Sunday, August 22, 2010

And now, for something completely different ...

Just another quick post of some people who have made an amazing career of thinking outside the box ... have you ever heard of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers?  Well, mix rock and roll with bagpipes and you have a truly amazing experience!  My sister posted a clip on Facebook, and when I looked at their schedule, I found out that they will be in Peoria August 27 - next Friday - so guess where I will be?

It also made me think about the genesis of big things --- who knew, really, when these guys took up their traditional instrument, that it could and would turn into something so far from the original, traditional idea?  What are our kids doing in school - or NOT getting to do in school - that could eventually turn out to be something amazing, especially something that no one had conceptualized before?  I really think the educators and parents of today need to fight to retain a place for creative and divergent thinking in the schools.  I was watching an episode of Boston Legal the other night, and one of the cases was about the mother of a high school student suing the school because of the amount of pressure put on kids these days. Points were made about how the need to succeed has pushed kids to become test-taking machines just to get into the best colleges, and how cheating has become so rampant in our colleges and universities, for much the same reason.  Learning itself has been pushed out of much of school, and I find that very sad, and very limiting.

What a downer!  So if you want a little lift, click on that link and listen to some of the most amazing music I'll bet you've heard in a long, long time.  And get those proposals in for the conference!

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Really SMART Conference!

Okay, just a short posting, but a very important one - we have Smartboards for the conference!!!  So get those proposals in, folks!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

M.T. Anderson's Next Novel

I finished M.T. Anderson's book, Feed, on the flight home from Grapevine Texas today, and I have to say, I loved this book. (I don't know if my roommate would concur, though, as I interrupted her own reading several times with something along the lines of "Oh, I just have to read this one part to you. Is that okay?") And my apologies to Mr. Anderson: in an interview with him at the end of the book, he disagrees that the book is futuristic, but he says something much more astute. I'll let you know what that was tomorrow, but I'm not going to unpack tonight.

So my point is this: while I liked the ending, it also left me wanting something in particular, and I think if you read the book, you might want the same thing. I would like to request that M.T. Anderson write, as his next novel, a sequel to this one titled Feedless. Read Feed - you'll understand.

I'm going to post a couple of pictures from the I.R.A. leadership workshop here. Of course, if you go to Texas, you MUST have honey cornbread in the shape of the state. And Susan Cisna and I wore t-shirts from one of our local councils, Northwestern Illinois Reading Council, so a big shout out to our reading professionals in northwestern Illinois! We also had the opportunity to meet with I.R.A.'s president-elect, Vickie Risko, and spent some wonderful time collaborating with her and exchanging information about our two organizations. I love these meetings, when we can be really productive and enjoy ourselves with fabulous people!

Can't Stop Reading It

Hello Folks,

In my quest to read every book by every author who is coming to the 2011 IRC conference, I'm in the middle of M. T. Anderson's Feed, and all I can say is that it is the furthest thing from a yawn banquet you can imagine!

I feel an explanation is in order. First of all, why am I 'greeting' you from Grapevine Texas? Well, those of you familiar with the Illinois Reading Council may know that the local council leaders have an opportunity every summer to attend a leadership retreat at Grand Bear Lodge in Utica, close to Starved Rock State Park. The state level organization organizes this so that local council leaders may learn more about their positions and have some dedicated time to plan out their year's events. I mentioned this in the previous posting. Well, guess what? The International Reading Association does the same thing for state level organizations. This year they brought us to Grapevine, Texas, just outside Dallas, and we are spending time setting goals and making plans for the rest of the year ourselves. It's great to get to interact with folks from other state and provincial councils, to share ideas and try to problem-solve collaboratively, and we greatly appreciate the opportunity that the I.R.A. provides us to do so.

Now for the explanation of the yawn banquet. Feed is futuristic, and in this future, the internet is implanted into people's brains, I believe at birth. And it's proactive. If you go to a store and look at soccer balls, it will automatically send your brain ads for soccer balls and personalize the sales pitch. Spooky, huh? Well, the story is told from the point of view of a teenage boy, and as you can imagine, teenage boy 'language' is an entity unto itself. Anything boring is referred to as a 'total yawn banquet.' If a girl is pretty, she is 'youch,' and if she is REALLY pretty, she is 'meg youch.' And even though the topic is serious, this is a hilarious book. M. T. Anderson slips in just enough humor to make the reader look forward to the rest of the humor while still being able to concentrate on the story line. I can't wait to meet this author in March!

The opportunities for talking about vocabulary are rife in this book, though there is also some language that would be deemed objectionable by some folks. But I can't help myself - I can't stop reading it! I have to go attend another meeting in a few minutes, and I am so tempted to slip Feed into my bag and slip it out when no one is looking.