I’m Finding this Fascinating

I think every now and then when I get captivated learning something new, or relearning something in a deeper way, I’m going to share it.

I’m in lesson 6 of Hillsdale College’s course on the US Congress and it’s enthralling. I really think this is a must-see for any US citizen and for anyone curious about how our government works.

Now I got an average or maybe above average education on US government in high school as was and still is required, but I didn’t learn about how congress changed through the centuries, about how administrative laws proliferated and how the government had to figure out, through trial and error how new regulations should be made and how the agencies should approve them. I didn’t learn about the powerful Speakers of the House Thomas Brackett Reed or his successor Joseph Gurney Cannon, of whom it could be argued was more powerful than either of the presidents he served.

The professor also shares how the U.K. Parliament’s Question Hour influenced American legislators and others who wanted this sort of give and take. I’ve seen snippets of the Prime Minister’s Questions, but now that I’ve found the Parliament’s YouTube Channel, I’m sure to watch more often.

I urge you to check out Hillsdale’s online courses. They’re free.

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Masterclass with Aaron Sorkin

aaron-sorkin-masterclass

I’ve just finished a screenwriting class taught by Aaron Sorkin of The West Wing, Social Network, Steve Jobs, Sports Night, etc. fame. Masterclass offers the class for $90 and I found it to be a good deal.

Sorkin knows what he’s talking about and is frank about how some aspects of writing can be taught and others can’t. Even though he’ll sometimes go off on a tangent, I found the tangent worth the ride. He admits to non-linear conversational style up front so students are prepared. He shares the classic approaches to writing and swears by reading Aristotle’s Poetics. Some of what he said in the 35 lesson course, I’d heard before, but that didn’t bother me. I was glad to hear the wisdom reinforced.

After several sessions of lecture, eloquent, wise lecture, the course featured students working with Sorkin on story development, brainstorming, and pitching. I was disappointed by the homogenous age range in the group. I doubt anyone there was over 33. Some of these sessions lagged for me, but I did appreciate how respectful Sorkin was to the students. It would be easy for him to act supercilious, lesser teachers at say UCLA Extension sometimes do, but this Academy and Emmy Award winner did not. Kudos to Mr. Sorkin.

I think the class is best for those who’re a bit familiar with screenwriting so I advise people to either take a short course (nothing expensive is needed) or read a few screenwriting books. I will say I wish he’d offer suggestions on how to overcome the difficulty in getting a script read by people empowered to buy it.

I tried watching in China and Indonesia. The buffering was awful, while Coursera, TED and Lynda.com don’t have such a problem. So if you’re overseas, think twice before paying for this course.