Category: The Roundup

The Roundup: Real Knowledge, Notes, Erasure, AI and more

A quick update on what I’ve been doing, reading, spending my time with, etc! You’d have thought that being off school this summer would have given me lots of writing time, but that does not appear to be the case! I did do a lot of reading this summer, though, as well as thinking about lots of tweaks for my classes. We start on Thursday and I’ve very excited. I’ve also spent some time thinking about social media and my interaction (or lack thereof) of it. I’ve pretty much tacitly given up Facebook; my account is still there and I check in a couple of times a month. I’ve cleaned up my Twitter follows a bit and am tentatively dipping back in there (I do refuse to call it X, sorry). I’ve also been spending quite a bit of time on I actually use it for the timeline, and haven’t done a lot to make the blog landing page nice, but if you ARE on and use the timeline/social aspect, I would love to see you there.

Links from Elsewhere

What I’ve been reading and thinking about lately. Lots about education (especially classical education) but also books, film, games, etc. Also note that in my small attempt to push back on the internet’s recency bias, I will not hesitate to post older articles if they are still interesting and relevant.

Assessments That Aim for Real Knowledge – Circe Institute

For the first time this year, I’m planning to go completely without multiple choice/short answer/fill in the blank/matching/etc type quizzes. I’ve never used them heavily because when I have used them (mostly as reading quizzes or vocab quizzes) I always feel wrong about them, for all the reasons suggested here. I’ve fallen back on them because I felt like I had to have some, for some reason, but this year, no more.

Some things have to be memorized, but one of the most difficult habits I’ve had to break is giving tests that rely too heavily on memorized bits of data. These kinds of tests are mostly matching, multiple choice, or fill-in-the-blank questions, often with a token essay question at the end. Since the goal of a test is to assess knowledge, I’ve had to reconsider what it means to really know something, and I’ve discovered there is a significant difference between knowing and memorizing facts.

Oppenheimer Doesn’t Show Us Hiroshima and Nagasaki; That’s an Act of Rigor Not Erasure – LA Times

I don’t spend a lot of time looking at hot takes these days, for which my life is infinitely better, but this article addressing a specific hot take on Oppenheimer came across my feed and the general idea here is very important. Not every story has to be about everything, and not every film has to show every aspect of the story it is telling. If the argument is that people get their history from the movies, my answer is that it is not an artist’s job to make up for your terrible education. Reading this is also the most interested I’ve been so far in seeing Oppenheimer.

Movies that attempt something different, that recognize that less can indeed be more, are thus easily taken to task. “It’s so subjective!” and “It omits a crucial P.O.V.!” are assumed to be substantive criticisms rather than essentially value-neutral statements. We are sometimes told, in matters of art and storytelling, that depiction is not endorsement; we are not reminded nearly as often that omission is not erasure. But because viewers of course cannot be trusted to know any history or muster any empathy on their own — and if anything unites those who criticize “Oppenheimer” on representational grounds, it’s their reflexive assumption of the audience’s stupidity — anything that isn’t explicitly shown onscreen is denigrated as a dodge or an oversight, rather than a carefully considered decision.

How I Take Notes – The Honest Broker (Ted Gioia)

No joke, Ted Gioia’s Substack is probably the best thing I read on a regular basis these days. He frequently talks about music or the music business, since that is his main focus, and those posts are great and thoughtful. He also frequently writes on other topics, and these are also uniformly interesting. This time, he’s talking on a subject near and dear to my heart – note-taking! This is something we try to teach our students, and as you might expect, some seem naturally good at it and others never care enough to make it useful to them. I’m always excited to hear other people talk about how they take notes and see what I can incorporate into my own attempts to do it and to guide students in it. I personally feel like I annotate books pretty well, but I struggle with longer-form summary/narration or contemplative notes. I just rarely want to take the time to do it, even though when I do it’s been very valuable.

(3) WRITING DOWN MY OWN IDEAS THAT THE BOOK SPURRED: I didn’t start doing this with any consistency until I was approaching middle age. But this is the most powerful kind of note-taking of them all.

By doing this, I expand my own thinking by leaps and bounds. Often the notes I write in this manner serve as the building blocks for my own articles and books. But even if I wasn’t a writer, I would benefit from this—because the greatest reward from reading is in the ways it improves and broadens you as the reader.

A New Rule of Education in the Age of AI – Hedgehog Review

How to handle AI is an ongoing concern among all educators, and we’ve talked about it plenty at our school. What stood out to me in this article is the idea of rule-as-model rather than rule-as-restriction, which I think is really helpful in general! We want all of our “rules” to be formative and not merely restrictive, and this has applications far beyond rules against using AI. In that particular case, though, it’s a helpful reminder to us and students that the point of writing in school is not the product (which AI can supply) but the formative thinking that writing requires (which AI cannot).

In The Rule of St. Benedict, the abbot holds his post because he doesn’t simply know the rule; he embodies it. The abbot, in turn, exercises discretion over the application of the code to promote the good of the members of and visitors to the community. Those under the rule strive to emulate this model person—not just “the rules”—in their own lives. “Whether the model was the abbot of a monastery or the artwork of a master or even the paradigmatic problem in a mathematics textbook, it could be endlessly adapted as circumstances demanded,” Daston observes. The ultimate goal of such a rule is not to police specific jurisdictions; it is to form people so that they can the carry general principles, as well as the rule’s animating spirit, into new settings, projects, problems. We need a new Rule of Education—one that grants educators discretion and is invested in students’ formation—for the age of AI.

A World Without Turner Classic Movies – Film School Rejects

The good news here is that TCM has rehired Charlie Tabesh, but I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet. When Discovery merged with Warner Bros. and put Discovery exec David Zaslov over the whole shebang, a lot of Warner properties suffered – HBO Max has been gutted of most older programming, the staff of TCM has been reduced significantly, etc. This is very worrying for classic film fans, and while some moves (like rehiring Tabesh) suggest they may be responding to the outcry, again, I’m still worried. Losing TCM would be tragic for so many reasons. I hope my pessimism isn’t justified.

As someone who studied film in college and writes about it professionally, TCM remains the best education I’ve ever had, largely due to its accessibility. I felt terrified to make a mistake in front of film students and professors, to not know a movie I should have already seen when I was a student. Hosts like Alicia Malone and Ben Mankiewicz are knowledgeable without being condescending. All of the TCM hosts have truly felt like friends telling you about movies they love when visiting your home and that is such a treasure.

If You Love Books Play These Games – BookRiot

Board games for book lovers? Sign me up! Relatedly I apparently accidentally bought this game Gutenberg about being a print shop in the Renaissance (thankfully on a good discount!), so I’ll let you know how that is when I have a chance to play it.

A comic because why not

Reading Right Now

Recently Added to My TBR

I add books to my TBR at a far faster clip than I read them. At least I’ll never run out! These run the discovery gamut from Bookriot and Literary Hub to, Circe Institute, our faculty inspiration speaker last week, and recommendations from personal friends.


We recently went to the Santa Barbara Mission and they had a special exhibit about the Sistine Chapel, which was very cool for my art-loving older daughter. She took her time studying and reading about all the panel reproductions, while the rest of us watched this video they had playing three times. This channel got an insta-subscribe when I had service back on my phone.


I’ve decided to try to spend more time pretending I have actual albums instead of Spotify, because the loss of mastery I used to have when I listened to the same album over and over is leaving me unmoored. This is an older Metric album, though still from after the time I considered myself a major fan. I went back and listened to it a couple of times today and…it’s really good.

The Roundup: The Return!

Links from Elsewhere

My favorite reads from around the web. If you used to read my link roundups a few years ago, you’ll note my reading material has changed somewhat! A shift from focus on film to more about books and teaching and education will likely be evident, as well as more explicitly Christian-themed links. Click on the header/article title to read the full article. I haven’t figured out how to change the link color to be more obviously a link in this layout yet.

Watch the Great Fall – Paul Kingsnorth

Paul Kingsnorth has become one of my favorite writers to follow on Substack – he writes public posts infrequently enough that I can usually keep up with them, but they’re always worth reading. He definitely tends toward the gloomy side regarding the current state of the world, but in ways that somehow generally make me hopeful. He also writes very evocatively, which reminds me, I need to read his novels one of these days.

My point is this: as we refuse the rising Total System, as we stand against the Machine, we need solid ground on which to brace ourselves. Neither Progress nor nostalgia offer that solidity. Perhaps we all tend in one or the other direction. Perhaps we tip between the two depending on the day. But I think it is incumbent upon us to draw ourselves out, into the present, into the ongoing moment, and to acknowledge the reality of where we are. To open our eyes, and take in the moment.

What Makes a Classic African-American Text – Henry Louis Gates

This is not only a great exploration of the African American literary tradition through the lens of what texts to include in the Penguin Classics (Gates was asked to curate a series of African American texts for the label), but also of what a classic book is and does in general.

Each text has the uncanny capacity to take the seemingly mundane details of the day-to-day African American experience of its time and trans­mute those details and the characters’ actions into something that transcends its ostensible subject’s time and place, its specificity. These texts reveal the human universal through the African American particular: All true art, all classics, do this; this is what “art” is, a revelation of that which makes each of us sublimely human, rendered in the minute details of the actions and thoughts and feelings of a compelling character embedded in a time and place.

Reading Tristram Shandy in an Age of Distraction – Literary Hub

So…now I really want to read Tristram Shandy. I actually love the movie that came out a decade or two ago, but I’ve always been a little afraid to tackle this 18th century behemoth. I don’t know that this makes it sound EASIER, but I’m intrigued by how it does sound.

Our lives today exist in multiple dimensions: the present, the past, and online. Sterne’s novel might help us to make sense of this tangle. Reading Tristram Shandy for the third time, I realized that my previous frustration was not a failure to understand the book. Sterne’s digressions are both rich and unsatisfying in equal measure, as any surfeit of information must be. But whilst trawling the internet often leaves me drained or feeling numbed by variety, Sterne’s novel invigorates as it overwhelms.

Schooled – Alan Jacobs

Really neat reflection led by Tom Shippey’s book The Author of the Century, on what separates Modernist writers’ use of classical literary allusion from how Tolkien uses Norse sources. Disclaimer: I do love both Tolkien and Modernist writers. :)

The great Modernist writers have a tendency to flatter their learned readers and disdain the others; they are in many respects principially elitist. (As has often been noted, Leopold Bloom is Joyce’s hero but he couldn’t have read Joyce’s book about him.) There’s none of this in Tolkien; the astonishing range of allusions to medieval writing in The Lord of the Rings is certainly meant to provide a kind of felt (not directly perceived) coherence to the reader — Shippey is great on this — but its primary purpose is to satisfy Tolkien’s own imaginative needs.

The Integrity of Poetry – Micah Mattix

A thoughtful response and update of poet Dana Gioia’s 1991 inquiry “Can Poetry Matter?” and whether poetry has begun to matter again in the ensuing three decades, or has regained the integrity that Gioia feared had been destroyed as poetry became the property of academics writing for each other for tenure rather than a vital, central part of national discourse (as of course, it was some centuries ago). Though poetry is more visible in some ways, Mattix isn’t apparently convinced that visibility is actually treating poetry as poetry, rather than as political or moral statement. The essay is wide-ranging and a good reminder for those of us who use even old poetry as teachers that poetry is valuable BECAUSE it is poetry, not merely because it contains ideas. How to do this well I think is a continuing question we need to consider.

This is to espouse a view of poetry that, though more noble than that of the Instapoets, is not different in kind. To value poetry primarily for how it teaches humility and kindness, for how it teaches us to be good friends and citizens, to act justly, or to love well is likewise to view poetry as a means to an end. To value it primarily for what it says rather than how it says it is to undermine its integrity. This leads sooner or later to the subjugation of poetry to politics or theology (or psychology), which, in turn, renders it useless to society as poetry. Poetry is an essential part of society—but only as itself and not as a vehicle for something else.

Caspar David Friedrich and the “Reliturgification” of the West – Imaginative Conservative

The image above is one of the most famous Romantic paintings, a man standing tall against the wild crashing of waves below him – man in contemplation of the sublimity of nature. I’ve seen this picture a lot, but never delved into the artist or his other works. This article uses Friedrich as an example of the Romantic obsession with nature, and is one of the better short attempts I’ve seen to explain how the Romantics’ found transcendence in nature despite their general turn toward secularism.

The Romantic movement of the early nineteenth century was more than historians often understand it to be. With an unparalleled subjectivity and exuberance, it is usually seen as a reaction to the rationalism of the so-called Enlightenment. From the crescendos of Beethoven to the lyrics of Byron, it sought the transformation of a culture constrained, as proponents saw it, by eighteenth-century conventions of counterpoint and the couplet. However, as Romanticism elevated sentiment it also advanced an equally ambitious effort to secure a transcendent anchor for its cult of feeling. Advocates were painfully, even desperately aware that a yawning chasm had opened between the world and the source of its transformation, heaven. They were secularists to the core, but they nevertheless realized that the impasse of modernity was an ironic outcome of secularization.

Restoring the Shire: A Review of the Wonders of Creation – Front Porch Republic

The Front Porch Republic is doing great work on the relationship between faith and community, and how to reclaim a sense of place in a modern transient world, and while I don’t think that *I* do a good job with this, I always appreciate reading their perspective. This is actually a review of a book, and not only did I immediately add the book to my TBR list (I mean, it’s about learning how to steward the earth well via Narnia and Middle-Earth) but the review itself is tremendously thoughtful. I’ve long felt that Christian critiques of “tree-hugging” environmentalists frequently swing too far the other direction – we are still called to faithfully steward God’s creation rather than exploit it.

I want to emphasize Tolkien’s attention to local spaces, small actions, and personal responsibility. As I have written previously, Samwise Gamgee is my favorite example of human-nature relationships in The Lord of the Rings. Presented with a problem that was not his own doing—the destruction of his hometown—he sets about the long, hard work of restoration. What is a typical American response to environmental problems? My college students tend to think that the government or corporations, not consumers, are responsible for most environmental problems and should be the ones to do the cleanup. […] Samwise is clearly not responsible for the destruction of the Shire, but he doesn’t wait for Saruman and his ruffians to restore the Shire. He takes personal responsibility for the health of his own inhabited space, his own local community.

Coolest Bookstores in the World – BookRiot

I apparently have a lot of international traveling to do to visit all these bookstores! Challenge accepted. Pictured above is the Boekhandel Dominicanen in Maastricht, The Netherlands. Not all of these are cool because of how they look or the unusual types of buildings they’re in – there are all kinds of reasons for their inclusion, making this a fun list to browse.

Valiant Hearts: Coming Home Out via Netflix Games – Touch Arcade

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is still one of my all-time favorite gaming experiences, a beautifully illustrated and emotionally compelling side-scrolling puzzler set during WWI. It remains one of only a handful of games that have ever made me cry (no, I haven’t played The Last of Us). It’s been eight years, but I am definitely excited about playing a sequel – the first Netflix game I’ve truly been interested in. I already downloaded it, just waiting now for the right time to dive in!

Reading Right Now

Added to My TBR This Week

I troll book list posts incessantly looking for new books to read, despite the fact that I already have a billion books on my TBR and will never ever get to all of them. These ones caught my eye this week. Sources: Out of the Past Blog, Jessica Hooten Wilson, Front Porch Republic, More Christ.


I am entirely fascinated by this recreation of how Shakespeare’s plays probably originally sounded. Some of this I’ve put together myself from figuring out how certain sonnet lines that don’t rhyme now probably rhymed then, but doing a whole play like this – I would love to see this.

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