Friday Link Love

Just a few today:


Joy of Books — YouTube

I cannot fathom how long this took… but I’m glad they spent the time.


NOW we're talkin'!

New Playgrounds Are Safe… And That’s Why Nobody Uses Them — Atlantic

I couldn’t agree more. I can’t count the number of times I’ve stood at the bottom of a lame plastic slide just in case one of my kids flies off the bottom—because it happened to me when I was a kid—and then realized, “Who am I kidding? They’re going to grind to a halt halfway up and have to scoot their way off. Childhood today sucks.”

And while I’m on the topic, why do parents say “Good job” when their kid reaches the bottom of a slide? “Way to be subject to gravity!”


How Do We Identify Good Ideas? — Jonah Lehrer

The inconsistency of genius is a consistent theme of creativity: Even those blessed with ridiculous talent still produce works of startling mediocrity. (The Beatles are the exception that proves the rule, although their subsequent solo careers prove that even Lennon and McCartney were fallible artists.) The larger point is that mere imagination is not enough, for even those with prodigious gifts must still be able to sort their best from their worst, sifting through the clutter to find what’s actually worthwhile.

…But this raises the obvious question: How can we sort our genius from our rubbish?

The answer may surprise you… and it has implications for Sabbath, in my opinion.


Free Cabin P0rn 

I wish it weren’t called that, but whatever.

We talk a lot in our family about the idea of a “self house.” Caroline came up with the name at Christmas several years ago. She told Robert she wanted to give me my own small cabin in the backyard “where Mommy can go when she’s feeling mad.” Sigh. I was half dismayed that Mommy apparently gets mad often enough to need a whole separate building to contain it, half blown away by her idea, which let’s face it, is spot on. Who wouldn’t love a self house?

This site is full of self houses, and the story snippets are fascinating, the pictures arresting. I was reminded of my friend Karen, who recommended a book years ago about desert spirituality called The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. OK, I then bought the book and never read it. But don’t you see the solace of fierce landscapes when you look through these photos?

Oh and Caroline, if you ever read this, here’s the one I’ve picked out:


And speaking of a space of one’s own, I’m off to Montreat on Sunday for a week of Preacher Camp. It’s an intense week socially, academically, and… gastronomically. (We eat out a lot.) But every night I retire to my own “cabin” of sorts, and it’s very very nice. And then by Friday I’m very happy to get back home to the chaos.

My papers are written and I can’t wait. Take care.


14 thoughts on “Friday Link Love

  1. Jeremy says:

    About the “Good Job!” thing:

    Having sat at the bottom of a slide waiting and waiting on my cousins to let go because they were scared, I can see how it would be appropriate.

    “Yay, you trusted that being subject to gravity wouldn’t hurt you!”

    • MaryAnn says:

      It’s definitely appropriate in that instance, but trust me, it has become a very weird verbal tic among playground parents whose kids have very clearly been down a slide a hundred times.

  2. Keith Snyder says:

    Any article that quotes Zadie Smith and no one else on the subject of writing quality is suspect.

    And so as not to leave an all-snark comment:

    The article makes a bad assumption at the beginning, which is that the reason quality varies is that the artist can’t tell. That’s ridiculous; artists make art. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse, but unless you get something out of being paralyzed by perfectionism, the making is the point–which means finishing, so you can make the next one. Make it, do your best, move on.

    You can’t win ’em all / critics are the lice that crawl on literature.
    ~Unknown / Hemingway

    • MaryAnn says:

      Yes, that’s true.

      What I appreciated about the article is having an approach that helps my evaluate where to spend my time. So I’m not sure the premise is ridiculous. Either that or I’m not a very good artist. Because I am always wondering, can this project be made stronger, and maybe even find an audience, with additional time, energy and sweat? Or is it better to let it be what it is (e.g. the novel in the drawer) and move on to one of the other umpteen ideas I have in my head?

      • Keith Snyder says:

        I wonder the same things, but the other umpteen are ALWAYS better–because I haven’t got my smudgy fingerprints all over them yet.

        I think a good chunk of the Beatles’ best ideas, to use his example, were actually in the arrangements, which means they were George Martin’s, not the holy duo’s. Genius in execution and interpretation are so often just shoved aside, because people are too eager to make Idea into art’s equivalent of the Great Man.

      • MaryAnn says:

        Interesting. It could be that I’m reacting as I am to this because I’m thinking about group initiatives too, for example, programs and ministries of the church. Some things just need to fail because they weren’t sound ideas to begin with. Other ideas just haven’t had time to ripen, or the premise is good but the execution needs work, or it’s a sound idea but you’ve got the wrong people working on it. Stuff like that.

        A little space can help make the next step clear.

        I’m curious—it sounds from what you’ve said (esp “make it, move on”) as if you don’t have projects you let languish for a while and come back to?

      • Rachel Heslin says:

        I’m a fan of cycles, as opposed to circles. I have had projects I’ve set aside for a time, only to come across them after having had additional life experiences to find that either the way to improve it is now obvious, or I can more easily identify what the core draw was for me so I can extract that part and apply it somewhere else.

  3. landon whitsitt says:

    Lehrer recently wrote an awesome article in the New Yorker about creativity and groupthink:

  4. Keith Snyder, my opinion, is on to something important also. To go off on my own tangent, the writers I most admire have been at it for about fifty years — some have died at it, Lucille Clifton being one. A.R. Ammons is another (my first “love”). I admire Ms. Clifton very, very short poems and A.R. Ammons “lattice” and “trellis” and “seive.” There are discussions of first draft and how many revisions and other (should one keep the intermediate stages — it always bothers me to see someone wad up and toss — but that is THEIR work, not mine, to tell. After less than three years of writing “poetry” (which I never imagined on myself, though I love writing) I have come to realize it is not “poems” that I am writing (very, very, very short – so that sometimes six or even more fit into one Tweet) but rather that all my writing (which is considerable every day) is rather One Work and that work is called Life and I am reading it as I go. At the bottom of the Life slide, I might not mind (allowing gravity) to hear a “way to go.” I am praying that I still have a ways to go.

  5. Meg says:

    I will admit that I find myself saying “Good Job” at the slide a lot… especially on Thursdays and Fridays when I spend my morning with a bunch of sweet three year olds. 🙂 The “Good Job” isn’t because of gravity… it is the “You didn’t push, you waited your turn, you let your friend get off the bottom of the slide before beginning, you slide feet first on your bottom… all those things that I as the teacher want them to do vs. the free for all they might prefer. 🙂

    • MaryAnn says:

      🙂 True… and I have certainly said “good job” myself for similar reasons… though I do wonder whether they get all that from a “good job”! Certainly doesn’t hurt though. I just think it’s funny.

  6. Keith Snyder says:

    Regardling letting things languish:

    I mulled that question on my long bike ride today, and it took a while to whittle it down to this:

    Not when I have a deadline.

  7. Rachel Heslin says:

    Re: playgrounds — I miss the metal “merry-go-round” discs where you’d run alongside them, getting them to go as fast as you could before jumping on and clinging onto the bar for dear life so you don’t get flung off.

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