Monday, August 22, 2016

The old blanket fort

Did you make one of these when you were a kid?

I did. Many times.

If you didn’t make one when you were a kid, you can make up for that by helping your grandchildren make one.


Or make one for yourself.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mindset: think about it

Book review: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
By Dr. Carol S. Dweck, New York: Ballantine Books, 2006
277 pages

This is one of those books that knocks a hole in your head and then fills it up with startling knowledge.

Dweck wrote this rather chatty book about a very serious subject: the mindset that influences much of your life, and can literally play a critical role in your success or failure at work, at school, among your friends and at home with your family.

Here’s a simplistic summary of her findings based on years of teaching and research:

There is a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A mindset is a frame of mind that enables you to interpret what’s happening in the world around you, and to determine how you will feel about it, and how you will act and react.

I’ll take a stab at briefly defining the two mindsets in my own words.

Fixed mindset—you interpret most everything that happens to you in terms of whether it validates your static view of your own abilities and self-worth, in other words, you see the events and people in your life as confirming that you are talented and wonderful, or proving that you’re stupid and worthless. You can’t change, and you’ve got to grab what you deserve.

Growth mindset—you interpret most everything that happens to you in terms of feedback about your motivation and your performance, in other words, you see the events and people in your life as part of your continuous quest to learn and achieve your goals and enjoy your relationships with others. You can change, and you can learn to do better.

Of course, it’s possible to have different mindsets in different circumstances, and it’s possible to have some mix of the mindsets.

Dweck says you can learn to have a more effective growth mindset, and you can teach others, kids and adults, to embrace a more effective growth mindset.

We can always learn, we can always build up our talents, we can always get smarter, and we can help ourselves to have more enjoyable lives.

This all makes sense to me.

I don’t think I learned everything Dweck can teach me, so I’m going to read the book again.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

“…somewhere hot…”

Book review: A Pirate Looks at Fifty
Jimmy Buffett (b. 1946)
Ballantine Books, New York, 1998

Full disclosure: I’m not a Parrothead, but I’m related by blood and marriage to gen-you-wine Buffett fans, so I take the liberty of using familiar language, even though “the king of somewhere hot” has never seen me and isn’t likely to in this earthly paradise….

A Pirate Looks at Fifty is a memoir-ish book by Himself, written almost 20 years ago, I spotted it in the local library’s discarded book sale bin and I did the right thing.

Seems to me, for starters, no one should ever discard a book full of Jimmy Buffett stuff, he’s just so much in love with life and he is a magnet for vicarious attention, I dare you to read Pirate without getting at least a fleeting urge to head for the islands and see the world through Jimmy’s eyes.

You don’t even have to read the whole book (I confess, I didn’t), just read as much as gets the juices flowing and then get on with your regular life, and you can dip into it again any time you want. Buffett’s music and Buffett’s style are a buffet—grab what you want, anytime, sing along as the spirit moves, and go back for more whenever….

You don’t even have to like margaritas to get the full, slobbering, belly laugh, hijinksed, hot damn but mucho mellow effect when you sing along with Jimmy about the Mexican cutie and the lost shaker of salt.

I dare you not to sing a couple verses and the refrain right now, you have to, really….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Book review: The Sea Runners

Book review: The Sea Runners
Penguin Books, New York, 1983
279 pages

I want to be fair. This is a novel about dogged everything: determination, courage, loyalty, imagination, strength, stubbornness.

I’m bound to say there’s little excitement in Doig’s first novel. You’d think that death-defying action would add a little bunny to one’s pulse, but I couldn’t point it out. There is a relentless context that animates the characters in The Sea Runners, and swaddles all the environmental features of this story of men against the sea. It’s based on an actual event in the northern Pacific Ocean in the middle of the 19th century, so you know how it turns out.

Four Swedes escaped from a Russian work camp and paddled in a stolen canoe for a couple months on the open ocean to reach the American port of Astoria in Oregon. The story is more interesting than that simple summary, but it merely informs….it does not soar.

I thought of myself as an Ivan Doig fan when I began reading The Sea Runners, and now I understand that I must be specific: I like This House of Sky and I like The Bartender’s Tale, and such.

The emerald clarity of Doig’s stories about the West is a world apart from the drudging redundancy of this book. The character development is relentlessly obvious. It is also narrow and repetitive. Despite his intentions, I’m sure, Doig doesn’t resist running his characters through the same paces, over and over again.

The Sea Runners isn’t a bad story. The determination, courage, loyalty, imagination, strength and stubbornness are in plain view, there’s never any doubt about that.

In fact, there’s no doubt about just about everything in this story.

Nevertheless, Ivan, I love ya, man. I love some of your stories.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Here’s one for your reading list

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

I just started reading Junger’s new book, and I’m hot to pick it up again.

In his Introduction, the author says:
“Robert Frost famously wrote that home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. The word ‘tribe’ is far harder to define, but a start might be the people you feel compelled to share the last of your food with…
This book is about why [treating someone like a member of your tribe] is such a rare and precious thing in modern society, and how the lack of it has affected us all. It’s about what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty and belonging and the eternal human quest for meaning.”

It doesn’t take Junger long to get right to the point, quoting from a 2012 journal article:
“The economic and marketing forces of modern society have engineered an environment…that maximize[s] consumption at the long-term cost of well-being. In effect, humans have dragged a body with a long hominid history into an overfed, malnourished, sedentary, sunlight-deficient, sleep-deprived, competitive, inequitable, and socially-isolating environment with dire consequences.”

Now, if you read that last sentence without saying some of the words right out loud, maybe twice, with feeling and with some awareness of despair, well, maybe you should go for the CliffsNotes version and save yourself some time.

Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, New York: Twelve/Hachette Book Group, 2016, xvi-xvii, 23.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.