Thursday, May 16, 2024

desk stuff

Greetings Starfighters,

Earlier this week, Austin Kleon sent out a wonderful article about the things we love and live with, especially all the little things we keep around our workspaces and homes that help keep us sane.

I started thinking about all the trinkets I keep around me and realized that I keep a metric buttload of stuff, some of it useful, some of it for inspiration, and some of it just because.

For instance, on top of my desk at home, I have a number of themed Mr. Potato Heads because they make me smile. But amid them, there is a Batman action figure from the 1989 Tim Burton film.

Of all the toys I had in my younger days, that one has been with me through move after move, relationship after relationship. Sometimes a space doesn’t really feel like mine until I have Batman standing silent guard over all.

Pictures and drawings from my daughter and wife also hang around, as do several creations from former students.

Several versions of Iron Man lay scattered about, along with more pens, pencils, and markers than should be acceptable for someone in his late 40s.

I also keep several quotes taped up around me as reminders and inspiration. They include:

quote
quote
quote

I also have a copy of this print from Ryan Holiday featuring a great Hemingway quote hanging next to my desk at home.

quote

Oh, of course, there’s also my growing book collection (because I’m totally embracing the antilibrary theory).

Each item has some meaning for me, whether sentimental or silly and helps make my little areas of the world truly ‘mine.’

So, my question to you today is, “What do you keep around that makes a space truly yours?”

I’m opening up comments for this post on my Substack for everyone. Normally, only paid subscribers have access but let’s all get in on this bit of memory sharing, shall we?

Quote of the Day

“When we do the work for itself alone, our pursuit of a career (or a living or fame or wealth or notoriety) turns into something else, something loftier and nobler, which we may never even have thought about or aspired to at the beginning. It turns into a practice.” (Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro)

“When we do the work for itself alone, our pursuit of a career (or a living or fame or wealth or notoriety) turns into something else, something loftier and nobler, which we may never even have thought about or aspired to at the beginning. It turns into a practice.” (Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro)

Musical Interlude

Since my friend, John Nash, is in Las Vegas for the opening of Dead & Company at the Sphere, here’s a live performance of Sugaree from a few years ago.

Long Read of the Day

If you are holding a day job while you are writing your novel or poetry in the evenings after the kids have gone to sleep or the dishwasher has been unloaded or various tasks for the next morning have been completed, please do not be disheartened. Of course, writers need more space and support mechanisms of their own. This was clearly outlined by Virginia Woolf in her A Room of One’s Own. But my point is, if at this moment of your life, for whatever reason, you cannot completely dedicate your time to writing and have to do other things alongside, do not allow anyone make you feel like you are not a serious author.

We are storytellers. We are lovers of literature. We do not need labels or boxes. We are writers and that is all there is to it.

Amateur Writers vs Professional Authors

Video of the Day

If you haven’t heard, Francis Ford Coppola has a new movie he’s hoping to release soon. It looks bonkers. I hope someone picks it up and releases it because I want to see exactly how bonkers it is. I also hope Coppola is able to make some of his money back since he funded the film himself.

That’s dedication, folks.

Final Thoughts

What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?


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Pulitzer Prize in Fiction juror Michael Chabon – Three Books You Should Read

crop faceless woman reading book on bed
Photo by Koshevaya_k on Pexels.com

As a juror for the 2024 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. I read tons of novels & story collections (well, 100s of lbs of them, anyway). Beyond the winner and 2 runners-up, I want to shine a light on three excellent books, among the many nominees I deeply dug, by less well-known, less heralded writers. I’m doing this as a 4-part thread, in alphabetical order by author, so in case they get separated, please find and investigate all 3, each is terrific.

*The Ice Harp*, Norman Lock. A poignant, fascinating, thoroughly convincing, stream-of-consciousness novel about Ralph Waldo Emerson. Part of the author’s ongoing, fascinating “American Novels” sequence.

*After World*, Debbie Urbanski. A vividly imagined, quietly devastating tour-de-force of pre-, intra-, and—sneakily, thrillingly—post-apocalypse.

*Dearborn,* Ghassan Zeinnedine. Sly, straight-faced, tenderly wicked humor covers and uncovers histories of pain and loss among the precarious, proud, and fate-buffeted Arab-Americans of the titular Michigan city. A classic American short story collection, drawing back the curtain on a “hidden” subculture and community living in plain sight.

Michael Chabon on Threads

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?

The Meta-Diaries of Marion Milner: Prescribing Creativity

MARION MILNER, SUMMER BEECHES.
MARION MILNER, SUMMER BEECHES.

Marion Milner’s unique approach to self-discovery involved using her creative explorations in literature and art as a therapeutic project. Through her meta-diaries, she abandoned preconceived goals and embraced free writing to uncover hidden thoughts and dark instincts. Milner’s focus on creativity influenced her self-discovery and guided her therapeutic practice with patients like Simon, emphasizing the importance of creative expression for maintaining a sense of the future.

Since 1926, Milner had been writing diaries in which she recorded her impressions of life in ways that seem ordinary enough. She would, for example, note seeing “a little boy in a sailor suit dancing and skipping by himself on his way to look at the sea lions,” or reflect, “I realized how untrustworthy I am in personal relationships … always agreeing with the person present.” But in the thirties Milner turned her diaries, as a sort of raw material, into her first books, which were published as essayistic reflections about her diaries: A Life of One’s Own (1934) and An Experiment in Leisure (1937). In them she invented something new and a genre of her own: a diary about a diary, or what the critic Hugh Haughton has called a “meta-diary.” Contemporaries like W. H. Auden responded with enthusiasm.


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!

Navigating the High-Stakes World of Finance and Friendship: A Review of Cory Doctorow’s “The Bezzle”

cory doctorow the bezzle

Cory Doctorow’s “The Bezzle,” a prequel to the celebrated “Red Team Blues,” revisits the life of Marty Hench, a forensic accountant with a penchant for uncovering financial scams. Doctorow’s narrative takes us back to the dot-com boom and the 2008 financial crisis, exploring the concept of the ‘bezzle’—a term coined by JK Galbraith to describe the deceptive calm before an embezzlement is discovered. This novel is not just a journey through financial intrigue but also a study of contrasts and consequences, set against the backdrop of America’s burgeoning prison-industrial complex.

The novel starts with Marty and his friend Scott Warms, who finds himself rich but disillusioned after selling his tech company. Together, they uncover a Ponzi scheme on Catalina Island, initiating a chain of events that exposes the darker sides of wealth and the legal system. Doctorow masterfully interweaves these personal dramas with broader societal critiques, especially highlighting the ruthless privatization of American prisons by private equity firms, creating a ‘bezzle’ of far greater magnitude and moral bankruptcy.

Doctorow’s prowess lies in crafting a compelling thriller and his acute observations of the technological and financial landscapes. His attention to detail, from the quirks of the dot-com era to the insidious spread of neo-Nazi police gangs, roots the narrative in a reality that is both recognizable and reprehensible. The novel’s strength also lies in its characters, particularly Marty Hench, whose journey from a sharp-minded accountant to a more reflective, albeit chastened, individual offers a nuanced exploration of friendship, loyalty, and the cost of justice.

“The Bezzle” stands out for its incisive commentary on the intersections of crime, punishment, and capitalism. Through Marty’s eyes, Doctorow delves into the mechanics of white-collar crime, juxtaposing the frictionless lives of the wealthy against the grinding hardship of prisoners and their families. This narrative is about uncovering financial fraud and exposing the societal bezzles that allow injustices to thrive unnoticed.

Sale
The Bezzle: A Martin Hench Novel (The Martin Hench Novels)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Doctorow, Cory (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages – 02/20/2024 (Publication Date) – Tor Books (Publisher)

Doctorow’s novel resonates with the gritty realities of America’s carceral state, mirroring the detailed world-building found in science fiction and fantasy to lay bare the truths of our own world. The comparison to historical works like Dickens’ “Little Dorrit” reinforces the timeless nature of these themes, emphasizing how past and present intertwine in the perpetuation of systemic greed and exploitation.

In “The Bezzle,” Doctorow does more than tell a story; he invites readers to question the very fabric of society, the nature of friendship, and the price of freedom. It’s a book that thrills, educates, and disturbs, offering a mirror to the moral complexities of our times. It’s a must-read, not just for its narrative drive but for its urgent, resonant message about the world we navigate—both in the financial markets and beyond.


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!

Jukebox heroes and $20 fiddles

boy wearing black shirt on teal machine
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Greetings Starfighters,

Faster than the fleetest hoof ever struck the pavement or a wheel ever turned upon an axle, the magnificence of Spring Break lies upon us in the Bluegrass State. There is, perhaps, no better time for a break than right now, as many of our schools haven’t had a long break since January 2, baseball makes its annual return from the doldrums of winter, and the sun shines ever brighter each day.

I digress…

Yes, I’m in a good mood, partially because I’m off work for a few days and have a chance to catch up on my doctoral work (which never seems to end), but also to spend a few days with my kiddo (my apologies to all spouses who don’t get a break when their teacher partners do), do some reading (I’m so far behind on my yearly challenge), do some housework, and overall get ready to wrap up another school year with gusto.

Also, my virtual learning academy students just finished recording season one of their podcast, which I’ll be sharing very soon. They did a great job, even if they were freaking out the entire time they recorded.

So now, dear travelers, I present you with 10 things I thought were worth sharing with you this week…

10 Things Worth Sharing

  • I see more reasons to keep arts programs in our schools every day. When we involve students in the arts, we give them a chance to tap into the creative realm and expand their imagination. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll get a $20 violin that will take them everywhere…
  • I read Ron Berger’s excellent An Ethic of Excellence this week after staring at it on my bookshelf since last summer. I should have read it sooner. Hat tip to good friend Scott McCleod for the recommendation. Here’s a video of Ron from PBLWorks a few years ago. He starts with his philosophy that “we vastly underestimate the capacity of kids to do beautiful work.”
  • When you have ideas, put them down on paper. Share them. Get them out in the open and let them breathe. Get feedback from others and then, get to work on those ideas. If you let them, ideas rot.
  • Admittedly, I’m a huge Carl Sagan fan. I mean, why shouldn’t I be? His Cosmos TV series was an instrumental part of my childhood-yes, I was raised on public television-and his ideas still grip my brain today. However, I’m not sure I could handle his undergrad reading list from the 50s. It’s pretty stacked.
  • I love movies. Always have, always will. However, I will admit that I have not always taken the time to view artistic and important films. Yes, friends, I have been a populist movie watcher and enjoyed every minute of it. But, I’m doing my best to expand my horizons and, as such, have apparently become part of the cult of Criterion.
  • I’ve heard of some school districts adding student members to their school boards but I’d love to see more of it. Students need someone to speak directly about their experiences in schools and stop relying solely on the opinions of us old folk to make decisions.
  • Can art help people? I hope so…
  • Radiohead’s Creep serves as an anthem for anyone who has ever felt self-conscious or suffered from imposter syndrome. Or maybe that’s just how the song makes me feel. Regardless, I shed a tear or two every time I hear Creep, and if I’m alone in my car, I’ll likely scream much of the lyrics as I weep. Maybe you do, too. I’m not sure, but perhaps there are a few folks in this crowd of 1,600 doing the same as they sing Creep together.
  • Oklahoma is adding more virtual charter schools for the coming school year, even as some in the state believe that virtual schools have reached a ‘saturation point.’ Working with and researching virtual schools, I’m interested anytime news like this shows up as I hope that we are able to maintain virtual learning as an option for many students who haven’t found success in the traditional classroom.
  • Finally, did you know that KOOP radio in Austin, TX, has a Sunday afternoon Joystick Jukebox show? And that they have an archive online? Yes, you, too, can enjoy an hour of video game music spanning over 50 years of the genre every Sunday. It’s wicked cool and, you know, for kids!

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!

PS: Next week, I’ll talk about the importance of this book and my thoughts about the stories inside.

dangerous visions book

Random Links 3-25-2024

close up of rusty chains
Photo by Alex Jackson on Pexels.com

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!

Ten books from MIT faculty to expand your knowledge of teaching, learning, and technology

reading

As we head into Spring Break and, soon, into summer, you may already be building your reading list.

I know not everyone is busy marking professional learning books like me (yes, I have a sickness), but if you are, I have some recommendations.

Here are 10 books shared by MIT Open Learning faculty that explore teaching, learning, and technology. The books cover topics such as innovation in manufacturing, creating Android apps, sociable robots, educational technology, the science of learning, and workforce education.

One of my favorites, Failure to Disrupt, is on the list. I believe that text is required reading for anyone in the educational technology space if you’re brave enough to admit that we are often wrong about what technology can do in our schools.


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!

Creativity is Humanity

"But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other." (Paulo Freire, Donaldo Macedo (Introduction), Myra Bergman Ramos (Translator), Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

By our nature, humans were designed to create. It is the high cognitive portion of our mind, that 1% that stirs imagination and inquiry, that distinguishes us from our biological cousins on this planet.

When we don’t participate in the creative process, or, as happens so often in our schools, when we are prevented from participating in the creative process to conform to a preconceived notion of what we should do and how we should do it, we lose our humanity and become mere machines.

Do not waste the creative process. Do not float through your days and add nothing to the world around you.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

“But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.”

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

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!

Keep Your Childhood Sense of Wonder

“Masters and those who display a high level of creative energy are simply people who manage to retain a sizeable portion of their childhood spirit despite the pressures and demands of adulthood.”

Robert Greene, Mastery
"Masters and those who display a high level of creative energy are simply people who manage to retain a sizeable portion of their childhood spirit despite the pressures and demands of adulthood." (Robert Greene, Mastery)

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!