The journalist Amanda Ripley follows three American exchange students to high schools in three top-scoring PISA countries: Finland, South Korea, and Poland to show how other nations educate students more effectively than we do. In her new book, The Smartest Kids in the World, she concludes that what we apparently lack is rigor, teacher preparation, and parental involvement.
On November 23, 1963, Doctor Who premiered to British audiences during tea time. The show focused on the experience of the human teachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton who got sucked in to the adventures of the mysterious Doctor and his granddaughter, Susan. From the beginning, the show established the high stakes of traveling in the TARDIS (that’s Time And Relative Dimension In Space for the uninitiated) and introduced the classic villains.
Last Saturday afternoon I spent three hours behind a table in tent #3 in the middle of Colorado Street on the west side of the Texas Capitol telling book festival attendees about Austin Public Library. Right up until 5 o'clock, when we packed up, a constant stream of people laden with bags of books and souvenirs walked by, the stream swelling to a torrent when an event ended and the audience cleared out and came through.
I did it again. I ignored the glowing remarks of friends and colleagues, of pop culture and nerd culture. Everyone was telling me but I wasn’t listening. But I will now yield and start reading Neil Gaiman. How could I not? He has a book on every floor of the Central Library and in every age category. Chu’s Day in Easy Fiction, Fortunately, the Milk in Juvenile Fiction, The Silver Dream in Youth Fiction, The Ocean at the End of the Lane in our New Fiction, InterWorld in Spanish youth, The Make Good Art Speech in non-fiction, etc. We have his audiobooks and downloadable books. In short, he’s prolific and his books are seemingly everywhere! Plus, he’s a library advocate!
The world of music was rocked this weekend, but not in a good way. "Godfather of Punk" Lou Reed died at the age of 71. His 50 year career started with founding the Velvet Underground, one of the most influential bands in rock n' roll. As Brian Eno sort of said, the first Velvet Underground record only sold 30,000 copies, but everyone who bought one started a band.
That's what Charlie Parker was called because of his ability to play the saxophone at such fast tempos, yet still create beautiful, emotional music. Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker is a portrait of the artist as a young man. When this volume ends, Parker is only 20 years old and already a father, a heroin addict and the genius who caused his fellow Midwestern musicians to marvel at his sounds.
Have you noticed the desert landscapes going in all over town in response to the drought? We put desert in our front yard last year. We landscaped with Indian fig (prickly pear without the prickles), feather grass, and crushed granite. Our yard looks like an unkempt Taco Cabana. And when I saw the weeds coming up through the gravel, I realized that putting the Arizona desert in my yard is almost as strange as installing the rolling lawn of an English country estate. Neither is right for Central Texas.
It’s almost time to hunker down for winter. Although it doesn’t get too terribly cold here this gloomy weather has certainly made me want to start a hibernation. And sure, you may still have episodes (or even seasons) of Buffy the Vampire Slayer queued up and ready to go but there may be some slightly more productive and enjoyable things for you to try.
Alice Munro has been awarded the Nobel prize for her short stories, thus becoming its 13th female recipient. Munro has long been recognized in North America and the UK, but the Nobel will draw international attention to women's writing and to the short story. Anne Enright, an Irish author and a Man Booker Prize winner, wrote that Munro's "stories do not ask for our praise, but for our attention. We feel, when we read them, less lonely than we were before."
We are in the midst of Nobel Prize week. Yesterday, Francois Englert and Peter W. Higgs received the Nobel Prize in Physics for their theoretical discovery of the Higgs boson. Yesterday, the Swedish Academy announced that the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature will be awarded this Thursday. Peter Englund—the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy—announced in May that five finalists had been selected. Those finalists remain a secret, increasing speculation. Haruki Murakami takes his place as the bookie’s favorite again this year, along with other perennial contenders Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.