AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

22 May 2015

Jack Johnson, "Spring Wind/Fall Line"

Other.


Restoring the balance between academic and vocational programs is not just about job creation: it’s about raising standards of achievement overall. I spoke recently at a meeting in Los Angeles of alternative education programs. These are programs for students who are doing least well in standardized education: the low achievers, the alienated, the ones with low self-esteem and little optimism for their own futures. They include programs based in technology, the arts, engineering, and business and vocational projects. They work on practical projects or in the community, or on artistic productions and performances. They work collaboratively in groups, with their regular teachers, and with people from other fields as mentors and role models: engineers, scientists, technologists, artists, musicians, business leaders, and so on.

Students who’ve been slumbering through school wake up. Those who thought they weren’t smart find that they are. Those who feared they couldn’t achieve anything discover they can. In the process, they build a stronger sense of purpose and self-respect. Kids who thought they had no chance of going to college find that they do. Those who don’t want to go to college find there are other routes in life that are just as rewarding.

These programs show vividly that these students are not incapable of learning or destined to fail. They were alienated by the system itself. What struck me is that these programs are called ‘alternative education.’ If all education had these results, there’d be no need for an alternative.

It seems that for some policy makers, ‘academic’ is a synonym for ‘intelligent’. It is not. It has a much more limited meaning and refers to intellectual work that is mainly theoretical or scholarly rather than practical or applied. This why it is commonly used to describe arguments that are purely theoretical and people who are thought to be impractical. Of course, academic work is important in schools but human intelligence embraces much more than academic ability. This marvelous variety is evident in the extraordinary range of human achievements in the arts, sports, technology, business, engineering, and the host of other vocations to which people may devote their time and lives. The vitality of our children, our communities — and our economies — all depend on cultivating these talents more fully. That’s what’s really involved in leaving no child behind.

Enthusiast.


I am an enthusiast on the subject of the arts. It is an enthusiasm of which I am not ashamed.

Thomas Jefferson

On.

See.

Peter Llewelyn Davies:  What did you bring me over here for?    

Mrs. Llewelyn Davies:  Peter!                         

Peter Llewelyn Davies: This is absurd. It's just a dog.                             

Mrs. Llewelyn Davies: Come on, darling.                              

J.M. Barrie: "Just a dog"? "Just?”                         

Porthos, don't listen to him.                             

Porthos dreams of being a bear and you want to dash those dreams by saying he's "just a dog?”  What a horrible, candle-snuffing word.  That's like saying, "He can't climb that mountain, he's just a man.” Or, "That's not a diamond, it's just a rock."                        

"Just."    

Peter Llewelyn Davies: Fine then. Turn him into a bear ... if you can.                       
Mrs. Llewelyn Davies: Peter, where are your manners?                             
J.M. Barrie: With those eyes, my bonny lad, I'm afraid you'd never see it.  However, with just a wee bit of imagination, I can turn around right now and see … the great bear, Porthos.                             
Dance with me ...

20 May 2015

Ziggy Marley, "Higher Vibration"


Truth.


The truth is, as everyone knows, that the great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable. No virtuous man — that is, virtuous in the YMCA sense — has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading, and it is highly improbable that the thing has ever been done by a virtuous woman.

H.L. Mencken

Process.



The whole purpose of climbing something like Everest is to effect some sort of spiritual and physical gain. But if you compromise the process you’re an asshole when you start out and an asshole when you get back.

Yvon Chouinard

Simple.


This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple. Look out for each other. The philosophy is kindness.

Dalai Lama

PracticaL

Peale, Thomas Jefferson, 1803


Thomas Jefferson's manifesto ...

A Decalogue of Canons for Observation in Practical Life

Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.

Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.

Never spend your money before you have it.

Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.

Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold.

We never repent of having eaten too little.

Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.

How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.

Take things always by their smooth handle.

When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.

17 May 2015

Beethoven, Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, "Pastoral"

Claudio Abbado conducts the Berlin Philharmonic ...


Slow.

Shinyribs, "All About That Bass"

Pleasure.


Lipp's is where you are going to eat and drink too.

It was a quick walk walk to Lipp's and every place I passed that my stomach noticed as quickly as my eyes or my nose made the walk and added pleasure.  There were few people in the brasserie and when I sat down on the bench against the wall with the mirror in the back and a table in front and the waiter asked if I wanted a beer I asked for a distingué, the big glass mug that held a liter, and for potato salad.

The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink.  The pommes à l'huile were firm and marinated and the olive oil delicious.  I ground black pepper over the potatoes and moistened the bread in the olive oil.  After the first heavy draft of beer I drank and ate very slowly.  When the pommes à l'huile were gone I ordered another serving and a cervelas.  This was a sausage like a heavy, wide frankfurter split in two and covered with a special mustard. 

I mopped up all the oil and all of the sauce with the bread and drank the beer slowly until it began to lose its coldness and then I finished it and ordered a demi and watched it drawn.  It seemed colder than the distingué and I drank half of it. 

Ernest Hemingway, from A Moveable Feast

Archaeology.


The Monticello field school offers a hands-on introduction to basic excavation, recording, and laboratory techniques in archaeology. The course emphasizes a scientific, multidisciplinary approach to doing landscape archaeology.  It also provides the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge research into the ecological and social dynamics that unfolded on Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Technical topics covered include survey and excavation strategies as well as the analytical possibilities for ceramics, faunal remains, plant phytoliths and pollen, deposits and the sediments they contain, soils, and spatial distributions of artifacts across sites and larger landscapes.

Guest lecturers are drawn from a variety of disciplines including archaeology, geology, ecology, paleoethnobotany, zooarchaeology, and history. On-site instruction, lectures, and discussion sessions at Monticello will be complemented by field trips to related sites. Students will attend classes forty hours per week, with the bulk of that time spent working in the field and the lab. Reading assignments, lectures, and discussion sessions will cover both technical and historical issues.

Our fieldwork addresses changing patterns of land use and settlement on Thomas Jefferson's, Monticello Plantation from c. 1750 to 1860, along with their ecological and social causes and consequences. Toward the end of the 18th century, spurred by shifts in the Atlantic economy, Thomas Jefferson and planters across the Chesapeake region replaced tobacco cultivation with a more diversified agricultural regime, based around wheat. 

14 May 2015

Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Too Young Ripe, Too Young Rotten"

Help.

Krohg, Hard Alee, 1882


But fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished the existence of the individual; the relationship between one human being and another has also been cramped by it, as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of endless possibilities and set down in a fallow spot on the bank, to which nothing happens. For it is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.

But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation to another as something alive and will himself draw exhaustively from his own existence. For if we think of this existence of the individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, a place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and down. Thus they have a certain security. And yet that dangerous insecurity is so much more human which drives the prisoners in Poe's stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode.

We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us. We are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abuses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.  Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. 

Rainer Maria Rilke

Fun.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, "Kings Highway"

When the time gets right
I'm gonna pick you up
And take you far away from trouble my love
Under a big ol' sky
Out in a field of green
There's gotta be something left for us to believe

Oh, I await the day
Good fortune comes Our way
And we ride down the Kings Highway

Happy trails, Corps of Discovery.


On this date in 1804, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and their Corps of Discovery left St. Louis, Missouri and headed west to begin the greatest camping trip ever.

CONNECT

Spheres.


The natural philosophers of antiquity believed that the planets are not silent in their orbits. Setting aside the question of whether they move through air or through some finer medium like ether, it seemed logical that these great bodies should make a sound, just as moving bodies do on earth; and the many theories of the Harmony of the Spheres remain as attempts to specify what that sound could be, translated into the language of music.

There are two main schools of thought as to how this translation should be made. The first one assumes that the relative distances of the planets from the earth relate harmonically, as if they were different points on a string. This theory derives from Pythagoras’s school, in which the distance of the earth from the moon’s sphere was reckoned to be 126,000 stades. Taking this distance as equivalent to a whole-tone, the distances to the other planetary spheres were proportioned like the intervals of a diatonic scale. The second school holds that it is the motions of the planets that relate harmonically, their different rates of revolution corresponding to differences of pitch. These all presume a stationary and silent earth, though it was not certain whether the revolutions should be calculated relative to the earth, in which case Saturn, having furthest to travel, would move fastest, or relative to the zodiac, in which case Saturn would be the slowest planet, taking 30 years to make one circuit, and the moon, with its cycle of 28 days, the fastest.

There are other schemes, especially those of the Arab astronomers and the various interpreters of the “scale” of Plato’s Timaeus, but they need not concern us here. What results from every scheme prior to Kepler is that the planetary tones are derived from some existing scale or interval-sequence that cannot possibly be valid in any scientific, quantitative way, because the known proportions of either distances or motions are vastly different from the proportions of the tones used to represent them. This is where Kepler’s approach differed from all his predecessors’: his work of 1619 was the first time that a theory of celestial harmony was derived directly from astronomical observation.

Hitherto, these theories had almost unanimously assigned a single, unvarying tone to each planet, as one would expect to result from a perfect circular orbit. However, with an inspired leap of the imagination Kepler saw that the planetary tones must now vary, their pitch rising and falling in proportion to their acceleration and retardation. He calculated the exact amount by comparing the daily motion of a planet at perihelion with its daily motion at aphelion, expressed as degrees of a circle. This gave a simple proportion, which like all proportions could be translated into musical intervals by regarding the two terms as different string-lengths.

CONNECT

Thank You, Jessica.

Peace.

Hopkins, Canoes in a Fog, Lake Superior, 1869


The Red River Voyageur

Out and in the river is winding
The links of its long, red chain,
Through belts of dusky pine-land
And gusty leagues of plain.

Only, at times, a smoke-wreath
With the drifting cloud-rack joins,-
The smoke of the hunting-lodges
Of the wild Assiniboins.

Drearily blows the north-wind
From the land of ice and snow;
The eyes that look are weary,
And heavy the hands that row.

And with one foot on the water,
And one upon the shore,
The Angel of Shadow gives warning
That day shall be no more.

Is it the clang of wild-geese?
Is it the Indian's yell,
That lends to the voice of the north-wind
The tones of a far-off bell?

The voyageur smiles as he listens
To the sound that grows apace;
Well he knows the vesper ringing
Of the bells of St. Boniface.

The bells of the Roman Mission,
That call from their turrets twain,
To the boatman on the river,
To the hunter on the plain!

Even so in our mortal journey
The bitter north-winds blow,
And thus upon life's Red River
Our hearts, as oarsmen, row.

And when the Angel of Shadow
Rests his feet on wave and shore,
And our eyes grow dim with watching
And our hearts faint at the oar,

Happy is he who heareth
The signal of his release
In the bells of the Holy City,
The chimes of eternal peace!


John Greenleaf Whittier 

Vetiver, "Rolling Sea"

Wouldn't you love to be out on the rolling sea
With only the sky above you for a roof

13 May 2015

Adventure.


The word adventure has just gotten overused.  For me, adventure is when everything goes wrong.  That’s when the adventure starts.

Yvon Chouinard

11 May 2015

Rich.

van Gogh, Irises (detail), 1890



How rich art is.  If one can only remember what one has seen, one is never without food for thought or truly lonely, never alone.

Vincent van Gogh

Typography.

Happy birthday, Berlin.

Irving Berlin was born on this date in 1888.

The Bill Evans Trio performs Berlin's masterpiece, "How Deep is the Ocean" ...

07 May 2015

Beyond.


The Dawn

Æons may pass before my hopes for earth are all fulfilled;                                             

But let “the dawn” approach, I pray, Before my lips are stilled!

And let true knowledge cover earth As waters cover sea                                   
Knowledge of truth, knowledge of love, Knowledge, dear God, of Thee!

I wait the music of the spheres, The rhythmic pulse of earth,                                                

Which, when Death’s angelus doth ring, Announce immortal birth:

In that blest home beyond the veil No discord rends the air.                                                  

The law of harmony prevails And love reigns everywhere.

Dante

Viktoria Mullova, "Linda Flor"

Beyond.


Beyond the stars are Stars in which there is no combust nor sinister aspect,
Stars moving in other Heavens, not the seven heavens known to all,
Stars immanent in the radiance of the Light of God, neither joined to each other nor separate.

Rumi

Interesting.


I wish there really was such a thing as a Time-Clock Puncher, though. I wish some gigantic, surly, stone-fisted Soap Mahoney-type guy went around the world smashing every clock in sight till there weren't any more and people got so confused about when to go to the mill or school or church that they gave up and did something interesting instead.

David James Duncan 

Nice.

Made by Folks

Alone.


Alone in the Wilderness" is the story of Dick Proenneke living in the Alaska wilderness. Dick filmed his adventures so he could show his relatives in the lower 48 states what life was like in Alaska, building his cabin, hunting for food and exploring the area. 



CONNECT

Watching.


You can observe a lot just by watching.

Yogi Berra

05 May 2015

Equalizer.


When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.

Keith Richards 

Vivaldi, Cello concerto in A minor, RV 419

Giovanni Antonini leads Il Giardino Armonico with Enrico Onofri, principal violinist, and Christophe Coin, cello ...

Question.


The value of the student’s question is supreme. The best initial response to a question is not to answer it, per se, but to validate it, protect it, support it, and make a space for it. Like a blossom just emerging, a question is vulnerable and delicate. A direct answer can extinguish a question if you’re not careful. But if you nourish the blossom, it will grow and give fruit in the form of insight as well as more questions. In short, a question needs to be nurtured more than answered. It should be given center stage, admired, relished, embraced, and sustained.

Curt Gabrielson, from Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff

04 May 2015

Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Stone Blind Horses"

There are some saints that have been forgotten
Like most of my drunken prayers
They say there’s a heaven somewhere above the yonder
Where there’s no more crosses to bear

Now there’s ghosts along the highways
And there’s storms out on the seas
My only hope is somewhere in that heaven
Someone is saying a prayer for me

I been ridin’ stone blind horses
Never seeing a reason to believe
Hey sweet Genevieve say a prayer for me
The wild young cowboys, old drunks, paramours and thieves



Gitchaone.

Created.


Time is a created thing.  To say, "I don't have time," is like saying, "I don't want to."

Lao Tzu

Genius.

Tinkering.


After years of developing activities, workshops, and quirky experiments in this spirit we call “tinkering,” we decided it was time to collect our thoughts, ideas, philosophies, and the friends we've made along the way, and put it all together in a delightful book. The Art of Tinkering is an unprecedented celebration of what it means to tinker: to take things apart, explore tools and materials, and build wondrous, wild art that’s part science and part technology.

Alertness.


Can the act of making or designing something help kids feel like they have agency over the objects and systems in their lives? That’s the main question a group of researchers at Project Zero, a research group out of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, are tackling alongside classroom-based teachers in Oakland, California. In an evolving process, researchers are testing out activities they’ve designed to help students to look more closely, explain more deeply and take on opportunities to change things they see around them.

The program is called Agency By Design and it relies on nimble, malleable activities Project Zero researchers call “thinking routines” that slow down the pace of the classroom to make space for deep observation and wonderment. That happens by talking and discussing objects or systems in the everyday world to help kids develop words to describe their thinking. It’s more a framework than a specific step-by-step process. The Oakland educators experimenting with thinking routines teach a range of ages across public, private and charter schools. They each adapted the exercises to fit their purposes.

“The main focus we’re looking at is an idea about how students might gain an alertness to their designed world, the designed objects and systems in their world,” said Jessica Ross, a senior practitioner specialist at Project Zero. “If you have multiple opportunities to engage with the designed world and notice the complexities of the design, will those repeated activities allow you to see that you might change that design?” Ross queried.
  

Change.


Inventive.


The closer man gets to the unknown, the more inventive he becomes, the quicker he adopts new ways.

Buckminster Fuller