Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

Game Day

Those who know the Organization well know that we have an unyielding love for board games, engendered long ago in 8th grade by Daniel Running. By board games I don’t mean Monopoly or Life or Scooby Doo’s Mystery Mansion, but stuff like Diplomacy and Warrior Knights and Games of Thrones. In the past we’ve often used Burke to play games on the weekend, and I guess we’ve always assumed that it was okay to, especially since Daniel was with us. Turns out we were wrong. Or perhaps someone was just feeling left out.


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Click image below to enlarge…

And here begins the first part of The Org‘s Tribute to David Shapiro. This particular strip was inspired by the madness that is dodgeball on Founder’s Day. There’s a special kind of stress that I associate with cramming two teams of around 35 people onto the gym floor to duke it out in a brutal dodgeball match. In such a crowded and noisy environment it’s very easy for refs to lose track of those hit, which can lead to many (justified) accusations of cheating. And, of course, if anyone can shed some light on such insanity, it’s David Shapiro. Keep in mind that this conversation never actually occurred, but, as Puck said in issue 19 of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, “It is still true!”

[ED: Don’t forget to RSVP for the Davids by clicking HERE – Koaly, the author of The Organization, is “officially” attending!]

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Turns out that to err is human.  In fact, it may just be a necessary and uniquely important part of our DNA – as well as a critical tool in our evolutionary and personal development.

Tim Harford, aka The Undercover Economist, thinks that we can often succeed by failing productively.  Take a look at his short (and very cool) video below about the importance of understanding failure in order to better understand success.  He runs through three keys to failing successfully.

By looking at “failure” from a different perspective, he redefines what it means to “make” a mistake.  In other words, some mistakes, whether in science, or education or life, are the result of trying and are in a sense intentional.  In this light, the trick is not to avoid or discourage the making of mistakes.  Rather, the magic of learning is to be open to and encourage the making of those mistakes that you have prepared for and that you are willing to analyze before making the next assault.

Btw – Harford’s new book, Adapt, covers the waterfront of how to go about making mistakes.

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What’s In A Name…

The English Department may want to check out Better Book Titles.  It’s the daily blog for people who do not have thousands of hours to read books, book reviews or blurbs or first sentences. In other words, it’s what a book might look like in graphic Twitter form, enabling you to read the greatest literary works of all time in mere seconds!

A couple of recent samples:

aka "Notes From the Underground"

aka "Oedipus The King"

or "How to Live in Your Friend’s Backyard Rent-Free" - aka Henry David Thoreau: Walden or Life in the Woods

aka "The Age of Innocence"

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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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The Organization: The Virus

Mild mannered alum and author of The Organization, Jeffrey Robb (’10), was apparently bitten by a radioactive spider (or maybe it was a ladybug), while conducting a school science experiment on whether people blush in the dark.  Later, at his Uncle Ben’s, I mean his mom’s house, he began to discover that he had new super powers.  He could help others leap tall problems in a single bound, he pitched in faster than a speeding bullet, his friendship was more powerful than a locomotive.  And he could spin a story like Spidey can spin a web.  As proof, his recent comic, The Virus, took 1st Place in the Graphic Short Story Contest at Muhlenberg College.  Check it out!

You can read all of The Organization Comics by clicking here

The Organization is Copyright ©2010 Jeffrey Robb

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7th Grade Literary Critics

Burke grad and author, Kenneth Suna, recently spoke to Susan’s 7th Grade language arts class about his book, It’s a Miracle They Ain’t Dead Yet. Check out Kenneth’s funny blog post about his experience going from 7 to 70,  gathering the courage to talk first to a group of painfully honest, 7th grade (literary) critics, and later to a book club of 70 year old women who may have been more interested in who he was dating.

Kenneth Suna

He was right to be scared.  Like anyone who’s been 13, he knew that:  “Kids are harsh. What if I bombed? They would laugh at me, tease me, and call me names.”  His fear finally lifted right before class began when “one of the students walked up to me, rolled up his sleeve and flexed his biceps. Check ‘em out, he said.” (One guess as to who that was).

You can read more about Kenneth and his book on Burke.Word.

But instead, you should support Burke literature and just go to Amazon and buy It’s a Miracle They Ain’t Dead Yet! (Maybe get a couple of extras for Chanukah or X-Mas gifts!)

[Thanks to Jennifer & Susan for the news tip]

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