Friday Flick: Two Brothers

Rick Stevenson filmmaker screenshot BYU TVFilmmaker Rick Stevenson vividly recalls certain observations he had in his childhood. (I LOVED his brilliant and candid introduction.) He was ambitious enough to follow over 60 children through 5000 days of their lives. This first documentary begins with six- and eight-year-old brothers. We watch as they outgrow their sibling upsets, become best friends, and grow into men. You have to suspect that being interviewed helps them live an examined, more fulfilling life.

This first one is dear to my heart because I’ve raised my sons in the same traditions, and because I’m raising sons in general, but I can’t wait to see the rest of these revealing and developing self-portraits. Storytelling means understanding our common humanity and our fascinating differences. It means being inspired by each other.

It’s a brilliant idea to borrow: capture your own growth and that of your young ones with a series of video interviews, perhaps as a birthday tradition. And it turns out that there’s even a private version of 5000 Days where you can upload video diaries as a time capsule, and later choose whether to submit them to the project.

The film will be available online for a little while here:

http://byutv.org/seethegood/post/The-5000-Days-Project-Two-Brothers.aspx

After that, you can find it here:

http://twobrothersthemovie.com/purchase/

Here’s a sneak peek at a future project. Maybe you’ll be the angel to help complete it.

http://twobrothersthemovie.com/about-us-2/

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

Screenshot from BYU TV’s broadcast of Two Brothers

“The Power of Your Past”

John P Schuster The Power of Your Past book cover 9781605098265L
My birthday present from Berrett-Koehler

The week of my birthday, I won a book! (The Berrett-Kohler newsletter I’ve recommended to you has a challenge, and I entered.) And because I was in transition, stepping from one year into my next, and even from one job toward another, I chose John P. Schuster’s The Power of Your Past. I’m still enjoying it, savoring its reflective exercises.

While many are preaching at us to live only in the present, John warns against amnesia. He agrees that we should live in today, but not without learning from yesterday and claiming its gifts. He says, “It is about gathering important insights, and the wisdom that comes before informed action.” He advocates that we not misuse the past, either romanticizing/ minimizing the past, nor getting stuck in victimization, but instead, that we reflect on our past experiences and mine them to refine our identity, remember our dreams, and clarify our choices.

John outlines a process to “Recall, Reclaim, and Recast” the past. He recognizes that not all minds work alike, so he offers graphic organizers for several approaches. He has us identify the settings of our lives and consider the places where we did get stuck (what he calls compressions) and where we found encouragement or achievement (his evocations). That alone is a great start toward understanding where we have healthy relationships with our pasts and where there’s more treasure to be found.

And another gift for me: the book is well-edited and well-designed. Too often I get distracted by my own editing brain. So far, I’ve found only two suggestions. (1) I would left justify epigrams, instead of right. (2) I’d simplify some of John’s compound, complex questions. For example, here’s the first question: “How well do I integrate the gifts of my body, my mind, my will, my feelings, my sense of play, my enthusiasm for learning, in a way that helps me to be a well-balanced person?” (Say what?) So I wrote out the question, realized the point was whether I’m well balanced, and felt relief that I wouldn’t need a week to answer it.

This book is the perfect length–just enough examples for memories to bubble up, accompanied by simple processes to inspire reflection and insightful writing. It’s warm, wise, and welcoming.

Don’t skip the footnotes. I always read them–academic editor training is forever present–and I like to read notes all at once, after I’m well into a book. John’s footnotes are the perfect blend of citations, additional readings, and conversation.

The Power of Your Past made a fabulous birthday gift. And yes, I’m already beginning the new job, the new editing projects, and one of my favorite years so far.

Thanks, B-K!

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011

Hamlet in Prison

This American Life Hamlet in Prison, screenshot

Jack Hitt’s hour-long report  for This American Life on Hamlet performed by prisoners, originally broadcast in 2002, has inspired me all week with its deep insights about Hamlet and encouragement for my own students, a few of whom have come from prison.

Nobody points out the ex-cons in my classes–I wouldn’t know that detail if they didn’t confide in me themselves. A couple have broken my heart by returning to prison or to the streets, but most are determined to take their second chance and become a blessing to their families. Like this reporter, I don’t necessarily want to know what they’ve done in the past. For me, their life begins here and now.

And I’d love to have all of my students think of my class-as one prisoner/performer said of his experience with teacher/director, Agnes Wilcox–“For a few hours a week, we get to feel human again.”

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011

Friday Flick: Music with Shining Eyes

If you’ve never loved classical music before, give Ben Zander twenty-one minutes to change your heart. If you’ve loved it already, share this with someone who could use a little healing. Ben conducts the Boston Philharmonic and speaks about his transformative experience with Landmark Education–a beautiful combination. This is Benjamin Zander’s TED talk.

Benjamin Zander at TED: Music with Shining Eyes
Benjamin Zander at TED: Music with Shining Eyes

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011

Image YouTube screenshot

Scheduling Improv

Listening to Krista Tippetts’ interview with musician Bobby McFerrin, it first surprised me that he ever considered joining a monastic order, and that the main attraction was the silence! He also loved the scheduled cycles of each day, the listening for God. Then it made sense.

He describes himself as a “conveyer of song. I think of myself as a catcher of songs . . . . to grab it, and pull it down, and have it come out of my mouth.” He distinguishes this process from an attitude of performing, which he recommends avoiding, even if you’re “catching song” from a stage.

He’s known for his improvisational freedom, but did you know he practices it? He recommends setting a timer for ten minutes. Then open your mouth and sing, and don’t stop, even when your body screams to stop.

That works for writing, too. Set a timer for a little longer than usual, and keep going even when everything in you screams to stop. You can work up to longer sessions and greater improvisational freedom.

(I watched the unedited version, and I plan to listen to the edited version as well–not to miss the things that will be trimmed for radio length, but for the music they’ll add. There’s another great way to look at revision!)

Bobby McFerrin Catching Song

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Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Friday Flick: Flashmob on Recycling

Can you imagine if every gesture of conservation and kindness received such a welcome? Do it anyway.

Flashmob on Recycling a Bottle
Flashmob on Recycling a Bottle

Least Limiting Resource

Some years ago, I read that plants required 17 nutrients for growth and that growth was limited by whichever resource was most scarce. I’m not qualified to speak to the botany theory of that, but as a metaphor, I have wondered what the comparable 17 nutrients for human creativity would be (and how many there actually would be) and whether any of these common nutrients could be the limiting factor, or would they be ranked–the way Maslov ranked them–for our individualistic society at any rate?

What do you think?