Archive for the ‘Things to think about’ Category

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

December 22, 2009

I love Chabon’s writing and this collection of essays is very good. . . put a copy on your nightstand and occasionally dip in.

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Rant . . . Publishers only printing half a book!

December 5, 2009

Just finished Diana Gabaldon’s An Echo In the Bone and it ends in the middle of the story! Leaving aside the discussion that this series eventually has to end, my huge takeaway is:   I’m so tired of reading books that end on major cliff-hangers!!!

I love series books. I like revisiting characters to find out what they are up to next. Harry Potter was a great example of how to do this well. Each book had its own story arc that resolved itself within each book. We knew more interesting stuff and character development was forthcoming but we knew each book’/school year’s major conflict would be resolved.

But this trend of publishing only a portion of a single story arc is really irritating. Suzanne Collins truly excellent The Hunger Games (plus its sequel) and Kelly Armstrong’s new YA novel The Awakening (and its sequel) do the same thing. Gabaldon’s latest actually ends in the middle of a conversation between two of the characters (Jamie and Lord John)!!!

I compare this to The Lord of the Rings. All three books were already published by the time I first read the series. I suppose I’d be just as ticked about LOTR if I were reading those as they were published. But I don’t think it was standard publishing practice back then to do this to readers. It’s become a publishing habit these days . . . especially in the YA/children’s market.

I keep threatening to write to the publishers and with this one I may just do it. It’s like 5 years between Gabaldon books these days. This is not fair to readers, especially for a really well-established series like Gabaldon’s. Why should anyone buy a book when it is first released? Just wait for all the books to be released before starting a new series. . . . and get them at your public library so you aren’t being soaked for the price of 2 or 3 or more books just to get a single story!

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

December 4, 2009

I listened to the audio book version of this (read by the author who did a very good job) and couldn’t stop talking about it to . . . well, anyone who would listen. The book is about what makes some people really stand out . . . and some of our misconceptions about what it takes to be successful.

Perhaps the most interesting issue Gladwell raised is the one about professional hockey players: professional hockey players in Canada are almost all born in the first 3 months of a calendar year because Dec. 31 is the cutoff date each year for kids hockey. That means at age 5, a kid born in January is significantly “older” and has more physical dexterity than a kid born in Dec. The “older” kids tend to outperform the younger kids at very young ages. So guess which kids on any given team get more playing time? more of a coach’s attention? get chosen for all-star teams or special league mentoring/play? By the time a January-born hockey player reaches high school, the cumulative effect of the extra attention and coaching is that most professional hockey players in Canada are born in the first 3 months of the year. Since this represents only about 25% of Canada’s population, how much athletic potential is not being developed because a December-born 5-year-old doesn’t have what it takes to compete with a January-born 5-year-old?

According to Gladwell this happens all over the world, in many areas of life. And the ramifications reach far beyond professional sports . . . one of Gladwell’s points is that we tend to do the same thing in education. We begin “tracking” kids at very young ages. What percentage of any country’s given population is not getting the time or attention it needs to be successful academically? What if we created pre-school/kindergarten and primary grade classrooms based on partial years e.g. Jan-Apr kids in one class, May-Aug kids not only in another class but starting school at a different time e.g. when they are actually 5 rather than 5 by Dec. 31? At least until “age” becomes less of a factor in a student’s likely ability to “compete” or keep pace with his or her peers (which begins to happen at about 9 or 10 years of age)?

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

November 17, 2009

Finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett this weekend. Can see why its on so many book group discussion lists . . . I see it becoming required reading in schools down the road. Here’s the question I’d add to the discussion: Note how ingrained it was for some people in the South to refuse to discuss/inform themselves about race (and many other “genteel” topics). Many refused to read or would change the channel if news stories were about race-related issues . . . which explains perhaps how/why attitudes/shameful behavior went on (continue to go on?) for such a long time e.g. if a national news story (e.g. Medgar Evers assination/Birmingham church bombings/etc.) was deliberately ignored, it’s no wonder so many people grew up with no idea or totally innaccurate ideas about what was really happening. People didn’t want to know. Likely true of Germans in Nazi Germany as well. Is this a normal human reaction to change? If so, what are we ignoring today to our peril or shame?