Run nonprofits like a business…

I just heard Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk and he strikes right at the heart of everything that has been bothering me about the nonprofit industry. If you work in nonprofit or want to, or you give money to charities, you have to check out what this guy is saying. It’s sense!

“Moreover, there is an unintentional cruelty at work in the demand for charities to be more effective. It is a bit of the blood-from-a-stone syndrome. How can charities become more effective overall if we won’t let them use the tools everyone else in the economic world uses as the fundamental basis for effectiveness? It is no blessing to throw a charity a million dollars to achieve a result and then tell it that it must apply the same set of seventeenth-century rules that have heretofore left it incapable of achieving the result in the first place. The demand for a crop won’t produce anything if you deny a man a plow. It doesn’t matter if we change what we’re measuring. If we don’t change the rules, charities will never be able to measure up.”

April is the cruelest month…

“April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.” — T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

April Fools' Day

April is both National Poetry Month and contains Tax Day. The Millions has some reading suggestions for this cruelest of all months.

Daily Writing Practice…

Successful writers often suggest writing daily, whether you feel like it or not. Daily writing practices differ but all seem to serve the same purpose: warming up the writing “muscle” before working it out. I think William Stafford’s practice is a particularly adaptable example. Check it out on PowellsBooks.Blog – Four Elements of a Daily Writing Page in William Stafford’s Practice – Powell’s Books.

Trigger Warnings Have Spread….

This is an interesting article about language: Trigger Warnings Have Spread from Blogs to College Classes. That’s Bad | New Republic.

This reminds me of the political correctness craze of the ’90s, and also of George Carlin’s famous speech about dirty words. It’s all part and parcel of the same impossible task: trying to control language. People will always try to dictate how we use language because language is how we express ideas, and ideas can be scary and thus need to be controlled.

I take the opposite view. If language triggers some kind of emotional reaction in me, instead of trying to shut down the offending language, I want to take a closer look. Why did that word or phrase provoke such a strong reaction? Does that say something about me, or about our culture, or both? And how do I really feel about it? When we try to shut down the triggering language, we don’t get to ask these questions. Sure, we may feel uncomfortable, but we miss an opportunity to broaden our understanding of the world.

However, I’m not really worried about this new trend stifling free expression or discourse. Language, like life, finds a way around the barriers people try to erect. It’s not easy to suppress ideas. All of history has shown us people, institutions, and governments trying to just that, and ultimately failing.

New York Review Books Classics!

Received some lovely books in the mail today that I snagged in the recent New York Review of Books half-off sale. I love their paperback editions, but the reissues with the Edward Gorey covers are wonderful little gems: small hardcovers with the color-saturated illustrations printed right on the cover (no dustjacket). Love.

The books are The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Men and Gods by Rex Warner, and The Other by Thomas Tryon.

War of the Worlds coverMen and Gods coverThe Other Cover

How many copies of The War of the Worlds are too many? Well, I only have two, so I don’t think I’m there yet.

War of the Worlds illustration

Check out more of Gorey’s wonderful illustrations at Brain Pickings.

Margaret Atwood’s guide to life…

I love Margaret Atwood, and I love that she isn’t afraid to say what she thinks, even if it might make men mad. Here’s a quote from Lesson #1 of A Margaret Atwood Guide to Life | Bustle, trying to answer the question why men feel threatened by women:

“I mean,” I said, “men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power.” “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said.