"Because we are all citizens of this democracy, because we will all be voters, we must all be educated for our responsibilities." --Diane Ravitch
A sob...more"Because we are all citizens of this democracy, because we will all be voters, we must all be educated for our responsibilities." --Diane Ravitch
A sobering read that delivers on its subtitle, clearly illustrating "How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education," Ravitch does a good job of putting the current emphasis on "testing and accountability" into historical perspective, and the chapter on "Choice: The Story of an Idea" is an enlightening tale of how a compelling narrative can trump both logic and facts. The book isn't linear, with several chapters working as standalone essays that reference previously stated information, weaving backwards and forwards in time, but she pulls it all together in the pragmatic final chapter, "Lessons Learned," proposing an alternative that, though light on details and acknowledging significant obstacles, offers a sound philosophical framework to start from.
The question is whether the bi-partisan friendly illusion of "choice" and its compelling narrative that's been heavily financed by self-proclaimed reformers and foundations, is already too entrenched, or can public school advocates and teachers' unions reframe the debate and put the focus on kids where it belongs?
An important read for anyone with, or planning to have children, as well as anyone who pays taxes and wonders why GE doesn't, and how we can fund multiple wars in foreign countries but can't agree upon a national curriculum that ensures all children receive a well-rounded education that prepares them to be more than simple-minded consumers.(less)
Poke the Box should have been titled Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us - The Remix as Godin brings nothing new to the table other than a relationship wit...morePoke the Box should have been titled Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us - The Remix as Godin brings nothing new to the table other than a relationship with Amazon and some promotional pricing gimmicks. It's his usual mix of paper-thin insights and exhortations to be bold! to lead! to ship! -- but with notably less energy or conviction than usual, as if he wrote it in between blog posts over a rare quiet weekend.
I pre-ordered the Kindle version for $1 and read it in a total of about 2 hours, and would still rather pay full price for the hardcover version of Tribes, a far superior book that I not only devoured and raved about 2.5 years ago, but bought copies for my entire staff at the time, and still recommend to people on a regular basis.
Perhaps the most interesting idea in the book gets buried in his Stuart Smalley-esque shtick:
One reason organizations get stuck is that they stick with their "A" players so long that they lose their bench. In a world that’s changing, a team with no bench strength and a rigid outlook on the game will always end up losing.
It's a concept worth exploring further, and one that fits perfectly under Tribes' philosophical umbrella, but in Poke it's an odd aside that gets glossed over.
One of Godin's running themes throughout Poke is to be an initiator, and that risking failure is the best road to achieving success, and by making Poke the Box the first offering from The Domino Project, he's practicing what he preaches. He initiated, he shipped, and he pretty much failed to deliver a good book.
Now the question will be whether or not "Powered by Amazon" and his marketing gimmicks have introduced him to a wider audience than Portfolio, his previous publisher, could have, and whether or not The Domino Project's bench is deep enough to give this publishing experiment real legs.(less)
I've been a fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates via his blog at The Atlantic since '08, and fully expected to enjoy this memoir just based on the commonalities I'...moreI've been a fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates via his blog at The Atlantic since '08, and fully expected to enjoy this memoir just based on the commonalities I'd already found in his writing. More than a memoir, it's a prose poem; a non-linear, unapologetically free verse ode to his formative years.
Five years my junior, Coates' childhood had many parallels and intersections with my own, and for me, this book is to memoir as Willie Perdomo's Nigger-Reecan Blues was/is to poetry. In the moments I didn't see myself in these pages, I saw family and friends; I saw the Bronx of the '80s, and my own move to the suburbs. For him, there was the djembe; for me, poetry, the difference being it came much later in life for me. On the question of fathers, and what makes a good one, I'd side with what he seemingly realizes in the end, that being flawed and present is better than being absent.
It's been a while since I've finished a book in 24 hours, but Virginia Hamilton's The House of Dies Drear moves quickly, almost every chapter ending w...moreIt's been a while since I've finished a book in 24 hours, but Virginia Hamilton's The House of Dies Drear moves quickly, almost every chapter ending with a cliffhanger of some kind that pushes forward to its satisfying conclusion. It's effectively a story about father-son relationships, smartly wrapped within a ghost story, as 13-year-old Thomas Small and his professor father learn the truth about the mysterious old Civil War era house the Small family moves into, outside Columbus, OH, and its connections to the Underground Railroad.
Hamilton develops an engaging cast of characters, especially Mr. Pluto, the sinister caretaker of the house, and does a great job of weaving important bits about slavery and the Civil Rights era for context, without making it the focus of the story. For kids, it's a perfect complement to Christopher Paul Curtis' The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963. Highly recommended!(less)
Mesoamerican mythology is fertile ground for sci-fi/fantasy authors, and Patrick Garone has some very intriguing ideas, but City of the Gods is so rid...moreMesoamerican mythology is fertile ground for sci-fi/fantasy authors, and Patrick Garone has some very intriguing ideas, but City of the Gods is so riddled by typos and desperately in need of professional editing (not just line-editing and proof-reading, but hardcore developmental work), that it's impossible to recommend to anyone beyond the most adventurous readers and, perhaps, savvy editors looking to self-published work for new voices with potential.(less)
Another enjoyable collection from Book View Café, though I'm not sure if it's better than the first one or I've just gotten more comfortable with eboo...moreAnother enjoyable collection from Book View Café, though I'm not sure if it's better than the first one or I've just gotten more comfortable with ebooks since then. Either way, the Kindle itself (device and apps) has definitely improved over that period.
There's not a dud in the mix, though a few of the opening stories felt a bit more Victorian than I like, and the closing tale's cheeky tone was a bit out of sync with the rest. My favorites were definitely Pati Nagle's "Clare de Lune," which made me want a series of Marie LaVeau novels and movies in this setting ASAP; Sue Lange's "Shadow of Kilimanjaro," which does the best job of connecting the underlying Byron/Lovelace thread into a story that stands on its own merits; and C.L. Anderson's "Nuthin' but a Man," which completely caught me off-guard as the most character-driven story of the bunch, pushing the steampunk elements into the background to deliver a really engaging story with a satisfying twist.
Overall, another winner and definitely recommended, and I still want to own both of these anthologies in print!(less)
The first seven issues in the collection are mostly fun old-school comics, highlighted by Denny O'Neil's typically solid work in The Creeper #4-6, but...moreThe first seven issues in the collection are mostly fun old-school comics, highlighted by Denny O'Neil's typically solid work in The Creeper #4-6, but the next couple of stories take a turn for the ridiculous and it quickly becomes an embarrassing chore I couldn't finish. Tonally, the Creeper himself is an odd mash-up of Spider-Man and Batman who never quite comes together into a compelling character of his own; other than being an intriguing Ditko footnote, there's not much to recommend here.(less)
Tobias Buckell's third entry in his Xenowealth series is arguably the tightest and most accessible of them all, and might even be a better starting po...moreTobias Buckell's third entry in his Xenowealth series is arguably the tightest and most accessible of them all, and might even be a better starting point for new readers than Crystal Rain/Ragamuffin. From the intense nail-biter of a opening scene to its very satisfying conclusion, Buckell puts one of his best characters, Pepper, in a thrilling, high stakes situation that includes floating cities, political intrigue, intergalactic war, and zombies. Yes, zombies! Two kinds, actually; both subtly imaginative spins on the concept that work.
In the midst of an exciting story filled with engaging characters, Buckell also flexes his impressive world-building muscles to further flesh out the fascinating Xenowealth setting, and of the three books, this one offers the best foundation for a movie that would expose Avatar for the shallow, hamfisted hackery it was. Recommended.(less)
"People have always wanted to in some way inhabit the stories that move them. The only real variable is whether technology gives them that opportunity...more"People have always wanted to in some way inhabit the stories that move them. The only real variable is whether technology gives them that opportunity."--Frank Rose
The Art of Immersion is a much-needed bridge to/from Henry Jenkins' seminal Convergence Culture, as Frank Rose crafts an engaging, insightful overview of how storytelling has evolved in the digital age that's accessible to all, whether enthusiast or skeptic. Focusing primarily on the intersection of film, TV and gaming, there are plenty of takeaways and insights of interest to writers and publishers, too.
Unlike most transmedia advocates, myself included, Rose focuses on immersion and depth of story, rather than just the primacy of STORY itself, offering a variety of compelling examples. Among them, his contrast between Star Wars and Avatar is on point, and I enjoyed his emphasis on marketing and engagement vs. interruption advertising; it's a key aspect that gets overlooked in most discussions about transmedia.
The final three chapters delve into the science of immersion, with some really interesting info, though Rose's take on Twitter is surprisingly simplistic and disconnected from earlier references in the book. Particularly interesting is the Lanier-ish (You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto) cautionary tone he ends the book on, somewhat surprising coming from one of the Wired crew.
I haven't devoured a book this fast in a while, but as so many others have claimed, it's a fast and furious, entertaining read. Fast-paced, solid worl...moreI haven't devoured a book this fast in a while, but as so many others have claimed, it's a fast and furious, entertaining read. Fast-paced, solid worldbuilding, zero pretense, plenty of cliffhangers, and Katniss Everdeen is one of the more appealing heroines to come along in a while. I'm jumping right into Catching Fire next!(less)
Love, love, LOVE this book! Johnson's clear-eyed look at one of our most devalued resources, the librarian, is part love letter, part wake-up call. In...moreLove, love, LOVE this book! Johnson's clear-eyed look at one of our most devalued resources, the librarian, is part love letter, part wake-up call. In the digital age, libraries and librarians are more important than ever, and Overdue presents a variety of examples that not only make that case, but illustrate how, in many ways, librarians are WAY AHEAD of the digital curve.
I was intrigued by the praise, but could tell right away that it's just not my cup of tea as Bacigalupi's ponderous style kept me from getting past th...moreI was intrigued by the praise, but could tell right away that it's just not my cup of tea as Bacigalupi's ponderous style kept me from getting past the first chapter on two separate occasions.(less)
As a fan of Chuck Wendig's blogging and commentary, I snatched this short story collection up right away just to support him, but I had a feeling I'd...moreAs a fan of Chuck Wendig's blogging and commentary, I snatched this short story collection up right away just to support him, but I had a feeling I'd enjoy it because he has such a distinctive voice, and I was right. That voice comes through clearly in every one of these short stories, many reminiscent of the excellent old Twilight Zone Magazine, with "Dog-Man and Cat-Bird (A Flying Cat Story)" and "The Auction" standing out as my favorites. Both stories, along with the intriguing but flawed "Do-Overs and Take-Backs," have a Kingly tone to them that recalls his unsettling take on fatherhood in Pet Sematary, one of my all-time favorites.
Irregular Creatures is recommended, and I'm now looking forward to Wendig's debut novel, Double Dead, even more!(less)