A friend posted this video on Facebook yesterday. It blends Bob Fosse's dance for Snake in the Grass from The Little Prince with Michael Jackson's performance of Billie Jean - showing Fosse's influence on Jackson. Lots of fun!
On the way to my physical therapy this morning, I was listening to a CD we made of some of our favorite music that we enjoyed in 2009. Yesterday had been a gray and gloomy day, but, as I was driving east, the clouds were breaking up and the sun was starting to shine through. You know the point where you can't see blue sky yet, but there are cracks between the clouds that seem to glow? As I came down the long hill from Hillsborough to Durham, with a beautiful view of lots of sky, that's what I saw to the accompaniment of Franz Biebl's Ave Maria.
On the way home, later on the CD, I was listening to Chinese by Lily Allen (from her album, It's Not Me, It's You). I realized that the chorus reflects this week. Dear husband was gone for half of last week and all of the week before. Happily, he's home this week. Saturday, we went for our usual downtown Hillsborough walk and Farmer's Market visit (first time since surgery).
Here are the words for the chorus of Chinese:
I don't want anything more Than to see your face when you open the door you'll make me beans on toast and a nice cup of tea And we'll get a Chinese and watch TV Tomorrow we'll take the dog for a walk And in the afternoon then maybe we'll talk I'll be exhausted so I'll probably sleep And we'll get a Chinese and watch TV
Except that we don't have a dog, I don't care for beans or toast, and our usual winter weekend dinner menu is usually Italian (cooked by dear husband), the chorus is very familiar.
Crafted with a musician's ear and an historian's eye, Pops is a vibrant biography of the iconic Louis Armstrong that resonates with the same warmth as ol' Satchmo’s distinctive voice. Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout draws from a wealth of previously unavailable
material – including over 650 reels of Armstrong's own personal tape
recordings – to create an engaging profile that slips behind the jazz
legend's megawatt smile. Teachout reveals that the beaming visage of
"Reverend Satchelmouth" was not a mark of racial subservience, but a
clear symbol of Louis's refusal to let anything cloud the joy he
derived from blowing his horn. "Faced with the terrible realities of
the time and place into which he had been born," explains Teachout, "he
didn't repine, but returned love for hatred and sought salvation in
work." Armstrong was hardly impervious to the injustices of his era,
but in his mind, nothing was more sacred than the music. --Dave Callanan
The Wee Free Men: A story of Discworld - Terry Pratchett: I didn't know that Terry Pratchett had Discworld books in the children's section. I can pass this on to younger son after I finish, and then, oh the conversations...
At first, the worst week of Janzen's life—she gets into a debilitating
car wreck right after her husband leaves her for a guy he met on the
Internet and saddles her with a mortgage she can't afford—seems to come
out of nowhere, but the disaster's long buildup becomes clearer as she
opens herself up... The healing is further assisted by her decision to move
back in with her Mennonite parents, prompting her to look at her
childhood religion with fresh, twinkling eyes... Janzen is
always ready to gently turn the humor back on herself, though, and
women will immediately warm to the self-deprecating honesty with which
she describes the efforts of friends and family to help her
re-establish her emotional well-being.
The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent: Selected Essays - Lionel Trilling: We studied him in the American Intellectual History class I took in graduate school. Back then, I intended to read more of his work, but, with two young children at the time, that didn't happen. I think his name is still probably on a book list in the depths of my desk. I found this while looking for something else. We hadn't parked close to the library, I hadn't brought a book bag, and I already had enough books to carry, but I got it anyway.
The new library building itself is lovely, well organized and has lots of space for books, unlike the old library space which didn't have enough room, had to put the children's non-fiction in the lobby because the floors in the children's room weren't strong enough, and was in the auditorium of the former Hillsborough High School.
But... it will take me a long time to get over the old space which had very high ceilings, also had huge windows, and was delightfully quirky.
Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day was partly during the 36 hours that dear husband was home between last week's trip and this week's. In other words, I totally forgot about it. When I was reminded later, while looking at (and wandering from) May Dreams Gardens' Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post and links (111 of them - in January!), I thought that it didn't matter that I forgot. After all the cold we've had, I thought nothing would be blooming.
It did warm up the last few days, and I found some blooms in the yard!
A pansy! I squatted down as far as my knee would let me to get this photo. However, the pansy was facing the house of the neighbors behind us. The only pansy in the yard, and it was facing someone else!
It's now in a vase on my bedside table.
The forsythia is also fitfully blooming.
Do you see the five pansy plants I planted along the edge here! Neither did I - until I found two of them, dead, a few feet away. I guess the deer didn't want to eat those.
Between my knee recuperation and the cold, I haven't spent much time in the backyard so I hadn't seen this large branch which fell recently. It's leaning on a fetterbush, but it's too big for me to move.
One of my favorite relaxing things to do is sit on the porch and eat breakfast. Older son and I did this on Monday (in warm jackets - it was in the mid-40s), and younger son and I did this yesterday. That's what got me out looking at the yard - because I saw....
Of all the kinds of joy, none perhaps is so pure as that occasioned by sudden insight. To come to terms independently with a new idea is to celebrate, in the broadest sense of the word, the reality of nature and to appreciate fully one's own human presence. (p. 9)
When I'm looking for new music blogs to read - thoughtful ones with good musical taste - I do blog searches for musicians such as Stan Rogers. When I'm looking for thoughtful blogs about ideas, one of the things I do is to do a search for books such as Robert Grudin's The Grace of Great Things: Creativity and Innovation.*
I often read fiction over again whether to get new insights into a story or just to enjoy it all over again. It's much more rare for me to reread non-fiction. This is my third time reading The Grace of Great Things.
In blogging about this book, I'm going to be writing about particular ideas which strike me right now. I'm not summarizing the entire book (first, because you should read it yourself, and second, because the act of summarizing is boring). That does not mean that the posts will be short!
Chapter 1: Introduction:
The generation of ideas involves factors that are not exclusively cerebral, factors that include the physiology, the emotions, and the outer world. We do not create, or even learn, by conscious concentration alone. [emphasis mine] (p. 5)
That highlighted sentence is a major factor for our homeschooling. I don't like learning to be cut up into forty-five minute chunks with a multiple choice test at the end. Now, before you get upset, I know that not all school is like that, but a good bit still is. Learning is expected to happen that way outside of schools also. I was looking for books on Photoshop yesterday, and one of them had end-of-chapter tests. Why? Either I learned what I needed for my photography from that chapter or I didn't. Taking a test doesn't change that.
Younger son and I spent some time this morning Google-wandering around the internet. We started with garden zones, encountered ice-fishing huts on the way, and ended withpolarbears (lotsofthem). Although we do organized homeschooling, for instance, practicing handwriting, grammar, or math problems, I consider that the daily teeth-brushing side of homeschooling for younger son.** It's necessary, but it's not the meat. Discussing books, playing with numbers and mathematical ideas, and wandering through facts or ideas - those are the meat of our homeschooling (today wasn't even planned as a homeschooling day because of the holiday).
So I love Robert Grudin's idea, "We do not create, or even learn, by conscious concentration alone." Learning and creativity are products of a continuous interaction between the self and the environment - intellectual, social, visual, etc. They are not always intentional or planned.
...modern idioms unfairly compartmentalize the process of thought. To say that we "had an idea" or "solved a problem" or 'worked something out" is to imply that mind as discrete "subject' handles idea as discrete "object." Such idioms suggest a mechanical relation between mind and idea, one in which too much emphasis is put on conscious effort and too little on openness and receptivity. Accepting this model, we visualize creativity in terms of dominance and control, as though thinking were a kind of warfare or business.
Such a view is both inaccurate and inhibiting. We no more "have" ideas than ideas "have" us, and indeed the creative process might be simplified if we stopped searching for ideas and simply made room for them to visit. If anything controls or dominates at the moment of inspiration, it is not the mind but the idea, or rather, the suddenly articulated power of our own inner energies. New ideas capture and possess the mind that births them; they colonize it and renew its laws. The expansion of any idea is thus also an expansion of self. (p. 6)
I like this more organic notion of creativity - that it is not just a matter of the will, but, instead, that it is a discovery or a happening. Of course, this doesn't mean that you just sit around waiting for ideas to fall out of the sky. For any kind of creativity, there are basic skills. Writers (hopefully) need to know how to spell, musicians practice scales, dancers practice their moves. These things, however, are just the building blocks which creativity can use. A musician can be technically perfect, but musically mute and unable to bring a piece to life. Too narrow a focus, or too forced an effort, can keep creativity from happening by not giving it any space to develop.
For this reason, if for no other, creativity is a classic example of human freedom. We commonly think of freedom as the ability to define alternatives and choose between them. The creative mind exceeds this liberty in being able to redefine itself and reality at large, generating whole new sets of alternatives. (p. 7)
I love this idea that creativity expands freedom by creating new alternatives. However, this thought has its underside for those of us who think that we are in a forward-looking, open society.
No society, however sophisticated or liberal, is wholly free of superstition, and superstition is most likely to lurk unnoticed in assumptions that have rooted in language. Unwarranted assumptions about the nature of thought are particularly subtle and debilitating, and of these, perhaps most dangerous is the assumption that our thought is free.
Real freedom, however, makes no assumptions... Inquiry into the nature of creativity must therefore address not only its sources and principles but the societal quirks and foibles that restrain it. (p. 8)
Everyone's oxen will be gored.
Can it be that the injustice that applied to other ages and cultures has failed to affect us alone? This book will chart the extent to which intolerance, neglect, and repression may operate in "liberal" society: how our resistance to our own creativity may be projected against our peers, how our very language and institutions may discourage innovation. (pp. 8 - 9)
Every age thinks that previous ages were prejudiced and unenlightened but that our current eyes have been opened to the truth. We always realize how foolish that looks in previous ages, but we don't want to think about how we'll look in the future.