Confessions of a Speed-Reading Instructor

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

The FlashBill Ward recently posted two articles on “hyperspeed reading,” the first a reaction to columnist Sarah Weinman’s claim of reading 462 books in a year, and the second taking a deeper look into reading speed.

I’m not a slouch when it comes to the amount of books I read in a year. I finished eighty-one in 2008, but that makes me look positively lazy and incompetent compared to Weinman’s mid-four centuries claim.

However, here’s my confession. I actually am a speed-reader. I taught speed-reading and reading comprehension courses for two years as part of a private reading school that sent me around the country teaching through various University programs. Now I am coming forward to talk about my own experience with what “speed-reading” encompasses and discuss what happens in your brain when you step on the gas and blast through pages like Wally West. (Or Barry Allen. Or Jay Garrick. Or….)

There exists no single speed-reading method. A number of different schools teach varying techniques. Some of these I do not consider “reading” at all, but a form of skimming. The method that I taught uses a broad approach that combines several techniques, but still requires that students read every word. Nevertheless, I offer this disclaimer about what follows: this is only one of the ways of teaching what schools classify as “speed-reading.”

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The Wizard Howl

Monday, February 2nd, 2009 | Posted by Judith Berman

Animator Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favorite directors, and Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) one of my favorite movies of all time. Princess Mononoke is also wonderful, and My Neighbor Totoro a sublime children’s film. Packing for Dubai, with extreme space limitations, I made room for the smallish plush catbus a friend brought me from Japan.

Diana Wynne Jones is one of of my favorite fantasy authors. I had originally intended to devote this week’s post to her work. Then I watched Howl’s Moving Castle for the second time–the first since reading the DWJ novel it is based on. I should love it, right?

The movie Howl has many excellent qualities. Like Mononoke and Sprited Away, the animation is beautiful and well worth seeing on the big screen. The war footage, with the monstrous dreadnought airships and wizards in the shape of winged demons, is accomplished with the usual Miyazaki flair with all things aerial. The love story between Sophie, transformed by the Witch of the Waste into a 90-year-old crone, and the literally heartless Wizard Howl, seemed reasonably satisfying the first time around. The moving castle is just plain fun, and Billy Crystal does an OK Calcifer, if you accept that Calcifer is a cute, friendly little fire demon. (And that’s Lauren Bacall as the Witch of the Waste.) If you haven’t watched it, do so, but also check out Miyazaki’s other, better movies. To be fair, Miyazaki only came on board after the initial director bailed on the project, so its flaws may not be all his doing.

For me, though, the book tells a far more interesting story. Read More »

The economics of fantasy

Sunday, February 1st, 2009 | Posted by Theo

What did it cost Sauron to put his massive armies in the field?  Presumably the orcs were slaves of a sort, being created beings, but he had a whole host of other forces who, at most, would have owed him some sort of feudal levy.  And even his armies of slave-orcs would have cost him the expense of their equipment and sustenance.

Such questions are seldom raised in fantasy literature, especially when it comes to Dark Lords and Witch Queens, whose towering edifices and vast collections of servitors.  This may be because the Dismal Science is usually either boring or terrifying, depending upon the extent to which the currency is collapsing, the markets are crashing, or the Gross Domestic Product is contracting.

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