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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Here’s the eulogy I delivered at today’s Assembly. The video I showed follows.

Steve Jobs was one of the great Americans — a self-made flower child who turned the world on its head through his hard work.

Born to students — including a Syrian studying abroad — and raised by adoptive parents, Steve Jobs was raised near San Francisco, near what would become Silicon Valley. Even as a child, he had an affinity for gadgets. A famous story has him bumming parts from William Hewlett of Hewlett-Packard for a pet electronics project — while he was in eighth grade.

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Learning to Try

Sprinting Across Green Fields

Education is many things.  But, to me, it is, in some large measure, about learning to try.  It’s in the attempts that we uncover the lesson.  Like many things, best to get this lesson as early as possible.  But, young… old… succeed… fail,  in many respects, the relevance of these things begins to dissolve with trying.  Some times, though, I feel as if our generation of parents has striven so hard to give our children so much of what we think they need, that we deprive them of some things that they may need most, including their own tools to identify the urge to try and their own inner drive to pursue.  Even at the youngest of ages we begin to collect barnacles of doubt that slow and stop us in our tracks, and/or blinders of certainty that can keep us from seeing the road not taken.

I think that this is why I have gradually come to be such an admirer of the Burke Track program.  It’s not just that it has been so successful over the years.  Rather, that with every stride, jump and throw, you can see the commitment to trying written in the faces and limbs of the athletes. The sport is so fundamental, so pared down to the struggle against time or distance, that our athletes are not so far removed from those depicted on an ancient Grecian urn.  Fast. Slow. Win. Lose. Draw.  The importance of these things recede in time as each member of the team learns that the finish line isn’t a piece of tape you cross at the end, but is the reward you start to reveal when you begin.

There are tons of wonderful High School and Middle School Track & Field photos at BurkePix.  A MASSIVE Thank You to David Hunt, Daniel’s dad, who took and posted them.  Please go take a look by clicking here and here. Here are a few pics…

 

 

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Tengwar is the name of the alphabet used in several languages in Middle-Earth. Tengwa is a word in Quenya (the Elvish dialect we teach) meaning “sign” or “symbol,” so plural Tengwar comes from that. Within Tolkien’s mythology, the Noldo elf Fëanor invented the Tengwar, to replace Sarati, the previous, more limited system. (Fëanor was also, among other things, the elf who made the Silmarils, so he was pretty talented.)

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It’s college notification week.  All across the country high school seniors are re-living their first grade experience of waiting to see who picks them for kickball.  Except now the choice is being made by people who know so little about the kids that put so much faith in them.  Why are we so willing to line up to be picked?

Marketing guru, Seth Godin advises that in most things you don’t need to wait to be picked – you should pick yourself.  In his recent blog post, Reject the Tyranny of Being Picked: Pick Yourself, he writes:

It’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, “I pick you.” Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charming has chosen another house–then you can actually get to work.

No one picked the Friday song girl...

He cites Amanda Hocking who made a million dollars putting out her own Kindle book with no publisher and Rebecca Black who reached more than 15,000,000 listeners (for good or bad) without a record label.

Is it that important that we get picked by the school; should it be heartbreaking to not get picked by a particular college?  Or is there another way to approach the next step after high school?

Seth Godin

Borrowing from Godin, if you’re relying on that one perfect school to pick you, it may be a long wait. On the other hand, once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have and can get all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound.

In other (Godin) words, you don’t need someone to pick you. Pick yourself.

 

 

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Fernando ♥s: Faux Fur

Boyfriend costumes!

[Editor – here is the first of what we hope is the first of a long string (or should we say ‘gown’) of blog posts from Fernando S (’11) about clothes, costumes, fashion and more.  Fernando has worked on costume design for a number of Burke plays, including Urinetown and this year’s musical, The Boyfriend.  You can check out Fernando’s research for Urinetown here.  Fierce!]

One thing Edie Sedgewick and I have in common is that we both adore our leopard fur coats. While hers cost an arm and a leg, I picked mine up at Commander Salamander for $16. What I love about faux fur, which has been popping up a lot around DC, is that it’s guilt free and often looks real. Whether it’s been on the Chanel Winter 2010 Runway (Unkle Karl Lagerfeld requested all fur used would be faux) or on celebs or on Burke students (FernandoSays spotted a Rachel H today in a to-DIE-for BB Dakota faux fur vest that screamed fabulous) this trend is one that will never die. (And neither will the animals.)

Celebs in Faux Fur

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I had just gone through the airport scanner, one of the anxiety producing waypoints at the start of a college tour.  We were in the rush to reclaim our gray tubs which were being pushed farther and farther away from us, so that we could rapidly re-accessorize ourselves with shoes, belts, jackets and most importantly, our mobile devices.  I grabbed and held my phone tightly in my hand as I simultaneously jammed on my shoes, pulled my belt, crammed my computer while I hoisted it on my shoulder — all as we quickly shuffled off  to our gate.

The gate was full of people at counters, in seats, standing against polls, with their heads tilted down looking at their phones, computers, i-This and i-Thats.  Their glasses reflected the light of the screens looking like the nighttime windows of rooms holding sleeping people bathed in the blue glow of late night television.  Each one of us frantically trying to get in that last byte before the flight attendant would later announce it was time for all good little electronic devices to go to sleep for a while.

The word “device” currently refers to a gadget, invention or a thing made for a particular purpose.  More revealing, however, is its Old French derivation, from the word devis which meant “division, separation, disposition, wish, desire.”

These devices of ours today seem to answer our wish to immediately connect to other people and information and tools that could be anywhere in the world.  But this promise sometimes comes at the cost of dividing and separating us from those most close to us.  Pavlov would salivate to see the instant pleasure or pain that each beep, buzz and blip creates.  Only the strongest among us can resist the urge to interrupt whatever and whomever (mostly ourselves) to momentarily gaze at the runic characters that magically appear like burning embers read by a shaman, or the mundane instructions from a magic 8-ball.  Sometimes, aware that others are around, we’ll take a step back, or turn away, or surreptitiously hold the device below the table, like a blush, a sign to the others of something, but we’re not sure what.  We clutch them, fall asleep with them, feel lost and stupid when we forget them, like modern day axes that we believe will keep us safe, more safe even than the people around us.

Where’s this all going?  Well, one place it has led to is Gary Shteyngart’s satirical and unsettling new novel, Super Sad True Love Story, which creates an altogether bleak near-term future world where people live and choose according to the ‘edicts’ handed down from their mobile devices.  Communication is limited to twitter size sound bites.  Decisions about finance, love and life are made based on the online rankings instantly served up by Amazon, e-Harmony, Facebook, etc.  It’s also led to this funny video that Shteyngart put together to promote the book.  Some might find it a bit heavy on the Borat-isms.  On the other hand, it should appeal to James Franco fans.

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Immutable

About a month ago Bob Dylan played The Times They Are a Changin’ at the White House.  According to the press, he came and he left, almost without a trace, other than his moving performance.  After playing he apparently receded into the night, like the mysterious wandering minstrel, with only a slight nod and a smile for the President.

Throughout his ongoing career, Dylan has left an extensive trail of 100’s of songs, 1000’s of shows, some movies, a book, a radio show, and even a TV commercial or two.  Despite all of the breadcrumbs that he has spread across the map, he has rarely, if ever, provided his fans with the keys to connect these dots in a general unified theory.  But, one immutable rule seems to emerge from his life’s work – the truth and the pursuit of change.  Just look at the scope and the velocity of the change in his music from his 1963 through ’65 Newport Folk Festival performances.  It’s almost frightening how radically he upended his own music and musical life – as well as the entire music industry and his listeners.

The White House performance is no different.  This version is more of an elegy than the original.  With a simple, continuous piano and guitar pattern underpinning the song, that seems to mark the passage of time, it is less urgent.  Rather, it’s sung like a familiar nursery rhyme; the words and the feeling having already been forged onto our lives, it’s a steady reminder that things have changed, they are changing and will continue to change.  Less of a warning than a simple observation,  Dylan sings that whether you’re a writer, critic, senator, father, mother, daughter or son, teacher or student, we may as well recognize that “the old road is (always) rapidly agin’,” and that we’ll miss getting on “the new one if [we] can’t lend a hand, for the times they are a-changin’.”

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