This morning I was absolutely delighted, when I went to Google, to see my old familiar tools: a sandpaper letter (“G” for Google), geometric insets, cylinder blocks, beads, and a trinomial cube. Mostly, I was stunned to see these Montessori materials thus honored. When I released THIS SHARED DREAM in 2011, the centerpiece of which is the importance of Montessori’s approach to universal preschool education, I got a few sidelong glances implying “What’s so important about preschool?”
I think that universal implementation of the developmental insights Montessori pioneered a century ago would truly change the world. I proposed a science fictional mechanism for doing so—tiny nanotech Montessori classroom seeds released into the world, to grow where there is a need. In the novel, their complexity is unpacked, so to speak. I first proposed this in a talk I gave at a Joint Services Small Arms Project meeting in Crystal City about future weapons; my premise was that our best weapon against terrorism is a form of universal education that we know works: Montessori education. It is not expensive.
Montessori works because it allows every preschooler’s developmental neuroplasticity to fuse with the environment, with results that astonish most people. Normal children learn to write and to read, easily, by age four; they can also perform the four basic mathematical operations and other interesting feats. But that is not what is most important. The most important aspect of being in a Montessori classroom is the confidence that children gain in their ability to interact with the environment and with others.
When I see news features of failing classrooms with a teacher and blackboard at the front of the room and rows of bored children, I am deeply saddened. You cannot learn by looking at a blackboard. Learning takes place when children explore the environment with their hands. This is vital. This is how children learn how to write, read, and cipher. Letters are sounds; numbers are objects; the trinomial equation is three-dimensional.
I am thrilled at Google’s tribute.
August 31, 2012 No Comments
I have been getting emails about Thous. “Some Friendly Thous.” “Put A Few Thous In Your Pockets.”
I retain a curiously childish literality with language and with thought. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I tend to cast everything into my Own Good Universe, where everyone is working on the big questions: what is the meaning of life? How can we save the world? How can we change things so that everyone can afford to be nice?
For instance, when the song “How Long Has This Been Going On” came out in the sixties (or was it the seventies?) I grooved along thinking that it had to do with everyone wondering (as certainly everyone must) how long everything had been going on: phenomena. Consciousness. Time. Us. Instead, imagine my realization, MANY years later, that it had to do with infidelity. At least, that’s one interpretation. I had not even glimpsed that possibility.
I consider this unabashed positivity to be a form of stupidity. I don’t see what is really happening; I merely imagine what it ought to be and snap every image, every word, every situation, into this larger picture. Sometimes the thought-results are funny, the same way that puns can be funny. Sometimes they are sad, as in, how could you be so clueless? Sometimes it leads to the unexpected juxtapositions that lead to poems, stories, novels, paintings: what I do, for which a certain slantwise awareness is necessary.
So when I began getting emails about the Thous, without skipping a beat I thought that these were from a religious or philosophical or pretending-to-be-thus-for profit organization. I thought of I and Thou, the famous book by Martin Buber that figured large in my philosophy and religion and history background. I figured that it had something to do with addressing/considering the world and others in a sacred manner, as in Buddhism. If you are used to trying on different castes of mind, as you must do when you study philosophy (or philosophies; they all have brand names), this sort of thinking comes naturally. Certain religions consider the phenomenological world as being evil, or a veil covering reality (not necessarily the same thing); in other religions, we are constantly surrounded by God, or Infinity, or the numinous. Reading any philosopher at length can put you in a decided state of mind; you consider, mentally, what it would be like to consider the chair across the room as Plato or Kant or Heidegger would have. It is a different object when seen through each differing lens. During the Middle Ages in Europe, politics, religion, and history were deeply entwined. This lessened during the Enlightenment, but seems to be the basic human situation, a biological manifestation of our deepest nature, just like a dog having a keen sense of smell or a bird navigating thousands of miles using a sense that uses magnistism. I don’t think it is a whole lot different now in most of the world; perhaps not even in my immediate world, as it would probably be something as transparent as air to me.
It took a day or two to realize that Thous was an abbreviation for Thousands. This was not an issue I was contemplating in any deep way, mind you; these were just brief email spatters among the hundreds of emails I get every day, and I never opened them. Instead, I thought how nice it would be to have a lot of Thous in my pockets, like positive wishes that might rise out of my pockets and burst, like thin bubbles, against the minds of others, or my own mind, reminding us of the beauty and the terrible briefness and the wonder of even exisiting at all. I liked those Thous. It really took only a second’s attention to figure out what they really were, all these Thous being flung about so promiscuously.
So when I see those continuing email headers, despite my new loss of innocence, I still persist in thinking them wonderful.
I hereby give Thee thousands of Thous to distribute among family, friends, and complete strangers. I imagine them (right this minute) as seeds you can broadcast, but they can assume any form you like. Take them. They’re free!
August 1, 2012 No Comments
Author copies of Angels And You Dogs have arrived from PS Publishing in huge blue Royal Mail Bags.
July 26, 2012 1 Comment
Writers got the prompt at 5 pm Saturday evening. Pam got hers at 8 pm; she was character busking on the Boulevard all that day. Her prompt was There’s No Place Like … An Elevator. She was told to write for two females.
She started writing at 8:30 pm. Finished at 7:45 am. Emailed it in by 8 am deadline.
Pam’s story: A corporate woman and a cleaning lady are trapped on a broken elevator that is slowly falling from geostationary orbit down to the surface of Mars. They both work for the corporation in charge of developing Mars.
Actors in the photo are Lauren Flans and Liesl Jackson. Director is Allsion Keating. Lauren won Best Actress for her role in Pam Nole’s play. Noles says, “First time I’ve had someone else interpret my work or writing for someone else, so the whole thing was really interesting. I thought they did a great job, and I was particularly surprised and happy with how the three interpreted the piece.”
She is expanding the piece into a full length play.
Pam Nole’s blog “And We Shall March” is a an intellectual and cultural treasure trove.
July 1, 2012 No Comments
Martha Gellhorn on a Collier’s assignment with Ernest Hemingway with unidentified Chinese military officers, Chungking, China, 1941.
I considered myself a fan of Martha Gellhorn, although I have only read Travels With Myself and Others, being unaware of the many novels and nonfiction books that she wrote, which I will soon remedy. I have been studying Hemingway for many years in conjunction with writing a novel in which he is largely tangential, so perhaps it is rather in the spirit of those who fancy catastrophe in biography. I have read every scrap that he has written, every biography I can find, critical work, you name it.
Therefore, I came to the HBO Hemingway and Gellhorn movie quite fully prepped. I enjoyed the effort to make their rather public lives real, and thought that Kidman was flawless as an older Gellhorn being interviewed as the movie opens.
A few things bothered me. I saw Kaufmann, the director on the Charlie Rose show before watching the movie and was faintly annoyed with his take that Hemingway inspired Gellhorn to be a foreign correspondant. She was one before she met him. She was apparently the only woman Hemingway married out of love and admiration–he married Hadley because she could support his ambition to write fiction, and Pauline because Hadley’s source of money dwindled after the crash of ’29 whereas Pauline’s fortune was assured enough to afford the purchase of a nice home in Key West (yes, I know there was attraction each time, but he was conveniently not attracted to unmoneyed women). In Gellhorn, he had a mirror and a soulmate, someone he could discuss craft with, someone he could never bully with the sarcastic label “poor old mama” (as he did Pauline after she gave him two sons, a home, and opulent safaris). When he did pointedly bully her and try to force her into the position of subservient wife by stealing her Colliers position as war correspondent, that was the last straw. Reluctant at the outset to marry him, she trumped him by actually landing on the beach on D-Day and divorced him shortly thereafter.
I was really surprised at the frequent characterization of Gellhorn as somewhat squeamish. I don’t believe that for a second. It just doesn’t fit the rest of the picture. But perhaps that is supported by the copious written record.
I disliked the way the movie tried to say that Hemingway carried a torch for Gellman for years after their divorce. The lietmotif of H & G knowing a particular Spanish song and singing it together in Sloppy Joe’s when they meet is repeated when Hemingway tries to teach it to Mary Welsh, also a war correspondent, in Paris when separated from Gellhorn. Unlike Gellhorn, Welsh did give up her carreer for Hemingway, so she had nowhere to go when the inevitable grand-scale bullying began. However, I do not think that she sang that song to him in Ketchum, Idaho, right before he committed suicide, thus implying that he did so because he’d lost Gellhorn (if you could call it that) fifteen years earlier. He did not kill himself while she sang in the kitchen, as the movie shows–he did so early in the morning, being sure not to wake Mary, who had prevented earlier attempts. That may have been cinematic shorthand to show fifteen years of his life, but in that case it is also false. He was mentally ill; he had suffered concussions and shock treatment. I believe he was a sensitive child and, just as the prototype child in Alice Miller’s psychology book The Drama of the Gifted Child does, took everything to heart in ways that became hidden to him as he grew, as happens to most of us. When he “deadpans,” as the Newsweek review points out, that he learned how to have fun in hell “On family vacations,” the Newsweek review makes fun of that bit of dialog. I think it actually makes perfect psychological and historical sense. Their vacation home in Michigan was the scene of many deciding experiences in his life, experiences that left scars.
No ostensibley biographical movie gets it all right; there is the need to dramatize, cut and compress, to flout reality for a few seconds of false punch. But I enjoyed this new look at these writers who became willing characters in their own dramatic lives.
June 11, 2012 No Comments
Just turned in “Bootstrap,” a short story for this fall’s issue of MIT Technology Review’s fiction issue. Here is a link to information about the 2012 issue.
May 25, 2012 No Comments
Review of JUBILEE HITCHHIKER, a biography of Richard Brautigan.
One of my favorite authors in the Sixties, Seventies, and into the Eighties. I was stunned when I heard of his suicide on the radio and felt very guilty about not reading beyond THE HAWKLINE MONSTER. It was only because I’d started a business and was working sixty hours a week. I wrote a paper about TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA in college, and lines from IN WATERMELON SUGAR often spring to mind.
Anyway, of course I ordered this posthaste, being a biography junkie
May 25, 2012 1 Comment
The John W. Campbell Award finalist list for Best SF Novel of 2012 has been released, and it includes THIS SHARED DREAM.
IN WAR TIMES, the precursor, won the 2008 Campbell Award, much to my delight.
May 25, 2012 No Comments
ANGELS AND YOU DOGS can be ordered now from PS Publishing. This is the signed, limited-edition HC (100 copies). A paperback will be out in June.
May 25, 2012 1 Comment
Rob Thornton, author of the blog metawyrd, notes from a fan of fringe music, sf/f, and sustainable culture, wrote a nice post about the convergence of music and sf/fantasy. He mentions IN WAR TIMES, as well as George R.R. Martin’s AMRAGEDDON RAG, Norman Spinrad’s LITTLE HEROES, Patricia McKillip’s SONG FOR THE BASILISK, and Lew Shiner’s GLIMPSES.
May 13, 2012 No Comments