Category Archives: Video/Film

Fantastic Beasts! A Review!

fantastic-beasts-big-posterIt’s here! It’s here! Fantastic Beasts is here! But does it hold up to the exceptional standards of creativity Potter fans crave?

Yes and no.

As a die-hard Harry Potter Fan, my hopes were high with this prequel series. My overall takeaway is that Fantastic Beasts is a good—not great—film that sets up sequential films and plot lines nicely.

As it is difficult to speak about this film without giving away spoilers, I will share the non-spoiling bits first, and then alert those of you who haven’t seen it yet before launching into specific plot points.

NON SPOILER REVIEW

Fantastic Beasts takes place in 1920’s New York and, boy, does that come across well. I love the grunge and the cramped spaces and the hard times mingled with a sense of possibility. The look-and-feel of the film pulls you in from the start. You want to soak up the period atmosphere and all that comes with it. It really is a shame that the camera moves so quickly; you barely get to see any of the detail in each shot. For example, the opening montage of newspapers flies by so fast you can barely read the headlines—and you may even get nauseous in the attempt. Even so, my imagination was pricked by what I caught, and I grew even more curious about what the Wizarding world in America had in store.

The film follows the path of Newt Scamander, an English ex-Hogwarts student who arrives via steamship with a mysterious suitcase containing a wide collection of magical creatures. Almost immediately, chaos ensues, beginning with the escape of the wily niffler which, as we learn from Hagrid’s Care of Magical Creatures class in the Harry books, is attracted to shiny, valuable objects. The audience giggled along with the niffler’s antics, watching it stuff the contents of a bank safe into its little pouch. I approve of the niffler design, a distinction I take seriously being married to a character designer. I likewise approve of many of the other creatures in design, though their CG animation often seemed forced and cheap. You’d think after all of the disastrous Star Wars prequels that Hollywood would have learned not to forgo props and puppets in lieu of pure CG, but alas. Many of the interactions with the fantastic beasts looked off, lacking in texture and weight, a shiny creature juxtaposed with the gritty city background. When the actors “touched” the creatures, it simply failed to look at all real. It’s like watching TV dramas where people hand each other coffee cups that are clearly empty: we knew the Fantastic Beasts actors weren’t really holding anything, let alone funky bird snake things.

To speak generally of the story, I most appreciated the suspense created; I definitely needed to find out what and/or who the mysterious “Obscurus” was. Many of the characters, especially Newt and Graves, had a mystique that drew me in. That said, many of the other characters could have been better developed, particularly Tina, Queenie, and Jacob. Like many of the later, original Harry Potter films, subtlety of character, plot, and what I will call “world establishing” is lost to action sequences and flashy special effects. This is a shame, as anyone who enjoys the books knows that it is the characters who drive the story, not the flash-bang magic they produce. I would have liked very much to know more about all of the characters in Fantastic Beasts, find out what motivates or frightens them, see them struggle to work together, and be in on their inside jokes. These are the nuanced choices filmmakers can make (though they rarely do these days) that mean the difference between a World War II flick and Casablanca. Hopefully the next films in the series will do more to establish character motivation and stimulate audience empathy.

SPOILER CONTENT: DO NOT CONTINUE IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM OR READ THE HARRY BOOKS!

Ok, so for viewers who have already seen the film, let’s get into the nitty gritty.

My absolute favorite thing about this movie is the concept of the Obscurus. This is because, or so I deduce, it is a subtle allusion to Albus Dumbledore’s back story and the tragedy that eclipsed his childhood. As the story goes, Dumbledore’s younger sister Ariana was driven insane by muggle boys who taunted her, leaving her unable to control her immense magical power. Dumbledore’s brief friendship with Gallert Grindelwald ended in a disagreement about Ariana, and their ensuing duel resulted in Ariana’s death. Fantastic Beasts names Ariana’s condition and describes it as a kind of possession by a creature called an Obscurus, known affect children forced to subdue their magical powers instead of learn to control them. To use this source of power as a motivation for the Grindelwald character was brilliant. It ties in the Dumbledore/Grindelwald history to this budding American story with nuance and intrigue.

As strong as that plot device was, however, the film suffered from many missed opportunities. For starters, I had hoped there would be elements of the American magical world that were, well, more American. The totalitarian structure of the Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA) simply mimicked the Ministry of Magic. There could have been more of an emphasis on individual liberties and identities, or even a “screw you” attitude among American wizards that, for better or worse, would make an American wizard feel like an American. There could also have been different spells used or more discussion of the American wizarding education and the way it influences the culture. In other words, an extension of the wizarding world into other other countries could be fascinating, but there just wasn’t enough to satisfy. That said, it would take a lot for that to happen with me.

Another small criticism involves the use of the memory charm at the end. It made no sense. For one thing, movie fans and book fans alike remember that the charm works on wizards just as well as muggles, so why aren’t the local wizards forgetting everything? Second, is it only working on people who get wet in the “obliviating” rain? If so, that causes many problems, as most New Yorkers would have been indoors. Third, why does Newt have this potion in his pocket and why can that bird thing release it perfectly to enchant the rain? Too deus ex machina for me. Surely we can come up with something better.

Again, overall, the film holds up well, and can entertain anyone from wizarding newbies to raving fanatics like me with its lovely visuals, suspense, and occasional jokes. That said, being entertained is not the same as being moved, and I think the film could have done the latter with a bit more polish and exposition and fewer flash-bang action sequences. Hopefully, though, this first film will serve as a platform for great things to come. Fingers crossed.

 

 

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My Latest Video Project: Behind the Scenes at The Cookery

It all started when this Australian man gave me free dessert.

Josh and I arrived at The Cookery two winters ago just after Christmas to find the doors locked. As we were walking away, an Aussie named Brett beckoned us back and made sure we didn’t go away empty handed. (The cake was AMAZING, by the way). This little God moment turned into a huge blessing for me as I have since been entrusted with telling The Cookery’s story twice, first for Edible Nashville Magazine, and now in the video below.

It has been an honor sharing the stories and communicating the vision of the remarkable eatery and ministry that is The Cookery. This unassuming cafe nestled on 12 South in the Edgehill neighborhood of Nashville is so much more than it seems. Inside formerly homeless men are getting a second chance at life. They live in community that is safe, their needs are met, and they go to work each day to learn the culinary arts, a trade that will enable them to once again become self-sufficient. It is a place of miracles. Watch and see.


 

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30×30 COMPLETED!

I made it to 30, in more ways than one. Over the last several weeks I’ve been on a quest to make 30 things more or less from scratch with March 4, my 30th birthday, as the deadline.

CONQUERED!

I have linked to the remaining items below. See my first and second and third and fourth updates.

Here is the final list of things MADE, with the update number in parenthesis:

  1. A Latte (0)
  2. Peter’s music video (1)
  3. A Shadow Puppet (3)
  4. A Logo (4)
  5. A Mosaic (1)
  6. A Necklace (1)
  7. A Peking Duck (3)
  8. A Renaissance Feast (2)
  9. My Renaissance Costume (2)
  10. Josh’s Renaissance Costume (2)
  11. A Tiered Cake (2)
  12. A Swedish Meal (4)
  13. A Baby Hat (4)
  14. A Documentary on the Renaissance Party (Watch Below)
  15. A Sculpture (4)
  16. A Dog Toy Prototype (4)
  17. A Food Story + Recipe for Josefin (3)
  18. A Standing Souffle (1)
  19. A Short Story
  20. A Chalkboard (4)
  21. An original Ukulele song, recorded (hear below)
  22. A Musical Cover, recorded (hear below)
  23. A Dog Collar (4)
  24. A Comic Strip (4)
  25. Kintsugi (4)
  26. A Decision on a New Computer 
  27. Cheesy Grits (4)
  28. Semlör (Swedish Pastry) (4)
  29. An Epic Poem
  30. Creative Writing Portfolio

 

My musical cover…may God spare your ears…

My original song…may God spare your ears…though he might not because it is Psalm 139 set to music…

The Elizabethan Murder Mystery Documented:

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Getting Gritty, part 3

A year and a half ago I wrote a 2 part series called Getting Gritty. This is the third installment on this theme. Part 1 defines grit and examines the life of Leonardo DaVinci and his remarkable perseverance, and Part 2 discusses the balance of grit and rest as the formula for prolific creative activity. 

What do Leonardo DaVinci, Julia Child, and Bob Dylan all have in common? Our first answer to this might be “genius,” meaning natural talent, or “success,” meaning they were in the right place at the right time. The temptation for those of us struggling to live creative and productive lives is to think that they had something we don’t have—or worse, can’t have. If you are like me and fall prey to this temptation, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that what these great minds have in common is something we too can have: grit. The bad news is that what we need to be like these great minds is grit.

True Grit. No, not the classic western. I’m talking about the “stick-to-it-ness” that characterizes many if not all of the most prolific and creative people across history. These figures lived through what Adam Westbrook, creator of the video essay below, calls “The Difficult Years,” or those years of hard work, sweat, and tears that history often ignores. He cites author Robert Green who defines that period as “A largely self-directed apprenticeship that lasts some five to ten years [and] receives little attention because it does not contain stories of great achievement or discovery.”

Five to ten years, no achievement. That is a tough pill to swallow, especially for our instant gratification generation, a people trained to believe hard work is the stuff of fast movie montages and is over before we can blink. Is this really what it takes?

Um, well, yes. Sorry to break it to you. Grit is the thing that links great minds, and if we seek to accomplish creative feats then we must keep working, disregarding failures and the lack of an audience. We must keep creating. Todd Henry, author of the Accidental Creative, urges his readers and podcast listeners often to undertake “unnecessary creating,” meaning creative activity that we do for ourselves, for fun, and not for money. Pursuing our passions is the best training for prolific creative accomplishment; passion and grit go hand in hand.

And that is the good news. When we think of bearing down and getting gritty, we might think that this means assuming supernatural self-discipline. While discipline is important, willpower only goes so far. The only thing powerful enough to push us to this level of creative pursuit is passion, love of the craft, love of beauty, and a surviving hope that, no matter how long it takes, someone else will share that love with you.

In this video essay we learn about the profound passion of Vincent Van Gogh, and while I believe he went overboard by sacrificing his health to his art, his grittiness inspires me to push past a temporary lack of the spoils of “success” and just keep creating.

“Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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Watch Forged, a new documentary

Very pleased to share with you a new documentary directed and produced by a friend of mine, Grant Howard. Forged is the fascinating story of an aging coppersmith and his son who are brought together by the father’s final sculpture. The film impressed me particularly with its beautiful photography, the original score reminiscent of Wagner, and its reflections on the value of art, beauty, and family.

Major kudos to Grant! Congratulations!

Enjoy!

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Latest Video: Leaven Bread by Rain for Roots

How would you like to film people baking bread, making art, and playing with adorable children?

Um, Heck YES!

You know, this freelance thing might be hard, but sometimes a super fun project falls right in your lap, and you find yourself suppressing your giggles because you are shaking the camera.

A few months ago I was asked to do this video for a music group called Rain for Roots featuring Sandra McCracken, Flo Paris, Ellie Holcomb, Katy Bowser and Alice Smith. They produced an album called, “The Kingdom of Heaven is Like This,” which musically illustrates biblical parables for kids. They have been producing videos in different styles to give visuals as the kids follow along with the music. I had the privilege to produce the video for the song, “Leaven Bread,” and film two families baking bread together. Here is the final project:

For the sake of this creativity blog, here a few comments about the storyboards I did for this project:

1) Storyboards give confidence. Normally for my video projects, I create an outline with the shots I want to get, but I also leave a good bit open to day-of serendipity. This time around I did complete storyboards. Once these were approved by the client, I not only had a complete list of shots I needed to collect, but I also had more confidence that I was on the right track in terms of the client’s vision for the project. The storyboards created a mid-point check in so that both the client and I could feel comfortable about the filming plan.

2) Storyboards give context to the “Talent.” I brought the storyboards to the shoot and, boy, was I glad I did. Not only did we have six young kids who all wanted to know what was going on, but one of the mothers had limited English, so communication could have been very difficult. The pictures proved invaluable in explaining to this mother what I was going to be doing in her house. It also got the kids really excited to see the story they were about to act out.

3) Storyboards keep you on track. So, Kids move. A lot. It’s distracting. Another reason I was happy I did the storyboards was because there were six kids running around a tiny kitchen during the shoot. I could only catch so much in the moment, and I had a linear story to tell. Having the complete storyboards with me helped me film nonlinearly while making sure I didn’t forget anything.

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Friday Rehash: Live from An Abandoned Church

I just found out yesterday that the church where I was baptized closed as a center of worship. I don’t know the details, but I gather it was a long time in coming. I remember well the stone building on its tree-filled property that abutted the very fancy Sleepy Hollow Country Club. We used to hop the church’s fence to go see the Country Club’s 4th of July Fireworks. I remember the smell of the church; some sort of lemon cleanser that didn’t quite mask the lingering mustiness. I remember that time with the youth group playing Sardines in the darkened church when one kid hid under the organ and almost set off a mouse trap. I can play back our family’s home videos in my head, images of my mom performing goofy skits, or of my brother, age 3, bedecked in a cotton-ball-covered tunic and looking straight into the camera to announce, “I’m a sheep!”

It’s funny how much I remember. I haven’t had any affiliation with the place in probably fifteen years.

I assume the property will go on to a new purpose, and perhaps even serve again as a place of worship for new people. I pray this is the case. Even so, as many memories as those walls held for so many families, I can’t help but feel like maybe there is something good to gather from this. It’s just a building. We need to keep that perspective. It is an earthly thing. This is not to say that God does not consecrate spaces or bless material things; He cares about the physical. But He cares a lot–oh so much more–for us. He wants a relationship with us. He wants us to pursue Truth (yes, that is a capital T). He does not want us to go through the motions. He wants a church of vibrant, faith-filled people, and this body, this church, can meet anywhere, whether it is in a hut, or a cathedral, or on a dusty road where Christ once said, “The son of man has nowhere to lay his head,” then bid us to follow him.

In honor of these sentiments, I want to share with you again a project I did with a musician friend a few months back. It is a song called, “We Are Dead,” performed live in an abandoned church. Peter McKeown of Woodferd astounds listeners with his musical prowess and thoughtful poetry. This song touches on the juxtaposition of the temporal and eternal, and so when Peter came to me saying he wanted to do a video in an empty church, it couldn’t have been more appropriate. In some ways, the lyrics and the song are a little shocking, but I hope you hear, as I do, the underlying hope: some things do last forever. We just have to make sure we know what those are.

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My Latest Video Project!

And now presenting….drumroll…..my latest video work!

Kate Whitley of Little Things Studio is an artist here in Nashville. Her delightful and wildly popular work flies off the tables at art fairs as well as off the virtual Esty shelves. It was a pleasure just to hear about her latest project and an even greater joy to help her with this video to fund it. Kate put the video up on the new Etsy fundraiser page and she is already 158% funded! Even so, be sure to check out the project and order an advance copy of her new, beautiful 30 Days of Hymns reusable desk calendar.

A bit about my process in making this video…

1) Grasping the Why
As often happens when we work on projects that excite us, we sometimes forget why other people might not be as excited. My first job as storyteller then was to get at WHY Kate’s audience should be excited. After all, Kate is not stating facts; she is making an argument and an invitation. They are not going to buy it because it’s a great deal or even because it is pretty. They are going to buy it because they will believe, along with Kate, that hymns are special and the poetry impacts us deeply. Therefore, the video needed to communicate this in what Kate said, in how she said it, and through the visual media. This WHY factor provided the framework as I wrote the script, planned shots, and directed Kate’s delivery.

2) Choosing a Look and Feel
I once went to a workshop put on by Stillmotion studios. One of the critical elements in their filming process is finding five keywords that guide practically every decision from lighting to interview question choices to soundtrack. This is a great discipline which I admittedly and regrettably COMPLETELY forgot to do this time around. Even so, I asked Kate enough questions up front that I felt confident we were on the same page. If I had to choose words retrospectively, they might be whimsey, light, heritage, sharing, and revival. Please note that these words could have been completely different, like mission, preservation, duty, beauty, and ancient; these words would have yielded a more solemn atmosphere in which Kate would be on a quest, rallying troops, etc. In the video we made, by contrast, Kate invited viewers into a community of lighthearted people who see the past, present, and future value of these meaningful words. In addition to this atmospheric distinction, I also made sure Kate and I agreed on some reference material. Kate’s enthusiasm immediately made me think of Kid President, with its peppy music, warm lighting, quick cuts, and whimsical illustrated text, so that is what I copied.

3) Lighting takes practice. Sigh. 
I’ve been on a quest for all the DIY lighting info I can find. I am pleased overall with how the final project looked in terms of color and exposure, but I lack some consistency. At one point I turned on another lamp in the middle of filming like a fool. It changed everything. Ah well. You live and you learn. Even so, if you know of any good resources on inexpensive lighting equipment or techniques, I’m on the hunt!

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Five Reflections on Pixar’s Inside Out

My husband and I wasted little time getting to the theater to see the new Pixar hit, Inside Out, on its opening weekend. Over the last year, we both eagerly consumed news of Pete Doctor’s latest brainchild, having so dearly loved both Monster’s Inc. and Up. My husband, an extraordinary animator and character designer himself, felt increasingly giddy with each new piece of tantalizing teaser content. I was a little more skeptical. I knew the basic premise of the movie: a look at the emotions of an 11-year-old girl after her family moves to a new city, but I had many questions:

How can you show character arcs in characters who, of necessity, must consistently embody specific emotions?

How closely will this story reflect real biological mechanisms?

Will the story even be interesting?

You see, I love story. A well-told story both warms my heart and stimulates my mind. While Pixar has proven itself a master of story in the past (Monster’s Inc., The Incredibles, Ratatouille, etc.), more recent films impressed us less. Brave, for instance, was a catastrophe in storytelling. What the heck were those little fairy things and why does Merida keep following them? Why is this girl so determined to poison her own mother? What are the rules of this fate-changing business? All this to say, I was dubious of Inside Out’s potential, especially considering the daunting subject matter.

Now that I have seen it, I have a short and a long version of my review:

The short of it: Definitely go see this movie. As a creative exercise, Pete Doctor’s trip into this little girl’s mind cannot fail but to impress. Coming out of the theater I dearly wanted to turn around and see it again to appreciate more fully the amount of research that went into the film. I wish I knew more about psychology and neuroscience because I wager this film is jammed with references to current theories on brain function and behavioral science. As a story, Inside Out is perhaps not as rich or satisfyingly complex as many of its predecessors, but it still kept me engaged and made me tear up at the end (in a good way!).

The long of it: Josh and I had several thoughts coming out of this movie. I would love to hear yours as well so please chime in below in the comments.

1. No Villain.
As I have learned in my study of storytelling, stories are stories because of conflict. If there is no conflict, there is no story. Most often, and especially in animated films, conflict comes from an external force, usually in the form of a villain. Inside Out bypasses this convention and instead risks leaving conflict merely to challenging circumstances. Circumstance A has Riley, the 11-year old, and her parents moving from Minnesota to San Francisco, an upheaval that challenges Riley’s emotional status quo. Circumstance B involves two of Riley’s anthropomorphized emotions, Joy and Sadness, getting lost in Riley’s mind and trying to get back to “headquarters” to reestablish Riley’s emotional balance. So, no bad guy. Do we miss the bad guy? Not really, which is in itself impressive. I did feel, however, that I never really feared for the main characters, which indicates the conflict could have been weightier. Consider, for instance, the furnace scene in Toy Story 3. I actually feared the toys would burn up the first time I saw that scene. I’d guess most people did. THAT is powerful conflict. Alas, Inside Out lacked that level of oomph.

2. A made-up world in a very, very real one

Like I said, Inside Out as a creative exercise absolutely enchanted me. Whereas I fawn over films like Monster’s Inc. for creating consistent rules in a completely made-up world, I now salute Pixar for creating a colorful and imaginative world and staying, as much as they could, within the painfully constricting boundaries of real life behavioral and emotional science. In other words, the ways of Riley’s mind necessarily had to abide by reality in order for her story to have any power. Pixar likely had to question themselves every step of the way, asking, “Does this analogy work?” or “Do our brains actually do that?” This could not have been easy, but given the magnitude of the challenge, they did a fabulous job.

3. Where does Reason live? 

Ok, so, fair warning, my philosophy major is coming out now. Inside Out is about emotions, but we know that our emotions alone do not govern our decisions. We deduce, we calculate, and we employ inductive reasoning in our ongoing quest to make something of this world. This begs the question, therefore, where or what is Reason in Inside Out? Is Reason an absent character? Does Reason live elsewhere, outside of “headquarters”? Or perhaps Reason is not its own being, but rather the product of the emotions working together to intuit Riley’s best choices? This last option is my best guess for how Pixar chose to tell this story. While it works to do this, and while the story was impressively simple and consistent, I for one really wanted the question of Reason to be addressed. It just wasn’t clear, and if I noticed it, others probably did too. Reason could have been another character to challenge the emotions’ convictions. Reason could have been the villain! Or even if Reason were not another character, the emotions could have engaged in more elaborate reasoning and thereby reinforce the message that no feeling or memory is ever one-dimensional.

4. I wanted more from Sadness. 

The character of Sadness is, well, a pushover. Because I don’t want to give away the ending, I will just say that I wish Sadness displayed a little more hutzpah and foreshadowed her value earlier in the film. Had she been written stronger from the beginning, she would have been a better counterpart for Joy, who is so Type A she comes off as a little obnoxious, however well-meaning. Had Sadness been stronger, their conversations would have been much more intriguing and their conflict much more subtle and complex.

5. Other assorted observations…

  • It makes me happy that all three predominant characters in this film are female, given the long, male-dominated lineup of Pixar films.
  • There were a few give-away expository lines that dropped like anvils. “These are the core memories. They make up Riley’s personality.” Um, Ok. I know you were up against a lot with this story, but surely there are ways of showing and not telling…?
  • I am very impressed with Pixar’s portrayal of Riley; I felt like she was a real person.
  • Why did Riley have both male and female emotions while her mother’s were all female and her father’s male? Also, why is the mother’s emotional leader Sadness and the father’s leader Anger? Does this mean anything? Are we supposed to conclude something from this?
  • I’m not sure how I feel about the “Abstract Thought” scene.
  • I wish Fear, Anger, and Disgust were more developed and nuanced, especially as they try to maintain control and “do what Joy would do.” When they try, they utterly fail, and I think we were supposed to find this funny. I, however, wanted to see more deliberation. When we feel angry, for instance, the feeling can vary from indignant to frustrated to confused. I know I’m asking for a lot, but it would have been nice to see more contemplative treatment of these nuances.
  • Is it at all possible to retrieve things from the giant pit of lost memories? Why can the emotions remember things that have gone into the pit when Riley cannot?

Again, I would love to hear your reflections on the film. Please share!

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Redesigning School. Yes Please.

I just stumbled across this fantastic video discussing whether our educational systems are actually harming our creative potential. The talk reminded me of an epiphany I had while at school, so I thought I would share.

It hit me toward the end of my second year of college. A singular notion, it had never occurred to me before. I was sitting at my desk in my dorm rewriting a paper on subject matter I thoroughly did not understand (Descartes’ astronomical physics–long story). I was so far from understanding it, in fact, that my professor refused to critique my first draft because it was so terribly off the mark (“It’s so bad I can’t even read it,” I believe were his actual words…nice, really nice). So I sat there struggling and it occurred to me that I wasn’t doing this for him. I wasn’t even doing this for the grade. I was at college to educate myself. 

Over the next few months this idea kept reemerging. I wasn’t there to passively fill the blanks on my transcript. My education should be cultivating ME. I could use it to design ME, use it as a tool to sculpt my future and the person I wanted to be. As painfully obvious as this observation might seem, many students of my generation and younger exist in such a highly structured system that we end up floating right through it, never wondering whether we have any say in how the structure is made or can question if the system is good or bad or a combination. Those of us who can endure jump through hoop after hoop after hoop, right up to the point that we realize we don’t know who we are, what we want, or what use we can make of ourselves in this world.

So there I was, half way through college and only just starting to realize why I was there at all. The extent to which I learned anything useful depended, not on my teachers or curriculum, but on whether or not I owned my education. A good friend of mine helped me, albeit unwittingly, see how far I was from achieving this. She had been homeschooled her whole life. For any interest she harbored, she and her family figured out how to pursue it, whether it was public speaking or language acquisition or fencing. She grew up thinking it was normal to choose her own paths of study, thinking it was normal to speak with adults as an equal, and owning the right to investigate, question, and create. I watched her, marveling at her utter lack on inhibition and her seemingly effortless accomplishments. How do I even begin to take that much ownership over my learning?

I am still learning this lesson. But now I am in the real world, lacking that safe harbor of college where I could try anything under the sun to see if I liked it. At least I could help my sister avoid the same mistakes. A few years ago, as my sister was making her college decision, she suffered from burnout and constantly felt disoriented.  I encouraged her to take a gap year. I wanted her to understand that diving back into school was not her only option. Many kids struggle with this. They just keep going from grade to grade to grade to college to grad school, etc. The idea of stopping, resting, and living their own lives–well, it warps their little paradigms. My sister took her gap year, and it wasn’t easy. For the first time in her life she had to figure out what she was going to do every day. She would get frustrated easily, but every adult she talked to confirmed her decision by declaring longingly, “Man, I wish I had taken a gap year.” In the end, she didn’t regret it. During that year she studied art history in Italy and the experience stirred such a passion in her that she has since excelled in her coursework at school and appears positively giddy at the idea of a career in art conservation.

This video touches on many of these similar ideas. Speaker Sarah Stein Greenberg, executive director of the Stanford d.School, says “If I told you that if you exercised everyday for four years and at the end of the four years you would be fit for the rest of your life, you would laugh… but essentially, that’s the model we have baked into college.” Four years is, when you think about it, an arbitrary timeframe for college, and most of us get it at the beginning of our adult life when few of us have had any experience of real world problem solving. The result is that students don’t know how to apply what they learn while at school and then they leave and discover they won’t know how to learn what they need to apply. One of the suggestions introduced in this video is the idea of a six year college program that students can start and stop as needed and in which they are encouraged to mingle real world work and big life problems with the safety and freedom of the classroom. See what you think. I’d love to hear your feedback.

FYI…sorry, but the video won’t embed properly. here is the link:
http://player.cnevids.com/embed/5461131c61646d38b4080000/5176e89e68f9daff42000013

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