully flourish until the 19th century, and boy did it flourish!

A couple of factors that drove the popularity of the novel was that the printing press and paper making technology was well advanced, as well as the fact that many more people knew how to read.

The result are long, intricate novels with great character descriptions and narrative arches -Dickens, great philosophical dialogues –Dostoevsky, detailed historical dramas -Tolstoy. In fact, most European countries saw a great spike in novels in the 19th Century.

In Spain, Leopoldo Alas “Clarín” and Benito Pérez Galdós stand out. In France, Alexandre Dumas, Flaubert, Verne, and today’s featured author, Hugo among many others marked the 19th C. In Germany, Goethe led the Romantic movement! In Ireland, Joyce, Wilde, and Stoker represent. In Russia Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy are most famous, (click here for Russian lit) but not the only ones (Pushkin and Turnegev are in that list). In England, the list is too long to write down, but let’s just say: Jane Austen, Emily and Charlotte Brontë, Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll, Doyle, and of course, Dickens.

All this to say that I just read Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris written in 1833, and I have loved it! It is beautifully crafted, amazing, evil, charming, funny, stupid, great characters with, of course, Quasimodo being grotesque but with a beautiful heart. The Cathedral itself is very much a character in the novel, as Hugo was advocating for the preservation of Gothic architecture in a time when old buildings were being torn down to build new ones. The story fits more into the Romantic movement that the later Realist movement, what with all the darkness and gargoyles. I read a French edition that my sister gifted me for Christmas last year, sorry I am running a bit behind on my reading list.

Confession time: I have not seen the Disney version so I cannot judge how faithfully it represents the book, but hey, it is a Disney film. There is also a ballet, a musical, an old film, etc.

Now go read some 19th c. novels!!! You are welcome.

Public Service Announcement (PSA): Wear a hat and sunscreen (and a shirt)!!

The spot comes off

 “Out, damned spot”

Lady Macbeth, Macbeth, Shakespeare

As they say: with great power comes great responsibility, since I have the powerful platform that is my blog, it is my job to tell you to wear a hat and sunscreen when the sun is out – and sometimes also when it is cloudy – oh, and a shirt.

You see, I recently noticed a not very nice looking spot on my schnoz, snout, smeller, horn, sneezer, nose. It grew and grew to the point where I had to do something about it.

I sent a photo to my sister who has a dear friend dermatologist Dra. Isabel Aldanondo, who told me it could be actinic keratosis, which can turn into cancer, and should get it looked at Stateside…

So, I searched for a dermatologist close to home and booked an appointment.

Dr. Nielsen is one of the nicest doctors I can remember dealing with. He listens, he explains things, he manages the small talk, and then he grabbed his ice gun and froze my spot: let it go, let it go, and it went – well, after falling off, getting a crust and have that fall off, and finally healing! I recommend Dr. Nielsen without reservations, he and his staff are professional, attentive, courteous, gentle and just overall nice.

In conclusion: use sunscreen, wear a hat, and when possible a shirt, and check your body for weird looking new spots.

You are welcome.

Soccer vs football vs fútbol, Major League Soccer, a night at the Miami Inter game.

Soccer, football, fútbol has always been played in the US, it was just never popular like baseball, American football, basketball or hockey, it was a college sport, like volleyball. Much has been written about this, but my reasoning on why soccer never became popular in the US reflects American isolation and provincialism.

The US was for decades self sufficient, it lacked the necessary international flow of goods and ideas to be on equal terms with the rest of the world. America did not so much trade as buy (or take, depending on the country) what they needed. Examples of this might be not using the metric system, not participating in WWI (until later), not joining the League of Nations (until later), etc. Sure, there were millions of immigrants, but their first concern was to assimilate into the local population as fast as possible; forgetting their language and adopting local “traditions” and way of life as a means of achieving the “American Dream”.

Only in the latter part of the 20th C until now, have many of those cultural barriers fallen and the US has (begrudgingly?)  opened up to the world. Maybe the new waves of immigrants were more reluctant to drop their heritage upon stepping on US soil, clearly technology has broken many walls, and so on.

But enough of my ramblings. The other day I was invited to the opening game of Inter Miami against Montreal. Some of my students generously offered tickets to a couple of us football loving teachers. The excursion was led by the Jesus Youth students; what a great bunch of generous, kind people.

One of the reasons Inter Miami is famous is because the president and one of the shareholders is David Beckham, husband of “Posh Spice” Victoria Beckham, and one of football’s great players, who like many greats played his golden years at Real Madrid. My sister Rocky was the first person to interview him when he arrived in Madrid in 2003!

We had a blast. Inter Miami still does not have a permanent stadium, playing out of a temporary facility, the AutoNation DRV PNK stadium. The beauty of a small stadium is how close everyone is to the field, it feels very intimate and enjoyable. Oh, Miami won 2-0.

Teaching outside the classroom

The way we teach is outdated. We get students into a room, fill their brains with knowledge, test them on that knowledge, and when they do that successfully, we put a funny hat on their heads and send them into the world. Yes, we have improved a lot over the last half century, but our basics are still based on medieval educational systems.

Which is one of the reasons I love coaching. Of course one cannot teach subject content in sports, but there are many, many human qualities we can teach on the field: participation, selflessness, hard work, teamwork, communication, leadership, observation, sacrifice, and on and on.

The first lesson is to show up for practice -early, so you can get ready and settled in. The more you show up to practice -and early- the more chances you have of starting on game day, even if there are more skillful players than you but who do not show up consistently nor on time for practice.

Time and again we see less skillful but more united teams will beat more skillful teams that does not pass or communicate as well.

Another valuable lesson is the importance of practice. Musicians and the military understand this concept and execute it very well; the more you practice the better you get. Good athletes also understand how importance repetition is.

A few weeks ago, we won our home game against our Miami rivals. Although our opponents played their hearts out, we played selflessly and communicating, passing the ball and trusting each other, it was a pleasure to see the guys play. Go Shepherds!!

Photo Credit Dylan McKay