Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Hope For Humanity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 19, 2014 by JE Cornett

Gratuitous picture of Jackie Coogan

Something beautiful blew up the internet this week. Canadian teacher Miss Night’s open blog post letter to parents who complain about “that kid” who’s hitting, spitting and disrupting their kids’ classroom is destined for greatness. “Dear Parent: About THAT Kid…” is a plea for compassion and understanding that should be sent home to parents of school children every year.

Here’s an excerpt:

I want to talk about THAT child, too, but there are so many things I can’t tell you.

I can’t tell you that she was adopted from an orphanage at 18 months.

I can’t tell you that he is on an elimination diet for possible food allergies, and that he is therefore hungry ALL. THE. TIME.

I can’t tell you that her parents are in the middle of a horrendous divorce, and she has been staying with her grandma.

I can’t tell you that I’m starting to worry that grandma drinks…

I can’t tell you that his asthma medication makes him agitated.

I can’t tell you that her mom is a single parent, and so she (the child) is at school from the moment before-care opens, until the moment after-care closes, and then the drive between home and school takes 40 minutes, and so she (the child) is getting less sleep than most adults.

I can’ tell you that he has been a witness to domestic violence.

That’s okay, you say. You understand I can’t share personal or family information. You just want to know what I am DOING about That Child’s behaviour.

I would love to tell you. But I can’t.

I would love to live in a world where teachers do not have to remind parents that while yes, their child’s failure to grip a pencil correctly is a problem, it’s a minor one, in the grand scheme of things. I would also love to live in a world where the parents who don’t hit their children or leave them with their drunk grandparents don’t need a letter like this to realize how blessed their children are.

But that’s not the world we’re living in, of course. For every four people who stopped by the comments to thank this teacher for giving voice to the children who so often have no voice, there were two who came by to complain.

You can probably guess the nature of most of the complaints in the comments, but Commenter LostInTheShuffle, who responded with an open letter of her own, seemed to sum up the angst best, writing (in part):

I have to supplement my child’s education at home, because there isn’t enough learning happening in the classroom for my child’s needs.

I’m the one that has to try to offer reasons why these kids behave the way to do, so my child can make sense of it all, and hopefully, not turn into a complete cynic.

I’m the one that has to explain how to work on group projects with a child that can’t or won’t cooperate, or do their fair share, because the teacher is busy.

I get to explain everyday to my child, why another child would say or do, mean and hurtful things to them daily.

I’m the one wiping tears away from my child’s face when they come home, each time another child is disruptive or hurtful at school.

To say that parents like LostInTheShuffle missed the point is too obvious, but there is hope for mankind, at least wherever commenter Amy lives.

I totally was not expecting Commenter Amy’s response to LostInTheShuffle’s post (bolding is mine):

As a kid, I was in precisely the same position that your kids seem to be in. I was frustrated, unchallenged, held back by THOSE kids. I felt overlooked, sad, and angry.

In hindsight, those feelings were encouraged by my parents. They cared more about me than any of the other children (as, perhaps, they should), and fought for me. They complained about my school experiences, but did nothing to improve the situation. They did not feel for THOSE kids, and they did not encourage me to, either. They only cared about me.

Now, I wish that they had set a better example. That they had used my experiences with THOSE kids to teach me compassion and empathy rather than elitism and self-importance. Perhaps, in another environment, I would have learned more, thrived intellectually. But the environment I was in had a lot to offer too, in terms of patience and understanding, which I now believe to be far more valuable than higher levels of math and science.

I know that having a more advanced, privileged child has its own trials. Those are real and valid struggles. But it’s what you make of that negative situation that will demonstrate to your children how to cope with similar frustrations and instances of social inequity as they grow up.

There’s still time to treat that disadvantage as an opportunity for fundamental growth of character.

Amy’s my darling.

Where You Find It: So Dear

Posted in Uncategorized, Where You Find It with tags , , on January 6, 2014 by JE Cornett

Image

The weather outside is frightful, but Weather Underground‘s teeny little teaser for their new site is so delightful.

“”Dear Person,”” hmm?

Was there not enough room on that tiny, adorable teaser for “To Whom It May Concern?” If WU was persnickety enough to include a comma after “person,” why is there no punctuation after WU?

Who cares. I don’t think of “Dear Person” as a salutation. I like to think it’s more that I am dear to WU. A Dear Person. Someone WU cares about.

In a Rut?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2012 by JE Cornett

Text I received from youngest Griswold brother, the student:

“Wild as a buck in a rut. Woogie boogie.” This at 11:47 on a Friday night. Sent to his sister, who hasn’t been college-aged since Bush was in office.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 17, 2012 by JE Cornett

CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD

Regular readers of this blog and those who’ve kindly subjected themselves to my books will know that I’m a huge Jurassic Park fan. I love the book, I love the movie and even though I’m a total coward who wouldn’t get on a rollercoaster if I was told there’d be a million dollars waiting for me at the other end of it, I braved Universal Studios Jurassic Park River Ride just to see the JP view from the lazy boat ride bit that came before the 80 foot drop.

The first edition jacket design of Jurassic Park.

I love Jurassic Park because it’s one of the first adult books I ever read and I can clearly remember reading it—or trying to; it was 1993 and I was only 11 —in the little caravan my parents used to have installed by the sea. It’s not Pulitzer Prize-winning literature or anything…

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E-Books Won’t Disappear — But The Way We Read Will

Posted in Book News, E-books, Internet, Literature, Media, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2012 by JE Cornett

Don’t worry – they’re not coming for your e-books. Not yet, anyway.

The blogosphere/libraryland/readers everywhere are in a dither over Hugh McGuire’s TEDx talk about the disappearance of e-books within five years or so. There’s much weeping, wailing and wringing of hands, most of it due to a blog post  by Porter Anderson that seems to vaguely extrapolate from this TEDx talk that e-books are going to disappear into the “ego noise” of the Internet.

It’s much ado about nothing. In fact, McGuire’s presentation says no such thing, something he’s quick to point out in the blog post’s comments.  “I never said books (or ebooks) will disappear; I said that “the distinction between books and the internet will disappear”” says McGuire in the comments, and the other commenters, some of which beat McGuire to the punch, wholeheartedly agree.

Whether this TEDx talk/blog post’s viral nature speaks to lovers of print books’ need to disparage e-books, or just a complete misunderstanding of the source material is but one interesting aspect of this story. The more intriguing thing is how McGuire and Anderson both miss the whole point. The difference between e-books and the Internet is already so fine as to be, in many cases, non-existent, as anyone with a Kindle or an iPad knows well. The better question, however, is how reading an e-book, whether on the Internet, a Kindle, an iPad or even a smartphone, changes the way we read.

When you pick up an actual book, your mind may wander, but the information remains the same. Without laying that book aside and seeking out more and different information, there is no way to add value to the information as it is (unless someone has made margin notes, which is a conversation for another day). All you have is what’s before you; the viewpoint of the author is static, as is the information presented, until you manually seek out additional information. There is time, then, to absorb the information without extra-contextualization.

Reading e-books on an Internet-ready device changes the experience completely. Want to know what other readers think of the book? Go straight to the linked reviews. Come across a name you don’t recognize? Google it. Want to know more about the author? Google it. Want to highlight a section? See if anyone else has highlighted it, as well.

The larger question is, how does reading a book that is basically a living thing differ from reading what many laughingly call a “dead tree” book? It’s a question that’s already been asked and answered of the e-book’s next of kin, the Internet.  Way back in 2008, The Atlantic‘s Nicholas Carr began to worry that the Internet was affecting his ability to read and digest text in an article titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid“. While 2008 does not seem to be eons ago, it pre-dates the e-book frenzy that began around 2010-2011, so much so that Carr does not even mention e-books to any degree in the essay. Yet the conclusion he draws from his online reading habits mirrors almost exactly what McGuire forecasts in his TED talk:

When the [Internet]* absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the [Internet’s] image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed.

This recreation of the e-book in the Internet’s image is what McGuire is extolling as the e-book as Internet’s biggest virtue, and what, as Carr has already discovered, is the biggest difference in the way we read even ten years ago and the way we read now.

But is it indeed a virtue? The examples that McGuire and Anderson use are hardly relevant to most e-book reading; while the majority of Amazon’s e-book sales are fiction and creative non-fiction, McGuire and Anderson cite a YouTube interactive Bible and an online version of  the 1912 journal of Robert Scott’s expedition to the South Pole that’s linked to Google Maps. The best thing about the Google Maps-enabled Scott journal, according to McGuire? It’s “a beautiful web experience.”

Is a beautiful web experience what we want, when we reach for a book? Do we want the same type of added-value, extra-context information that we get from a web page? Is that even good for us?

Carr references developmental pyschologist Maryanne Wolf’s  Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain extensively in making his argument that Google and the Internet are (or already have) changing the way we read:

… the style of reading promoted by the [Internet], a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, [Wolf] says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

The idea that the Internet was changing the way we think so disturbed Carr that he expanded his article into a full-length book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. In the book, Carr states something that is intriguing, if the line between books and the Internet is indeed blurred:

Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, and educators point to the same conclusion: When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain.

If you’re ready to dismiss Carr and Wolf as hysterical doomsayers, don’t do so just yet.  As a reader, can I learn to recognize symbolism if it’s highlighted and pointed out to me? Can I derive understanding from a chunk of text when it’s diluted by links to ever more information? Or will I, as Carr noted that he already had, simply skim the text, jumping from hyperlink to hyperlink, never actually absorbing what the author is saying?

As someone who’s already noticed the same changes in reading habits as Carr has, I’m not sure I want to read books the way I read the Internet. I want a literal disconnect, when I read. I want to be absorbed by the text, not continually distracted. This is coming from someone who loves to read annotated non-fiction, the original hyper-textualized text; when I read non-fiction, I expect additional information. When I read creative non-fiction or fiction, I find it intrusive.

McGuire’s vision of a world where e-books are the Internet is frightening to me. We’ve already reached a stage where simply choosing to read the print book instead of the hyperlinked, added-value version may be threatened. E-book sales on Amazon have already surpassed the sales of printed books, and Amazon is quickly gobbling up print and e-book publishers, including one that caters to libraries. Many books are being published in e-book format only, leaving a reader no other choice but to read the e-book.

As e-books overtake printed books, and e-books become Internet, our reading becomes Internet reading, as well. Do we want the old way of reading to disappear? And can stop it?

*In each instance where you see [Internet], I’ve substituted for Carr’s quaint use of “the Net,” out of fear that you, reader, are already a victim of the type of reading he and Wolf are concerned about. “The Net” functions as hypertextualization that will have you laughing aloud as you fondly recall the days when the Internet was known as the “World Wide Web” and “Information Superhighway.”

This Is News: Paris Jackson Is 14, Has Her Hair Cut

Posted in Internet, Media, This Is News?, Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 26, 2012 by JE Cornett

If you want to see a picture of Paris’ new haircut, go elsewhere. Photo: mailonline.co.uk

No less than three media outlets have used no more than 500 words to report on the earth-shattering news that Paris Jackson, daughter of the late Michael Jackson, has done what any other normal 14-year-old girl does on a regular basis. She’s had a haircut.

Here’s what People.com has to say about the dramatic event:

Paris, debuted a freshly trimmed hairdo this weekend while out in Los Angeles. The fringe adds a youthful vibe to the 14-year-old’s pretty long brown tresses.

Yes, babies. A youthful vibe. Which means she’s going for the 12-year-old look, because at the ripe old age of 14, she obviously needs to look younger.

Over at Yahoo, where this is somehow landing-page, headline worthy, there’s this:

The new hairstyle–currently very hot among starlets of all ages, and spotted on Paris over the weekend in Los Angeles–is flattering on the 14-year-old, framing her famously vivid eyes.

Because it’s of utmost importance that a 14-year-old frame her famous eyes. Maybe my mind’s in the gutter, but that whole sentence just makes my skin crawl.

Meanwhile, in Madison, Wisconsin of all places, WKOW joins the fray to say:

Just in time for the start of summer, Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris debuted a new look over the weekend… After being kept out of the public eye by her late father for most of her childhood, Paris has recently started to embrace her celebrity.

Somehow, the TV station in Wisconsin reporting on Paris Jackson’s hair bothers me most of all. People is in business just for this sort of thing, and Yahoo regularly stoops to report on the minutiae of celebritots’ lives, but a TV station in Madison, Wisconsin? Why, WKOW, are you reporting on a teen girl’s hair? Didn’t you just have a recall vote, Wisconsin? Don’t you have state fairs and 4th of July celebrations and economic concerns and murders and car accidents or ANYTHING else to worry about, WKOW?

 

Browse On By — What I’m Loving This Week

Posted in Browse on By, Literature, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2012 by JE Cornett

Source: today.msnbc.msn.com via Jeanna on Pinterest

Mostly I love Carla Kelly this week.

Also, I love my Royksopp, Air and Band of Bees stations on Pandora. Perfect background music for writing and reading by the way, interesting enough to keep you engaged, but unobtrusive. Go make your own now.

Someone at Yahoo had the brilliant idea of gathering a bunch of writings by classic rock journalists together in one place and calling it Rock’s Backpages. All the usual suspects are there, like Barney Hoskyns, Al Aronowitz and Chris Salewicz and here’s an awesome piece on George Clinton that will make you wants to get funked up.

I lurk around The Bookshelf Muse all the time. If you write for fun or profit, it’s well worth a few wasted minutes of time.  This particular post about how to write males expressing emotion versus females was fascinating for me.

The war between genre fiction and literary fiction continues to wage, but no one said it better than Daniel Abraham, who, in the guise of genre literature, wrote this lovely letter to mainstream. As in stream of Diet Dr. Pepper coming out your nose.

Sometimes, I just like to see cats in tiny hats. What — you don’t?

Now I’m going back to reading genre fiction while listening to Royksopp and stopping periodically to think about hats for cats.