Eight Books to Read If You’re in a Creative Slump

notebooks
Photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

Struggling with a creative block can feel like being stuck in quicksand—every effort to escape seems to pull you deeper into frustration. You stare at the blank page or screen, willing for an idea to spark, but nothing clicks. Before you resign yourself to despair, let these seven remarkable books be your lifeline. Each one offers a unique perspective on overcoming creative hurdles, from grappling with perfectionism to finding inspiration in unexpected places. Dive into these stories of struggle and triumph, and rediscover the magic of creativity in the most unexpected ways.

The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero

Levrero’s diary kept during his Guggenheim fellowship, chronicles his struggle to write a novel. It captures the essence of a creative block with dry humor and honesty. His distractions and failures reveal that creative work often involves attempting the impossible and finding meaning, even in failure.

Sale
The Luminous Novel
  • Levrero, Mario (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 431 Pages – 08/03/2021 (Publication Date) – And Other Stories (Publisher)

Scratched by Elizabeth Tallent

Tallent’s memoir explores her 20-year struggle with perfectionism after early literary success. Through her dense, introspective prose, she examines how perfectionism stifles creativity, ultimately learning to embrace imperfection and reality over-idealized art.

Sale
Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism
  • Hardcover Book
  • Tallent, Elizabeth (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages – 02/25/2020 (Publication Date) – Harper (Publisher)

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Chabon’s novel follows Grady Tripp, a writing professor stuck in a never-ending manuscript. Amidst personal chaos, Tripp’s creative struggle highlights how we create our own obstacles. The book offers solace and humor for anyone feeling creatively isolated.

Sale
Wonder Boys: A Novel
  • Chabon, Michael (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages – 04/29/2008 (Publication Date) – Random House Trade Paperbacks (Publisher)

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Johnson’s book shifts focus from individual creativity to environments that foster innovation. Exploring how ideas develop through serendipity and collaboration encourages cultivating variety and openness in one’s creative process.

Sale
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
  • Johnson, Steven (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 344 Pages – 10/04/2011 (Publication Date) – Riverhead Books (Publisher)

So Many Olympic Exertions by Anelise Chen

Chen’s novel blends fiction and nonfiction. It follows Athena’s struggle with her dissertation amidst personal tragedy. The book critiques society’s obsession with achievement through sports metaphors and offers a reevaluation for those stuck in their projects.

Sale
So Many Olympic Exertions
  • Chen, Anelise (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 232 Pages – 06/27/2017 (Publication Date) – Kaya Press (Publisher)

What It Is by Lynda Barry

Barry’s unique work combines a graphic memoir, a meditation on creativity, and an activity book. Her collages and exercises emphasize play and relinquishing control to revive creativity, arguing that embracing the unknown can overcome creative blocks.

Sale
What It Is
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Barry, Lynda (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 209 Pages – 05/13/2008 (Publication Date) – Drawn and Quarterly (Publisher)

Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer

Dyer’s account of his failed attempt to write about D.H. Lawrence is filled with humorous distractions. His book demonstrates that the obligations of creative work are not as rigid as they seem, offering a liberating perspective on tackling creative blocks.

Sale
Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence
  • Dyer, Geoff (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages – 11/10/2009 (Publication Date) – Picador (Publisher)

The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1

This collection features interviews with great writers discussing their creative processes and struggles. The practical advice and diverse voices provide reassurance and inspiration, emphasizing that there are many ways to create art and encouraging readers to be true to themselves.

Sale
The Paris Review Interviews, I: 16 Celebrated Interviews (The Paris Review Interviews, 1)
  • The Paris Review (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 528 Pages – 10/17/2006 (Publication Date) – Picador (Publisher)

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!

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

"Sunrise" An epic view of Torres del Paine. In the early morning, when conditions are just right, the first sunlight beautifully highlights parts of the mountains.
“Sunrise” An epic view of Torres del Paine. In the early morning, when conditions are just right, the first sunlight beautifully highlights parts of the mountains.

Greetings Starfighters,

Yesterday, I had the chance to present at the Murray State University Summit and show off some of the amazing work our students completed this past semester. You can find my slide deck and the resources I shared with those fine folks right here.

And now, on with the show!

Quote of the Day

"The ability to dream is all I have to give. That is my responsibility; that is my burden. And even I grow tired." (Harlan Ellison, Stalking the Nightmare)

“The ability to dream is all I have to give. That is my responsibility; that is my burden. And even I grow tired.” (Harlan Ellison, Stalking the Nightmare)

Musical Interlude

The world is a little brighter in the past few weeks, as Common has blessed us with some new music and an upcoming album release in July. Here’s his latest collaboration with Pete Rock:

Long Read of the Day

Engineers carefully lowered the Cyclops 2 model into the testing tank nose-first, like a bomb being loaded into a silo, and then screwed on the tank’s 3,600-pound lid. Then they began pumping in water, increasing the pressure to mimic a submersible’s dive. If you’re hanging out at sea level, the weight of the atmosphere above you exerts 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi). The deeper you go, the stronger that pressure; at the Titanic’s depth, the pressure is about 6,500 psi. Soon, the pressure gauge on UW’s test tank read 1,000 psi, and it kept ticking up—2,000 psi, 5,000 psi. At about the 73-minute mark, as the pressure in the tank reached 6,500 psi, there was a sudden roar, and the tank shuddered violently.

“I felt it in my body,” an OceanGate employee wrote in an email later that night. “The building rocked, and my ears rang for a long time.”

“Scared the shit out of everyone,” he added.

The model had imploded thousands of meters short of the safety margin OceanGate had designed for.

This conversation took place in July 2016, long before the Oceangate Titan imploded on its way down to the wreckage of the Titanic. This tragedy can be traced to a series of lies, personal hubris, and cheating. While creativity and dreams were certainly involved in this work, there’s something to be said about working with and trusting experts when universal laws are at play.

Read more about the backstory of the Titan here.

Video of the Day

Ludwig Göransson’s work on the Oppenheimer score, especially “Can You Hear the Music?” offers great insights for teachers as designers of learning experiences. His process with Christopher Nolan shows the value of collaboration and giving space for creativity. Starting with a simple four-note baseline that evolved into something complex reminds us that big ideas often start small. Experimentation and iteration were key, reflecting the importance of trial and error in the classroom.

Göransson’s focus on the emotional core of Oppenheimer’s journey underscores the power of integrating emotional and narrative elements into lessons. His blending of mathematical elements with music demonstrates the benefits of interdisciplinary approaches. The innovative solutions to recording challenges highlight the need for adaptability and problem-solving. Finally, his emphasis on impactful elements over complexity reminds us to prioritize clarity in lesson design. Teachers can create engaging and effective learning experiences that resonate deeply with students by seeing themselves as designers.

Final Thoughts

I’m watching the 1948 film version of Hamlet and am fascinated by the practical effects. What were they doing in 1948 to make a ghost on film? Does anybody know or can direct me to some reading?

It still amazes me that I can be blown away by work done over 70 years ago.


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!

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

cerro gordo

Greetings Starfighters,

Pardon my absence for the past couple of weeks. The closing of one school year is generally filled with preparations for the next school year, mostly comprised of meeting after meeting filled with lots of planning.

In my case, I’m also catching up on professional development hours. Taking a new position so close to the beginning of a school year and taking most of the year to find your footing in said position does little to help get those crucial PD hours in when you’re just trying to stay afloat.

But I’m back and should be bringing you regular updates again unless the galactic overlords play havoc with the latest beef shipment at Costco…

Anyhow, my brain is consumed these days with creating new professional development sessions for teachers and prepping for our annual Doc Week gathering with the Educational Leadership Studies doctoral students on campus at the University of Kentucky.

As our program is fully online, it’s the only chance we have to get together in person, share some laughs and stories, and commiserate on our struggles as we walk down the doctoral path. Ultimately, it’s about connecting with a tribe of peers, something that can help all of us get through whatever struggles we’re experiencing.

For now, on with the show…

Quote of the Day

“So many who were remembered already forgotten, and those who remembered them long gone.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

“So many who were remembered already forgotten, and those who remembered them long gone.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

Musical Interlude

Bruce Springsteen — No Surrender — Live in Dublin 2024

Long Read of the Day

In June 1944 the landings had been a long time coming. After a series of crushing defeats between 1939 and 1942, the comeback of the British Empire and the USA in World War II began in North Africa in 1942 and continued in Italy 1943. But, it was the landing in Normandy in June 1944 that were the decisive breakthrough. The destruction of the German forces in Northern France opened the door to the liberation of Paris and to the eventual meeting with the Red Army in Central Germany in May 1945.

We’re only a few days removed from the 80th anniversary of D-Day, and these reflections from Adam Tooze are a compelling read.

Video of the Day

One of my favorite YouTube channels belongs to Brent Underwood. Brent took up residency in Cerro Gordo, California, just as COVID broke out here in the US. Now, that may not sound all that interesting until you learn that Cerro Gordo is an abandoned silver mining town that some say is haunted.

Let the fun begin.

Brent has worked for the last few years to restore the town, even rebuilding the American Hotel for future travelers (he published a book about his journey recently). It’s not hard to look at all the Cerro Gordo restorations as one massive project-based learning unit, albeit far more expensive and lengthy than anything we could ever pull off in a school setting (but it sure would be fun to try, wouldn’t it?)

Last year, Brent hosted a race from the entrance of the Cerro Gordo road up to the town itself. Again, that may not sound all that interesting until you learn that the road is about eight miles long, mostly dirt and gravel, and achieves nearly 5,000 feet in elevation gain over those eight miles.

In other words, it’s a hell of a run. 230 people signed up for this year’s race on Memorial Day weekend. Here’s the recap:

Final Thoughts

My friend, Brian Rodman, is publishing his book, Memoirs of an Angel, on Kickstarter later this month. It’s a great blend of horror, spirituality, and good ol’ storytelling. From Brian,

It’s been almost two thousand years since the Final War destroyed planet Earth, and nearly a thousand years since The Grand Republic brought peace and order to an otherwise chaotic world. Every day, ordinary citizens of the Republic work, play and rest with the knowledge that utopia is well underway. But Jonathan Young knows better than to put hope in such things. For as long as he can remember, his entire life has been an ongoing battle. And once he comes face to face with Etrulia, the Witch of Endor tonight, that battle and his torment will end one way or another. Across space and time, two elohim race against the Dark Kingdom of the unseen realms to venture inside the mind of a demon-possessed boy, attempting to free him from the clutches of the diabolical Xexxus, Last of Legion. However, the further they progress on their mission, the more they realize this possession is much more malevolent than it seems. Mattia Bajuma, a Cleric of the High Council of The Grand Republic, flees to the witch-infested land of The Grey. Her mission: to find her old Mentor, Obadiah, and seek his guidance in a desperate bid to save her young client. This new world order, with its utopian façade, threatens to euthanize the innocent. But Mattia, with her unwavering determination, is willing to risk everything to save him. These lives will intertwine and crash together across the seen and unseen realms. They must learn to unite if they are going to prevent what is seemingly becoming inevitable…the undoing of the order of the cosmos; the destruction of The Cosmic Wheel.

If this sounds interesting, head over and get on the notification list.

memoirs of an angel

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!

8 Strategies to Improve Organizational Learning in Public Schools

pile of covered books
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Professional learning communities (PLCs) are pivotal in fostering meaningful and sustainable changes in the ever-evolving education landscape. Drawing from extensive research and real-world examples, here are eight strategies that PLCs can implement to improve organizational learning in public schools.

1. Empower Teachers as Leaders and Change Agents

One of the most effective ways to enhance the impact of PLCs is by empowering teachers to take on leadership roles. Teachers are not just implementers of change but also key drivers. By recognizing their agency and providing opportunities for leadership, schools can leverage their educators’ unique insights and expertise. Empowered teachers can lead initiatives that align with the broader goals of school improvement, creating a more dynamic and responsive educational environment.

2. Develop a Shared Vision and Culture

A clear, shared vision is fundamental to driving deeper learning and student success. Establishing a school-wide culture that values continuous learning and promotes collective responsibility for student outcomes is crucial. Schools prioritizing creating and sustaining a positive organizational culture are often more successful in implementing and maintaining changes. This shared vision should be reflected in the school’s daily practices, language, and interactions.

3. Promote Collaborative Inquiry and Reflection

Collaboration and reflective practice are cornerstones of effective PLCs. By fostering a culture of collaborative inquiry, teachers can engage in joint problem-solving and share best practices. Structured collaboration allows teachers to collaborate on curriculum design, student assessment, and instructional strategies, leading to more cohesive and effective teaching practices. Regularly scheduled meetings and collaborative planning sessions are essential for this process.

4. Use Data to Inform Practice

Data-driven decision-making is a powerful tool for improving instructional practices. Within PLCs, teachers should use student performance data to identify areas for improvement, develop targeted interventions, and monitor the effectiveness of these interventions. By grounding changes in evidence, teachers can tailor their strategies to meet the specific needs of their students, ensuring that their efforts are both effective and efficient.

5. Engage in Continuous Professional Development

Ongoing professional development is vital for keeping teachers abreast of the latest educational research and practices. Providing job-embedded professional development opportunities, such as workshops, coaching, and peer observations, can help teachers refine their pedagogical approaches. Professional development should be context-specific and aligned with the school’s goals and vision, ensuring it is relevant and practical for teachers.

6. Leverage Technology to Enhance Learning

Technology, when used purposefully, can significantly enhance teaching and learning. Incorporating digital tools and resources can facilitate student collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. Teachers should be supported in integrating technology to enrich the learning experience rather than merely automating traditional practices. This approach can help students develop essential 21st-century skills and engage more deeply with the curriculum.

7. Build Strong Community Partnerships

Developing partnerships with local businesses, organizations, and experts can extend learning beyond the classroom and provide students with real-world experiences. These partnerships offer additional resources and expertise, making education more relevant and meaningful for students. Engaging the community in the learning process can also create a supportive network that enhances the overall educational experience.

8. Cultivate Trust and Professionalism

A culture of trust and professionalism is essential for fostering innovation and continuous improvement. When teachers feel supported and valued, they are more likely to take risks, experiment with new approaches, and learn from their successes and failures. Building a trusting and professional environment involves creating conditions where teachers can collaborate openly, share ideas, and work together towards common goals.

Implementing these eight strategies can significantly enhance organizational learning within public schools. By empowering teachers, fostering collaboration, using data effectively, engaging in continuous professional development, leveraging technology, building community partnerships, and cultivating a culture of trust, PLCs can drive positive and meaningful changes that lead to improved student outcomes and a more dynamic learning environment.

Martinez, M. R., McGrath, D. R., & Foster, E. (2016). How deeper learning can create a new vision for teaching. The National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future. Retrieved from NCTAF.

Seashore, K. R. (2009). Leadership and change in schools: Personal reflections over the last 30 years. Journal of Educational Change, 10(2-3), 129-140. doi:10.1007/s10833-009-9111-4.


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!

Google unveils Veo, a high-definition AI video generator that may rival Sora

Google Veo generated images

Google introduced Veo, an AI video generator, at Google I/O 2024, capable of creating HD videos from text prompts like OpenAI’s Sora. Veo can edit videos from written instructions and generate cinematic effects, but it’s not widely available yet. Google plans to integrate Veo’s features into YouTube Shorts and other products, emphasizing responsible content creation with watermarking and safety filters.

Google says that Veo builds upon the company’s previous video-generation models, including Generative Query Network (GQN), DVD-GAN, Imagen-VideoPhenaki, WALT, VideoPoet, and Lumiere. To enhance quality and efficiency, Veo’s training data includes more detailed video captions, and it utilizes compressed “latent” video representations. To improve Veo’s video-generation quality, Google included more detailed captions for the videos used to train Veo, allowing the AI to interpret prompts more accurately.

Veo also seems notable in that it supports filmmaking commands: “When given both an input video and editing command, like adding kayaks to an aerial shot of a coastline, Veo can apply this command to the initial video and create a new, edited video,” the company says.


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 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?


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!

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

anthony bourdain israel

“It’s easily the most contentious piece of real estate in the world. And there’s no hope—none—of ever talking about it without pissing somebody, if not everybody, off. Maybe that’s why it took me so long to come here, a place where even the names of ordinary things are ferociously disputed. Where does falafel come from? Who makes the best hummus? Is it a fence or a wall? By the end of this episode, I’ll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, socialist, fascist, CIA agent, and worse. So here goes nothing.”

Anthony Bourdain, from the 2013 “Jerusalem” episode of Parts Unknown.

I was raised in a non-denominational church—that’s code for ‘we are Christians, but we don’t like the rules of any Christian sect, so we’ll make our own and also choose to be radical fundamentalists’—making my view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict quite skewed for a long, long time. We were taught that Israel was the Holy Land, the Promised Land, the Land of Milk and Honey, and that every true Christian should go there at least once in their lives to walk in the footsteps of the heroes of the faith.

Oddly, it sounds very similar to the Muslim Hajj, but I digress…

We were also taught that the Jews were the chosen people of God. To speak ill of the Jewish people or to not support Israel was akin to high crimes of treason against the church, unthinkable and unacceptable. Also, we were taught that Muslims and all Palestinians were the enemies of God and essentially the embodiment of Satan and his minions.

Oddly, this rhetoric is similar to any extremist religion, choosing enemies of a God and naming people it’s perfectly acceptable and encouraged to hate. Weird.

However, in the 20-ish years since I left that church and the misguided people in charge and in my ongoing struggle to come to terms with my own faith—plot twist: I think there’s some truth to be found in all religions, including the religion of not being religious—I’ve changed my mind on any number of things, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Of course, I don’t have an answer. People much smarter and more powerful than me have tried and haven’t come up with a winning solution yet. It’s an old, old problem, tied up in disparate beliefs that form the very core of many people. Emotions run wild on both sides of the battle, giving reason little space to maneuver.

I don’t know that the violence will ever stop. Here’s what I do know: Violence begets violence. If we can’t come to an agreement amongst all parties involved that, at the most basic level, everyone involved is connected on the most basic level of being human and inhabiting the only home we’ll likely ever know, then I see no hope in ending this ridiculous conflict.

Both sides are right, both sides are wrong.

And none of us are the better for it. This conflict represents one of many very difficult conversations we should have with our children and our students. We must have these conversations, make room to talk with disagreeing people, and try to come to some common understanding.

If not, we all lose.

Quote of the Day

"I hope to give my children the opportunity to find what they love to do, work to be great at it, pursue it, and do it. Rather than cover their eyes from ugly truths, I want to cover their eyes from fictional fantasies that will handicap their ability to negotiate tomorrow’s reality. I believe they can handle it." (Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights)

“I hope to give my children the opportunity to find what they love to do, work to be great at it, pursue it, and do it. Rather than cover their eyes from ugly truths, I want to cover their eyes from fictional fantasies that will handicap their ability to negotiate tomorrow’s reality. I believe they can handle it.” (Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights)

Sale
Greenlights
  • #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Discover the life-changing memoir that has inspired millions of readers through the Academy Award–winning actor’s unflinching honesty, unconventional wisdom, and lessons learned the hard way about living with greater satisfaction.
  • Hardcover Book
  • McConaughey, Matthew (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages – 10/20/2020 (Publication Date) – Crown (Publisher)

Musical Interlude

Having only recently discovered the Black Pumas, I loved this cover of the Otis Redding classic.

Long Read of the Day

On the eve of the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board, scholars revealed racial and economic segregation in American public schools has steadily increased throughout the last few decades. 

The trend is unsurprising to lawyers and researchers familiar with the challenges of Brown’s implementation, who’ve sounded the alarm that the widespread practice of tying school assignment to childrens’ home addresses has  perpetuated segregation.

But one civil rights and education law expert maintains a sense of optimism, offering new ideas for how courts and state legislatures can take on integration efforts.

“There’s a whole lot that they could do if they wanted to,” said University of North Carolina law professor Erika Wilson, “but often states lack the political will.”

Racial and economic segregation in American public schools is increasing, despite efforts to desegregate. Civil rights lawyer Erika Wilson highlights the challenges in addressing segregation and advocates for racially and economically integrated schools for a healthy democracy. She suggests rethinking school district boundaries and the role of charter schools in promoting equity in education.

Video of the Day

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 the film and luxury goods industries.

Final Thoughts

Three. More. Days.


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!

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.


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!

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…


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