Sunday, July 30, 2006

Magazines to Read and Hear

Despite the plethora of reading materials on the web, I still like books and magazines, though I don't subscribe to as many as I did in pre-web days (mainly Newsweek, National Geographic, Wired, Paste, and SEED - there are also a few guitar and songwriting magazines that come and go, plus The Atlantic, which I decided I didn't have time to read but now miss).

Paste has been around a couple of years and is the main way that I keep my ears refreshed with new and often amazing music, mostly by newcomers and relative unknowns. Each issue includes a CD with about 21 songs (and sometimes a DVD too, with short independent films and music videos, which I rarely have time look at). I've discovered artists like Bright Eyes, Teitur, Anna Nalick, Patty Griffin, and many more through Paste CD's. It's an eclectic mix that rarely includes rap or metal but does include almost anything else. Highly recommended, but this month there's good news and bad news: Paste has gone monthly (from bimonthly) and I just don't think I have the bandwidth for twice as much new music!

Seed (subtitled "Science is culture") is new and rather different, aiming to unite "the two cultures" (aren't there more than two now?). I find I'm drawn to only about half of what they publish, but this often includes some amazing gems, such as an article in the latest (September, just arrived) called "How We Know" by Jonah Lehrer. This article discusses research and experience with effective learning methods, focusing on the fact that to the brain, doing and learning are effectively one and the same - which means that what you learn by doing something generally stays with you, while what you learn by conventional classroom approaches often does not. This may not seem like shocking news, but with the recent focus on "teaching to the test" to prepare students for government-mandated standard examinations, the effectiveness of active learning methods in getting students involved and really learning is largely ignored.

Lehrer also reveals the secret of Mozart and Tiger Woods: 10,000 hours of practice. Mozart seems to have achieved this by the age of eight (thanks to a demanding father), and Tiger was already learning golf as a toddler. Experts like these achieve a fluency in their skills that makes it look easy and natural, and there certainly is a seed of genius in many such cases, but the real secret is the combination of effective practice (creative and realistic so that learning IS doing), and lots of time devoted to it. I better get busy!

No comments: