Showing posts from May, 2010

Lonesome Rangers of Excessive Candour: Scores of Post-Toasties New World Hip-Hop (An Imaginary Free Jazz Session of Cult Studs, with a Touch of Story, Too!)

Hitting this parenthetical , I knew I was in the wonderful Land of Clute: --Ajvaz has made it clear he does not want the reader to be reminded of Magic Realism in his work, that his texts do not valorize any hero bearer of sigils out of the swamp nor any origin tale at the heart of the delta of tales untold-- Since the death of John Leonard , I've come to cherish Clute more than ever. I've always had an admiration for Clute -- for though my ability to embrace his ideas has often been tempered by my (quasi-irrational?) antipathy to taxonomy vs. his career of it, I love his rhythms and diction, and more than that, I love his willingness to follow the words into a realm more of sound than sense, something Shakespeare did now and then, and all the best poets, and John Leonard, too, who was nearly unique in offering that quality as a book reviewer. Nearly unique. I think of Leonard and Clute as the Jazz Johns of Bookchat. I wish they'd had the chance to play a session t

Work in Progress

While many of my friends (particularly the ones with Twitter and Facebook accounts) have been at BEA or heading to WisCon , I've spent the week spent doing little other than grading student work and then in the evening, when the brain had fizzled, watching various cable TV shows or movies like Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life and Stargate . I've spent 12 years telling myself that during the next term I will figure out some way to create more simple, clear, and efficient methods of grading. And each term, I've failed; indeed, each term, I seem to increase the grading burden on myself.  I have seen the enemy, and it is me. More than most terms, I noticed some of my students' creativity. For instance, one wrote of a gospel song called "Go Down Mosses". Another wrote that, "Without a patriarchal society, women could have voted from the gecko." Their creativity, and my brain's fizzlement, seems have had an effect on me. I spent th

Thought for the Day

Elise Nakhnikian at The House Next Door: You can tell you're early in the evolution of a society's acceptance of a minority group when most of its movies about that subculture star people from the dominant culture, focusing on how their eyes are opened or their lives enriched by their contact with someone from the minority.

Looking Back on an Intro to Film Class

Back in December, I wrote a couple posts about designing an Introduction to Film class for the first time, and now that we've come to the end of the term, I thought I'd procrastinate grading look back on the things I wrote in those early posts to bring it all up to date. The movies that we watched in their entirety during a weekly screening period were: Citizen Kane Manhunter Vertigo Zodiac 400 Blows Badlands Cabaret The Haunting The Shining Do the Right Thing The Living End Orlando Synecdoche, NY Plus one optional film on the very first day of classes, Sullivan's Travels , and two films short enough to fit into our 75-minute class period: I Walked with a Zombie and Le Noir De... (Black Girl) . If you're curious for even more detail of what we did, the course schedule is here .

Susan B. Anthony, Abortion, and Sarah Palin

Ann Gordon and Lynn Sheer respond to Sarah Palin and the Susan B. Anthony List's fabrication of history: For nearly 30 years, both of us have been immersed in Susan B. Anthony's words -- Ann as the editor of Anthony's papers , Lynn as the author of a biography . We have read every single word that this very voluble -- and endlessly political -- woman left behind. Our conclusion: Anthony spent no time on the politics of abortion. It was of no interest to her, despite living in a society (and a family) where women aborted unwanted pregnancies. The [Susan B. Anthony] List's mission statement proclaims, "Although [Anthony] is known for helping women win the right to vote, it is often untold in history that she and most early feminists were strongly pro-life." There's a good reason it's "untold:" historians and good journalists rely on evidence. Of which there is none. via Ta-Nehisi Coates

Pep Talks

From Elspeth Huxley: A Biography by C.S. Nicholls (2002): [David Waruhiu] was a padre at the huge Athi River Mau Mau detainee camp, run on Moral Rearmament lines. The MRA was influential in Kenya, Nell Cole and Tuppence Hill-Williams being among its original members, and had created the Torchbearers, an inter-racial society. At the Athi River camp, where Tuppence was in charge of five hundred women, Elspeth found the MRA workers very sincere and devoted, although she doubted whether they cuold really change black hearts. The inmates were rather fat, because they were fed on Geneva Convention rations four times as heavy as the normal Kikuyu diet. At intervals they were given pep talks and called to God. From Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya by Caroline Elkins (2005): Former detainees scarcely recall Athi River as a site of spiritual awakening, perhaps because they were cycled through an endless regime of physical and psychological coercion.

Crowdsource: Favorite Film about the Creative Process?

Dear denizens of the internet, While I'm busy over here grading mounds of student work, perhaps you could help me out with a question I've got: What's your favorite movie that depicts the creative process? How you define "depicts" and "creative process" is up to you.  And if you want to mention more than one movie, I won't stop you. Many thanks, Mr. Mumpsimus PS I'll be back to posting things of substance sometime in the coming weeks...

The Danger of a Single Story

I think I might show this beautiful speech by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie on the first day of my Outsider course in the fall -- it's 18 minutes well spent. Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.

The Return of Jeff Ford, Blogger

Once upon a time, Jeff Ford was one of my favorite bloggers.  He posted stories, rants, photos, etc. on a Livejournal site charmingly called 14 The Ditch.  It's now only available in fragments on the Wayback Machine , alas.  Mr. Ford quit halfway through his first term decided to focus more of his time writing award-winning stories and novels , and further recovering from once collaborating with a schmuck , the lowest moment of his career.  He opened a Facebook account and spent most of his time posting cute pictures of cats and the occasional status message such as, " Jeffrey Ford has decided to accept the offer to write 10 books in the Left Behind series.  Important to have an eclectic career if you want to survive these days as a writer. " Thankfully, Mr. Ford has decided to return to the land of blogging with a new Livejournal site, Crackpot Palace .  No more cute cat pictures, he promises.  And he's given up Left Behind for the Predator series.  His first

2010 National Book Award Judges Include Samuel Delany

Here's some fun news for the day: Samuel Delany is one of the five judges for the National Book Award in the Fiction category for 2010 . The entire panel is interesting: in addition to Delany, it includes Andrei Codrescu, Sabina Murray, Joanna Scott, and Carolyn See. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for the discussions amongst such a group!

"Your work is to take care of the spiritual interior of the language": Bill Moyers and Barry Lopez

I'm not writing about nature. I'm writing about humanity. And if I have a subject, it is justice. And the rediscovery of the manifold way in which our lives can be shaped by the recovery of a sense of reverence for life. --Barry Lopez The final guest on the final episode of Bill Moyers Journal was Barry Lopez , and it's half an hour of riveting, inspiring conversation.  The video is here. Ten years ago this summer, I attended the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and Barry Lopez was my workshop leader.  Those were some of the most powerful and invigorating days of my life, because Lopez was exactly the person I needed to work with at that particular moment, a moment when I doubted the purpose of writing and felt that I had wasted the countless time I had spent in the activity of writing stories and plays and essays, almost none of which at that point had been read by anyone other than my friends and teachers.  I went to Bread Loaf because it felt like a last cha