Sir Ken Robinson – Do schools kill creativity?

I have fond memories of school. I fondly remember coming home from it each day. I remember English class: ‘I want to write a story about robot spies.’ ‘Well you can’t, we’re writing about the Eureka Stockade.’ Ahh, good times.

So today’s blog is about how schools are designed and operated.

If anyone has any idea how they are actually designed and operated I believe there is a highly underpaid position available for you to take up to improve the situation. Sir Ken Robinson presents an interesting polemic in the video below, essentially saying that creativity is beaten out of kids in order to make it easier to manage them in a class. What are your experiences?

The only part I wholly disagree with is the bit about multitasking. The research on that is fundamentally flawed. That research has usually compared people who multitask all of the time with people who don’t at all. I.e. they compared pot addicted college students who needed the study participation fee to buy beer with people who actually did stuff; usually housewives.

Real multitasking is largely a myth. You can do several tasks at once but you will do them all poorly in comparison to focussing on them one at a time.

So did you have your creativity killed off by going to school like I did?


Book Review: The Affair by Lee Child

The Affair (Jack Reacher, #16)The Affair by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was a little perturbed when I found out this year’s Reacher novel would be a prequel to the series. Since Killing Floor, Lee Child has evolved Reacher into a one man wrecking ball for truth, justice and hot women. Reacher has essentially become Superman without the need for external underwear and the ability to actually have a broken nose. This doesn’t exactly mesh with the Reacher before his adventures in Killing Floor.

This aside, Lee has served up another fantastic Reacher tale. The mystery unfolds, the intertwining clues and events are right there for you to pick up on and only implicitly used later – something I like about Lee’s writing. Reacher makes good use of the local train and his characteristic walking everywhere is in no short supply. In short, this is another fine Reacher novel.

Despite having pre-ordered this book it didn’t arrive until quite a while after its release date, something that has annoyed me for several books now (Matt Hilton’s Dead Men’s Harvest arrived late, Matthew Reilly’s Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves still hasn’t arrived). It was worth the wait though, as 50 pages in I was reminded why I had pre-ordered The Affair in the first place. I’d hazard a guess and say that next year’s releases by my favourite authors are more likely to be received on their release date, straight onto my Kindle, just as soon as Amazon starts selling the new Kindle Touch outside of the US (bastards!).

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E-book Prediction: Buy Your E-reader Now!

Do you have an e-reader yet? Well best go out and buy one in the next year. Books are going digital!

Want proof? Well how about Mike Shatzkin’s speculations from his blog.

Here’s an assumption that is not documentable; it is my own speculation. I think we’re going to see a US market that is 80% digital for narrative text reading in the pretty near future: could be as soon as two years from now but almost certainly within five. We have talked about the cycle that leads to that on this blog before: more digital reading leads to a decline in print purchasing which further thins out the number of bookstores and drives more people to online book purchasing which further fuels digital reading. Repeat. Etcetera.
We’re already at the point where new narrative text units sold are well north of 25% digital (percent of publishers’ revenue is lower than that, of course) and we are still in a period that has lasted about five years (soon to end) where the penetration of digital has doubled or more annually. (I italicized that to emphasize that what I’m talking about doubling is the percentage of sales that are digital, not the absolute number of digital sales. Several people misinterpeted that when I made to it previously.)
Of course, penetration will slow down before it reaches 100%. I’d imagine we get to 80% in 2 to 5 years, then then to 90% in another couple of years, with the last 10% stretching out a long time. How long did it take after the invention of the car before the last person rode their horse to town? – Mike Shatzkin (Source)

Of course that is in the USA. In down-under land we like to be on the dull edge of technology and trends. I’m sure many of you are in a similar situation in your countries (UK, Germany, Canada, India, Netherlands, Russia, Malaysia, Philippines – who round out my top 10 visitor countries). So whilst we as individuals may be on the cutting edge, many of our compatriots are still wary of the idea of books that aren’t made of paper. Suffice to say we will probably need to add a few years to these predictions and subtract the price of milk (full cream, not that white water stuff).

What do you think of these predictions? I think most countries will be e-book dominant in 5 years, I’m not sure about 80% though.

Book Review: Wyatt by Garry Disher

Wyatt (Wyatt, #7)Wyatt by Garry Disher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can’t believe I’ve been an Australian reader for this long and not read a Garry Disher novel. Sure, I’d heard of him, he’s a perennial favourite of the Australian Crime Thriller awards and community. But it was only his appearance at the Sydney Writers’ Festival – with Shamini Flint and Michael Connelly – that convinced me to buy Wyatt.

Of course I got Garry to sign my copy and dutifully put it on my shelf of “To Be Read” books. I really should have picked it up earlier to read. I should have read more Wyatt novels. I should have read Garry’s other series. Wyatt is crime noir, gritty and fast paced. If that is what strikes your mood then this book should entertain you nicely.

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RIP Steve Jobs


I was saddened to learn of Steve’s death today. He has brought us so many products with a small “i” in front of them that I think he has reached into many people’s daily lives and made them that little bit better.

Personally I’d like to thank him for bringing us the iPod and the associated store. It took Steve and Apple’s vision to give consumers what they had been hungry for in the music industry: an mp3 store and a music player to play them with. It is safe to say he did what all the other industry players were either too scared or too recalcitrant to do.

I love the iPod.

Condolences to his family and friends. I hope Apple continues with Steve’s legacy and continues to bring us innovative and useful “i” products.

Yeah, it’s tasteless, but somehow touching.

Actresses you don’t want in your book adaptation

I previously posted about some of the actors who were most likely to ruin a perfectly good book adaptation. The movie of a book is always going to be hard. You take an intricate plot, interesting characters, and throw them out to make room for 90 minutes of mindless violence and teen appeal: not an easy task. So, as to not be labelled a sexist by men pointing out that there are heaps of untalented female actors, I’m presenting the follow-up list of actresses whom you don’t want in a book adaptation.

Former models, singers or “celebrities”

Was she even a singer?

Yes this is a generic category rather than a specific actress, but we see it all of the time. Is it too much to ask for there to be more to an actress than looking good? Remember that this is a red-blooded male asking this question, if I’m complaining about these clothes horses in films it must be bad. Even worse is the Elvis road that singers want to take. To quote Eddie Murphy “Elvis was so good they put him in movies. Mother@#$%er couldn’t act.” Unfortunately the modern day singers aren’t Elvis and their acting is worse.

Jessica Alba

All acting sins forgiven!

There is a common marital clause, the freebie. Basically if you ever happen to be in the position to have sex with someone completely unobtainable, then it is okay. For me it is Jessica Alba, for my wife it is Ryan Reynolds. No offense to this hottie, but she has been acting since she was a child and yet she still manages to only bring her hottness to the screen.

Katie Holmes-Cruise-Xenu


I don’t know what’s worse, her acting or her choice in husbands.

Lindsay Lohan

Underwear not included.

Lindsay almost fits under the category of “celebrities” rather than actresses. I am struggling to name a film she has been in, let alone one that she acted in. On the plus side I’m struggling to name a film she has been in.

Jennifer Aniston

Hairstyle, no acting included.

Has she done anything other than Friends that was decent? Yes she was in the movie gem Office Space, but you could have replaced her with just about any other actress, she did so little with the role.

Katherine Heigl

At least she isn’t Helen Hunt.

There are two things you can count on with a Katherine Heigl romantic comedy: it won’t be funny and no one will have seen it. Heigl has the honor of staring in a $2 million film that only grossed $20 bucks, one of the biggest flops in film history.

Heather Graham

Her talents are showing.

Who needs talent when you’ve got big boobs and you’re willing to show them? Graham has made a career out displaying her, um, talents on screen. Wide eyed and bland, watching Graham on screen is like watching adorable paint dry.

Jennifer Love Hewitt

She sees dead people.

According to a study of ratings at Rotten Tomatoes, Jennifer is the worst actress of all time. Now this seems a bit hard to swallow given her successful TV career, but you can’t argue with science, even when arbitrarily applied with no proper standardisation of data. Also, at least Bill Murray apologised for making Garfield and has made some good films to make up for his appalling mistake.

Megan Fox

She’ll have diva with that.

Washed up at 24 is not exactly something you expect in Hollywood, well, not in the movies that include clothes at least. But when all you have going for you is your looks and you manage to annoy everyone you have worked with and then badmouth everyone, your career tends to be over.

Kristen Stewart

The one on the right.

A proud graduate of the Steven Segal School of Acting. She has one facial expression for every occasion. I know she was hired to be boring and insipid in Twilight, but that doesn’t mean you get to play Joan Jett that way too.