Book review: “Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure” by Michael Munz

zeusbook

I don’t think it too much of a spoiler to tell you that Zeus was dead to begin with. It goes without saying then he was REAL as well and had put himself and the rest of the also very real pantheon on what was intended to be a permanent hiatus. When he dies, all Olympus breaks loose upon the present day complete with squabbling siblings, grotesque monsters, cupid arrows, spinning fates, and sundaes.

It’s what I expected.

Apollo is buried in email.

Muse Thalia is fed up with script writers and producers mangling literature.

There are deadly bat winged, poison spitting kittens flying about.

Monster hunting reality shows are a thing.

Did I like it?

Yup.

IT WAS FUN.

I really enjoyed this book. I haven’t read a fictional/fantasy comedy I’ve enjoyed this much since Douglas Adams. Usually I get a few chapters in and just fizzle. This one I read in my free time till it was done. I liked it that much.

Munz continuously breaks the fourth wall down to a pile of rubble. There are many references to ancient greek and modern geek culture, but they are not necessary to know it to enjoy the book.

Not only is it all you would expect from ancient gods in modern life, it’s a rather intricate story line with a fun mystery. I couldn’t in my wildest dreams imagined the ending.

How does it rate from a Disability Perspective?

My readers know I always look at media from a disability perspective. I have panned books that had merit because they failed miserably in this.

Like much of present day culture the book contains ableist language from “wheelchair bound” to “idiot.” (People are not “bound” to wheelchairs, they are tools of independence, this is better conveyed by using the term “wheelchair user”)

It also, unless I am remembering incorrectly, does not contain any disabled characters.

That said, I did not find anything about it glaringly offensive. If I had it’d be in the recycle bin.

Is it a book for kids?

No.

Just as the original uncensored myths are not for children, (I lost count of the number of disemboweling in the Iliad) so too are the modern goings on best left to the thirteen and up crowd.

Before I finished the book, my teenager (a fan of myth, comedy, and a budding writer of both) began reading it.

I told the boy, “Its got profanity in it. I’m sure you’ve heard those words before but just to review, You must never say these words in polite company, and don’t let me ever hear you call someone an idiot.”

“Gotcha.”

If the others are interested in reading it, they’ll have to wait till older.

My six year found the deadly kitten creatures on the cover “adorable.” She was disappointed when I told her there were no plushie toys available.

 

 

Movie Review: The Imitation Game

Last year I posted a review of  “The Enigma” the book which the movie “The Imitation Game” is said to be based.

The day after Christmas I went to see the movie.

That’s right, I went out to the mall on THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, which is only slightly less tortuous to my psyche than “Black Friday.”

I wanted to see it that bad.

I also wanted to like it SO BADLY, I waited nearly a month to write this review.

The Imitation Game is entertaining, well acted, and keeps one’s attention from start to finish.

Benedict Cumberbatch does an excellent job playing the character.  I loved the interactions between his character and Charles Dance’s as well as he and Matthew Goode. I have no objections to his best actor Oscar nomination.

“The Imitation Game” has a good message concerning judging differences and acceptance. It does. I tried to convince myself this and the acting and cinematography were good enough reason to like the movie and review it positively.

I did like the movie. I cannot review it positively.

Why?

It isn’t is the real story of Alan Turing or the work of Bletchley park.

Now I had heard ahead of time that there were changes to the story. I’m cool with that. I understand that when adapting something to the screen its often necessary to change things for time or story flow.

Believe me, “The Enigma” doesn’t flow well.

I also heard it was changed to make the issues in solving the code to be more simplistic. This I also get. Having read the book, I can attest the average movie goer isn’t going to want to sit through the explanations I read through.

I walked away from the movie wondering just what book this was supposed to be based on. It is not accurate to the book, nor to the time period. It doesn’t  realistically represent the work at Bletchley park, Alan’s relationships there, or most especially, the role Joan Clark played in Alan’s life.

The movie reduces Joan to a shallow plot vehicle. It is incorrect in how they met, how she was hired,  her parents lack of support, why and how they were engaged, how the engagement was broken off and the amount of time they spent together. Essentially, they erased Joan Clark’s legacy in order to give a shallow representation of Turing’s.

The same can be said for Alan’s childhood friend/love Christopher.

Christopher’s storyline is interspersed and also shallow. I don’t believe it accurately portrays their relationship nor the depth that his loss had on Alan as much as establishing he was bullied and gay.

There was also a spy story thrown in. I guess to make it more exciting? I don’t know.

This movie could have been made significantly better by using the same cast and making it a miniseries so as to fully explore the story.  I think real life stories can be dramatic, and also fairly accurate without being documentaries.

I am sure the movie will lead some people to learn more about Mr. Turing. However, many will walk away thinking that the story is spot on and not bother to dig any deeper.

It seems the “message” was more important than the actual man.

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As an aside, many watching and reviewing the  movie want to label Alan Turing with aspergers or autism spectrum disorder.  I do not think diagnosing the dead on second and third hand information is either accurate nor beneficial to living people with autism spectrum disorder.  Unlike Cumberbatch, my objections having nothing to do with ableist notions of “false hope” or speculation as to childhood neglect but because diagnosis is simply more than a relatives opinion or interpretations of interpretations of second hand reminiscences of behavior. Its like some crazy game of historical telephone where misconceptions and the stereotypes they re-enforce are no game.

Frozen assets, visual clutter, strange charm of twitter, and wasted pulp

Morning Minions!

I hope your week went well.

Remember when I complained about the rain?

Well its cold here now, so I shall complain about that.

At -11F, its cold enough to freeze your Winnebago.  Prior to the subzero temps this week, we had our first snow of the year and winter thus far.

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As you can see we played in the snow a bit,

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nommy snow.

but spent most of the week organizing bedrooms.

I also began organizing and planning in the work room for our next school session.

  A robust lower elementary environment is taking shape, however I find I need to reduce the visual clutter going on for my sensory sensitive students.

Everything is always a work in progress.

 I also continue to try to understand twitter.

My followers are growing but I find it odd how most of them do not and have not ever interacted with me personally. When I see yet another new follower who doesn’t seem to be the least bit interested in what I tweet about,  I think to myself,  “But WHY?” or sometimes “WHO ARE YOU, and WHAT DO YOU WANT?”

I’m pretty sure that’s not a productive attitude to have towards followers, but there you go.

Desiring a “followback” or to sell or promote something only explains for a small percentage of them. I suspect they may think I’m far more useful or important than I am.

Most perplexing follow this week: a diner restaurant in Michigan, which is some distance away.

I did participate in a great twitter chat concerning disability in film. If you twit and like film, you may be interested in joining next week – Saturday 9pm Eastern standard time, under the hashtag #filmdis.

Writing wise I’ve been working on my presentation for a Sherlockian thing in June, and doing research for a different writing project. I have also written and submitted my review for the absolutely horrid children’s motivational book “Same is Lame.” The book is such a waste of paper I don’t want to devote a blog post on it. Reading long complaints about the weather is actually a better use of your time.

In other news:

My neuroscience course has been postponed by Duke U., and one of the lighter/striker thingies on a burner of my gas stove isn’t lighting,

It’s a wild wild life.

“Experiences in Self Determined Learning” Book Review Part 1

 

Morning internet!

How is your Saturday going?

I need to fix a leaky faucet today.

I know I know, its a wild and crazy life I lead.

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It’s something I’ve never done. I’ve been reading and watching tutorials though, and with the help of a friend, intend to give it a go.

It’ll be a learning experience, which I hope wont end in a scene like this:

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How do you like to learn?

I have described myself in the past as an autodidact.   An autodidact is one who teaches oneself.

Topics about which I consider myself advanced, yet still learning:

  • Autism
  • Cognitive Development (my degree)

I am moderately versed in:

  • information theory,
  • systems theory,
  • chaos theory,
  • set theory

(which I see as all being very related, like the different sides of a pyramid, system theory being the foundation)

  • biology
  • representation of disability in the media
  • learning/teaching (learning is the process of the learner, whether or not they are being expressly “taught”)

I am rather green at but still learning:

  • photography (I’ve been learning more about lighting lately)
  • entomology (bugs!)
  • disability rights

PLUMBING

I have taught myself art, to play the tin whistle,  as well as other hobbies.

This is not bragging, though it may seem so. I am aware that I am not an expert at much of anything and quite ignorant concerning much more.

When I want to learn something new, I go about accessing information via the web in text like blogs and articles, in video, in researching the type of print material I may attempt to find, as well as the occasional online tutorial or class. I also try to find a way to create something of my own in order to aid processing, connection building and so long term memory.  Then, I like to share it.

As I discussed  in my technology vlog last week, this is the way many go about learning now, especially the latest generation who are growing up with a never before seen amount of information via technology.

learning-by-practice

It’s been pointed out by the pedantic, that this method  is not  autodidactic because I am accessing other people’s work, sometimes taking courses, and networking as a means of learning. None of that learning is “self.”  They have a point.  Yet, I’ve never managed to find  a better word for my method of learning until now.

Thanks to Lauren at “Teacher Learns to Code” I was introduced to the book “Experiences in Self Determined Learning.”

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This book, describes the method of learning I have  relied on since I became literate  and which really bloomed with the internet.  This learning is heutagogy.

The book contains numerous sources and avenues for further learning, provides examples of how self determined learning occurs, and how it can be encouraged in a variety of environments. It also discusses moving learners more used to traditional methods into the self determined approach.

This is extremely useful to me.

As a homeschooler, this is not the method my children use to learn.

Our homeschool is guided by choice within structure,  relies on Montessori principles, and is customized to the needs of each of the kids. I consider myself a facilitator and not a traditional teacher.

Yet, I would like the children, especially my almost high school aged son, to be even more involved in their learning to the point of self determination.

Keep in mind, this is not unschooling as we have set subjects and time set aside for learning.

I have  record keeping requirements I must fulfill in order to homeschool.

This often clashes with a desire to build self efficacy through achieving goals.  It doesn’t seem to fit with wanting them to be as independent as possible.  I yearn for a way to do so and yet still check off all the requirements AND work in things I do find important.

This book is  helping me think on just how possible it could be to do both.

I am 3/4  a way through, and intend to give it a nice thorough traditional  book review once finished. (this will be the part where I create to better process)

Until then I will say,

IF you wish you could work on giving yourself or your students more independence and increased motivation in the learning process, this book would be a good addition to your library.

To get an overview I recommend reading a blog post by  the  chapter author Jackie Gerstein, concerning her contribution to the book.

Now, to battle with water valves…pray for me.  😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

App Recommend – Dragon Box Elements

A few weeks ago, Bloke School shared an app review of “Elements” a geometry app from the makers of DragonBox Algebra 5+ and 12+ Based on that review we decided to give it a try. So far Aidan has finished the game of the highest difficulty level. Lily is playing on the normal difficulty level and finding the last level challenging.  My lower elementary kids are playing in “easy mode.”  The upper levels do become progressively harder but I feel that even if they don’t solve the last tier this year, they have still gained from working with the app. Here is a video of Tessa (5) working on a higher puzzle:

  The goals of both types of app are not to have five year olds working on geometric proofs or capable of algebra one work.  The idea is to expose children to different maths concepts with arithmetic, complicated language and symbols removed.

“In the beginning of the game, players learn to identify shapes based on their properties. Next, logic-based puzzles are introduced. To solve the puzzles, players must use the properties of given shapes, which are placed in complex figures of overlapping shapes, to draw conclusions about other shapes in the figure. As the game progresses, players use the definitions, postulates and theorems presented in Euclid’s Elements to solve increasingly sophisticated puzzles. The logical reasoning in the game is identical to the logical reasoning used in formal geometric proof, only with a kinesthetic gaming component that allows players to develop logic pathways with their fingers.” http://wewanttoknow.com/elements/

Book to screenplay – “Slight Trick of the Mind” and “The Enigma”

Hello again.  I did not get to the vlog yesterday, I was simply too exhausted after a very poor night sleep and attending a three hour Baker Street irregular scion society event. It was fun but ughhh. That vlog is coming soon. I decided I’d write some reviews this morning.

Do you read the books prior to seeing the movie???

I’m one of those people that reads the book prior to the movie these days. This is perhaps not always a good idea.

I finished Lord of the Rings prior to the second Peter Jackson movie release. I MAY have enjoyed seeing elves at Helms Deep if I didn’t know THERE WERE NO ELVES AT HELMS DEEP.

It just wasn’t meant to happen to poor Haldir. *sniff*

I am interested in seeing  “Mr. Holmes”staring Ian McKellen,  an adaptation of the book “Slight Trick of the Mind,” by Mitch Cullin.  On the list of must see is “The Imitation Game” staring Benedict Cumberbatch, a movie based on the book “The Engima” by Andrew Hodges.

And so, bad elven memories aside, I read them.

A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND by Mitch Cullin

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“A Slight Trick of the Mind” is set in post WW2 Britain (and Japan) finding Holmes retired and bee keeping on Sussex Downs. While there is a main timeline to the story, the chapters jump around from one reminiscence to another and then back to Holmes’ present. Sherlock is losing his memory, and the confusion he experiences may well be experienced somewhat by the reader due to the layout of chapters.

Many previous reviews point out that this isn’t a typical Sherlock Holmes mystery and that those wanting one should look elsewhere. This is true. I was hoping, really hoping, for a good, interesting mystery, that isn’t there. However, I found myself not really minding.

WHY?

The book was rich in details and Holmes was spot on character wise. I could picture the characters in their settings and didn’t find anything objectionable about the portrayal of Sherlock. While not at all what I was expecting, I read the book cover to cover in a day, getting very emotional at times as the book’s themes were familiar to me.

Holmes’ loss of memory is not the only focus. Through the aged Sherlock, the author explores fear, abandonment, suicide, and death. Loss is a mystery we all experience, that not even Holmes can solve. If that isn’t something you want to spend time thinking about, skip it.

As far as the movie, I will see it. I am still hoping they write a little bit more of a mystery in it.

ALAN TURING, THE ENIGMA -by Andrew Hodges

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(mine is an older copy with a different cover)

I got through “The Enigma” only recently.

When I say I “got through” I mean it. Being 540 pages of very small print, it was conquered over weeks. Most certainly, it was not a quiet Sunday afternoon’s read like “Slight Trick of the Mind.”

It was worth it.

Alan Turing was a fascinating person with a very rich story which Hodge’s provides in the form of anecdotes from family and colleagues, letters written by Turing, and very fine detail of the time and society in which Alan lived.

Alan’s childhood, in particular tugged at my heart strings, being familiar enough to my own experiences, and traits I see in my eldest son, I felt it easy to put myself in his shoes.

(Alan Turing was not, that we will ever know, autistic. It is important to NOT jump to that conclusion. Yet he was, most certainly, different.)

I found it parts amusing, and parts heart wrenching. I found myself angry that we didn’t learn about this man in school.

My only criticism of the book is that often times the book departs away from Alan’s story into long tangents about the development of math theories, and highly technical descriptions concerning cryptology (cryptography and cryptoanalysis as well). As a person born the 1970’s, I appreciated the historical explanation of the significance of the cryptology and the attention to the intricacy of Mr. Turing’s projects. YET, I often felt lost, uninterested or confused while reading the long discussions of different theories. I think much of the book was written for people with backgrounds in maths and cryptology, not the average reader.

I hear that the movie has been criticized for not enough explanation or being simplistic but frankly, I understand the desire to not bore or hopelessly confuse the audience. The important part is Mr. Turing as a person, which I hope they get right. If early reviews mean anything, it seems they have.

I would recommend this book to someone wanting to know more about Alan Turing, while also recommending skipping the technical parts if need be.

Do you like reading books that movies are adapted from?  Any favorites? Are there any movies based on books that disappoint you? Do you know a movie that is BETTER than the book?

Book Review – Their Name is Today

Their Name is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World by Johann Christoph Arnold (Plough Publishing House)

TheirNameisTodayEN

I was sent this book for free from the publisher as a part of library thing’s early reviewer program.  The author’s beliefs concerning God, and  also what makes a family differ a great deal from my own. While the author is perfectly entitled to his own opinions, supporting he or the publisher with my purchase would not happen.  The chance that profit from my purchase could be used for  spreading beliefs and ideals against my own is too high.

Yet, I felt a responsibility as a reviewer to read and review the book based on its own merit, regardless of how I differ in world view  from the author.  My criticisms are based on my experience and qualification as a parent, scholar, and one-time  bullied child.

THE GOOD

The good bits of his book are themes repeated throughout  concerning:

*the importance of unstructured play

* the importance of hands on experience/trial and error, learning from mistakes

*the need for good adult role models

*childhood as a time  that should be without the stress of overscheduling, achievement/safety obsessed parenting (say no to the tiger mom), or  the stresses of an adult world

*that medicating children should be used as last resort, as changes can be made to environment

*testing/standards focused education making little room for addressing individual needs or time for free exploration.

I agree wholeheartedly.

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BUT this good stuff was outweighed by:

THE BAD

*Solutions the author suggests are in no way unique to those suggested in numerous magazines and books on the same subject.

*Much like “Last child in the Woods” (link to my review) this author reminisces about  and romanticizes a childhood that simply isn’t the reality of the average 21st century child or family.

*Every chapter was filled to the brim with anecdote that the author then used to make generalizations.

*He seemed to really be addressing a very specific audience, one that shared his world view and socioeconomic class.

*Citations were often links to other people’s opinion pieces, similarly themed books,  or news articles about studies in some cases, non-definitive (correlation is not causation) or only slightly related to the topic.

That leads us to:

THE REALLY UGLY

People make my brain hurt.

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In an anecdote a mother talks about how her teen told her that “he is comfortable talking to people on the computer because he does not get bullied.” She goes on to call what her son says was bullying as “awkward childhood moments” being “opportunity for growth.” That maybe, just maybe, if he hadn’t been online, he’d have better social skills.

Interesting anecdote. To my knowledge  there is no study saying online communication causes problems with face to face social skills. The author certainly doesn’t cite one.

I was bullied from elementary through high school. It  didn’t  teach me social skills. Those “awkward childhood moments” of being spat on, pelted with rocks, and sexually harassed did teach me something. I learned fear, shame, and self-hate. Oh how it would have been nice to have the internet back then and to have been able to connect with people who understood.

THEN

Arnold tries to say internet research where children have access to the libraries of the world is poor, and somehow not spending time in a limited resourced library creates lazy students.

While teaching how to find good resources is necessary, saying that internet research is limiting is preposterous.

For a fellow interested in solid research, he really drops the ball with this:

“Many children find themselves unable to communicate with a real person who requires a thoughtful verbal response. More and more children arrive at preschool with speech difficulties; some do not speak at all. Since this is a diagnosable trait in autism spectrum, how many children may be categorized as autistic when they have simply not had the opportunity to learn human interaction?”

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So lets get this straight…

Technology=less social skills=autism?????

Even if he were right regarding technology and social skills (and he isn’t) poor social skills does not equal autism. Autism is a neuro-developmental condition that research shows is present at birth and leads to significant differences in brain development especially in the first year. There is far more to it than merely communication or social skills issues and autism would not be diagnosed merely on speech delay.

Further autistics, because of difficulty (in varying degrees) with spoken face to face communication, benefit from having technology as alternate means of communication both online and in day to day life.

The author hasn’t done his research.  We face stigma and ignorance and  here he encourages a common dangerous misconception.

This book gets one star…its already in the recycle bin and filed in my mind under  “ableist crap.”

Last Child in the Woods- Book Review

Today I’m reviewing an older book that I recently read that pertains to the disconnection between modern society and nature called “Last Child in the Woods-Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv .

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I had been interested in this book for some time. Having read blog posts and articles by Richard Louv, and agreeing wholeheartedly that it is imperative that we get children outside and connected with nature, I was interested in his take on what I do believe is a profound disconnect.

However, I am leery of people making up random disorders based on what they dislike about society. They are a very real thing that people experience. They present very real challenges, in many cases are disabling and shouldn’t be made light of in this way. That said, I wanted to give this book a chance.

What did I find in this book?

I found quite a bit of reminiscing, some interesting history on societal change, heartwarming anecdotes, and vague blaming of nearly all of society’s ills on lack of nature and increased use of technology. Some of it was interesting. I found myself nodding along in agreement. The ideas for reconnecting people with nature are good ones.

Yet I cannot possibly recommend this book.

There is also ableism and ignorance. One specific, most damning example being in the chapter: “Why the Young and The Rest of Us, Need Nature”

“The Rise of Cultural Autism In the most nature deprived corners of our world we can se the rise of what might be called cultural autism. The symptoms? Tunneled Senses, and feelings of isolation and containment. Experience, including physical risk, is narrowing to about the size of a cathode ray tube, or flat panel if you prefer. Atrophy of the senses, was occurring long before we came to be isolated from the natural world…”

Phrases that stuck out were, “tunneled senses”, “isolation and containment,” and “atrophy of the senses.” Oh Mr. Louv. That is so awful you get the Scully reaction gif.

scully.

My childhood was tough. There were two places I felt most free, going along with Sherlock and Watson on adventures (tucked safely in the public library) and out among the trees. My senses were alive and FILLED, not in the least atrophied. I’m still autistic.

I know many people are fond of a good analogy, a comparison of sorts,I am. However, writers must be responsible. When you make such analogies, with real lived experiences of real people, you actually also encourage stereotype. If your cultural autism is atrophied, experience less, and isolated/contained (not a part of the world), then so are persons diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. This is how Louv sees us? The thought he wishes to convey? I cannot believe he has much direct experience with the spectrum.

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Aidan was in love with this old, still alive, hollow tree.

It goes on though, because then he also, very slyly not really saying, but implying that “nature deficit disorder” is responsible at least in part for the attention difficulties of children.

I have ADD diagnosis as well.  Nature makes me feel happier, at peace, it eases my stress. It does not change how my mind works. One of my three autistic sons also has an ADHD diagnosis. The boy does so much better in handling stress when he has time to play outside. Guess what? When we come home from the park he’s still autistic. He still has attention, impulse, and learning retention problems.

How about my other son, who barely speaks?

The joy, the happiness being outside brings him, I cannot adequately describe with the written word. It hasn’t improved his talking.

Just because studies show that spending time outside increases attention, it doesnt mean that the difficulties are a result of not spending time outside. Non causa pro causa. (and, converse problems or as we like to say round here “ass backwards”) It is irresponsible to suggest it. I know ADHD is an easy thing to bash and blame on modern life. I know too that autism is newsworthy, catchy thing that many people wish they understood the mechanism of. However, it is irresponsible to hint around that all we need is more time outside, or that our home and school environment is creating these problems, especially when the person doing the hinting doesn’t appear to really understand either neurological condition.