Ishmael and IshCon

This blog post is serving as a bookmark for the recently deactivated website IshCon.org, which I used to maintain.

After reading Ishmael and some of Daniel Quinn's other books and finding them moving and challenging, I ended up being involved in creating and hosting several conferences for other people who wanted to discuss the ideas in the books. Those happened in Richmond, Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois, etc in the late 90s and early 2000s, and were usually called "IshCon" or some variant of that name.

I also created an online news and discussion community for fans and frenemies of the books (IshCon.org) that was quite active up until it was deactivated in 2005.

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Daniel Quinn's Write Sideways

Daniel Quinn's Write SidewaysDaniel Quinn's book If They Give You Lined Paper, Write Sideways is a short read, but it's not necessarily an easy one to digest, and it leaves more challenges and questions on the table than it takes off. But for anyone interested in having effective engagement with fellow humans about how to make the world a better place, I definitely recommend having it in your toolbox.

Quinn, who I've mentioned here a few times, is an author who has spent much of his life writing books that try to show readers a different way of looking at the world and the story we tell ourselves about how the world works. In Write Sideways, Quinn essentially tries to answer the question, "once you have seen the world from a different perspective, how do you help other people see that same new perspective in a way that's meaningful and lasting for them?"
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Books From Vacation

Having some time to relax also meant lots of time to catch up on reading I've been meaning to do for a while now (though there's plenty more). Here's a quick run-through with my comments:

Now reading:

I'll post reviews of these as I can. Your own reviews, recommendations and comments welcome!

Our education system is broken

IMG_1334.JPGThis rant may eventually turn into a podcast segment, but I haven't had time for that and I can't wait any longer. The news has been all the buzz lately: Only 54% of Richmond Community Schools students graduated in 2006, putting us in the bottom 7% of Indiana high schools. There's the commentary on the school system's reaction, great thoughts on what to do and how the community can be more involved. And I'm sure some good things will come out of all of the discussion that is being generated.

But the bottom line for me is that that our system of education in the US is almost entirely broken, ill-conceived in the first place, and that calls to make incremental improvements to a broken system feel largely like a waste of time.

Old minds think "how do we stop these bad things from happening?" New minds think "how do we make things the way we want them to be?" If education in the city of Richmond, the state of Indiana, and the U.S. is to be improved or fixed, it will be with new minds, not new programs put in place by old minds.

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Infected with a book meme

There's a book meme going around, and Eric has tagged me. As he says, "a meme is an idea that spreads...Meme ideas spread by imitation, by exact copying and inexact copying. Memes can be melodies, catch-phrases, stories, clothing fashions, and ways of making pots. Many memes spread unintentionally in the course of casual conversation and story-telling. Bloggers deliberately spread some memes as ways to inspire new posts."

So, here I am, answering the questions from this book meme:

1. One book that changed your life?
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Review: Daniel Quinn's After Dachau

This analysis necessarily discusses some plot and thematic details of the book After Dachau by Daniel Quinn. I have made every attempt to refrain from revealing too much or spoiling the experience of reading the book for the first time, but picky readers be warned.

After reading just the first sentence of After Dachau, I was sure I had identified the major themes, direction, and message-delivering vehicle that Daniel Quinn would use in his new book. This was slightly comforting; I'd read that his latest work was radically different, obtuse, and unrelated to its predecessors. Given that his other books had significantly challenged the way I look at the world, and that I'd become (too) comfortable with that challenge, my initial reaction was my own attempt to tie everything together, to find central, comfortable ideas that I could hold onto, nod and agree with, and make my own.

But that, of course, is not the point. Quite the opposite, actually, and the book is anything but formulaic.
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