Halloween Words: Neil Gaiman and Penguin

Looking for a way to ring in this ancient Celtic holiday?

Author Neil Gaiman is aiming to inspire an annual tradition–give somebody a scary book to read every Halloween, and Penguin has a page with clips of Philip Pullman reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales and their backlist of spooky stuff and horror (offered at a discount and including lots of tried and true chillers, Shirley Jackson, Poe, Mary Shelly, and Patrick Suskind’s extraordinary Perfume, a hell of a read).

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A Beautiful Picture: Photos from the Heartland at Nelson-Adkins

Design Observer has a piece on photos of the American Midwest by Terry Evans–mostly taken from a Cessna airplane.

From the essay by Alan Thomas:

“The airplane,” Antoine de Saint Exupéry wrote, “has unveiled for us the true face of the earth.” [2] From the vantage of a Cessna, Evans could tell different stories of the prairie — stories of irrigation and extraction, flooded fields and drained wetlands, feedlots and bomb targets. Seen from the air, these features of the prairie could be shown in truer relation to one another, although in Evans’s photographs the aerial perspective offers not a panoptical view but a provisional and humble one.

The exhibit has a good web site. And the Nelson-Adkins was a spectacular museum even before the new building by Steven Holl, which judging from the photos is an astonishing addition.

Reasonable Words: MTT on Conducting

Nice piece by Geoffrey Norris on orchestral conductors in the current Gramophone. (Can’t find it on their hard to navigate web site.) Many great lines, including this reflection from Michael Tilson Thomas:

Tilson Thomas stresses that a conductor needs to ‘resolve issues of ensemble, balance, nuance, and to help a large number of people appreciate where “now” is’–to find a focus when each musician in the orchestra might have particular thoughts on what should be happening. ‘It’s the members of the orchestra who are actually giving the concert, and the conductor’s job is to inspire them, make them confident and do the best they can.”

Sounds like fodder for any management text, at least that “now” bit.

That said, the cult of the conductor seems at times to be a little much (BBC classical music producer Hans Keller and critic called it “the phoniest profession.”) And yet, it makes a difference, as any long-suffering audience member at the Boston Symphony of late can attest. (They have been without a music director since James Levine stepped down.)

Part of that is charisma and leadership, and one of the Norris’ subjects is Ukrainian conductor, Kirill Karabits, principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, who has it in abundance. Here’s a sample, and the pianist is no slouch either. First 60 seconds of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1. Still as amazing as when I was 7.

Reasonable Words: Paul Graham

From an essay by the programming genius, painter, and start up maven, Paul Graham. By college he was beginning to question the work = pain formula that was received wisdom as a child.

The definition of work was now to make some original contribution to the world, and in the process not to starve. But after the habit of so many years my idea of work still included a large component of pain. Work still seemed to require discipline, because only hard problems yielded grand results, and hard problems couldn’t literally be fun. Surely one had to force oneself to work on them.

If you think something’s supposed to hurt, you’re less likely to notice if you’re doing it wrong. That about sums up my experience of graduate school.

Entire essay, How to Do What You Love, is pretty thought provoking.

Online Ed: Marginal Revolution University

Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok,two economists at George Mason U who run a popular econ blog called Marginal Revolution, have started Marginal Revolution University. Their first course, on Development Economics,  is up.
The implementation seems pretty simplistic (narrated slideshows), but the goal is very admirable. It’s interesting that these profs. chose to “roll their own” infrastructure at the same time that big research universities are sinking untold millions into online platforms. Which one will turn out to be the real disruption? Harvard and MIT, et al, have a global brand to protect, Cowen and Tabarrok seem to honestly want to teach people development economics as empowerment.

Their blog has a great list of “Blogs we Like,” (because we all need MORE blogs and feeds, right?) Learned about one I didn’t know about by Gary Becker and Richard Posner, which should put to rest any lingering view that blogging is not for intellectual heavyweights.