Deborah Hill Cone: We should be boosting the arts in schools not bleeding them dry – NZ Herald

This I agree with.

I’m listening to Lorde’s Pure Heroine and expecting to buy Melodrama today. Don’t tell me that studying arts is a waste of time.

Supporting broad arts education as well as literacy and maths is critical and New Zealand’s NCEA does this well. Of course, we seek improvements; just take care.

In my view education overly focussed on standardised, measurable, and average outcomes; and that is overly job focused will fail. Education in sciences, arts and maths… in all of it is essential.

I work with international students, and I can tell you that New Zealand’s NCEA with its implicit design methodology works. Specifically process methodology in each creative area is introduced and practised. That sows seeds for future success.

We must protect what works from those who would bury it.

COMMENT: Obsessive focus on literacy and numeracy is squeezing lifeblood from creativity.

Source: Deborah Hill Cone: We should be boosting the arts in schools not bleeding them dry – NZ Herald

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Martin Luther King, Jr., “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” – YouTube

I have recently been listening to Martin Luther King, “What is Your Life’s Blueprint”.

There is plenty here, in summary: We have worth, grab all opportunities to learn and grow, and be the best you can be. Please study this; make it part of your life.

As well as a wonderful statement of Life, this is a wonderful example of an outstanding speech. Well worth the time spent in study.

The link to the full speech is below, and a shortened transcript follows.

A transcript of the speech is here

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10 Learnings from 10 Years of Brain Pickings – Brain Pickings

I regularly enjoy and reflect on Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings.  She reviews all sorts or books and with helpful and useful comments.  Last night I watched the linked video:  it is magic. 

It’s  a difficult time for me.  After years teaching I am tired and loosing enthusiasm.  I feel the need to rest and recharge; and change direction.  This material helps:  Rest, take time to reflect, change and grow, embrace those who speak to me.

Please read this and watch the video..

“Fluid reflections on keeping a solid center”.

Source: 10 Learnings from 10 Years of Brain Pickings – Brain Pickings

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The Mother of all questions: Rebecca Solnit

Early in this collection of essays essayist Rebecca Solnit tells a story.  She was just off a plane, interviewed on television during a book tour.  Her interviewer, a man obsessed with her lack of children.  As she puts it, “Instead of talking about the products of my mind, we should talk about the fruit of my loins, or the lack thereof.” What is this about?

Rebecca then moves on to discuss the way, some questions are asked to put you in your place.  To control and limit us.

This is an important point for me because I teach the importance of asking questions.  I do this because I understand questions as an Allan Key; a kind of magic opening tool.  Ask open questions, ask thoughtful questions, ask challenging questions and your life will open up.  But maybe it is not that simple.

Some questions seem designed to limit us:  The classic one is, “Who do you think you are?”  And it’s variant, “What do you think you are doing?” As if to say, don’t seek to grow or progress your world. Don’t rock the boat.  Don’t work to learn, how to: play guitar, run marathons, write books, speak clearly, build your business; don’t seek change; don’t grow.  Don’t do what ever it is that your central being wants.  And most importantly don’t seek positive change economically, politically and socially.  Don’t question power.

In Rebecca’s case her answer is,  to ask, “Why are you asking this?”  Although in other contexts she has used, “Fuck this” and changed the subject.  I think a silent, F… you; and then doing what you plan is appropriate.

Seek to open life, not close it.

Fair enough.

These thoughts are from and in response to Redecca’s essay, A Mother of all questions, published in her collection of essays of the same title.  I always buy and read Rebecca Solnit’s work when she publishes it.  She is that good. These essays challenge me.  In response: I think, learn and grow.  I encourage you to read her work.  Well worth the effort and small cost.


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The Heroism of Being a Contrarian: Jacob Bronowski on the Essential Character Trait of the Creative Person – Brain Pickings

Jacob Bronowski is a hero of mine for his Ascent of Man television series.  He is one of the most democratic and broad thinkers I have read.  This article challenges me as I am too relaxed and not contrarian to any great degree.  I recommend watching the television series, “The Ascent of Man.” (Though I would rename it, “The Ascent of Us”).

Source: The Heroism of Being a Contrarian: Jacob Bronowski on the Essential Character Trait of the Creative Person – Brain Pickings

(Book photo from Amazon)

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Get a better life: say NO.

This article is a useful counter balance to the “self help myth”.

I am clear, one day I will go into my doctor’s office and I will leave a dead man.  That is life, one day I will die.   What is more, I have learned that setting limits is necessary if I am to look after myself and be any use at all.  That is not to say that a useful self discipline is harmful but we must be real.  Positive thinking has limits.

So…  According to Professor Svend Brinkmann from the Department Communication and Psychology at Aalborg University in Denmark we must reconsider positive thinking mythology:

He suggests:  Relax about your health; Honestly learn from the bad stuff; Say no, “No!”; manage your emotions; read a novel (or biography), learn from your history, “Who are you”?

Let us consider that.

Say NO. Focus on the negative aspects. Repress your emotions. That kind of advice probably does not sound right to a lot of people, but it’s a better idea than following fanatically positive, self-help books, concludes a professor of psychology.

Source: Get a better life: say no

Duncan C Flickr

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I tracked my happiness for a year to get data on how to build a more joyful life

I am finding this a useful and thoughtful article.  Both as a technique I can use and the writer’s conclusions match what I think makes me happy.  Meeting personal stretch goals and time with family and friends and my guitar are when I am happiest.

It is also useful, because the analysis of happiness in this way, leads to the opportunity to make choices to gain more happiness.  Sounds like a great way to begin the year.  Or a change at any time.

Have a look, the ideas may help.

I spent a year recording every time I felt overwhelmingly happy—thereby figuring out the best ways to spend my time and energy.

Source: I tracked my happiness for a year to get data on how to build a more joyful life


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Consumer culture is dead. Long live creators | Aeon Essays

This is a fascinating and useful essay which I read in “A Culture Reader for Writers.  Ed. John Mark.  2014).  I found the Aeon version later after I had written notes.

The question is why does creative work help so much?  This essay helps with a number of clear thoughts.  I agree that creative action teaches “agency”.  The habit of acting to create anything, leads to confidence and agency in life.

Growth. That’s it!

Art, science, music, entrepreneurship, community work, education, industry; all begin with creative agency.

Here are my notes:

“Our longing to create that is our deepest drive and the one that makes us the most humans.  We ignore this at our own cost.”

“Any act that helps to empower a person creatively can ignite the imaginative spark without which life of any kind struggles – and in many senses fails – even to begin.”

“The simple idea, that creativity is central to our ongoing growth as human beings, opens up a very distinctive understanding of what it means to make something.”

“The growth that comes from progress through the stages of any artistic discipline provides a backbone for our intellectual and emotional development as human beings.”

“As much as our social hierarchies are about limiting and controlling access to wealth, they are also about limiting and controlling access to creativity.  Increasingly, the real benefit that money buys is the time, freedom and power to act creatively.”

“Our systems of government; business and education must make their mission to support the fulfilment of every human being.”

Infatuated by celebrity, stuck in dreary work, addicted to consumerism. Only a creator culture can save us

Source: Consumer culture is dead. Long live creators | Aeon Essays


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What Does the World Oldest Surviving Piano Sound Like?: Watch Pianist Give a Performance on a 1720 Cristofori Piano | Open Culture

I cannot imagine the world without a piano.  So many hours listening to Sarah, my daughter, learn and play this amazing and expressive instrument. (Sarah has played on the Red Piano, pictured, when it was at Te Manawa, here in Palmerston North).

This is a recording of the earliest know piano.  Please listen and read the notes.

Imagine your favorite works for the piano—the delicate and haunting, the thundering and powerful. The minimalism of Erik Satie, the Romanticism of Claude Debussy or Modest Mussorgsky, the rapturous swooning of Beethoven’s concertos.

Source: What Does the World Oldest Surviving Piano Sound Like?: Watch Pianist Give a Performance on a 1720 Cristofori Piano | Open Culture

He Korero Purakau mo te Awanui o te Motu: story of a New Zealand river

He Korero Purakau mo te Awanui o te Motu: story of a New Zealand river

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Book Review: The Age of Wonder Richard Holmes

The age of wonder: How the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science. Richard Holmes 2008. Pantheon Books, New York.

This is a different direction for me. Biography is outside my normal reading and as such a possibility and learning something new.

Richard Holmes has made of life writing biography, with a particular focus on the romantic poets and era.  That brought him into the area of science and scientists of that time; beginning with Joseph Banks and concluding with Humphry Davy.  The period’s discoveries included:   Cook’s voyages of discovery, the discovery of new comets, planets, galaxies,  laughing gas, human flight in balloons, the gas laws and invention of the safety lamp.

Socially and politically, English society was at the forefront of science and the enlightenment’s expansion.  This was underpinned by social and cultural progress but not all positive.  Early on, Richard describes the fate of early feminists, marginalised and rejected by those in power, to suffer poverty and early death.  And, of course, this was the time of Mary Shelly author of Frankenstein.  A fear of consequences still relevant and central to policymaking  today.  And, I’m disturbed by the influence Banks had on the careers and lives of so many as President of the Royal Society, picking favour and disfavour.

As a story of science and scientists this book is fascinating.  How discoveries were made against the backdrop of the times and the stories of the friendships and marriages of the subjects.  And a sense of time passing.

For me, the most poignant thing was the way the Royal Society was developed by the passion and persistence of men; particularly, Banks; for better and worst.  And how things I think obvious: the periodic table and anaesthetics, for example, were struggled with.   I was particularly struck when the use of nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic was missed by the early chemists, and of the descriptions of child birth and surgery without pain relief.  We take so much as normal that was developed in this period.

That brings me to one final point; the way institutions we take for granted, struggled in their early years and the way they can fail.

I think reading biography is useful and fascinating.  I recommend this book.



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