Because I’m exploring the world

Today on my way into the office, I noticed two things I wouldn’t normally see: a button (photo below right) and a rubber tube of some kind (photo at the end). I think the round metal thing is a button. I can just make out “GAP” on one side, so I’m pretty sure it was affixed to clothing at some point.

Lib Arts Parking Lot Button? Maybe.

But the rubber thing? Holy cow. I have no idea at all. It’s hilarious yet has a very high yuck factor for me. I’ll ask some folks to see if anyone knows what this could be for.

How did the button come to be in the Lib Arts parking lot? How did the long rubber thing get there? Was anyone sad when they lost these things–could these have been vital components of an outfit or a device that prolonged life?! Or were these items not missed at all?

I love to wonder how things came to be in a place. I have been wondering lately how each of the items I have found made it to each location, and what on earth some of my curiosities are used for.

I love exploring the world. I love that the world is my museum. I am happier now than I have ever been in my life. Why is that? I think it’s because I’m getting to learn alongside all of you in ways that I wouldn’t normally get to–I’m exploring, too, and seeing everything differently because of you.

Longish, Creepy, Rubber Tube Thing... Ick x 100.

So. Do you think I need to wash the rubber thing? I think it needs a GOOD scrubbing. I just put it in my case of curiosities anyhow. If I’m not living on the edge, how I can see the view?

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This is me teaching this class

I just sent this photo to a friend of mine who created a home theater and said the sound reverberated through both floors when he watched movies, but I think I’m taking it for this blog post because this is how I feel when I drop into your blogs and see the thinking, writing, learning you’re doing. I can’t wait until our next class. Who can say that about their jobs? That they can’t wait to get back to it? I can say that.

"Blown Away Man" (photo for ad from way back...)

I can’t wait to talk about Lawrence Lessig and start talking about how you can license your own writing on your blogs. Wheeee. Who knew composition class would be such fun?

Best regards to you, Blown Away Writing Professor

What have I done lately?

Lately, I watched some episodes of Firefly. I did dishes. I read some in a few books. I wrote a few posts to a few blogs. I talked on the phone to my dad. I took my son bowling. I emailed a few friends. I bought gorgeous tomatoes and ate them all. I swam and sat in the sun. I sneezed a lot.

And I opened my How to Be an Explorer of the World book by Keri Smith. I had picked some explorations I was going to do, but then I just opened the book, and there was an exploration that was perfect for me: #20.

So I kept track of my small, placid thoughts for a few days (since last Thursday). I write about this on my Exploration page in this blog, but why I’m talking about it here is this: I let Serendipity guide me to that particular Exploration Experience.

I’m a big fan of the idea of Serendipity (so much that I often will capitalize this word… out of respect for having experienced great things by accident–seemingly).

"Serendipity" is a word coined by Horace Walpole? How serendipitous.

Really? Serendipity is a word coined by Horace Walpole. Who’s the father of the gothic novel? Horace Walpole. What 18th century novelists do I love? A bunch, but Horace Walpole is near the top of that list. Which politician from the 18th century do I sort of like a lot? Horace Walpole.

I never looked up this word before. I knew what it meant, but I never knew where it came from. Now I do. I must read that fairy tale about the Persians princes (in translation, of course) and then rethink Horace Walpole–who is cooler now than ever before. Perhaps I need to re-read The Castle of Otranto. I remember really enjoying it.

I’m about to re-read Dracula. I am going to give a talk on the famous Bram Stoker book on Oct. 8 in the afternoon at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s Theater in the Mind series (ASF will be putting on a stage version). So I’m thinking several things are serendipitous right now:

  • I am open to new ways of thinking about the world because of this book we are using to explore the world.
  • I thought about how Serendipity may have guided my hand to this particular activity and bothered to look up the word for the first time in my life.
  • There was Horace Walpole, an acknowledged father of the gothic novel.
  • I’m talking about Dracula in a few weeks–it’s on my list of great gothic novels (from my two favorite centuries: the 18th and 19th…). That list starts with Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto.
  • In my exploration of #20, I realized at the end of my list when I asked myself what I was thinking just then… I was thinking about my friend, Carol, who loved the gothic and horror and would have been so proud of me for finding my way in the world where I was invited to talk about vampires in public. She would have been so so so very proud of me. She is not alive anymore, but she always lives in my heart.

Understanding that I was exploring a world without her struck me this way: it is a less-lovely world now, but a better one for her having been part of it once.

Does rhetoric need defending?

Rhetoric might need defending given that it has a pretty bad rep (and has for a long time). The answer then to the question above is: yes. Rhetoric does need defending. Or at least we need to talk about it and reveal its hidden ideas, secrets, and mysteries.

Today, we watched In Defense of Rhetoric–which I noted in previous post from earlier today, but I wanted to link here to a post I wrote in another blog (about teaching emerging writers) in which I mention this film and how it connected to me as a teacher of teachers of writing.

It’s an intriguing film that reminds me that perception is everything… maybe.

On cussing and rhetoric

This week on Wed. 14 Sept. 2011, we watched: In Defense of Rhetoric, and talked about cussing. Let’s continue on with the Exploration Blogs as assigned, but also let’s each blog once: 1 entry on cussing; 1 entry on the film.

Let’s talk about cussing more on Monday… and then we can talk about details of the film: our perceptions, how we think about how we communicate, what it means to understand our world, what we now think “rhetoric” means, and how we can use language to change our perceptions of the world–how does that work exactly.

In the meantime, if you catch me cussing, pardon my French. I’ll have more on this French thing in a later post.

Making playlists like nobody’s business

A playlist for love, loss, and longing. I’m grateful to Ink Slingerette for showing me playlist.com. I actually was able to embed the “Of Music” playlist in another blog… but not here. Couldn’t quite manage it–but the contents were prompted by a friend asking my thoughts on love. I suppose I think love’s like a cognitive arc of bright and light that settles into a wish that love be part of everyone’s life… at least once–a sunset that warms rather than burns the heart.

Of music

NOT surprisingly, music defines us in ways we can’t always articulate. It’s about the music we hear as children in the places we grow up: homes, restaurants, schools, churches, concerts. And it’s often music that we do not choose–it’s music that is foisted on us by others.

Thus, Frank Sinatra, and nearly all of his ilk, are among my favorite singers. My mother loved him. I could have loathed him to be contrary, but I couldn’t deny that I thought he was groovy. And other lounge singers, good and not so good, came my way, and I approved. I embraced them all as my people (and Aerosmith, too).

For my 16th birthday, my mother took me to see Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughn at an outdoor theater in LA… we could see the Los Angeles sky line in the background while he sang an extra hour because his family was in the audience, along with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.  I remember it so clearly–it was one of those moments in my life that can never be separated from music–an incredible occasion of love and song. Of course, he sang, “My Way.”

If music be the food of love, play on. ~~William Shakespeare

When I think of some songs, I imagine a person associated with the song. For instance, Paul McCartney and Wings’s hit song, “Maybe I’m Amazed.” When I hear that, I see a surfer boy named Dean with wild blonde hair and a motorcycle. Oh my, did I ever get in trouble for going on a date with a boy on a motorcycle. Here’s another version that is stunning by an American Idol contestant… oh yea. I’m that kind of person. If you’re a fan of Judas Priest (and who isn’t?), you really need to take a minute to hear the same American Idol singer rockin’ with JP.

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. ~~ Victor Hugo

How often have I heard music that expresses so much more than words. Isn’t that why films have soundtracks? To evoke emotions beyond images or words? If the soundtrack is lousy, it can ruin a tender moment or diminish a powerful action sequence. How often have I thought I had a soundtrack for my own life (a play list before playlists even existed–we used to call them mix-tapes!). Sometimes, the Beach Boys occupied the primary spot on my soundtrack, sometimes Ozzy Osbourne, sometimes The Beatles, sometimes recordings of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, sometimes Nirvana, sometimes Green Day, sometimes Amy Winehouse. Even occasionally Tony Bennett or Louis Prima. Always, I pick songs that capture my mood more than I could say in words, or at least, the words would be a lot longer than a song.

Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it. ~~John Lennon

Led Zeppelin. Watch the Everything is Remix films again, and you’ll see how LZ fits with John Lennon and creates a conversation between music and copyright. Can you imagine not feeling like you owned “Imagine” every time you heard it? I can’t imagine that.

Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.~~Plato

If my soul is in need of education in order to be virtuous, then here’s a playlist for that:

Each of these songs, especially the last, have at some point moved me in surprising ways and been something that I thought of as a momentary soundtrack for a part of my life… all of which moved me to rethink who I was or perhaps even educate my soul in the ways of virtue.

Music is well said to be the speech of angels.~~Thomas Carlyle

Isn’t music like magic? A thing of the celestial spheres, the sound angels would make if they could rock?

Right where I am sitting

I am sitting at the front of the classroom in a chair at the teacher’s podium. I tried to use a laptop but the technology was too much for me.

I notice some kind of speaker thing with a red light in front of me–who knows what that’s for? I wonder if it is actually a mic that is connected to the recording capabilities for this classroom. Of course the document camera is all up with all it’s arms poking out–that irritates me a lot–like a vicious octopus that keeps getting in my way when I want to see students.

I like the tray that holds the keyboard, but I really don’t like the keyboard much, it’s high and hard to push the keys. AND I keep doing it wrong, so I go back and edit as I’m writing. I always say to everyone in every class ever–don’t edit yourself while you’re writing and here I’m doing it because I don’t want to go back here to proofread later on. I have other stuff to do later on that is much more fun: like tackling How to Be An Explorer of the World explorations.

The chair I’m in is actually quite comfy; my eyes are in the right location to see the screen without strain; my feet are perched on the bottom shelf so my legs/knees are not uncomfortable. HOWEVER, the sound in the room is interesting and makes me jumpy… lots of keys getting tapped, pages turning, sighing, slight hesitations, then a barrage of keys… I like consistent sound or sound I know rather than sound I don’t. Perhaps this is why I pick a playlist for a semester and really stick to it for writing. I know what’s coming.

I love the clipboard that’s sitting in front of me: it’s got ink stains. It’s an old-fashioned brownish one made of wood pulp of some kind I think. Red and blue ink splashed about here and there in random swatches… sort of like someone went over the edge of paper rather than the ink bleeding through paper.

I can see all my students in my peripheral vision… Orange t-shirt on one, flowers on another, hat on another, sunglasses on one head, red glasses on another…tapping, tapping, tapping.

AHA. Like “The Raven” tapping, tapping at my door… can’t remember the words exactly, but it’s that sort of sound. Imagine if you could not see anything, it was all black and dark, with no light of any kind, and all you could hear was the tapping of computer keyboards, corrections, backspace, backspace, backspace, when tap tap tap 20 times in a row as the writers moved quickly into one part of the text. then pauses, when you could hear sighs or swallowing or sniffing or shifting bodies. Sometimes, there might be a very long pause. What would you think when the pause occurred, that the beings who’d been typing were coming to get you? What would you think about where you were? Would you say, “Hello, are you all a bunch of writers?” Or “Why are you typing when I’m in the dark like this? What sort of twisted joke is this?”

And the typing would just continue on as before, in fits and starts, with pauses and backspacing, with pages turning, with human breathing, with an occasional beep because someone had done something incorrect. Is this a scenario from a modern Dante’s Inferno? Or is this just a writing class creating blogs posts?

As I look around, because I’m not in the dark, I see so much gray and other muted colors: black, tan, green/tan. wood tones, pictures with black frames, some white, but lots and lots of cool tones–not much warmth. Why can’t one wall of a classroom be painted bright red or orange or sky blue? I would like every ceiling to be painted sky blue so that as we work indoors we might have the illusion of the sky above us.

And then someone sneezes really loudly… excuse me, bless you…

I am happy for the fine lumbar support.

What on earth?

What on earth are we doing this next week?

Read “Why Blog?” by Alex Reid in Writing Spaces, Volume 2. Reflect in a 300 word post (thereabouts)–think about your own blogging experience so far–what does this article say that means something to you, and/or what might you try because of it?

Read the Montaigne essay, “Of Smells” and revisit Paul Lynch’s “Sixth Paragraph” article.  Then write an essay in a blog post called “Of Music” which mimics what Montaigne does… find quotes about music to pepper your post and allow those quotes to move your writing. DO NOT write a five-paragraph essay. Have fun with this. 300 words or a 1,000 words or a haiku. Do what’s right.

This above by Monday, Sept. 12.

Re-watch the “Everything is a Remix” videos (all three) and write a blog post in which you just muse about what you saw, but also… answer this: what does the idea of “everything is a remix” have to do with academic writing? Especially, the third video could be directly connected to Elizabeth Gilbert… in terms of creativity… but what else would you connect these to? How? Why? Again, minimum 300 words… or more or less.

This above by Wednesday, Sept. 15.

Read the first five chapters of Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig and think about the above videos… and think about writing. WHAT? How is all your thinking about writing changing, growing, becoming another kind of vision? For talking on Sept. 15.

Then a blog post on Free Culture by Monday, Sept. 19. Same general rules apply: how does this connect to you and how does this connect to writing you do now, in the past, in the future?