Wes Anderson Directs & Stars in an Ad Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Montblanc’s Signature Pen

Wes Anderson, known for his meticulous craftsmanship in filmmaking, was chosen to direct Montblanc’s commercial for their hundred-year-old Meisterstück writing tool. Filmed in Germany, the short features Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, and Rupert Friend, who portray mountain climbers inspired by Montblanc’s products.

The ad transitions from the snowy Mont Blanc to a warm chalet, which required 50 takes. Anderson surprised Montblanc by presenting a prototype pen he designed, the Schreiberling, and requested its production. The company agreed to produce 1,969 pen copies, referencing Anderson’s birth year, 1969. Anderson’s career has evolved from his early days in Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums to influencing film and luxury goods industries.


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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago
Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago

Greetings Starfighters,

I’m in a weird place as I write this today during the last week of school. The students are in a mad dash to finish everything, with the campus abuzz with field trips, award ceremonies, and the ever-present dread of some disruptive fire alarm going off just to upset the last few days or hours. I mentioned a fire drill since that’s how the last day of my first year of teaching ended. A freshman pulled the fire alarm right as the final bell rang, which made dismissal quite interesting; the high school parking lot was filled with fire trucks, and you had to wonder what the kid was trying to achieve. Everyone was already leaving; the timing was totally off.

As I plan for next year and prepare for my own doctoral work over the summer (yes, I see you, summer classes, and prospectus revision), I’m also thinking about the nuts and bolts of classroom instruction. How can we make small changes in our daily work to transform school from a place students have to be to a place they want to be?

I’ve been immersed in several pieces on music production recently. Had I stayed in the music world, I might have moved into producing.

Remind me to tell you about my musical journeys someday; there are some very good memories and some very, very bad ones.

When you’re recording, everything can affect your mix, including seemingly trivial things like the material of the walls and the amount of air in the space. Trust me, these details matter — just as the lighting and smell of your classroom matter. I’m on this train of thought because Steve Albini, one of the great punk rock producers, passed away recently. I’m thinking about Steve because, like me, he was an extraordinary dork and a feisty curmudgeon.

As much as he loved making music, he hated and questioned much about the music industry. “Surfer Rosa” is arguably one of the greatest rock albums ever, and he hated it, claiming the Pixies were, at best, a mildly entertaining college rock band. And don’t ask him about Steely Dan — just don’t.

Steve wanted to record the music and artists simply and honestly, including the mistakes. “I like to leave room for accidents or chaos,” he wrote to Nirvana when they attempted to hire him to produce the follow-up to “Nevermind.” This mindset is very much like the concerns of a teacher planning engaging learning experiences. Like a teacher, Steve wasn’t in it for the money. He told Nirvana he wanted to be paid like a plumber — doing a good job and getting paid for it — and had no interest in ongoing royalties. (Note: he still made way more than teachers, but hey, it’s the thought that counts.)

I will blame this random train of thought connecting music and school on my end-of-the-year reflection and nostalgia. What I work for every day is implementing simple shifts in our classrooms to make learning more meaningful for kids. It’s one of the reasons I like tools like the 4 Shifts Protocol; it helps facilitate those changes.

You can do all the professional development and coaching cycles in the world with teachers, give them access to every digital platform and tool, and send them to the most prestigious schools and conferences. But until you actually change the focus and intent of what you do in the classroom — from achieving some arbitrary learning goal to ensuring kids know how to choose a life path that works for them and developing those skills — we are always wasting our time, money, and effort.

As Steve said, nobody on Earth could make the Smashing Pumpkins sound like the Beatles. You’re never going to change schools until you change schools. The rest is just bonus points.

Quote of the Day

Sometimes we don’t need advice. Sometimes we just need to hear we’re not the only one.

“Sometimes we don’t need advice. Sometimes we just need to hear we’re not the only one.” (Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights)

Musical Interlude

You were right if you thought you’d get a Pixies performance today. Here’s “Where is My Mind?” from Glastonbury 2014.

Long Read of the Day

Producers and engineers who use meaningless words to make their clients think they know what’s going on. Words like “Punchy,” “Warm,” “Groove,” “Vibe,” “Feel.” Especially “Punchy” and “Warm.” Every time I hear those words, I want to throttle somebody.

I figured I’d just include a link to Steve Albini’s “The Problem with Music” from 1993 here. It’s a great read and you’ll likely draw some parallels to education.

Video of the Day

While we’re at it, why don’t we take a tour of Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago? I mean… why not? At about 6:35, you get to see the vent they cut in the floor to combine the air mass of the studio with the room below…

Final Thoughts

School ends on Friday. I wonder how nutty the rest of this week’s newsletters will be…


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Thursday, May 9, 2024

books
An actual photo of the actual state of my books. And this isn’t all of them…

About two years ago, I admitted that I had a book problem. I’ve heard that the first step to overcoming a problem is admitting that you have one.

Plot twist: That didn’t work. I still have a book problem — a major one — and it’s starting to spread to other physical media.

Of course, all the Kindle books are rattling around the cloud because I can’t seem to choose a format and stick with it. Sometimes, I want to hold a physical book, and sometimes, I want to go digital.

Admittedly, adding to my growing zettelkasten is easier with a digital book, but there is still a great benefit to writing down my notes and entering them in the system.

Two years ago, my TBR on Goodreads was around 1,500 books. It’s floating around 3,000 now, which I know sounds ridiculous until you learn about the concept of the antilibrary, and then 3,000 books don’t seem like such a big deal.

Here’s the real issue: the school year is coming to a close, and I will have way more time to read than I have in the past few months, so I’m getting a little excited and have books on my mind all the time.

Or, maybe I’m still trying to make up for nearly 20 years of doing what other people thought I should do before figuring things out for myself. Maybe one day, I’ll figure it all out.

Until then, I’ll just keep reading…

Quote of the Day

Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.

“Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.” -Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

Musical Interlude

I love Kacey Musgraves’ voice, and this cover of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know provides ample room for her vocals.

Long Read of the Day

In our era of electronic communications, we’ve come to expect that important innovations will spread quickly. Plenty do: think of in-vitro fertilization, genomics, and communications technologies themselves. But there’s an equally long list of vital innovations that have failed to catch on. The puzzle is why.

Why do some innovations spread so swiftly and others so slowly?

Video of the Day

I know you’ve been asking yourself, “I’d love to know they make Japanese swords — from the gathering of the iron sand to the smelting of the steel to the forging of the blade.

Have no fear, here’s your answer:

Final Thoughts

Is it Friday yet?

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

allergies
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

That’s just the way it is…

Greetings Starfighters,

Living in the Southern United States during the months of April and May is, to be quite honest, one of the most ill-informed choices a human being can make, especially for those of us suffering from seasonal allergies.

I mean, when you can wash your car and come back out to it a few hours later to be greeted by a powdery covering of yellowish-green stuff that is often a little sticky and definitely irritating, you know that you’ve made poor life choices.

But that same yellowish-green stuff is the sign of life returning to the world. My grass is the greenest of greens right now, thanks to more than enough rain and the nearly perfect fertile ground that covers much of Kentucky. I love looking at the world around me, but OH MY GOD, CAN WE GET SOME SUPER-SIZED AIR FILTERS FOR ALL THE POLLEN?

Ah well, such is the life of a Kentucky boy. All allergies and longing for time spent in the woods. Time for more nasal spray…

Quote of the Day

"The world only cares about—and pays off on—what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it)." (George Couros, The Innovator's Mindset)

“The world only cares about—and pays off on—what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it).” (George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset)

Musical Interlude

It’s September 1986, and I’m just nine years old. My summer had been absolutely destroyed by two things: my family moved from Campbellsville, KY, to Elizabethtown, KY (there’s a movie about this place that is great, but not because they portrayed E-town properly), and Optimus Prime died in the Transformers movie.

Even now, it’s difficult to say which event was more traumatic.

Regardless, this song hit the radio waves, whether it was Q104 in Campbellsville or WQXE in E-town, and I loved it. The simple melodies combined with the incredible piano lead hit me. Of course, I didn’t understand the lyrics then, but they stuck with me.

That song was The Way It Is, written by Bruce Hornsby and recorded by Hornsby along with his band, The Range, at the time.

Hornsby has said he wanted to create a sense of place with the song lyrics, providing a snapshot of small-town life in Virginia. Much like Springsteen with New Jersey or Mellencamp with Indiana, Hornsby wanted to take listeners to Virginia and talk with them about racism.

I’m quite certain that’s exactly what he accomplished, and given the song’s enduring legacy in the nearly 40 years since its release, many millions have had the chance to talk about it and its meaning.

And that enduring legacy has reached beyond the pop and rock genres with many artists covering or sampling portions of The Way It Is for their own hits, most famously done by Tupac Shakur with Changes.

There’s not a version of The Way It Is that I don’t enjoy, but this one from BBC 2 Radio is quite good. The orchestra adds something special to Hornsby’s iconic piano.

Long Read of the Day

In the late 18th century, officials in Prussia and Saxony began to rearrange their complex, diverse forests into straight rows of single-species trees. Forests had been sources of food, grazing, shelter, medicine, bedding and more for the people who lived in and around them, but to the early modern state, they were simply a source of timber.

So-called “scientific forestry” was that century’s growth hacking. It made timber yields easier to count, predict and harvest, and meant owners no longer relied on skilled local foresters to manage forests. They were replaced with lower-skilled laborers following basic algorithmic instructions to keep the monocrop tidy, the understory bare.

Information and decision-making power now flowed straight to the top. Decades later when the first crop was felled, vast fortunes were made, tree by standardized tree. The clear-felled forests were replanted, with hopes of extending the boom. Readers of the American political anthropologist of anarchy and order, James C. Scott, know what happened next.

It was a disaster so bad that a new word, Waldsterben, or “forest death,” was minted to describe the result. All the same species and age, the trees were flattened in storms, ravaged by insects and disease — even the survivors were spindly and weak. Forests were now so tidy and bare, they were all but dead.

The Internet as we know it now has become a little too well-maintained and planned. We’re not seeing the true purpose of this amazing tool; in fact, we’re moving further and further from that original purpose.

Just like in our schools, we need to have a little less structure and let things get a little wild.

Video of the Day

Not to get into a huge debate here, but I will talk about AI. As a tech guy, I know all sides of every argument around the arrival of Generative AI tools like ChatGPT, DALL-E, and more. Yes, there are some very clear ethical issues attached to the usage of these tools, especially in the creative world.

However, there are very valid uses of the technology, provided we operate on the assumption that we are human beings and should treat everyone as such. We should only use AI tools to better ourselves or our work and NOT use AI as some all-encompassing replacement for the creativity of the human spirit.

This week on CBS Sunday Morning, Randy Travis got a feature. Travis, an award-winning, massively successful, Hall of Fame country music artist, suffered a stroke in 2013. Given only a 2% chance to live, Travis has battled against the odds and is still with us more than a decade later. However, the portions of his brain tasked with speech and singing were the most damaged by the stroke. His singing career was essentially over.

Until some folks thought about all the voice-generating tools powered by AI that create something that sounds a little like a famous artist but without any of the heart, passion, or humanity behind their voice. They decided that there must be a way to use these tools responsibly and help Randy Travis get his voice back.

Trust me, you’re going to need Kleenex for this one.

Final Thoughts

Admittedly, I’ve switched to publishing daily thoughts as a bit of an experiment. I’m trying to force myself to push out more content to continue developing my writing practice. However, I don’t ever want to get to a place where I’m publishing just for the sake of publishing. Veteran web publisher and all-around genius Om Malik recently talked about excessive activity leading to average quality, especially in the online world as the almighty algorithms continue to dominate. Cory Doctorow talks about the ‘enshittification’ of everything and I certainly see that on every social platform out there.

So, I’ll keep publishing daily but promise to remain vigilant about content quality. Yes, I like to share my thoughts, but I don’t want to share without providing value or insight. Only add good things to the world friends, never take away.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Monday, May 6, 2024

group of people staring at monitor inside room
Photo by Jake Hills on Unsplash

Greetings Starfighters,

I’ve come to grips with something that will be very helpful when working with teachers and students going forward. I’ve come to understand that my brain works a little differently than others regarding visualization.

I had just assumed that everyone sees images or even films playing in the inner theatre of the mind when thinking about events in the past or even as they tell a story. If I’m saying something about something I did or somewhere I went, I can very easily see the events unfold in my mind like I’m watching a movie.

I just assumed this is what everyone did when accessing memories. And, of course, I was hopelessly, completely wrong.

When I write a story and share it with my wife, I often say to her, “I just write the movie playing in my head.”

I don’t know how much that ability affects designing lesson plans or professional development activities for teachers, but I imagine that it does. Some people just can’t do it. I have to come to terms with how they see the world and how they process memories because they are not like me.

Yet again, I’m learning that you must learn the experiences of others before you can truly understand how they see the world, even in the world of their own mind. More on this in a bit.

Quote of the Day

"When you appeared in this world, you cried, and all the people around you rejoiced. You have to live your life in such a way that when you leave this world, you will rejoice, and all the people around you will cry." (Leo Tolstoy and Peter Sekirin, A Calendar of Wisdom)

“When you appeared in this world, you cried, and all the people around you rejoiced. You have to live your life in such a way that when you leave this world, you will rejoice, and all the people around you will cry.” (Leo Tolstoy and Peter Sekirin, A Calendar of Wisdom)

Musical Interlude

I have these five questions I ask people when I’m getting to know them; questions I stole directly from super music producer David Foster. The first question is simply, “Beatles or Stones?”

I may have to change that at some point, but while I have a healthy appreciation for the Beatles, I know I’ve found my people when I hang around those who answer Stones.

Of course, I’m speaking of the Rolling Stones. They are brilliant, with just enough bluesy rock to really get the adrenaline flowing and settle into a great jam.

Here’s a performance from the Tokyo Dome in 1990:

Long Read of the Day

Hyperphantasia, or intense visual imagery, can teach us about creativity and mental health. People like me, with hyperphantasia, can imagine things very clearly, sometimes blending our thoughts with what we see around us. This could change how we think about mental health.

On the other hand, aphantasia is when you can’t picture things in your mind. People with aphantasia think and remember things without seeing pictures, which differs from the bright images of hyperphantasia. While hyperphantasia can make creative work more vibrant, aphantasia can lead people to jobs where they don’t need to imagine things visually.

Studying these conditions can show how they affect jobs and mental health. People with hyperphantasia might remember past events very clearly, which can strengthen their feelings. However, people with aphantasia might find it hard to do tasks that require imagination or memory because they can’t use visual images to help them remember things.

Read more

Video of the Day

In this interview, Paul Auster, who recently passed away, discusses his journey to becoming a writer, triggered by a childhood memory of a missed autograph from baseball player Willie Mays. This event led him to always carry a pencil, symbolizing his readiness and later influencing his writing decision. Auster reflects on his early struggles with writing, where he amassed numerous unfinished manuscripts, viewing them as an apprenticeship for his later success. He emphasizes the laborious nature of his writing process, often rewriting a single page multiple times to achieve the perfect rhythm and fluidity, likening it to composing music.

This is a great video to share with your young writers, or if you have that writing itch you need to scratch yourself, take heed.

Final Thoughts

Sitting next to me is quite possibly the greatest shirt I’ve ever purchased. It just arrived in the mail today. If you think you can handle the awesome, perhaps I will share it with you tomorrow.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Can’t sleep? Try Sleep Baseball

baseball
Photo by Mike Bowman on Unsplash

I had ASMR before it was popular. Whenever I got a haircut, I got those weird chills from my head down my spine, and I felt very comfortable and relaxed.

When I have trouble falling asleep, Haircut Harry is often my late-night companion. Something about the sounds in the videos, along with an appreciation for masters of their craft, calms me.

Maybe barbershop videos work for you, maybe not. My wife seems to like rug cleaning videos.

But if you are having trouble falling asleep, maybe try Sleep Baseball.

From the site:

Northwoods Baseball Sleep Radio is a full-length fake baseball game. There is no yelling, no loud commercials, no weird volume spikes. Fans call it “baseball radio ASMR”. 

It is the perfect podcast for sleeping or relaxing, if you’re into that kind of thing.

It even has a nice write-up in the New Yorker.

Happy Star Wars Day – Here’s a new trailer for The Acolyte

the acolyte

It’s May 4th, which means it’s Star Wars Day. This morning, I celebrated by watching Revenge of the Sith.

I got a little more hyped when I saw a new trailer drop for the next Disney+ Star Wars series, The Acolyte.

In Star Wars: The Acolyte, an investigation into a shocking crime spree pits a respected Jedi Master (Lee Jung-jae) against a dangerous warrior from his past (Amandla Stenberg). As more clues emerge, they travel down a dark path where sinister forces reveal all is not what it seems…

Friday, May 3, 2024

may
Photo by Rahul Pandit on Unsplash

Greetings Starfighters,

The enemy is at the gates, things have fallen apart. The center does not hold…

Yes, I’m being dramatic. The climax of Derby Week is here in Kentucky with the running of the Kentucky Oaks today and the 150th Kentucky Derby tomorrow. I’ll avoid downtown Louisville this weekend at all costs to leave the visitors to their frivolities and watch as they leave behind the memories of too many mint juleps and not enough gambling wins to make the journey worthwhile.

Also, I have some guidelines on how to prepare the best mint julep for your Derby parties. Pour a shot of bourbon, neat or on ice, however you prefer. Take all the other julep ingredients and throw them in the trash. Enjoy your bourbon.

Seriously. Mint juleps are gross. And I like mint.

I’m more focused on Star Wars Day and Free Comic Book Day. The universe conspired to have both events fall on the same day as the Derby, leaving alternative entertainment plans and celebrations for those not so enamored with seeing horses who’ve had too many beatings carry jockeys around an oval for two minutes, running so hard that they nearly die. Of course, if they get injured while running, the likelihood they will die increases. Sometimes, they euthanize the horse right on the track.

We’re going to catch The Phantom Menace in the theater today, and I’m taking my kiddo to our local comic shop on Saturday to grab a free comic (and pick up a copy of Space Ghost #1 if they have any left!).

But, I’ll still sit down for a few minutes, catch the Louisville Cardinal Marching Band play “My Old Kentucky Home” before the Derby, and sing along with a tear in my eye. As much as I don’t care for the Derby, there are some traditions I’ll happily participate in this weekend.

Quote of the Day

"Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as “good” and other sorts as “bad,” is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with." (Stephen King, On Writing)

“Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as “good” and other sorts as “bad,” is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.” (Stephen King, On Writing)

The core of what our dark leader, Stephen King, is getting at here is to become good at writing—or anything, really—you have to get past your own doubts and fears and just do it. Nothing gets done until something is done, and nothing changes until something changes.

To put it in scientific terms, “an object at rest tends to stay at rest, an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force.

The outside force is you, or maybe your will. Regardless, until you do something, your fears will always win. They’re not going to go away (it’d be nice, but they won’t), so you may as well make peace with them and let them know who’s really in charge.

Musical Interlude

I love Debussy’s Clair de Lune. Love it. There’s something about the layers of rolling chords, the dynamic range from almost a whisper to a swelling roar. For me, it’s a perfect piece of music and sounds equally brilliant whether a master pianist delivers a solo or the full orchestra carries the musical load. Here’s a great interpretation (with great acoustics) to brighten your day.

Long Read of the Day

If you’ve ever wondered exactly why your favorite (or least favorite) celebrity gets to write a book, there’s a reason. The publishing industry mainly focuses on celebrity books and repeat bestsellers to make money. Most books sell very few copies, with only a small percentage achieving high sales numbers. Big advances for books don’t guarantee high sales, and backlist books contribute significantly to publishers’ revenues.

Elle Griffin explores the events of the failed Penguin Random House/Simon & Schuster merger detailed in the book The Trial and reveals some of the nasty bits about the publishing industry.

Video of the Day

I’m double-dipping here with another music video—god, why did MTV ever stop playing them—but this is excellent and I’m going to force all of you to appreciate classical music before I’m done (Mayhap not, but I’m still gonna try.)

Evan Goldfine has an excellent newsletter on listening to Bach, and yesterday, he released a “beginner’s guide” that provides several entry points for your Bach journey. Yo-Yo Ma and Chris Thile are personal favorites, so seeing them mentioned along with bassist Edgar Meyer was a treat. Here they are playing a rendition of Bach’s Trio Sonata No. 6 in G Major from their 2017 ‘Bach Trios’ release.

Final Thoughts

Enjoy the weekend, gang. Make time for coffee, reading, and maybe some pizza. And spend time with those you love because they’re all we’ve got when it all ends. The rest is just bonus points.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!