Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – A Book Review


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Essentialism

Essentialism is not simply a book. It is a philosophy, and a challenging one at that.

In 20 very readable and engaging chapters, author Greg McKeown explains the origins of the philosophy of essentialism, the fact that he has embraced it in his life and the manner in which his readers can make it a part of theirs. He also makes no apologies for the fact that essentialism is a challenging – some might say “difficult” – pursuit and that becoming a true essentialist takes mindset, energy and time.

The book is entertaining, the material presented with a very appealing mix of research and humor. McKeown is a talented writer, balancing anecdote and data deftly. And, while he is clearly proselytizing for his vision of the world and is championing the essentialism philosophy, his approach is not off-putting in the least. Yes, there were moments when he would share how this lifestyle works and my response would be “nice, but how does that work in the real world.” There were elements I found, for me, far more aspirational than achievable. However, the overall concept is very, very appealing.

Do less. Do it better. Do what is essential. It is difficult to argue with those maxims and, when presented in such a compelling fashion as they are, who would want to?

The world seems to demand ever more of us and, in the world of education in which I work, it surely demands ever more of students and teachers. The idea that a significant analysis should take place, that we in authority should slow down and ask if we need to do all we are doing is powerful. What can stay? What can go?

What is essential?

Great questions.

While daunted by the philosophy and intrigued by whether or not I would have the discipline to become an essentialist myself, I heartily recommend the book!

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Link’n’Blogs – 7.20.18: Superman’s Record Breaking Feat of Literature?


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as fun or thought provoking as I have.

It is now official and American literature scholars should pay attention: Comic books are a true form of literature, one of the purest forms of literature born in this country and feature the longest running American fictional character continuously in print. But do not believe me, believe the Guinness Book of World Records. Click the iconic cover to Action Comics #1 below for full details…

Action_Comics_1

 

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Skyscraper – A Movie Review


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Skyscraper

When a movie shows you what it is, believe it.

If you have seen a trailer for Dwayne Johnson’s new action flick Skyscraper, you have seen the best parts of the movie and, conveniently, you have seen the only parts you need to see. The trailer promises a film high on action, low on logic and full of fiery escapes. The movie is high on action (though none of it is particularly compelling or engaging), low on logic (so-called “plot twists” are either telegraphed from the first reel or so outlandish as to be incomprehensible) and full of fiery escapes (each more ludicrous than the last).

So why did I pay my money to see this dreck?

Hope and Dwayne Johnson.

As the only major studio release for the rest of the summer (so I heard, at-any-rate) that is not a sequel or a movie derivative of another property, I wanted to like Skyscraper and I hoped it would be better than it appeared. I hoped for a modern Towering Inferno with an homage or two to Die Hard thrown in for good measure. Hopes dashed.

I also enjoy Dwayne Johnson, though I am not sure why. He is not a wonderful actor but he typically has a 200 watt smile and enough charisma to cover a myriad of sins in a movie. Such is not the case in Skyscraper. Even The Rock cannot save this one. Too many sins, too much silliness, too little room for Johnson to operate. When the best line of the movie involved using duct tape, you know there is a problem.

In Skyscraper, characterization is reduced to the broadest of strokes. Johnson is an amputee. His son has asthma. His wife is a former army nurse who can KICK ASS! His friend is… you get the picture. I was not hoping for David Mamet here, but would the smallest amount of nuance have killed the screen writers?

Apparently, yes. It would have. Oh, and extra credit is available to anyone who can explain the plot of the villains in this one. I sure cannot.

Typically, I know what I am getting from a movie and I am okay with that. I knew what Skyscraper could be and my bar was set pretty low. The movie failed to clear it. Utterly.

SKYSCRAPER receives ONE AND A HALF TITANIUM PROSTHETIC LEGS out of a possible FIVE

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: July 11 – 17, 2018


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

Comics I Read Last Week:

Capture

The best comic I read last week was Amazing Spider-Man #1

Writer: Nick Spencer

Artist: Ryan Ottley

Do not misunderstand this choice: Superman #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis is a really, really good book. It is creative and inventive and charts a new course for the Man of Steel.

But Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s Amazing Spider-Man #1 (#802) is a simply perfect first issue of a new era for the Web-Spinner.

Following Dan Slott’s epic run is no enviable task, but Spencer and Ottley sure seem up to it. They have crafted a prologue that is engaging, that established a new status quo (in a brilliant manner) and that paves the way for years of story lines to come. I hope Spencer – who can tend to the controversial, quick burn (“Hail Hyrda,” anyone?) is in this for the long term. He has both Spider-Man and Peter Parker’s voices down and manages to put Peter in the best place for the character – as a lovable loser. But he also gives the perfect, Parker twist to the proceedings.

I know of Ryan Ottley only from his Invincible reputation – no pun intended. Though his art skews a bit to the cartoonish for my typical tastes, it is perfect for the subject matter and once I settled in to his interpretations, I let go and enjoyed the work, which is solid. He is a great fit for Spider-Man.

It is no mean feat to follow a master but this is an auspicious beginning. Tonally different from Slott’s run, but perfectly Spidey, Amazing Spider-Man #1 puts the book to the top of the read pile every month.

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Ant-Man and the Wasp – A Movie Review


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ant man wasp

Peyton Reed director of Ant-Man and the Wasp and his team of writers, which includes star Paul Rudd (in very fine form here) had an unenviable task ahead of them when they set out to make their film. Knowing they were going to follow the massive Avengers | Infinity War they had to decide, if you will pardon the pun, to go big or go home.

Surprisingly – and effectively – they chose to go home or, at least, to stay close to home. Of all the Marvel Studios films to date, Ant-Man and the Wasp might be the smallest (okay, that one was totally unintentional – I caught it on my proofread!) in terms of stakes and scope.

Picking up over a year after Ant-Man and almost a year after Captain America: Civil WarAnt-Man and the Wasp opens on lovable hero Scott Lang (Rudd) who is holding up as well as he can under the house arrest he agreed to in exchange for his release from prison following the events of Civil War – somebody get me his lawyer if I get into trouble. Violating the Sovokia Accords in Civil War was tantamount to treason. A year of house arrest? Nice job, counselor. Scott is waiting for the day, coming very soon, that he can take off his ankle bracelet, bid farewell to spot inspections by the FBI and leave his home.

Of course, completing his sentence will not be that easy. It turns out Hank Pym (a very fun, very game Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly who is so good perhaps Marvel sound have titled the film The Wasp and Ant-Man) need help that only Scott can provide.

And off we go…

What is  bold about the movie is the change of pace tone it strikes. It is about as far removed from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as any one of these films to date and, following the heaviness of Infinity War, that is a surprisingly welcome change. The universe is not at stake. The fate of the world does not hang in the balance. The survival of the city is not in play. Rather there are personal goals at hand and family goals at that.

In setting the scale in this fashion, the filmmakers avoid one of the traps that hangs up superhero movies, namely how is tension created without building bigger mousetraps after bigger mousetraps? Ant-Man and the Wasp understands that its best assets are its sterling and delightful cast (Michael Pena is back as Luis!), the fantastic shirking/growing action scenes and a breezy plot (that may not hold up to very much scrutiny).

Paul Rudd is lovable, energetic and as excited by what he can do as the audience is watching him do it. He is all emotion and utterly convincing as a C-List superhero trying to simply be a dad. His comedic timing is spot on and his Ant-Man is the most grounded of all the Marvel characters – less silly than Star Lord and less angsty than Hawkeye. I could watch this shtick for a long time before it got old. Evangeline Lilly deserves a larger spotlight than she gets here, and the spotlight here is pretty large. Her Wasp is a no-nonsense, accomplished heroine who is more than capable of carrying the film and the caper on her own. Together, they are a wonderful team. The movie could have done a bit more with their dynamic, actually.

The set pieces are truly inventive and fun to watch. Peyton Reed does a remarkable job keeping them fresh and distinguishing them from the kind of action we have seen in prior films. There is some creativity at play here and the effects benefit greatly from being experienced on the big screen.

The plot of Ant-Man and the Wasp is intended to be light and airy. It succeeds. Perhaps too well. If there is a draw back its found in the success of these films. We expect them to be layered thematically, to swell with emotion, to make us cry while we laugh. Infinity War set that high a bar. Ant-Man and the Wasp is not that movie. It is something different. Once I allowed myself to settle into that, I had a great time.

You will, too.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP receives FOUR GIANT SALT SHAKERS out of a possible FIVE

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Link’n’Blogs – 7.13.18: Wonderful, Simply Wonderful


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as fun or thought provoking as I have.

Let us spend some time smiling. Let us spend some time on good news. Let us spend some time with Gal Gadot as she shares her wonderful alter ego with kids at Children’s Hospital in Virginia. This is worth your time.

Click below for ABC News’ coverage…

Wonder Woman

 

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Wonder Woman – Happy Birthday, My Amazing Wife


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2018-06-22 10.40.18I could not be more excited about the amount of talk there is about Wonder Woman these days. She has been embraced, once again, as a feminist icon. She is all over media. She is a film star. It is all very cool.

But I have a secret: I know Wonder Woman. I live with her. She is my wife.

The Cinnamon Girl’s birthday is today and, while I do hope I celebrate her every day and I do try to celebrate her every day, today is a special day to think about her.

I have written about her many times and will continue to do so. That is what one does for one’s muse. Today, though, on her birthday, I celebrate one of the most amazing things about this wonder woman:

She is fearless and bold.

Many of you who know her may not know that she began her professional life as a lawyer and practiced law for many years. While this was before I knew her, I am told (and am sure) that she was a successful lawyer. I have no doubt she was. Brilliant and accomplished, The Cinnamon Girl was surely a force with which to be reckoned.

She is such a force.

Following that chapter, The Cinnamon Girl changed career paths and became a high school social studies teacher. In her first years in the classroom, she was the entire Social Studies Department at a small, Catholic school in Texas. I met her when she was well into this work and I was blessed for a number of magic years to teach-team with her. I know something about teaching. The Cinnamon Girl is an immensely gifted teacher who inspires students to be critical thinkers. She makes the material relevant to them. And she cares about them.

And they know it. That is why they love her.

Now, she is looking to pursue her first desire for her life: nursing. While balancing a full time job, many other responsibilities and being an amazing mother and wife, The Cinnamon Girl has decided to open a new book and look into a new path. She is looking to become a nurse.

What does all this say about her? What is the through line of my Wonder Woman’s life?

 

Service to others. Deepening devotion. Selflessness.

The Cinnamon Girl is a wonder woman and an amazing gift.

Happiest of birthdays, baby. Many, many, many wonderful returns.

You deserve each of them.

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