Friday, August 30, 2019

Squid Flicks: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Title: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Director: Richard Wise
Original Release: 1979
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Image result for star trek the motion picture
via Wikipedia
The five years in between the end of Star Trek's animated series (1974) and the release of the franchise's first feature film (1979) were eventful in science fiction.  Two new voices were in ascendance: George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.  1977 was the big year, seeing the release of two of the most important movies of the entire genre: Lucas's Star Wars and Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Surely there was room for the Star Trek film Gene Roddenberry had been pitching for years.

A malicious energy cloud is approaching Earth.  The Enterprise and her crew must race to intercept.  The ship is not quite ready for prime time but the mission can't wait.

The old band is back together, though not without some effort. Kirk, now an admiral with a desk job at HQ, must work his connections to win command of the Enterprise away from a young upstart, Captain Willard Decker (Stephen Collins).  Doctor McCoy, gloriously attired in Bee Gees jumpsuit and medallion, is brought reluctantly out of retirement to join the fun.  Spock takes a break from his emotional purging ritual on Vulcan to do so as well.  With Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, now-Dr. Chapel and even Janice Rand already on board, the adventure can officially begin.
Image result for star trek the motion picture
via Memory Alpha
In addition to Decker is another new principal: navigator Ilia from Delta IV, performed by Persis Khambatta - one of the most devastatingly beautiful women in the history of cinema.  Yes, I realize that's no small claim.  No hyperbole on my end.  From her first appearance on the bridge, it is clear that she and Decker have a complicated past and a deep mutual affection.

The first Trek movie has been much panned ever since, especially in comparison with the more successful Wrath of Khan sequel that followed in 1982.  I will admit that I didn't care for The Motion Picture myself when I first watched it on VHS late one night back in the '80s.  In fact, that was the only time I'd watched it before this summer.  I had the same issues most critics did: too slow; too much talk, not enough action; long stretches with no dialogue, etc.

However, I definitely enjoyed it a lot more this time.  It's still in desperate need of thoughtful editing.  The too long shots of astonished crew members staring at the view screen could easily be removed to no ill effect on the narrative.  But I wasn't as bothered by the slow pace.  The main reason: I know Trek a lot better now.  Back in the day, I was thoroughly Star Wars devoted and it was years (decades?) before I fully appreciated Trek's different approach.  Ethical dilemma is the heart of Trek, often resolved without a single phaser shot.  Between them, Bones and Spock still provide Kirk's moral compass.  The hostile antagonist is still met with an impulse to understand rather than destroy.  Maybe the story is too long and too slow.  But it's still Trek.  I love Trek.

Even harsh critics concede the visual impact of the film.  One scene that has stayed with me all these years is the long, lingering view we get of the outside of the Enterprise as Kirk and Scotty approach it for the first time.  Despite four decades of special effects advancement since, that sequence is still just as impressive to me.

Beyond the broad strokes, there is so much for a geek to enjoy:
  • We have visited the work of screenwriter Alan Dean Foster here at The Squid before:
  • I did not realize until this viewing that the opening theme music for Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) was originally used for The Motion Picture.  Jerry Goldsmith's score is excellent throughout.  The film began an association between Goldsmith and Trek that lasted until 2002. 

  • The film marks the first use of the spoken Klingon language, invented by producer Jon Povill and - wouldn't you know it? - James Doohan aka Scotty.
  • The other scene that has stayed with me all these years is the transporter accident.  The response from HQ afterwards is one of the most chilling lines of the whole franchise: "Enterprise, what we got back... didn't live long... fortunately."  Even in the 23rd century, space travel is still fraught with peril.
  • As Decker provides a tour of the ship for the V'Ger probe, he shows her a display, noting: "All these vessels were called 'Enterprise,'" including the space shuttle.  The Enterprise shuttle makes many cameos throughout the Trek canon, actually.  Originally, NASA's prototype shuttle was to be called Constitution but a massive letter writing campaign to President Ford convinced them to name it after the Trek vessel.
  • Decker's first encounter with Ilia is remarkably similar to another Will's first encounter with Deanna Troi on a later version of the Enterprise.  Intentional?
The Spock character comes into his own in the Trek films, particularly the first three.   Kirk and Bones are much as we left them but Spock continues to evolve.  We have our first glimpse of him on Vulcan (always a treat) at what would seem to be the end of his Kolinahr ceremony.  The Enterprise mission, once he joins it, is clearly linked to his own inner journey.  Ultimately, the narrative pieces fall together once he is able to connect with his human side.  And isn't that always so?

Unfortunately in the first movie, this development comes at the price of Kirk's.  Shatner is partly to blame.  His tendency to over-act doesn't bother me in the original series but here it does.  The writers didn't do him any favors.  With so much dead air, he seeks to fill the void and he is never the actor to see less as more.  His usurping of Decker is off-putting.  I'm sure that as audience, we're supposed to want to see "our man" back at the helm but frankly, he comes off as an asshole. 

I watched on Tubi, a streaming channel I'd never heard of before - completely free as long as you don't mind sitting through occasional commercial breaks.  40 years later, The Motion Picture is coming to a theater near you!  If you have a theater in your area that carries Fathom Events (they're the ones who carry Met simulcasts among other exciting things), The Motion Picture is being screened on September 15th and 18th.  I don't know if I'll make it but it's certainly going on the calendar.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Squid Mixes: The Manhattan Chronicles

As stated in my State of the Blog post, I am setting a new course in the cocktail hobby, basically hoping to hone my recipes for a few of our house favorite cocktails.  I am partial to the Manhattan: whiskey, vermouth and bitters.  There are numerous variations on the beverage, some necessitating a name change, but my own preferred combo (and, just as importantly, my wife's) involves rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. 

The first matter to resolve is the proportions.  Pick up any drink recipe book and it will tell you something slightly different.  The New York Bartender's Guide suggests a rye to vermouth ratio of 3:1 with a dash of bitters.  The fussier (not a bad thing) 3-Ingredient Cocktails by Robert Simonson favors 2:1 with two dashes.  The key is the balance between whiskey and bitters in the flavoring.  I want to taste both.  In the first recipe, the whiskey is too strong, in the second the bitters.  The International Bartender's Association splits the difference with 5:2, one dash of the bitters.  I tried it with two dashes - still too strong on the bitters.  I expect in my next attempt, I will try 3:1 with two dashes.

The next question is the whiskey.  Our current favored rye is Old Overholt.  In fact, it's been my wife's favorite since before we met nearly 21 years ago.  It is supposedly America's oldest continuously-made whiskey, in production since 1810.  It was originally produced by Henry Oberholzer, a German Mennonite farmer in West Overton, Pennsylvania.  I'm pretty sure that's Henry on the label.  Now, the operation is a subsidiary of Beam Suntory, the whiskey distilled in Clermont, Kentucky.  It was the favorite of at least two American Presidents: Grant and Kennedy.

It's time to branch out.  Fortunately, Maggie Hoffman provides a list of brands to try for each major base liquor in her book The One-Bottle Cocktail.  Old Overholt made her list but I'd like to try some others in a comparable price range.  Of course, any new whiskey would also have to face the high ball test but we'll save that discussion for later.

Of course, there's also the not-to-be-neglected matter of the cherry garnish.  There are loads of maraschino brands to try.  Restaurants often serve Manhattans with a brandied cherry.  One can buy those, too, though I'm also curious about making my own. 

So that's where things stand at the moment.  I will post updates as the experiments continue.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

State of the Blog 2019

It's been ten years since I first launched The Armchair Squid - a full decade of blogging.  Back then, I had visions of developing a presence as an amateur sportswriter.  I began with tennis, then soccer, eventually the Olympics, baseball and more.  I've explored a good many other hobbies in the time since and the experience has been most gratifying.  As always, my blogiversary is a time to take stock and adjust course.  I have in mind a few changes for the coming year, including the broadening of one topic and a return to another.

Food will continue to be the main focus of my Tuesday family adventure posts.  Cocktails will still be featured prominently, though my approach to that hobby has evolved a bit.  Rather than a broad survey of recipes, I'd like to concentrate on a few of our house favorites, mainly Manhattans, high balls and gin and tonics.  As those are the ones we enjoy most, I'd like to hone my own process, tinkering with proportions, ingredients and such.  I'd like to continue with mocktails, too, as it's a nice way to include our daughter in the fun.  I'll be looking at other food projects in addition, particularly the wine hobby I share with my wife and my current efforts to lose weight.

Bigger changes are coming to my Friday posts.  It's time to take a break from music and get back to... drum roll, please... Star Trek!  I can hardly believe it's been four years since my last Trek post.  First, I'll have reviews of the first four movies, then I'll be diving into The Next Generation.  Even with the long hiatus, I feel I've been building up to this for a long time and I'm excited.

Many thanks as always to all of you who stop by to read my humble musings.  Who knows if blogging will still be a thing in ten more years.  I hope you'll join me in finding out.

Squiddies 2019

The Armchair Squid turns ten years old today - a full decade!  It's time to hand out some hardware.  And the Squiddy goes to...

Biggest Surprise: Jake Shimabukuro

I will readily admit that I had no idea jazz ukulele was a thing.  I found several astonishingly amazing covers of Chick Corea's "Spain" for my post but none more surprising than Jake Shimabukuro's.  Ukuleles are definitely the it instrument these days but I haven't seen anyone else play like this guy.  Here he is performing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps":

And still, my all-time favorite song:

Biggest Disappointment: The Playwright Passes

I have not written about it on the blog until now but we lost a dear friend this past year, one I have mentioned many times nicknamed here as The Playwright.  He and English Prof are the closest thing our daughter has to godparents and his passing was a major blow for our family.  Since they moved to New England, we have spent more Thanksgivings together than not.  The holiday will never be quite the same for us.

Best Read, First Time Category: The Boys of Dunbar by Alejandro Danois

The tale of the Dunbar Poets of 1981-82 was already one of my favorite sports stories.  Generally hailed as the greatest high school basketball team ever, the squad featured four future NBA players, three of them lottery picks, one an All-Star.  Their All-American was Reggie Williams whom I got to know later as one of Georgetown's all-time legends.  But their real star was a 5-3 point guard named Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, the shortest man ever to play in the NBA and one of the most extraordinary athletes of all time.  I was always going to love this book.  Am I biased because of the subject matter?  Undoubtedly.  I would happily read more just like it.

Best Read, Re-Read Category: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet is eternal.   Is it truly the greatest work of literature in the English language?  Debatable.  But it's on a short list.  This was my first reading since high school and, as is the true mark of any great work of art, I view it completely differently with greater life experience.  Perhaps I should try again in another quarter-century or so.

Best Comics Find: The Graphic Canon

The Graphic Canon is a wonderful concept beautifully executed.  Russ Kick collected and solicited graphic novel renditions of dozens of world literature classics, ranging from antiquity to the late 20th century.  Volume 1 is the first of three in the original compilation.   Shakespeare, Dante and Cervantes are all in Volume 1, among many others.  Kick wrote thoughtful and informative blurbs to introduce each chapter.  While I am certainly interested in the second and third volumes in the series, I am just as inspired to explore the original works.

Athlete of the Year: Muggsy Bogues

Since reading The Boys of Dunbar, I have also watched Baltimore Boys, an ESPN documentary about the same team.   It was great to be able to see video footage of the team.  For Muggsy, especially, seeing is believing:

Best Family Adventure: Finishing My Master's Degree

Graduate school was, without a doubt, a full family effort.  Yes, it was a lot of work for me but I couldn't have done it without the patience, understanding and support of my wife and daughter.  The benefits, both personal and professional, were tremendous, including two deeply meaningful trips to England I haven't blogged about until now.  The family will see the benefit, too.  With a master's degree, I get a raise in salary.

As an added bonus this year, Decade Squiddies to celebrate the best from the humble beginnings to the humble present:

Biggest Surprise: Roberto Alomar Tweeting Me

The third year I did the A-to-Z Challenge, I featured second basemen.  My A submission was Roberto Alomar.  At the time (zheesh, seven years ago!), it was my practice to post a link on Twitter for each of my posts.  Who should tweet me later on to thank me for the post but Mr. Alomar himself?  @Robbiealomar: a confirmed account!  A Hall of Fame baseball player tweeted me!!!

Biggest Disappointment: The Playwright's Passing

See above.

Best Read: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

I still recommend this book to any and all who will listen.  Because if we're lucky, we grow old.  Regardless of luck, we're all going to die.  This is true for you and everyone you know and love.  Dr. Gawande's book is the most frank, informative and ultimately hopeful discussion I have encountered about aging and death.  No joke, you need to read it.

Athlete of the Decade: Roberto Alomar

Sure, other athletes have been more successful in the teens: Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Mike Trout, Steph Curry, Lebron James, Tom Brady, Michael Phelps.  But Alomar probably didn't even have to get up from the couch to make my day. (see above)

Best Family Adventure: The UK

Canada was a strong contender here.  We love our northern neighbor.  The city of Montreal alone has been my choice in this category twice.  I am certain our Canadian explorations will continue to be an important part of our family life for years to come.  But when I think back on this ten-year stretch in the future, I know that it will be the trips to Britain that stand out.

Some of my favorite people in the world live in England.  I don't mean that in the sense that one might say "some of my best friends are Republicans."  Rather, I don't see some of the people I love most in the world often enough because they live in London.  Through three separate trips within a year's time - courtesy of one family trip and the two as part of my grad program - I was able to be a part of their lives again for an all too short time.  Sharing that part of my life with my wife and daughter was also deeply meaningful.

During our family trip, we also went to Scotland: the highlight of the European trip for both my daughter in me.  Indeed, spending three days in Edinburgh, we all felt we'd just scratched the surface and we're eager to go again.

Oh, and did I mention this lifelong Beatles fan got to visit Liverpool?  Twice!

Friday, August 23, 2019

A Window Above: The Firebird

Piece: The Firebird
Composer: Igor Stravinsky
Premier: June 25, 1910, Paris Opera
Original Ballet Company: Ballets Russes

The Firebird was Stravinsky's first ballet commission and his breakthrough hit.  The story combines the Russian legend of the Firebird with the unrelated folk tale of Koschei the Deathless.  Stravinsky, only 28 at the time, was the third composer to be offered the job by impressario Sergei Diaghilev.  The collaboration between the two men would prove a fruitful one, also resulting in Petrushka and The Rite of Spring.

The clip above is, of course, from Disney's Fantasia 2000.   The segment is, in my opinion, the great masterpiece of the entire Fantasia franchise - for the film, for the music and for the glorious marriage of the two.  If you're up for the entire orchestral work, have at it:

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Squid Mixes: Ginger Ale Bellini

I got my Ginger Ale Bellini recipe from Mocktails by Kester Thompson: a peach, sugar syrup and ginger ale.  Pureeing the peaches was a bit of an effort but worth it in order to enjoy the in-season fruit.  The final product was mighty tasty.  The girl scarfed down two virtually instantly.  Champagne flutes, the recommended glassware, would have made for a more elegant presentation but alas, we don't have a matching trio.

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Window Above: Feeling That Way

Song: "Feeling That Way"
Writers: Aynsley Dunbar, Steve Perry, Greg Rolie
Original Release: January 20, 1978
Band: Journey
Album: Infinity

For me, "Feeling That Way" is the hidden treasure of the Journey catalog.  I love the vocal trade off between Rolie on the verses and Perry on the chorus.  It's the sort of thing bands should do more often: make the most of the contrasting styles and timbres of two lead vocalists.  The Beatles did it brilliantly, though not enough.  "Hard Day's Night" is their best example with John on the verses and Paul on the bridge.

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Squid Mixes: Breakfast Martini

At my wife's requested, I made Breakfast Martinis from David Lebovitz's recipe: orange marmelade, lemon juice, gin, Grand Marnier or Cointreau (I used the latter), orange twist for garnish.  Muddle the marmelade in the lemon juice, then shake with the rest.  The result is much what you'd expect: an orangey martini.

I do take issue with Lebovitz on some of his awkward measurements.  1.75 ounces of gin - seriously?  It was a little better when I doubled it for two drinks but 3.5 is still unusual.  Fortunately, I have the graded measuring cup for the job but most people wouldn't.

Friday, August 9, 2019

A Window Above: If You Could Read My Mind

Song: "If You Could Read My Mind"
Writer and Original Performer: Gordon Lightfoot
Original Release: April 1970
Album: Sit Down Young Stranger (later renamed If You Could Read My Mind after the song's success)

A cover can be great for bringing new appreciation for a song you've known for years.  Such was the case when I heard native Vermonter Henry Jamison's rendition of Gordon Lightfoot's classic "If You Could Read My Mind."  I'm a sucker for an octave jump in the vocal (think Bono in the second chorus of "With or Without You") and Jamison does it a couple times in his interpretation.  The cover also encouraged me to listen to the lyrics more closely...

I've lived this song.  The story probably isn't so unusual.  One day, a relationship that seems like it might last forever suddenly dies.  Such was the case with my college girlfriend, the longest relationship I had before I met my wife.  After a summer apart when we really didn't miss each other so much, we realized we didn't love each other anymore, not the way we had.  The ending was still hard.  Letting go after the end was still hard.  But it was over and we both knew it.  It wasn't easy understanding why.  I particularly appreciate this feeling expressed in the second verse:

When you reach the part where the heartaches come,
The hero would be me.
Heroes often fail.

We must learn from loss and it was certainly an essential life lesson for me.  Love, like a garden, requires nurturing.  If your heart's not in the work, you're in trouble.

Lightfoot took inspiration from his own divorce.  A lot of great music has come out of divorce experiences.  His daughter encouraged a lyrical change which Lightfoot has since used in public performances, switching "the feeling that you lack" to "the feeling that we lack."  While Lightfoot has not been a particularly successful husband - he's on marriage #3 now - he does seem to be a fairly compassionate person.  He withdrew a plagiarism lawsuit over "Greatest Love of All" when he felt it was affecting Whitney Houston negatively - he was out to get the songwriter, not her.

The original:

A cover by fellow Canadians Diana Krall and Sarah McLachlan:

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

On the Coffee Table: Scott Kelly

Title: Endurance: My Year in Space and How I Got There, Young Readers Edition
Author: Scott Kelly
Image result for Endurance, Young Readers Edition
via Amazon
Ever wonder what it's like to live on the International Space Station (ISS) for a year?  This book is for you.  Astronaut Scott Kelly provides a compelling account of his career up to and including his year on the ISS.  His book, the Young Readers Edition in particular, is the summer reading selection for our seventh and eighth graders so I got a copy gratis.

Kelly's history is the sort that is highly appealing to educators: he struggled in school but turned things around in college, eventually graduating from SUNY Maritime and becoming a Navy test pilot.  Kelly provides another interesting twist in that he has an identical twin brother, Mark, who is also an astronaut.

In an interesting personal coincidence, our 15-year-old daughter has recently expressed interest in becoming an astronaut.  I will encourage her to read this now as it will give her a realistic picture of the life.  The military route is the most obvious - tough road for anyone and especially a woman.  But there are other paths.  Mind you, this is not a career idea I will actively encourage.  Frankly, the idea terrifies me and Kelly did nothing to ease my concerns.  Spacewalks in particular: clearly for crazy people.

I would not say the book is especially artfully written, though I suppose the blame for that goes to the ghost writer (Margaret Lazarus Dean) and/or young reader adapter (Emily Easton).  Kelly is also rather blasé about the shortcomings of his emotional life - understandable given his profession but it detracted from my own engagement.  That said, I did enjoy the read and it sparked my interest in the history of space exploration.  Kelly's initial inspiration was The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.  I've never read the book but the movie was one of my favorites as a kid.  I think it's time for my daughter to see it.  If only I could put it on the wrap-around screen at DC's Uptown theater for her.  That's where I first saw it.  I suppose I should read the book, too.

While on the ISS, Kelly read (and clearly drew title inspiration from) Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing.  I will admit that I never thought of the parallels between space exploration and polar exploration before.  Now I'm intrigued.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Squid Mixes: Frozen Mint Lemonade

Our daughter adores both mint and lemonade so this drink was an easy sell.  I got my frozen mint lemonade recipe from Mocktails by Kester Thompson: sugar syrup, lemon juice (4 lemons yielded a cup), mint leaves, water and ice.  The result smells amazing and tastes quite good, too.

Monday, August 5, 2019

On the Coffee Table: Brené Brown

Title: Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
Author: Brené Brown

Image result for dare to lead
via Amazon

First of all, if you are new to the work of Brené Brown, you should watch her TED Talk on "The Power of Vulnerability."  Trust me.  This is important stuff:

While I first became aware of the author during my first summer graduate class three years ago, I didn't read any of her books until Dare to Lead was assigned to us for the most recent one.  In the intervening time, I've thought quite a lot about vulnerability and it truly has changed the way I think about my life, past, present and future. 

Dare to Lead explores how to "rumble with vulnerability" as a leadership approach in the workplace.  Brown defines such a rumble as
a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, as psychologist Harriet Lerner teaches, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.
She also encourages us to "live into our values," a concept close to the philosophy embraced by Po Bronson in What Should I Do with My Life? (see here).  In Brown's words, "Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them."  From a list of dozens of values, she encourages the reader to narrow down to two as most important.  Rather unscientifically, I settled on curiosity and love.  Most of my life decisions are based primarily on those two factors.

Brown's writing is highly engaging.  I was grateful for the opportunity to live in her words for a while and will definitely seek out more.  A few of my favorite passages (admittedly some in which she quoted others):
  • "No matter how much we love Whitesnake - and, as many of you know, I do - we weren't really born to walk alone."
  • "We are not here to fit in, be well balanced, or provide exempla for others.  We are here to be eccentric, different perhaps strange, perhaps merely to add our small piece, our little clunky, chunky selves, to the great mosaic of being.  As the gods intended, we are here to become more and more ourselves." - Jim Hollis
  • "The opposite of play is not work - the opposite of play is depression." - Stuart Brown
At this point of the summer, I'm still trying really hard not to think too much about work.  Even so, it's good to take some inspiration from Brown pragmatic warmth as I approach a new school year.  

Friday, August 2, 2019

A Window Above: Don't Do Me Like That

Song: "Don't Do Me Like That"
Writer: Tom Petty
Original Release: October 19, 1979
Band: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Album: Damn the Torpedoes

"Don't Do Me Like That" was the first Top 10 hit on the Billboard charts for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Petty nearly gave it to the J. Geils Band as he felt it fit their sound better.  In truth, he may have been right as it doesn't exactly fit with the rest of the Heartbreakers' catalog.  Nonetheless, I would probably claim it as my favorite from their opus.  The instrumental opening is one of the all-time greats.

Want to hear all of the songs I have featured in a convenient playlist?

Enjoy: A Window Above

What are you listening to these days?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

On the Coffee Table: Sarah Lewis

Title: Positive Psychology at Work: How Positive Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry Create Inspiring Organizations
Author: Sarah Lewis
Image result for Positive Psychology at Work: How Positive Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry Create Inspiring Organizations
via Amazon
First good news: I have finished my graduate program.  I now, officially, have a Master of Education degree.  The relevance to this post: this is one of the books I read for my last class.

Sarah Lewis devotes much of her first chapter to establishing the difference between positive psychology and positive thinking.  Positive thinking is basically the concept that, simply through believing it so, all will work out fine.  If it doesn't, it's because you weren't positive enough.  Positive psych is the more scientific study of the positive aspects of human life, those things which make life most worth living.  The differences are subtle but crucial.  As the title implies, the book applies positive psych to the world of work.  As with many such books, much of Lewis's material is related to "business" but applications to the teaching industry are clear.

I would not say Posistive Psychology at Work is particularly readable but the material is useful.  I especially appreciated an idea submitted by contributor Clive Hutchinson regarding giving feedback with a playing card model:  "Clubs was just telling people they had done badly, with no reasons.  Spades was negative feedback but with specific information on what was bad.  Hearts was praise, but without saying specifically what was good.  And Diamonds was praise with specific information about what was good."  Diamonds, in this case, represent the ideal.  Teaching students to give meaningful feedback to each other has been a major focus for me recently and I may well adapt this metaphor.

I also like this perspective on leadership: "Increasingly, it is being recognized that the best leaders don't work to become perfect.  Rather, they focus on honing their strengths and finding others to make up their limitations."  Strengths is an idea I have explored in depth personally and professionally (see here, for instance) and it's good to see it reinforced here. 

In addition to appraising my own situation, Lewis's thoughts on work in general and leadership in particular have also shed new light for me on a certain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise he captains.  Stay tuned on this.  It is likely to come up in future posts.