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Jeff Sharlet en Instagram: “Wednesday night I worked on my father’s obituary. Thursday, in class, I pulled up on the projector this photograph, “Hyeres, France, 1932,”…”
"Wednesday night I worked on my father’s obituary. Thursday, in class, I pulled up on the projector this photograph, “Hyeres, France, 1932,” by Henri Cartier-Bresson. We’d read a book called H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald, a memoir of her grief for her late father. He was a photographer. It was he who taught her how to look, to have the patience to see what Cartier-Bresson called a “decisive moment.” “Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you,” wrote Cartier-Bresson, “and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. The moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.” // Because I was tired, because before I knew my father would die I had assigned this book about grieving a father—because for some reason I had assigned, across two courses, three books about lost fathers—I mentioned my own writing assignment of the previous evening. An obituary. I told my students the book we had just read was an obituary. An obituary, I said, should not be a recitation of facts; rather, a remembrance of decisive moments. Click. // He’s 18, in a campus movie theater with his football teammates. On screen: subtitles. The movie is French, Cocteau’s Orpheus. Bob Sharlet has never “read” a movie before. He has never, he thinks, really read at all. Now he’ll never stop reading again. // Christmas, 1991, Cairo, at a vegetable stand, seeing on a little tv at the back of the stand the Soviet flag being lowered, the end of the U.S.S.R., to which he had devoted his scholarly life—his life—and realizing, suddenly, that now he could read about anything. // A month ago Saturday.We’ve told him his prognosis—terminal, soon. He’d said he’d sleep an hour. Now he lifts his sleeping mask. He opens his eyes. “Okay,” he says. // Today, sifting through his boxes of photographs, I found this postcard. Blank. He kept it for the picture. The picture I taught Thursday. // I imagine—as I think my father imagined—Cartier-Bresson descending the stairs, noticing the rail, the steps, the curve. Stopping, stepping back. He thinks he’s waiting for a walker. Then comes the bicycle, circles and triangles and spokes. Click. And then it’s gone, forever."
jeffsharlet  writing  reading  howwewrite  life  living  howweread  2019  bobshartlet  photography  bricolage  moments  death  henricartier-bresson  teaching  howweteach  intution  memory  memories  change  decisivemoments 
14 hours ago by robertogreco
An Essay by Miho Nonaka | Kenyon Review Online
[So good. There's really no good way to quote this one, so here are just a few sections.]

"Heavenly Worm

Mrs. Itō, our fourth-grade teacher, drew a new kanji character on the board: 蚕. “Worm from heaven,” she announced, “as you can see.” Heaven splits open like a curtain (天) and inside it dwells the worm (虫). For each student, she took out five worms from her basket and put them in a small paper box to take home. Having just hatched from their eggs, these worms were still covered in little black hairs. That’s why at this stage they are called kego (hairy baby), Mrs. Itō told us. To feed these dark babies, julienne your mulberry leaves first."



"Platinum Boy, 2006

After decades of research, Japanese silkworm breeders discovered a reliable method of hatching exclusively male silkworms. Female silkworms eat more, sleep more, take up more space, and are measurably less efficient in transforming mulberry leaves into silk. The verdict was clear: female silkworms are inferior for silk production.

Silk spinners and kimono weavers are unanimous in their praise of male silk: their thread is consistently finer, sturdier, glossier, whiter, and their cocoons are easier to harvest when boiled.

The birth site of Platinum Boy is literally black and white. When you look at a piece of paper where silkworm eggs are laid, white eggs are the empty shells from which male larvae have already hatched. They will thrive on the diet of tender mulberry shoot which, combined with their spit, will eventually turn into raw silk, translucent like frosted glass. The dark eggs contain female larvae that will never hatch and only keep darkening."



"Ten Thousand Leaves I

Compiled in the mideighth century, Man’yōshū (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) is the oldest Japanese anthology: more than forty-five hundred poems in twenty books. In the sweltering heat of the attic, I wasn’t looking for any particular motif when I happened on poem No. 2495, composed by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, a low rank courtier and one of the “Saints of Japanese Poetry”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
how can I see my love
who lives secluded at home?

Poem No. 2991 is almost the same poem by another poet, simply tagged “unknown”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
sadness clouds my heart
when I cannot see her

The motif of a silk cocoon as the inaccessible, lyrical interior goes back to the dawn of Japanese poetics. The cocoon encases the image of the beloved, the poet’s longing that keeps building inside, and in my poem it holds the mother as a mythical seamstress, stitching blue in each wrist of her unborn daughter."



"職人 I

I used to blame my grandmother on my father’s side, who was described to me as fierce, frantic, funny, a destructive visionary and unsuccessful business entrepreneur during the critical times of the Second World War. When I felt defeated by the radical pull of my own emotion, I would attach them to the face of the woman I had never met in person, only in a fading picture where she stands next to my young father without glasses, still a student with surprisingly gentle eyes.

My father recently told me during one of our late-night international calls from Tokyo: “Your grandfathers were both shokunin (craftsman), remember? It’s in your DNA, too.” His father had come from a large family of silk farmers. After he left home, adopting the newly introduced Singer sewing machines, he began manufacturing Japanese cloven-toed socks, the traditional kind that used to be hand-sewn, and during the war, he took the assignment to sew parachutes for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. While he worked under dimmed light, my young father put up his primitive drawing of warplanes on the wall, covered in fine grains of sand."



"Small Things

They say (I love the convenience, but who are “they”?) that attention to detail is a characteristic of the Japanese. I am drawn to small things: tadpoles, silica beads, star sands in a vial, a notebook the size of a thumbnail, fish scales, a nativity scene inside half a walnut shell. I am terribly myopic like my father, and I like things that are near. Large things loom over and terrify: airports, Costco, churches in Texas, the Tokyo Skytree, Mount Rushmore (those granite faces I once believed had surfaced in response to the historic atomic bombing), and that elusive word “global.”"



"Komako

It didn’t occur to me until I tried translating a few passages from Snow Country that the young geisha’s name Komako (駒子) means Pony Child. What inspired the author Kawabata to portray his heroine as a woman of equine grace? We don’t know her family name. On the other hand, we don’t know the first name of Shimamura, who is referred to only by his last name.

I imagine if your family name is a gate to the house, your first name must be its interior. In the days when the first book of Man’yōshū was composed, asking a maiden’s first name was synonymous with proposing to her. Knowing it meant possessing the person.

Komako’s body is translucent like a silkworm, and an unearthly room encloses her fruitless passion like a white cocoon. While writing Snow Country, Kawabata says he distanced himself from Shimamura, who serves merely as a foil to Komako. “As an author, I entered deep inside the character of Komako, but casually turned my back to Shimamura,” he writes in the afterward. “Especially in terms of emotion—Komako’s sadness is nothing other than my own sadness. . . .” And so it is; his heart has become subsumed into her heart."



"Body

I find it impossible to talk about the body (mine and everyone else’s) without sounding embarrassed or oddly distant. I don’t mean to self-deprecate, but it has been almost too fashionable, too charged a topic for me to feel safe around. (A cowardly thing to say—the truth is, no one is safe.)

I won’t pretend my body is a plain blockhouse, or a slab of flesh aching with desire or lack thereof. Who could have taught me to stay at home in my own body all the while I traveled from one country to another, turning from the spontaneous, if careless, music of my mother tongue to the cautious economy of English, reaching out, in the hope of actually reaching and being reached?

For the subjects most critical to me, I find no teachers. Perhaps there is not enough demand? I believe I am badly behind everyone and that I missed an opportunity to ask questions long ago. People my age in this country sound fluent in the body, discussing it with just the right amount of sarcasm and laughter without revealing much, like they have been on intimate terms with it since they learned to speak. I suppose I should have listened to the body harder, without ulterior motives."
mihononaka  silk  essays  canon  howwewrite  2017  silkworms  multispecies  japan  japanese  language  gender  via:ayjay  poetry  writing  fabric  textiles  srg  glvo  insects  history  cocoons  craft  translation  languages  childhood  change  materials  process  form  details  weaving  texture  morethanhuman  shinto  bodies  body  small  slow 
4 days ago by robertogreco
The Creative Independent: Jonas Mekas on documenting your life
"Were you ever interested in writing a straightforward memoir about your life?

I don’t have time for that. There are fragments of that in this book, but I think my films are my biography. There are bits and fragments of my personal life in all of my films, so maybe someday I’ll put them together and that will be my autobiography."



"People talk a lot about your films, but you have a poetry practice as well.

Occasionally I still write poems. It comes from a different part of me. When you write, of course it comes from your mind, into your fingers, and finally reaches the paper. With a camera, of course there is also the mind but it’s in front of the lens, what the lens can catch. It’s got nothing to do with the past, but only the image itself. It’s there right now. When you write, you could write about what you thought 30 years ago, where you went yesterday, or what you want for the future. Not so with the film. Film is now.

Are most of your decisions intuitive? Is it a question of just feeling when something is right or when it isn’t?

I don’t feel it necessarily, but it’s like I am forced—like I have to take my camera and film, though I don’t know why. It’s not me who decides. I feel that I have to take the camera and film. That is what’s happening. It’s not a calculated kind of thing. The same when I write. It’s not calculated. Not planned at all. It just happens. My filmmaking doesn’t cost money and doesn’t take time. Because one can always afford to film 10 seconds in one day or shoot one roll of film in a month. It’s not that complicated. I always had a job of one kind of other to support myself because I had to live, I had to eat, and I had to film.

How do you feel about art schools? Is being an artist something that can be taught?

I never wanted to make art. I would not listen to anybody telling me how to do it. No, nobody can teach you to do it your way. You have to discover by doing it. That’s the only way. It’s only by doing that you discover what you still need, what you don’t know, and what you still have to learn. Maybe some technical things you have to learn for what you really want to do, but you don’t know when you begin. You don’t know what you want to do. Only when you begin doing do you discover which direction you’re going and what you may need on the journey that you’re traveling. But you don’t know at the beginning.

That’s why I omitted film schools. Why learn everything? You may not need any of it. Or while you begin the travel of the filmmaker’s journey, maybe you discover that you need to know more about lighting, for instance. Maybe what you are doing needs lighting. You want to do something more artificial, kind of made up, so then you study lights, you study lenses, you study whatever you feel you don’t know and you need. When you make a narrative film, a big movie with actors and scripts, you need all that, but when you just try to sing, you don’t need anything. You just sing by yourself with your camera or with your voice or you dance. On one side it is being a part of the Balanchine, on the other side it is someone dancing in the street for money. I’m the one who dances in the street for money and nobody throws me pennies. Actually, I get a few pennies… but that’s about it.

You’ve made lots of different kinds of films over many years. Did you always feel like you were still learning, still figuring it out as your went along?

Not necessarily. I would act stupid sometimes when people used to see me with my Bolex recording some random moment. They’d say, “What is this?” I’d say, “Oh nothing, it’s not serious.” I would hide from Maya Deren. I never wanted her to see me filming because she would say, “But this is not serious. You need a script!” Then I’d say, “Oh, I’m just fooling. I’m just starting to learn,” but it was just an excuse that I was giving, that I’m trying to learn. I always knew that this was more or less the materials I’d always be using. I was actually filming. There is not much to learn in this kind of cinema, other than how to turn on a camera. What you learn, you discover as you go. What you are really learning is how to open yourself to all the possibilities. How to be very, very, very open to the moment and permitting the muse to come in and dictate. In other words, the real work you are doing is on yourself."



"You are a kind of master archivist. I’m looking around this space—which is packed with stuff, but it all appears to be pretty meticulously organized. How important is it to not only document your work, but to also be a steward of your own archives.

You have to. For me there is constantly somebody who wants to see something in the archives, so I have to deal with it. I cannot neglect them. These are my babies. I have to take care of them. I learned very early that it’s very important to keep careful indexes of everything so that it helps you to find things easily when it’s needed. For example, I have thousands of audio cassettes, in addition to all the visual materials. I have a very careful index of every cassette. I know what’s on it. You tell me the name of the person or the period and I will immediately, within two or three minutes, be able to retrieve it. People come here and look around and say, “Oh, how can you find anything in this place?” No, I find it very easily.

I always carry a camera with me in order to capture or record a couple images and sometimes conversations. Evenings, parties, dinners, meetings, friends. Now, it’s all on video, but back when I was using the Bolex camera, I always had a Sony tape recorder in my pocket—a tiny Sony and that picked up sounds. I have a lot of those from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s. Hundreds and hundreds. I have books which are numbered, each page has written down what’s on each numbered cassette. I don’t index everything, that would be impossible, but approximation is enough. I advise everyone to do this. Record things. Keep an index. It’s very important."



"Aside from all of those projects, do you still have a sort of day-to-day creative practice?

I never needed a creative practice. I don’t believe in creativity. I just do things. I grew up on a farm where we made things, grew things. They just grow and you plant the seeds and then they grow. I just keep making things, doing things. Has nothing to do with creativity. I don’t need creativity."



"And the last remaining company that still made VCRs recently went out of business.

So, all of this new technology, it’s okay for now… but it’s very temporary. You could almost look at it from a spiritual angle. All technology is temporary. Everything falls to dust anyway. And yet, you keep making things."
jonasmekas  2017  film  filmmaking  poetry  documentation  archives  collage  books  writing  creativity  howwewrite  biography  autobiography  art  work  labor  technology  video  vcrs  temporary  ephemeral  ephemerality  making  howwework  howwemake  journals  email  everyday 
19 days ago by robertogreco
Translation Blogs We Think You Should Be Reading | Center for the Art of Translation | Two Lines Press
"Here are some of our favorite translation blogs (listed alphabetically). And we need your help! Which ones are we missing?

• Arablit was founded by M. Lynx Qualey and covers Arabic literature in (and not yet in) translation. There you can find roundups of forthcoming books translated from Arabic, book reviews, resources for teachers of Arabic literature in translation, and so much more. Plus, it’s the home of the ArabLit Story Prize.
https://arablit.org/

• Asymptote’s blog has a regular circulation of reviews, essays, and translations, as well as a weekly roundup of world literature news.
https://www.asymptotejournal.com/blog/
https://arablit.org/category/teaching-with-arabic-literature-in-translation/
https://arablit.org/2018/02/11/sunday-submissions-announcing-the-2018-arablit-story-prize/

• Biblibio is the blog of Meytal Radzinski, the founder of the Women in Translation movement and WITMonth. As Radzinski herself describes: “Biblibio is not a review blog. What does that mean? It means that the humble figure behind the veil sees the purpose of this blog as discussing a life in books in general, not only through reviews (though obviously somewhat). Bibli – book. Bio – life. This is a life in letters.”
https://biblibio.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/Read_WIT

• The Complete Review and its accompanying blog, The Literary Saloon, are run by M. A. Orthofer. Go here for reviews of books both popular and obscure, as well as international literary news that is rarely covered elsewhere. A great resource!
http://www.complete-review.com/main/main.html
http://www.complete-review.com/saloon/index.htm

• Conversational Reading is the blog of our own Publicity Director and Senior Editor, Veronica Scott Esposito. While not exclusively translation, the blog is largely translation-focused, including lists of interesting new and forthcoming books, Q&As with translators and authors, essays, and other related news in the field.
http://conversationalreading.com/
http://conversationalreading.com/category/interviews/

• Lizok’s Bookshelf is the blog of award-winning Russian translator Lisa Hayden. This is the go-to place for those interested in Russian literature. Lisa will let you know what is going on in the world of Russian literary prizes, tell you about interesting books coming out in Russia, books she’s reading, and, of course, books she’s translating.
https://lizoksbooks.blogspot.com/

• Reader@Large is the blog of Tara Cheesman-Olmsted, a freelance book critic, National Book Critic Circle member, and 2018 Best Translated Book Award fiction judge. The blog began as a general book review blog, but Tara currently only reviews books by international authors and translations, with a preference for small presses!
https://readeratlarge.com/

• Three Percent is the translation blog of the University of Rochester. Chad Post delights us with in-depth blog posts on a wide range of topics within the translation field. Home to book reviews, the Best Translation Book Award, and updates on trends in the translation field (including graphs and all kinds of fancy data analysis)!
https://www.rochester.edu/College/translation/threepercent/

• Tony’s Reading List is the blog of a true international literature aficionado. Dive into the expansive book review archives (spanning back to 2009) or, if you’re feeling adventurous, dig into something a little different.
https://tonysreadinglist.wordpress.com/
https://tonysreadinglist.wordpress.com/something-a-little-different/

• Translationista is the blog of Susan Bernofsky, German-language translator extraordinaire. She’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest literary prizes, as well as other news in the field. Make sure you check out: “Getting the Rights to Translate a Work: A How-To Guide” and “Tips for Beginning Translators.”
http://translationista.com/
http://translationista.com/2017/02/getting-rights-translate-work.html
http://translationista.com/2017/08/tips-beginning-translators.html

• WWB Daily, the blog of Words Without Borders, features a monthly watchlist of books coming out that month, in-depth essays by translators, excerpts from forthcoming books in translation.
https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/
https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/tarsila-do-amaral-translating-modernism-in-brazil-elisa-wouk-almino
https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/first-read-from-lion-cross-point-masatsugu-ono-angus-turvill "
blogs  translation  writing  language  languages  books  arabic  srg 
22 days ago by robertogreco
Spaces of encounter: the performative art of reading | Thinkpiece | Architectural Review
"When the ‘counter novel’ Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar was published in 1963 it was celebrated as one of the most innovative experiments in 20th-century literature. The book was written to allow and encourage many different and complementary readings. As the author’s note at the beginning of the novel suggests, it can be read either progressively in the first 56 chapters or by ‘hopscotching’ through the entire set of 155 chapters according to a ‘Table of Instructions’. Cortázar also allows the reader the option of choosing their own unique path through the book. It’s no coincidence that the narrative – from the title of the book to the several overlapping stories that are contained in it – is based on a game often played in small groups in public spaces and playgrounds, in which the player has to hop or jump to retrieve a small object tossed into numbered patterns drawn on the ground. The book’s main structure has strong allusions to the notions of ‘space’ and the way we navigate through it, with its three main sections entitled ‘From the Other Side’, ‘From this Side’, and ‘From Diverse Sides’.

[image: "Since 2010, the ‘book bloc’ has been a visible feature of protests"]

Similarly, but from a different perspective, one of the first things the reader notes when flipping through Fantasies of the Library edited by Anne-Sophie Springer and Etienne Turpin and published in 2016 by MIT Press, is that the book itself can be understood as a kind of public space. In effect, it presents a brilliant dérive through books, book collections and the physical spaces of libraries from a curatorial perspective, going from private collections and the way their shelves are organised, to more ad hoc and temporary infrastructures, such as the People’s Library at Occupy Wall Street in New York, or the Biblioburro, a travelling library in Colombia that distributes books from the backs of two donkeys, Alfa and Beto. Various configurations and layouts have been designed in response to these narratives. They include essays, photos and interviews, setting up different kinds of encounters between authors, editors, readers, photographers and illustrators. Once you have the book in your hands, you gradually start to apprehend that the four conversations are printed only on left-hand pages, interspersed with other essays on right-hand ones. So it is only when you start reading voraciously and are interrupted by the ‘non-sense’ of these jumps, when the understanding of the dynamics imposed by the layout manifests itself, that you become aware you are already ‘hopscotching’ from page to page. The chapter ‘Reading Rooms Reading Machines’ is not only a visual essay about the power of books to create spaces around them and gather a community, it is also a curated, annotated and provocative history of these spaces as a conceptual continuation between the book and the city, ‘two environments in conjunction’, as Springer writes.

In some ways, it resembles the encounters you have in the streets of your neighbourhood. Some people you only glance at, others you smile at, there are a few with whom you talk and if you’re lucky, you might meet a friend. Within the texts, you can hop back and forth, approving, underlining, or absorbing in more detail. From individual object to the container known as the library, the idea of the book as a territory is explored in depth. Different kinds and sizes of spaces and the interactions that happen in and between them emerge. Springer describes the library as ‘a hybrid site for performing the book’ – a place where the book is not a static object but a space in which the reader is an active agent, coming and going from the outside; outside the pages and outside the library. It recalls Ray Bradbury’s assertion that: ‘Books are in themselves already more than mere containers of information; they are also modes of connectivity and interrelation, making the library a meta-book containing illimitable intertextual elements.’

[image: "Improvised book blocs on the street" from source: Interference Archive]

In moving from the ‘hopscotching’ suggested by Cortázar to the idea of the ‘library as map’ as discussed by Springer and Turpin, it is clear that the inextricable relationship between books and space forms the basis of our understanding of books as spaces of encounter, and the importance of heterogeneous books – whether fiction, poetry or critical theory – as spaces of encounter for architectural discourse. In that sense, books can be perceived as new kinds of spaces, where empathy, alterity and otherness are stronger than ideologies. Catalysing dissent and open dialogue, they can be one of the most effective tools of resistance in times of censorship, fake news and post-truth. Social anthropologist Athena Athanasiou explains how books have been used in public space as part of political struggles. ‘People have taken to the streets to fight for critical thinking and public education, turning books into banners and shields against educational cuts and neoliberal regimes of university governance’, she writes. This activism emphasises the strong symbolic power of the relationship between books and architectural spaces, ‘where the books were not only at the barricades, they were the barricades’. Such agency can transgress almost any kind of limit or boundary, and can happen in any sort of space – from your mobile device to the library or the street. But it is in the public sphere where the book’s agency can have the ‘power to affect’, becoming ‘a hybrid site for performing the book’ beyond the confines of the library.

Books can be ‘performed’ in many ways, especially when critical writing and the act of reading create spaces of encounter in the city. In June 2013, after plans were unveiled to develop Istanbul’s Gezi Park, artist Erdem Gunduz initiated his Standing Man protest while he stood motionless in Taksim Square for eight hours. This thoughtful form of resistance inspired a group of ‘silent readers’ who successfully transformed a space of fighting and friction into a meaningful space of encounter by simply standing still and reading books. It became known as the Tak sim Square Book Club, paradoxically one of the most dynamic demonstrations in recent years. The strength and energy contained in the bodies of each reader, but also in every book and the endless stories and narratives between covers, transformed Taksim Square into a highly politicised space. Instead of being compromised by conflict between government and citizens, it became a space of encounter that gave agency to each silent reader and to the wider collectivity they brought into being.

[image: "Readers in Istanbul’s Taksim Square transform the space through peaceful activism"]

The moment when writing, often carried out in solitude, is published, circulated and made accessible to everyone is the moment of generating public space, argues the French philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman. This was demonstrated in the ‘Parasitic Reading Room’, a nomadic, spontaneous and parasitic set of reading spaces staged during the opening days of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial. Initially consisting of a series of out-loud readings of texts at selected venues, it then expanded to become an urban dérive across the streets of the city in the company of a mobile radio broadcasting the live readings. In that moment, the ‘walking reading room’ became a space of exchange, knowledge and collaboration. Different points of view coexisted, enriching each other, forming knowledge assemblages. It reminds us that reading together, whether silently or aloud, forces us to interact, to respect the times and rhythms of others, to learn new words and their sounds and to think new thoughts. In doing so, we rediscover new territories of empathy that become visible when visiting these spaces of encounter, where we learn that we can host otherness as part of the self. Where comradeship is a means instead of an end. Books create the spaces in which to play hopscotch together again."
ethelbaraonapohl  césarreyesnájera  books  reading  howweread  howwewrite  rayuela  2019  neilgaiman  fiction  space  performance  etienneturpin  derive  collections  libraries  raybradbury  connectivity  interrelation  hypertext  athenaathanasiou  architecture  protest  biblioburro  nomads  nomadism  nomadic  ows  occupywallstreet  conversation  neighborhoods  urban  urbanism  cities  istanbul  geziprk  erdemgunduz  taksimsquare  georgesdidi-huberman  comradeship  solidarity  empathy  writing  visibility  hopscotch  juliocortázar  anna-sophiespringer  dérive 
25 days ago by robertogreco
The 'Future Book' Is Here, but It's Not What We Expected | WIRED
"THE FUTURE BOOK was meant to be interactive, moving, alive. Its pages were supposed to be lush with whirling doodads, responsive, hands-on. The old paperback Zork choose-your-own-adventures were just the start. The Future Book would change depending on where you were, how you were feeling. It would incorporate your very environment into its story—the name of the coffee shop you were sitting at, your best friend’s birthday. It would be sly, maybe a little creepy. Definitely programmable. Ulysses would extend indefinitely in any direction you wanted to explore; just tap and some unique, mega-mind-blowing sui generis path of Joycean machine-learned words would wend itself out before your very eyes.

Prognostications about how technology would affect the form of paper books have been with us for centuries. Each new medium was poised to deform or murder the book: newspapers, photography, radio, movies, television, videogames, the internet.

Some viewed the intersection of books and technology more positively: In 1945, Vannevar Bush wrote in The Atlantic: “Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.”

Researcher Alan Kay created a cardboard prototype of a tablet-like device in 1968. He called it the "Dynabook," saying, “We created a new kind of medium for boosting human thought, for amplifying human intellectual endeavor. We thought it could be as significant as Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press 500 years ago.”

In the 1990s, Future Bookism hit a kind of beautiful fever pitch. We were so close. Brown University professor Robert Coover, in a 1992 New York Times op-ed titled “The End of Books,” wrote of the future of writing: “Fluidity, contingency, indeterminacy, plurality, discontinuity are the hypertext buzzwords of the day, and they seem to be fast becoming principles, in the same way that relativity not so long ago displaced the falling apple.” And then, more broadly: “The print medium is a doomed and outdated technology, a mere curiosity of bygone days destined soon to be consigned forever to those dusty unattended museums we now call libraries.”

Normal books? Bo-ring. Future Books? Awesome—indeterminate—and we were almost there! The Voyager Company built its "expanded books" platform on Hypercard, launching with three titles at MacWorld 1992. Microsoft launched Encarta on CD-ROM.

But … by the mid-2000s, there still were no real digital books. The Rocket eBook was too little, too early. Sony launched the eink-based Librie platform in 2004 to little uptake. Interactive CD-ROMs had dropped off the map. We had Wikipedia, blogs, and the internet, but the mythological Future Book—some electric slab that would somehow both be like and not like the quartos of yore—had yet to materialize. Peter Meirs, head of technology at Time, hedged his bets perfectly, proclaiming: “Ultimately, there will be some sort of device!”

And then there was. Several devices, actually. The iPhone launched in June 2007, the Kindle that November. Then, in 2010, the iPad arrived. High-resolution screens were suddenly in everyone’s hands and bags. And for a brief moment during the early 2010s, it seemed like it might finally be here: the glorious Future Book."



"Yet here’s the surprise: We were looking for the Future Book in the wrong place. It’s not the form, necessarily, that needed to evolve—I think we can agree that, in an age of infinite distraction, one of the strongest assets of a “book” as a book is its singular, sustained, distraction-free, blissfully immutable voice. Instead, technology changed everything that enables a book, fomenting a quiet revolution. Funding, printing, fulfillment, community-building—everything leading up to and supporting a book has shifted meaningfully, even if the containers haven’t. Perhaps the form and interactivity of what we consider a “standard book” will change in the future, as screens become as cheap and durable as paper. But the books made today, held in our hands, digital or print, are Future Books, unfuturistic and inert may they seem."

[sections on self-publishing, crowdfunding, email newsletters, social media, audiobooks and podcasts, etc.]



"It turns out smartphones aren’t the best digital book reading devices (too many seductions, real-time travesties, notifications just behind the words), but they make excellent audiobook players, stowed away in pockets while commuting. Top-tier podcasts like Serial, S-Town, and Homecoming have normalized listening to audio or (nonfiction) booklike productions on smartphones."



"Last August, a box arrived on my doorstep that seemed to embody the apotheosis of contemporary publishing. The Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition was published via a crowdfunding campaign. The edition includes a book of images, three records, and a small poster packaged in an exquisite box set with supplementary online material. When I held it, I didn’t think about how futuristic it felt, nor did I lament the lack of digital paper or interactivity. I thought: What a strange miracle to be able to publish an object like this today. Something independently produced, complex and beautiful, with foil stamping and thick pages, full-color, in multiple volumes, made into a box set, with an accompanying record and other shimmering artifacts, for a weirdly niche audience, funded by geeks like me who are turned on by the romance of space.

We have arrived to the once imagined Future Book in piecemeal truths.

Moving images were often espoused to be a core part of our Future Book. While rarely found inside of an iBooks or Kindle book, they are here. If you want to learn the ukulele, you don’t search Amazon for a Kindle how-to book, you go to YouTube and binge on hours of lessons, stopping when you need to, rewinding as necessary, learning at your own pace.

Vannevar Bush's “Memex” essentially described Wikipedia built into a desk.

The "Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an iPhone.

In The Book of Sand, Borges wrote of an infinite book: "It was then that the stranger told me: 'Study the page well. You will never see it again.'" Describing in many ways what it feels like to browse the internet or peek at Twitter.

Our Future Book is composed of email, tweets, YouTube videos, mailing lists, crowdfunding campaigns, PDF to .mobi converters, Amazon warehouses, and a surge of hyper-affordable offset printers in places like Hong Kong.

For a “book” is just the endpoint of a latticework of complex infrastructure, made increasingly accessible. Even if the endpoint stays stubbornly the same—either as an unchanging Kindle edition or simple paperback—the universe that produces, breathes life into, and supports books is changing in positive, inclusive ways, year by year. The Future Book is here and continues to evolve. You’re holding it. It’s exciting. It’s boring. It’s more important than it has ever been.

But temper some of those flight-of-fancy expectations. In many ways, it’s still a potato."
craigmod  ebooks  reading  howweread  2018  kindle  eink  print  publishing  selfpublishing  blurb  lulu  amazon  ibooks  apple  digital  bookfuturism  hypertext  hypercard  history  vannevarbush  borges  twitter  animation  video  newsletters  email  pdf  mobi  epub  infrastructure  systems  economics  goldenrecord  voyager  audio  audiobooks  smarthphones  connectivity  ereaders  podcasts  socialmedia  kevinkelly  benthompson  robinsloan  mailchimp  timbuktulabs  elenafavilli  francescacavallo  jackcheng  funding  kickstarter  crowdfunding  blogs  blogging  wikipedia  internet  web  online  writing  howwewrite  self-publishing  youtube 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
John Warner on Twitter: "I see defenses of the five-paragraph essay which describe the template as "training wheels" for developing writers. I unpack this in "Why They Can't Write" arguing that training wheels are not a help in developing essential skills
"I see defenses of the five-paragraph essay which describe the template as "training wheels" for developing writers. I unpack this in "Why They Can't Write" arguing that training wheels are not a help in developing essential skills, but a hack to prevent academic disaster.

This is true of training wheels on bikes. Research has shown that training wheels actually prevent the development of the most important skill for bike riding...balance. The training wheels function as a guard against children cracking their heads when supervision isn't available

Those bike training wheels may be a necessity so children can get around on a bike without being in physical danger, but experts now recommend children learning on "balance bikes" where their feet touch the ground from a young age. When it's time for a pedal bike, they're ready.

I believe one of the reasons we see the 5PE as a useful set of training wheels is because we fear (with justification) what happens if students have to practice the writing equivalent of balance (making choices) from the get go. None of this is the fault of teachers.

When students are being judged against standardized assessments from an early age, and teachers are judged on student performance, turning to the 5PE is a way of preventing potential disaster. It's sensible, rational, but I argue, it's not helping students learn to write.

IMO, writing is thinking, so anything that keeps students from developing their thinking and making choices ultimately delays or prevents their development. The 5PE is part of a system that punishes exploration, choice, freedom, because of an obsession with "assessment."

The 5PE has a long history that's always tied to assessment. It hasn't always been a part of schooling, however. I'm 48 and wasn't introduced to the 5PE until high school when it was introduced as a hack for AP exams. The saving grace is I'd already learned to think like a writer

When teachers say that students "need" the 5PE, I always want to know what they need it for, and it's almost always driven by a particular assessment, an assessment which may not be well-aligned with the experiences which help writers develop. This disconnect is at every level.

For a good chunk of my own teaching career, I enforced the disconnect by giving students more sophisticated versions of the 5PE in order to prevent disaster in "college" writing. Over time, came to believe I my prescriptions were hurting long term development more than helping.

My own big pedagogical shift came when I decided to look at my approach not as helping them do well on the assignment at hand, but looking more longterm, helping students develop their writing "practices" (knowledge, skills, attitudes, habits of mind of writers).

Taking that longer view often resulted in student writing artifacts that were not as accomplished as when I used more prescriptive methods. That was hard to swallow. But...I could see students engaged with a more challenging and ultimately rewarding struggle. That seemed worth it

As I became more familiar with the research on writing for transfer, I saw I'd stumbled on something lots of folks were already studying. Building a writing practice is just one framework for thinking about how experiences in writing transfer from one occasion to another.

Importantly, I had the freedom to make this shift. Even as a contingent college instructor, no one was breathing down my neck and I wasn't beholden to my students' performances on high stakes assessments. K-12 teachers are not allowed this same freedom.

Ultimately, this is why I decided that the front part of Why They Can't Write would have to examine the systemic problems underlying the teaching and learning of writing. Pedagogy is not a fix by itself. It isn't even the most important factor.

As long as we have a system which privileges compliance and conformity and constrains teacher and student freedom and agency, the 5PE will be useful. When it's a route to AP credit or college admission, it could be malpractice not to teach it.

But this is not the same as teaching students to write. It's training them to pass assessments, assessments which may be important, but which hold little meaning, particularly to students, which turns writing into something alienating, rather than liberating, a big problem IMO.

I do not criticize teachers who use the 5PE, but I will always question what's underneath that "need." Usually when we go looking, we see things that are actually not conducive to learning like standardization and surveillance, which inevitably lead to anxiety, or worse.

We must give K-12 teachers the freedom and power to work with the longterm development of their students in mind, rather than being beholden to these assessments which measure little that's meaningful. Without that freedom, we're stuck in this system.

To come full circle back to the training wheels theme, we have to make it so when students are developing their writing practices, they get to "fail" productively, rather than failure being something like flying over the handlebars and cracking a skull.

With writing, "mistakes" and error should always be occasions for learning, not punishment, and definitely not punishment of teachers. I spent years developing Why They Can't Write, and based on early readers, there's already stuff I'd change. That's exciting.

It's exciting because my ideas are being taken seriously by other people with similar concerns. My ideas matter to me, and them, and those ideas can be made better. Why wouldn't I want my students to have the same joy? It can be done, I believe.

Here is where I plug a forthcoming book which is my attempt to create the conditions under which students can experience similar pleasure with writing. Curriculum isn't going to save us by itself, but this is my best (current) attempt at living my values. https://www.amazon.com/Writers-Practice-Building-Confidence-Nonfiction/dp/0143133152/

And a coda. Here's a link to a dissertation by @jtdavisii which includes a deeply researched and fascinating history of the use of the 5PE. That part starts on P. 53 https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1076&context=english_diss "

[See also:

Just got this important book in the mail... only a few pages in and I want every teacher who teaches writing (in other words, all teachers across all content areas) to read it. https://twitter.com/biblioracle/status/1079043288596992001
@biblioracle: I see defenses of the five-paragraph essay which describe the template as "training wheels" for developing writers. I unpack this in "Why They Can't Write" arguing that training wheels are not a help in developing…

@triciaebarvia
Especially consider what @biblioracle says about the faulty 5PE=training wheels analogy. Training wheels don’t teach balance. 5PE doesn’t teach thinking. #DisruptWriting

@triciaebarvia
I’ve also heard Ts say that 5PE is a scaffold. But scaffolds are temporary. A scaffold’s purpose is literally to render itself unnecessary. Yet the 5PE is being perpetrated into the middle and upper grades. #DisruptWriting

@triciaebarvia
Not to mention the fact that the 5PE, as a tool of standardization, is ultimately a tool that oppresses individual human voices—& by not making space for linguistic diversity & freedom, the 5PE is not culturally relevant pedagogy. (Or, I should say, it teaches culture but whose?)

@DulceFlecha
is #disruptwriting gonna be a thing??? online writing groups? sharing favorite mentor texts???

@edifiedlistener
Bring it. I'm ready. Still learning so much about process and potential. I still hold a lot of fear of experimenting which is why fiction writing stays out of bounds for me.

@DulceFlecha
I'm currently reading a book on trauma and memoir writing and its funny how many of these writers started off trying to write fiction instead. it's funny how desperately we cling to genre.

@DulceFlecha
and it's funny how desperately important the culture of a proofreader is. months ago I asked 5 (dope, wonderful) people to read a draft. only one caught the typo I made in the first sentence.

@TheJLV was the only Dominican. I forgot the A in tambora.

@DulceFlecha
it made me wonder how student writing changes when their primary reader-- the reader they give the most weight to-- is probably a white, middle class woman. what slips by? what changes does the teacher recommend that a cultural, racial peer wouldn't?

@DulceFlecha
when we prioritize the teacher as the most important reader-- the teacher grades, praises, deems finished or incomplete-- are we training kids to write for a white audience? and how can we disrupt that?

@triciaebarvia
Yes, yes we are. And I’d argue that most of what we’re doing in schools is teaching not just for a white audience but Whiteness itself. How to disrupt? Culturally relevant, responsive, sustaining pedagogy. I wonder how many Ts see their instruction as grounded in CSP, though...

@DulceFlecha
who gets to judge what is culturally sustaining? might be the next question. educators. families. students. communities. some combination of the four?

@triciaebarvia
Yes, definitely some combination. Too often it’s the culture of the teacher/school (Whiteness) that is perpetuated under guises like “college and career ready.”

@DulceFlecha
my new site yaught me that the only expert on a kid's culture is the kid. which I think I knew personally? my mother and I did not react the same way to the Poet X.

but I didn't know it professionally until immigration shelters.

@DulceFlecha
and now I'm always afraid, because the overwhelming majority of my kids are headed to U.S. schools. and there are so many aspects of culture we don't discuss in context of undocumented immigration."]
fiveparagraphessays  writing  howweteach  teaching  howwewrite  teachingwriting  eucation  johnarner  triciaebarvia  sherrispelic   
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Gay Love Stories of Moomin and the Queer Radicality of Tove Jansson | Autostraddle
"In 1955, Tove Jansson asked Tuulikki Pietilä to dance. They had sat all night around the gramophone together, guarding it whilst they played their records so that nobody could change the music. But Pietilä said no: same-sex relationships were still illegal in Finland — and would be until 1971 — and – the threat of judgement from peers and colleagues was intense. Queer people know well the hollow of panic, deep in the gut, when you think that your disguises may have failed. It is why, historically, we have avoided large displays of affection; why our histories take the form of private letters, fragments hidden inside books and diaries. The story of Tove and Tuulikki is no different; soon after she refused to dance, Tuulikki sent Tove a card with a cat, fat and striped, hand-drawn on the front. A code that meant: I am thinking of you. After telephone calls over the holidays, Tove finally set off to Tuulikki’s studio. It was March, and snowing, when she walked over; the streets were dark and the fat flakes fell in drifts that made the roads shine. When she got there, the studio warm and light like a ship’s cabin at sea, they drank wine and played French records.

Jansson’s queerness is often left out in stories of her life. Puffin editions of Moomin books talked about how she lived alone on her Finnish island; documentaries still talk of Pietilä as a lifelong friend. Jansson is no
 misnomer, rather, she fits in neatly with the trend of avoiding the personal lives of gay people
 – particularly lesbians – that exists to this day. Society dissolves queer realities: erases the two bodies sharing a bed, wrapped around each other, the two bodies fucking, the moments and hours and days, the holding hands and arguing and kissing and small talk. As seen throughout history, gayness is coded as dangerous for children. It is portrayed something purely sexual or purely chaste, rarely afforded the complexity and nuance afforded to heterosexual relationships. For Jansson to be a successful children’s writer she was portrayed as sexless, loveless. It’s particularly egregious when queerness informs the work of a writer to that extent that it did for Jansson. Not only do the themes of loneliness, family and love shape her work for adults and children, but she included characters based on her female lovers in many of her works.

Before meeting Pietilä, Jansson had been in a creative crisis. She knew the demand was high for another Moomin book, but dreaded the thought of repeating herself – she longed for new ground to tread, for the freedom of inspiration. As her fame had increased, so had her awareness that the Moomins were no longer hers alone; they now appeared on waste paper baskets and brooches and wrapping paper, and the public always wanted more. In 1955 she wrote of her conflicting feelings, saying, “I can’t recall exactly when I became hostile to my work, or how it happened and what I should do to recapture my natural pleasure in it.” The knowledge that she had to write another Moomin book loomed large in her mind. It was precisely Pietilä’s influence that helped overcome her writer’s block: “That I was able to write Moominland Midwinter was entirely due to Tooti,” Jansson stated to biographer Boel Westin in Tove Jansson: Life, Art Words. Out of their love letters the character of Too-tikky had been formed, first as an inky doodle of her lover’s likeness (‘My Tootikki!’, she nicknamed Pietilä), and then slowly as a fleshed-out form.

Moominland Midwinter was a radical departure from the sun-drenched summers of the Moomin valley that readers had seen before — sailing boats framed by orange-slice suns, picnics on the terrace, dances in the woods. Instead, Moomin wakes up from hibernation in the cold dark of a Finnish winter, pine trees blanketed with snow. He is disoriented and scared, eager to wake up his mother for comfort. However, when she turns away from him in her sleep he realises he must deal with this new world — and his yearning for spring — on his own. There to help him is Too-tikky, as no-nonsense as her flesh and blood counterpart, who describes to him the dancing colours of the Northern Lights, states “One has to discover everything for oneself.” Moomin realises that the winter is needed, for after it follows the spring, lush and bright and alive. It’s hard not to read this as a mirror of Jansson and Pietilä’s relationship, blooming out of the snow and cold — in Moominland Midwinter, our narrator states “There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don’t fit in with others and that nobody really believes in.” The winter gives us as queer people the chance to show ourselves, to claim the world as ours.

This wasn’t the first lover she had included in her stories: Vivica Bandler, the married theatre director with whom Jansson had an affair in 1946, became the character of Bob. Bob’s counterpart, Thingumy, was Tove, who wrote to Bandler, “No one understands their language, but that doesn’t matter so long as they themselves know what it’s all about… Do you love me? Of dourse you coo! Sanks and the thame to you!” This exchange ended up almost entirely complete in Jansson’s next Moomin book, Finn Family Moomintroll, where Thingumy and Bob are introduced as intertwined, inextricable creatures, their names better known in conjunction than when on their own. They even look the same, only differentiated by the hat Bob wears. By placing them, idiosyncratic and unmissable, at the centre of the story, Jansson was able to make a public declaration of love in a private manner. Her passion – her willingness to depict their relationship for anybody who could decipher the code – led Bandler to warn her to be secretive. Not only was their love illegal, but it was classed as a psychiatric condition, and its reveal would have cost both women their livelihoods and families.

Queerness is Jansson’s works is never as simplistic as direct representation of lovers. It’s something that seeped into the pages, flowing along the lines in the illustrations. In a letter to Bandler, Jansson talks of how “everything has changed since I met you! Every tone is more vivid, every colour cleaner, all my perceptions are sharper.” Already so occupied with “pure, fresh colours” – fleshy greens and cornflower blues and sherbet yellows – Jansson’s passion for Bandler allowed her to utilise them further in her work, encouraging her to use them with a giddy joy on the front cover of Finn Family Moomintroll. Her renewed passion for colour around this time is also prominent in the murals she painted in Helsinki Town Hall, into which she painted Bandler, a tiny Moomintroll and herself; fan in one hand, cigarette in the other, turning her blue eyes away from the viewer’s gaze.

Throughout Finn Family Moomintroll there is a presence, cold and dark and flat, sucking the light from the sun, wilting the flowers. The Groke is the closest the Moomin books get to an antagonist, although even she is treated with sympathy. She is grey as a storm cloud, and wherever she goes the plants and creatures die. She is the antithesis of Thingumy and Bob’s happiness, the embodiment of loneliness to their companionship. It is they who get to keep suitcase of rubies in the end of the story, a treasure many long for but one whose dazzling contents are only available to those who have ‘the right’ to own it — their love makes them the only ones suitable for the honour. It’s tempting to read the Groke as an allegory for the bigotry of a society that seeks to separate lovers, and for the misery that follows. In typical Tove fashion, however, the Groke is not a figure of hatred or derision, but one of pity.

It is Too-Ticky who, in Moominland Midwinter, encourages us to empathise with the Groke — to consider how desperately lonely a life untouched by love must be. This is not to say that Jansson did not face the isolation that is inherent in the lives of most queer people — although she remained with Pietilä for the rest of her life, and although they shared connected apartments and their island cottage, she could never discuss her love with her family. Jansson was open with her friends, telling them that she the “happiest and most genuine solution for me will be to go over to the spook side;” a wonderfully matter-of-fact way of resolving her own conflicts over her sexuality. But both her father and her mother were unable to discuss it with her — Jansson describes how her father tried to speak with her after he had heard gossip, but ultimately, he could not say the “difficult word homosexual.” Jansson suspected that her mother knew, but never raised the subject, writing “I can accept this […] But it feels lonely.”

Only after her parents had died did Jansson write Fair Play, a collection of short stories that fictionalised her relationship with Pietilä. The characters in the book, Jonna and Mari, live as Jansson and Pietilä do – in adjoining apartments with connecting studios. They are – respectively – an artist, and an illustrator and writer. The stories are quiet: Jonna and Mari watch westerns together, try to protect their fishing nets from a storm, bicker over the way paintings hang on the wall. They travel to America, as their real-life counterparts did, and sleep in a tent when a guest stays in their island cottage. But it’s everyday-ness is precisely what makes it so calmly radical. It is a portrait of a lifelong lesbian couple, allowing us to see into their daily lives, the minutiae of how they live, and on display at the centre of everything is their love for one another. In her introduction Ali Smith brilliantly summarises it as “affectionate discretion […] a good-working love, a homage to the kind of coupledom that rarely receives such homage.” No longer forced to be… [more]
tovejansson  tuulikkipietilä  2018  moomins  sexuality  writing  hannahilliams  queerness  relationships  creativity  finland  love  boelwestin  1955  1946  vivicabandler  language  groke  empathy  literature  howwerite  homosexuality  alismith  affection  discretion 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
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mac  oscx  windows  linux  ios  android  research  software  writing  srg  education  academia  applications 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Is "Show Don't Tell" a Universal Truth or a Colonial Relic? | Literary Hub
"In his essay “The Storyteller” (1936), cultural critic Walter Benjamin mourns the death of oral and communal storytelling, taken over in modern history by the novel, the “birthplace of the solitary reader,” and information technology with a rise in capitalism. Yet, what Benjamin posits as the organic evolution of oral, communal practices of storytelling into modern modes of storytelling, consumed by a reader in “privacy,” is in fact, the understanding of a Western history of storytelling as a universal one. As Maggie Awadalla and Paul March-Russell suggest in the introduction to their anthology The Postcolonial Short Story (2012), many non-Western countries did not transition “organically” from oral to written storytelling with a rise in capitalism. For many formerly or currently colonized spaces like South Asia, Africa, Caribbean, American South and Native America, there has always existed a rich, vibrant tradition of oral storytelling, one that was marginalized, often violently, through an imposition of an allegedly modern, white Western language and culture. In their study, Postcolonial Studies: The Key Concepts (1998), Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin defend “orality” not as a cultural precondition that morphed into a more advanced written culture, but orality as a counterpart to writing, where both co-exist, complement and transform each other constantly. This coexistence of oral and written modes of storytelling continues to thrive in postcolonial spaces, including those of Asia and Africa.

In her now-canonical essay “Characteristics of Negro Expression” (1934), Zora Neale Hurston makes a strong case for the use of vernacular—especially dialect and rhythm—in Black writing. In his story collection, Creole Folktales (1988) and equally canonical co-authored essay, “In Praise of Creoleness” (1989), Patrick Chamoiseau offers a manifesto for Caribbean storytelling that aims to free itself of French colonial gaze by transforming Martinican-French literature through a militant use of Creole. And while not through cultural theories or essays, contemporary writers like Salman Rushdie, Vikram Chandra, Roxane Gay, Junot Díaz, and Edwidge Danticat, among others, bring a strong, self-conscious vernacular in their stories. Their fiction questions not only an allegedly mainstream Euro-American storytelling marked by narrative brevity and an economy of words, as lauded by Edgar Allan Poe, John Barth and Francine Prose in their critical writing, but also the dominance of visuality in many fiction writing workshops with their show-don’t-tell credo, bolstered by our cinematic and digital age with its preference for images over sounds."



"James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Sandra Cisneros, Gish Jen, Tiphanie Yanique, ZZ Packer, Rajesh Parameswaran—the list of contemporary writing affirming oral and aural alternatives over a sight-based focus of storytelling is long. And I haven’t even gotten started with poetry-in-color, including an aesthetic legacy of rhythm in writing spawned by Papa Césaire and the Négritude movement. What I’ve explored above is a brief sampler on a multifaceted use of orality that challenges the boundaries of a more standard Euro-American literary English with its emphasis on brevity, clarity, and good grammar. In playing persistently with language, sounds and syntax, multiethnic fiction does not shy away from “writing in scenes,” however, it does dethrone the reign of eyesight to stress the importance of other senses in fiction, and hearing in particular.

That said, the use of vernacular or dialect is far from unique to non-Western writers writing within or outside the West. Time and again, major writers across the world have challenged the status quo of a hegemonic language by using the vernacular in different ways. I’m thinking here of Shakespeare and Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s linguistic innovation within English and French respectively, and of pioneering poets like Kabir who used the vernacular in Bhakti poetry to challenge the rule of Sanskrit in medieval South Asian literature.

And yet, the examples of multiethnic fiction I’ve shared above have all been published in the last couple of decades, following complex literary and historic changes that include mid-20th century’s wave of decolonization that swept the “third world,” the Civil Rights Movement in the US, the institutionalization of Ethnic Studies in the American Academy, and the literary canon wars that followed. This recent, layered, global history has led to a higher visibility of non-white, non-Western voices in the Western metropolitan publication scenes of New York, London and Paris. The content within contemporary multiethnic fiction often talks of identity, home and displacement; they ask questions like who has power and voice and who gets marginalized or silenced, these ideas fleshed out obsessively in stories through plot, theme, form, language, or a combination.

Orality within fiction that is deliberately engaging with power dynamics between the West and non-West—as evident in the title of Rushdie’s story collection East, West—thus becomes more than just a stylistic device or virtuosity with craft. The shift in sensory focus within multiethnic fiction from images to sounds holds a mirror to our contemporary, complex literary history, guiding the reader further to ways in which these stories maybe constructed, read, or deconstructed. Orality here becomes a political stance, an ideological move reminding the reader over and again that what we consume as universal in story craft, literary history, or aesthetic taste is anything but universal."
orality  oraltradition  visual  via:vruba  2018  storytelling  walterbenjamin  culture  tradition  namratapoddar  globalsouth  maggieawadalla  paulmarch-russell  billashcroft  garethgriffiths  helentiffin  vernacular  zoranealehurston  creole  creoleness  folktales  writing  salmanrushdie  vikramchandra  junotdíaz  edwidgedanticat  edgarallanpoe  johnbarth  fancineprose  criticalwriting  howwewrite  literacy  multiliteracies  dialect  rhythm  patrickchamoiseau  caribbean  africa  asia  colonialism  english  alicewalker  imperialism  gishjen  jamesbaldwin  tonimorrison  tiphanieyanique  zzpacker  showdon'ttell  sandracisneros  roxanegay  ajeshparameswaran  négritude  papacésaire  haiti  aural  oral  sight  brevity  clarity  grammar  fiction  aimécésaire  martinique  léopoldsédarsenghor  léondamas  postcolonialism  louis-ferdinandceline  latinamerica  indigenous  canon 
november 2018 by robertogreco
cameron tonkinwise on Twitter: "How long is the list of things you have learned from attending a conference (that you could not have learned by reading a blogpost/article [versus: would not have learned because TL;DR/‘pivot to video’]?"
"How long is the list of things you have learned from attending a conference (that you could not have learned by reading a blogpost/article [versus: would not have learned because TL;DR/‘pivot to video’]?

Of those things you did learn, how many did you put into (your) practice [without reading further to get more detail]?"

[my response, in a way:
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/1059178110703136768

"@jarrettfuller I fell asleep thinking about this"

@jarrettfuller and I woke up thinking about how your look into video essays http://jarrettfuller.com/projects/roughsketch … +

@jarrettfuller might go very well with the idea of the zero(/low)-carbon conference https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/t:conferences/t:sustainability … (first three bookmarks) + [no longer the fist three, but more than that]

@jarrettfuller and now I am wondering about what that would mean for teaching writing (video essay producing) and also what this all means now that we have seen the pivot-to-video debacle /fin ]
conferences  events  videoessays  jarrettfuller  sustainability  academia  climatechange  highered  highereducation  globalwarming  emissions  displacements  writing  howwewrite  teaching  teachingwriting  education  learning  howwelearn  camerontonkinwise  #displace18 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Frankétienne and Rewriting: A Work in Progress | French Studies | Oxford Academic
"In Frankétienne and Rewriting Rachel Douglas presents an elegant overview of Haitian Spiralist writer Frankétienne's literary praxis, connecting the author's ‘near-obsessive’ (p. 1) revising to broader postcolonial Caribbean literary phenomena. Douglas's study offers a comparative analysis of five major works, emphasizing the ethical and the aesthetic perspectives implicit in Frankétienne's ‘predilection for the process of writing over what is written; for production over finished product; and for the dynamic over the stable’ (p. 160). Douglas rightly insists on the importance of fully contextualizing the works in question, considering them always with respect to the changing historical, socio-economic, and cultural realities of twentieth-century Haiti. Yet, while noting the profound political imperative visible in Frankétienne's writings and rewritings, she is careful always to privilege the works' ‘literariness’ and the material, arguing that literary characteristics in Frankétienne connect with changing political, social, economic, and cultural circumstances in the Haiti he rewrites."

[See also:
https://muse.jhu.edu/article/481621
https://books.google.com/books/about/Frank%C3%A9tienne_and_Rewriting.html?id=ewyPMi4WZPAC
https://www.fabula.org/actualites/r-douglas-franketienne-and-rewriting-a-work-in-progress_31893.php
writing  howwewrite  process  frankétienne  2012  racheldouglas  kaiamaglover  2009  haiti  caribbean 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Frankétienne, Father of Haitian Letters, Is Busier Than Ever - The New York Times
"Frankétienne has had prophecies of death (his own) and destruction (Haiti’s).

The earthquake that wrecked this country in January 2010? It was foreseen, said Frankétienne, the man known as the father of Haitian letters, in his play “The Trap.” It was written two months before the disaster and depicts two men in a postapocalyptic landscape, now a familiar sight in his Delmas neighborhood here.

“The voice of God spoke to me,” said Frankétienne, 75, later noting he had also long dwelt on the ecological ruin he believes the planet is hurtling toward. As for his death, that will come in nine years, in 2020, he says, at age 84. He is not sick, he says, but he has learned to “listen to the divine music in all of us.”

And so the prolific novelist, poet and painter — often all three in a single work — hears his coda. He is vowing to complete a multivolume memoir “before I leave, physically,” while keeping up an increasingly busy schedule of exhibitions and conferences.

“I am going to talk about everything I have seen from age 5 or 6,” he said recently at his house-cum-museum and gallery. “And stuff that hasn’t happened yet because I am a prophet.”

Eccentric. Abstract. A “spiralist,” who rejects realism and embraces disorder. Frankétienne — he combined his first and last names years ago — embraces chaos as a style he believes befits a country with a long, tumultuous history birthed in a slave revolt more than 200 years ago and scarred by a cascade of natural and man-made disasters.

In chaos he finds order.

“I am not afraid of chaos because chaos is the womb of light and life,” he said, his baritone voice rising as it does when he gets worked up over a point. “What I don’t like is nonmanagement of chaos. The reason why Haiti looks more chaotic is because of nonmanagement. In other countries it is managed better. Haiti, they should take as reference for what could happen in the rest of world.”

Scholars widely view Frankétienne as Haiti’s most important writer. He wrote what many consider the first modern novel entirely in Haitian Creole, “Dezafi,” in 1975, and a play well known here that challenged political oppression, “Pelin Tet.” It is a biting work from 1978 that is aimed, not so subtly, at Jean-Claude Duvalier, the son of the dictator François Duvalier and himself a former dictator known as Baby Doc, who returned here from exile in January.

Although not well known in the English-speaking world, Frankétienne has star status in French- and Creole-speaking countries and was rumored to be on the short list for a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009.

After the quake, his works gained more international attention, particularly in Canada and France. “The Trap” debuted in March 2010 at a Unesco forum in Paris that named him an artist for peace; galleries in New York have organized shows featuring his artwork. Still, he also holds informal Sunday workshops with young artists in Haiti to talk about and critique their work.

“He is not only a major Haitian writer, he is probably the major Haitian writer, forever,” said Jean Jonassaint, a Haitian literature scholar at Syracuse University.

Frankétienne’s output, about 40 written works and, by his count, 2,000 paintings and sketches, comprises dense, baroque affairs. He invents new words, blending French and Haitian Creole. Long digressions are de rigueur. His paintings, which he says are selling particularly well these days, blur swirling blacks, blues and reds, often covered with poems.

He admires James Joyce, and it shows. “ ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ was like a crazy book, just like I write crazy books,” he said.

Still, the Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat said Frankétienne remained popular among Haitians, in part because some of his plays had been videotaped and passed around in Haiti and in immigrant communities in the United States.

“Pelin Tet,” in which the grim life of two Haitian immigrants in New York deliberately echoes the oppression of the Duvalier era on the island, is a touchstone for many Haitians, said Ms. Danticat, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Frankétienne and was, in part, inspired to write by his rise to the top.

“His work can speak to the most intellectual person in the society as well as the most humble,” she said. “It’s a very generous kind of genius he has, one I can’t imagine Haitian literature ever existing without.”

Frankétienne was born as Franck Étienne on April 12, 1936, and raised in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, the son of a Haitian farmworker and an American businessman, who later abandoned her.

Frankétienne’s mother worked as a street vendor — selling cigarettes, charcoal, candies, moonshine — while raising eight children.

“Since I was 5 or 6 I was smoking or drinking, but my mother never knew,” he recalled. He was the oldest, and she strove to send him to school (he, in turn, tutored his younger siblings, leading him to establish his own school).

The school he attended was French-speaking. Frankétienne initially did not know a word of French, but angered at being teased by other students, he set about mastering the language and developing an affinity for words and artistic expression.

His best-known works came in the 1960s and ’70s, and he ranks his novel “Dezafi” as one of his most cherished. Set in a rural Haitian village, it weaves cockfighting, zombification, the history of slavery and other themes into an allegory of the country’s pain and suffering.

“It is the challenge of finding the light to liberate everyone,” he said. He wrote it in Creole, he said, because that was the voice of the characters he imagined.

But Frankétienne also felt a need to assert his Haitian identity, as people often look at his fair skin, blue eyes and white hair and doubt he is from this predominantly black country.

“They might think I am white or mulatto or whatever, but I am not,” he said. “I have black features, Negro features. My mother was an illiterate peasant and she had me when she was 16. She was taken in by an American, a very rich American. The American was 63 and my mother was 16 at the time.”

Switching from Creole to English, which he is usually too timid to speak, he added, “You understand who I am now?”

After completing “Dezafi,” he was frustrated that so few of his compatriots could read it, with nearly half the adult population illiterate. He switched to plays, even if that meant irritating the dictatorship.

“Dictators are mean but not necessarily stupid, so they knew I didn’t have any readers,” Frankétienne said. “What really gave them a problem was when I started with plays.”

Other writers and artists left Haiti during the dictatorship, but he stayed as his reputation grew outside the country and human rights groups closely followed him, providing, he believes, some cover from Mr. Duvalier.

Later, he joined other intellectuals in denouncing Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically elected president after Jean-Claude Duvalier was overthrown. Mr. Aristide, he said, became fixated on power and tolerated corruption and thuggery in his administration.

“He is a ghost, too,” Frankétienne said of Mr. Aristide’s return in March after seven years in exile.

His only regret, he said, is that his work is not widely translated and better known. If he knew Chinese, Japanese, Italian or other languages, he said, he would put them in his works.

“Everything is interconnected,” he said. “We are connected to everything, everyone.”

Frankétienne added, “The only thing not chaotic is death.”"
frankétienne  haiti  2011  literature  chaos  death  writing  form  theater  poetry  creole  language  identity  education  zombies  voodoo  vodou  voudoun  slavery  history  jeanjonassaint  edwidgedanticat  babdydoc  papadoc  jean-claudeduvalier  françoisduvalier  disorder  order  nonmanagement 
november 2018 by robertogreco
not a contrarian | sara hendren
"From this series of questions to Zadie Smith [https://losarciniegas.blogspot.com/2018/01/zadie-smith-i-have-very-messy-and.html ] comes Teju Cole’s question:

Cole: You must be under some pressure to be agreeable, to agree with the right opinions. But I notice that you think through things, rather than just agreeing to them. How do you defend that space of independent thought?

Smith: I don’t think of myself as a contrarian. I’m useless at confrontation. But I also can’t stand dogma, lazy ideas, catchphrases, group-think, illogic, pathos disguised as logos, shoutiness, ad hominem attacks, bombast, liberal piety, conservative pomposity, ideologues, essentialists, technocrats, preachers, fanatics, cheerleaders or bullies. Like everybody, I am often guilty of some version of all of the above, but I do think the job of writing is to at least try and minimise that sort of thing as much as you can."
zadiesmith  tejucole  sarahendren  2018  confrontation  opinions  pressure  contrarians  contrarianism  thinking  dogma  laziness  catchphrases  groupthink  logic  pathos  logos  adhominenattacks  pomposity  ideology  essntialism  technocrats  preachers  preaching  fanaticism  cheerleading  bullying  writing  howwewrote  howwwethink 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Welcome to Unfold Studio — Unfold Studio 0.4.1 documentation
"Unfold Studio is an online community for interactive storytelling powered by a programming language called Ink. Interactive storytelling brings together the power of programming with the ability of stories to represent and explore our lived realities. Free and open-source, Unfold Studio was developed as part of my PhD research on youth computational literacy practices.

Unfold Studio is used in schools, clubs, and by many individual writers. Interactive storytelling can be a way to integrate Computer Science into English, Social Studies, or other subjects. It can also be an excellent way to introduce Computer Science as a subject relevant to questions of identity, culture, and social justice. (We are currently doing research with a school which uses Unfold Studio for several months as part of its core CS curriculum.)

This documentation is meant for several audiences. If you need help using Unfold Studio or writing interactive stories, see the User Guide. (If you’re impatient, try the Quickstart.) If you are interested in using Unfold Studio with students, see Teaching Guide. And if you’re interested in Unfold Studio’s back story or research on transliteracies, CS education, etc. please see Research. We welcome questions, feedback, and random ideas. Please see Contact to get in touch.

The documentation is also available in PDF form in case you prefer to read it that way or want to print out any pages (such as the worksheets in the Teaching Guide section) for classroom use.

-Chris Proctor
PhD candidate, Stanford Graduate School of Education
Unfold Studio creator and lead researcher"
chrisproctor  if  interactivefiction  storytelling  ink  opensource  free  onlinetoolkit  compsci  education  identity  culture  socialjustice  unfoldstudio  transliteracies  multiliteracies  coding  programming  writing  twine  classideas  via:hayim  teaching 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Dodie Bellany: Academonia
"In this lively, entertaining collection of essays, Dodie Bellamy has written not only a helpful pedagogical tool, but an epic narrative of survival against institutional deadening and the proscriptiveness that shoots the young writer like poison darts from all sides. By the 90s funding for the arts had dwindled and graduate writing programs—“cash cows”—had risen to fill the slack. Simultaneously, literary production moved from an unstable, at times frightening street culture where experiment was privileged beyond all else, to an institutionalized realm—Academonia!—that enforces, or tends to enforce, conservative aesthetic values.

Among the questions Bellamy raises: how does the writer figure out how to write? How will she claim her content among censorious voices? Can the avant-garde create forms that speak to political and spiritual crisis? Can desire exist in a world of networking structures? To the keepers of the status quo, what is so goddamned scary about experimental writing? Bellamy’s textual body morphs through sex, ravenous hunger, aging, displacement, cuddling with animals. Along the way she invokes Levi Strauss, Kurosawa, Marvin Gaye, Christiane (the faceless daughter in Georges Franju’s 1959 horror classic Eyes Without a Face), Alice Munro, Michael Moore, Quan Yin, Cinderella, and the beheaded heroine Lady Jane Grey. On Foucault’s grid of invisible assumptions, Academonia casts a blacklight vision, making it glow in giddy FX splendor.

*****

There are the institutions that are created without our input and the institutions that we create with others. Both sorts of institutions define us without our consent. Dodie Bellamy’s Academonia explores the prickly intersection among these spaces as it moves through institutions such as the academy, the experimental writing communities of the Bay Area, feminist and sexual identities, and group therapy. Continuing the work that she began in The Letters of Mina Harker pushing memoir and confession out of its safety zones and into its difficulties, this book provokes as it critiques and yet at the same time manages to delight with its hope.

--Juliana Spahr

Way back in the seventies, and before Bellamy, pastiche and bricolage as applied to literature made me yawn. Smug attacks on linear narrative through the use of tired language games aroused my contempt. As far as I was concerned, theory had ruined fiction by making critic and artist too intimate. Then Bellamy’s pioneering graftings of storytelling, theory and fractured metaphor changed all that, giving birth to a new avant-garde. Her writing sweeps from one mode of thought to another in absolute freedom, eviscerating hackneyed constructs about desire and language and stuffing them with a fascinating hodgepodge of sparkling sensory fragments. The result is true postmodernism, not the shallow dilettantism of the “postmodern palette.” She sustains it on page after page, weaving together sex and philosophy, fusing trash with high culture, injecting theory with the pathos of biography and accomplishing nothing less than a fresh and sustained lyricism. What is more, her transfiguration of the trivial details of life by the mechanisms of irony, fantasy, disjunction, nostalgia and perverse point of view prove that it’s not the life you live that matters, but how you tell it.

--Bruce Benderson"
writing  howwewrite  books  dodiebellany  institutions  proscriptiveness  academonia  academia  highered  highereducation  akirakurosawa  levistrauss  marvingaye  alicemonroe  michaelmoore  quanyin  cinderella  ladyjanegrey  foucault  institutionalization  julianaspahr  brucebenderson  bricolage  literature  linearity  form  feedom  structure  language  senses  sensory  postmodernism  dilettantism  culture  bayarea  experimental  experimentation  art  arts  funding  streetculture  2006 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Carol Black on Twitter: "I'm sorry, but this is delusional. If you don't read the book the first time for rhythm and flow, just *read* it, you haven't read the book. You have dissected it. This is like the vivisection of literature. There is no author ali
"I'm sorry, but this is delusional. If you don't read the book the first time for rhythm and flow, just *read* it, you haven't read the book. You have dissected it. This is like the vivisection of literature. There is no author alive who would want their book read this way."



"Look, the reality is that most people do not want to analyze literature. It's a specialty interest, a niche thing. There is absolutely no reason all people should have to do this. By forcing it we just create an aversion to books.

[@SOLEatHome "Would you consider someone re-reading a book they love and noticing things they missed the first time analysis? It at least fits what has come to be known as "close reading""]

Kids who become writers (or filmmakers, or musicians) re-read, re-watch, re-listen to their favorite things repetitively, obsessively. They internalize structure, rhythm, characterization, language, vocabulary, dialogue, intuitively, instinctively.

Close reading & analysis is a separate activity, it requires a whole different stance / attitude toward the book. It can enhance this deeper intuitive understanding or it can shut it down, turn it into something mechanical & disengaged.

I think it's a huge mistake to push this analytical stance on children when they are too young. I was an English major, & I don't think I benefited from it until college. Younger kids should just find things they love & process them in ways that make sense to them.

This is one of the many delusional things about the way literature is taught in HS. The reality is you have to read a book at the *bare minimum* twice in order to do meaningful analysis. But there is never time for this. So we just club the thing to death on the first reading.

One of the principal things a writer does is to work incredibly hard at refining the way one sentence flows into the next, one chapter springboards off the last. To experience this as a reader you have to immerse yourself, turn off the analytical brain, just *read* the damn book.

To insert analysis into this process on a first reading is like watching a film by pausing every couple of minutes to make notes before continuing. It's fine to do that in later study, but if you do it the first time through you've destroyed everything the filmmaker worked for."

[@irasocol: How a teacher destroys not just reading but culture. Can we let kids experience an author's work without dissection? How I tried to address this in 2012... http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2012/11/why-do-we-read-why-do-we-write.html "]



[This was in repsonse to a thread that began with:
https://twitter.com/SOLEatHome/status/1053338882496958465

"This thread details a real school assignment that was asked of a high school student to do while reading a book they hadn't read before. I assure you this is is not something isolated to one school:

Annotate.

Inside front cover: major character with space for...

...character summaries, page reference for key scenes or moments of character development. Evidently these are enormous books.

Inside Back Cover: list of themes, allusions, images, motifs, key scenes, plot line, epiphanies, etc. Add pg. references or notes. List vocab words...

...if there's still room. (big books or small writing?)

Start of each chapter: do a quick summary of the chapter. Title each chapter as soon as you finish it, esp. if the chapters don't have titles.

Top margins: plot notes/words phrases that summarize. Then go back...

...and mark the chapter carefully (more on these marks to come)

Bottom and side margins: interpretive notes, questions, remarks that refer to the meaning of the page (???). Notes to tie in w/ notes on inside back cover

Header: Interpretive notes and symbols to be used...

...underline or highlight key words, phrases, sentences that are important to understanding the work
questions/comments in the margins--your conversation with the text
bracket important ideas/passages
use vertical lines at the margin to emphasize what's been already marked...

...connect ideas with lines or arrows
use numbers in the margin to indicate the sequence of points the author makes in developing a single argument
use a star, asterisk, or other doo-dad at the margin--use a consistent symbol--(presumably to not mix up your doo-dads?) to...

...be used sparingly to emphasize the ten or twenty most important statements in the book.
Use ???for sections/ideas you don't understand
circle words you don't know. Define them in the margins (How many margins does a page have?)
A checkmark means "I understand"...

...use !!! when you come across something new, interesting or surprising
And other literary devices (see below)

You may want to mark:
Use and S for Symbols: a symbol is a literal thing that stands for something else which help to discover new layers of thinking...

Use an I for Imagery, which includes words that appeal to the five senses. Imagery is important for understanding an authors message and attitudes
Use an F for Figurative Language like similes, metaphors, etc., which often reveal deeper layers of meaning...

Use a T for Tone, which is the overall mood of the piece. Tone can carry as much meaning as the plot does.
Use a Th for Theme: timeless universal ideas or a message about life, society, etc.
Plot elements (setting, mood, conflict)
Diction (word choice)

The end. ::sighs::"]
carolblack  irasocol  howweread  reading  literature  closereading  2018  school  schooliness  education  absurdity  literaryanalysis  writers  writing  howwewrite  filmmaking  howwelearn  academia  academics  schools  unschooling  deschooling  analysis  understanding  repetition  experience  structure  rhythm  characterization  language  vocabulary  dialogue  noticing  intuition  instinct  film  flow 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Jonathan Rosa on Twitter: "When decolonial perspectives ground your research, they completely transform questions, methods, analyses, modes of representation, proposed interventions, and political commitments. A thread..."
"When decolonial perspectives ground your research, they completely transform questions, methods, analyses, modes of representation, proposed interventions, and political commitments. A thread...

Decolonial perspectives transform research questions by centering longstanding power relations in analyses of contemporary challenges, including racial inequity, poverty, labor exploitation, misogyny, heteronormativity, transphobia, trauma, migration, & ecological instability.

A normative research question vs. one framed from a decolonial perspective: What are the causes of educational achievement gaps? vs. How can “achievement gaps” be understood in relation to modes of accumulation & dispossession mainstream schools were designed to facilitate?

Methodologically, decolonial perspectives challenge positivist approaches to data collection that legitimate colonially constituted categories, boundaries, modes of governance, ways of knowing, and societal hierarchies.

As compared to normative Western scholarly methodologies, approaches informed by decolonial perspectives include collaborating with members of colonially marginalized communities as co-theorists to analyze & respond to the historically constituted challenges they face.

Whereas normative analytical logics narrowly frame what counts as legitimate evidence to make particular kinds of claims, decolonial analyses question conceptions of truth that have parsed the world in service of toxic modes of accumulation & dispossession.

While an analysis that presumes the legitimacy of normative scientific truth might seek to use evidence to disprove racial inferiority, a decolonial approach rejects such debates, instead investing in imagining and enacting forms of racial redress and reparation.

Whereas normative scholarly work adheres to rigidly defined representational genres & is often restricted to paywalled journals, decolonial approaches seek to fashion new modes of representation & strategies/platforms for circulation that redefine & redistribute knowledge.

Canonical anthropological uses of “thick description” often result in exoticizing & pathologizing representations of race, gender, & class; decolonial approaches enact a politics of refusal, challenging the demand for ethnographic disclosure, particularly in Indigenous contexts.

Normative scholarship often proposes interventions that focus on modifying individual behaviors rather than transforming institutions; decolonial scholarship challenges the fundamental legitimacy of prevailing societal structures that have led to the misdiagnosis of problems.

Normative scholarship might propose interventions encouraging civic participation to strengthen US institutions in the face of perceived threats to democracy; decolonial scholarship seeks to reimagine governance because the US never was nor could ever be a legitimate democracy.

Normative scholarship often seeks to establish objective facts & eschews explicit political commitments, thereby explicitly committing to political reproduction; decolonial scholarship owns its politics & engages in knowledge production to imagine & enact sustainable worlds.

Normative scholarship might seek to document, analyze, & even revitalize Indigenous languages; decolonial scholarship engages in Indigenous language revitalization as part of broader political struggles over sovereignty, historical trauma, dispossession, & sustainable ecologies.

In short, whereas normative scholarship invites you to accept, reproduce, or slightly modify the existing world, decolonial scholarship insists that otherwise worlds have always existed & demands a radical reimagining of possible pasts, presents, & futures."
jonathanrosa  2018  decolonization  norms  academia  highereducation  highered  dispossession  indigeneity  reproduction  colonization  form  writing  labor  work  convention  conventions  method  accumulaltion  sustainability  knoweldgeproduction 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Sean Ziebarth on Twitter: "The effects of outlining on writing. Via “Several short sentences about writing” by Verlyn Klinkenborg #teachwriting #aplangchat #2ndaryela #elachat #engchat… https://t.co/iu9kcxup0F"
"The effects of outlining on writing.
Via “Several short sentences about writing” by Verlyn Klinkenborg
[https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/93789/several-short-sentences-about-writing-by-verlyn-klinkenborg/9780307279415 ]
#teachwriting #aplangchat #2ndaryela #elachat #engchat


[images with: ]

In the outline and draft model of writing, thinking is largely done up front.
Outlining means organizing the sequence of your meanings, not your sentences.
It derogates the making of sentences.
It ignores the suddenness of thought,
The surprises to be found in the making of sentences.
It knows nothing of the thoughtfulness you'll discover as you work.

It prevents discovery within the act of writing.
It says, planning is one thing, writing another,
And discovery has nothing to do with it.
It overemphasizes logic and chronology
Because they offer apparently "natural" structures.
It preserves the cohesiveness of your research
And leaves you with a heap of provisional sentences,
Which are supposed to sketch the thoughts you've already outlined.

It fails to realize that writing comes from writing."

[later: "I can’t believe I’ve survived the past six years without “Several Short Sentences About Writing” by Verlyn Klinkenborg. #zen #wordnerd"
https://twitter.com/MrZiebarth/status/1047722841532071937

[images with]

"There's nothing permanent in the state of being written down.
Your sentences, written down, are in the condition of waiting to be examined.

You commit yourself to each sentence as you make it,
And to each sentence as you fix it,
Retaining the capacity to change everything and
Always remembering to work from the small-scale—The scale of the sentence—upward.

Rejoicing and despair aren't very good tools for revising.
Curiosity, patience, and the ability to improvise are.
So is the ability to remain open to the work and let it remain open to you.

Don't confuse order with linearity.
You'll find more than enough order in the thought, and sentences that interest you.
By order I mean merely connections—
Some close, some oblique, some elliptical—
Order of any kind you choose to create, any way you choose to move."]
seanziebarth  verlynklinkenborg  writing  outlines  howwewrite  unschooling  deschooling  drafts  meaning  thinking  howwethink  sentences  poems  poetry  scale  linearity  order  thought  connections  meaningmaking  2018 
october 2018 by robertogreco
The Tangled Language of Jargon | JSTOR Daily
"What our emotional reaction to jargon reveals about the evolution of the English language, and how the use of specialized terms can manipulate meaning."



"How Jargon Can Exclude and Obscure

It turns out that, far from being objective, jargon—outwardly a sober, professional kind of talk for experts from different occupational fields—has always carried with it some very human impulses, placing power and prestige over knowledge. A doctor, for example, might inappropriately use jargon in explaining a diagnosis to a patient, which prevents the patient from participating in their own care. This quality of jargon attracts those that might want to obscure biases, beef up simplistic ideas, or even hide social or political embarrassments behind a slick veneer of seemingly objective, “scientific” language without being challenged.

Latinate forms happen to lend themselves well to new terminology like this, especially technical jargon, for those very perceptions of precision and prestige, as well as detachment. But this detachment comes with a price. The alienness and incomprehensibility of new jargon words we’re unfamiliar with might sometimes make us a mite uncomfortable. It can sound inauthentic, compared to other innovative language change, from slang to secret languages. There are all kinds of innovative speech used by certain groups not just to share information easily, or to talk about new ideas, but also to show belonging and identity—and to keep outsiders out.

It’s one of the reasons people hate jargon with a passion and have been railing against it for years, centuries even. H. W. Fowler called it “talk that is considered both ugly-sounding and hard to understand.” L.E. Sissman is a little more subtle. Sissman defines jargon as “all of these debased and isolable forms of the mother tongue that attempt to paper over an unpalatable truth and/or to advance the career of the speaker (or the issue, cause or product he is agent for) by a kind of verbal sleight of hand, a one-upmanship of which the reader or listener is victim.”

Jargon, as useful as it is in the right contexts, can end up being socially problematic and divisive when it hides and manipulates meanings from those who need to receive the information. This negative reception hasn’t stopped jargon that apes scientific language from being widely produced, by economists, academics, entrepreneurs, journalists… and probably even poets. Jargon has now become the devil’s corporate middle management’s language, making information harder to share and receive. It has seeped into almost every facet of a complex modern life, giving us new buzzwords not even a mother could love, with terms like self-actualization, monetize, incentivize, imagineering, onboarding, synergize, and the like. And there’s so much more where that came from.

When Jargon Becomes Dangerous

William D. Lutz talks about how jargon and doublespeak can often be carefully designed to cover up embarrassing or secret information. For example, a commercial airline that had a 727 crash, killing three passengers, was able to pass off the resulting three million dollar insurance profit on its books as “the involuntary conversion of a 727,” which was unlikely to be questioned by confused shareholders whose eyes would probably have glazed over from the cumbersome legal jargon.

Words aren’t equal just because they mean the same thing, especially when the stakes are high. It’s not simply a matter of knowing or not knowing the meaning of these words, or if they accurately describe facts, but what Sally McConnell-Ginet calls the conceptual or cultural baggage, the hidden background assumptions the language carries with them, the ‘ologies and ‘isms that pretend to be something they’re not. Most recently in politics, the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings showed how deftly legal terminology can be wielded to avoid or plausibly deny or confuse clear facts. For example, denying knowledge of stolen documents is literally not a lie if you steadfastly assume they aren’t stolen, despite textual evidence to the contrary. The statement “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land” literally defers to a fact, the meaning of which is true. The conceptual baggage the statement carries with it, however, strongly suggests the writer does not disagree with the opinion.

Linguist Dwight Bolinger suggests that this is exactly the kind of heinous abuse of meaning that makes linguistic activism critical, shining a spotlight on these egregious cases where lies are hidden by omission or avoidance of the truth in jargon, euphemism, doublespeak, and other linguistic trickery."
jargon  language  specialization  2018  chiluu  communication  manipulation  english  synonyms  williamlutz  georgeorwell  styleguides  writing  linguistics  words 
september 2018 by robertogreco
The Ren'Py Visual Novel Engine
"Ren'Py is a visual novel engine – used by thousands of creators from around the world – that helps you use words, images, and sounds to tell interactive stories that run on computers and mobile devices. These can be both visual novels and life simulation games. The easy to learn script language allows anyone to efficiently write large visual novels, while its Python scripting is enough for complex simulation games.

Ren'Py is open source and free for commercial use.

Ren'Py has been used to create over 1,500 visual novels, games, and other works. You can find them at the official Ren'Py Games List, and the list of Games made with Ren'Py on itch.io."
games  gaming  gamedesign  design  ren'py  visualnovels  if  interactivefiction  lifesimulation  software  mac  osx  linux  chromeos  chrome  android  ios  applications  windows  gamemaking  classideas  writing  multiliteracies  opensource  onlinetoolkit  storytelling 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Keire Johnson en Instagram: “Shout out @finhan_ for making this after watching Minding the Gap! What I take from this piece (personally) : The paper bag over the…”
"Shout out @finhan_ for making this after watching Minding the Gap!
What I take from this piece (personally) : The paper bag over the skater's face to me represents how skateboarding suppresses all the negative emotions you can feel growing up and acts almost as a cloak of some sort.

When you take the bag off after skating, all of the bullshit comes back to you. Skateboarding cures heartache however it has limited powers. It can't cure everything.

That's where other creative outlets come in.
Music, art, dance, writing, and ect.
I am luck enough to have multiple outlets but I recommend finding a creative outlet that works for you. It's good for you.
Thanks again @finhan_"
keirejohnson  skateboarding  skating  2018  adolescence  youth  teens  self-medication  escape  creativity  music  art  arts  dance  writing  outlets  identity 
september 2018 by robertogreco
lalitha vasudevan on Twitter: "Overhearing tutoring session between adult tutor & suburban hs student. I despair at the extensive focus on relatability (between student & text) as strategy for responding to comprehension questions and essay writing, where
"Overhearing tutoring session between adult tutor & suburban hs student. I despair at the extensive focus on relatability (between student & text) as strategy for responding to comprehension questions and essay writing, wherein to relate to have personally experienced.

1/

Being able to relate, in and of itself, isn't the cause of my despair. It's the over-reliance on experience to the exclusion of other ways of creating conditions for understanding that worries me. This bent away from the traps of "cultural literacy" began w/good intentions;

2/

but this response -- understandably, in resistance to the hyper-testing mania that overtook and still dominates much of the schooling landscape -- may err too far in the direction of allowing some young people to never have to stray too far from their own thoughts.

3/

I want to know what young people think, what they notice and see, how they navigate and experience the world. AND, I want their insights on what others notice, see, conclude, design, and decide; for that, too, concerns young people --

4/

not only in their immediate, local, kinship networks, but about how they perceive others' perceptions of the they things they have noticed, or not. They are civic beings, active in their citizenry, and to deny this and allow otherwise is educational malpractice.

5/

I want young people to be seen and engaged as real interlocutors, not discursive window dressing to be written into curricula and grant proposals as the "participatory" element. I don't just want to hear what they think; I want to think with them, toward new questions.

6/

So, I return to a familiar, frustrating thought: My, how standardization, answer-driven teaching, & the greedy pursuit of efficiency-driven uniformity has royally screwed over kids & schools.
And (some) big data efforts want to help do more of the same.

7/7
#smalldatabigmoments"
lalithavasudevan  education  standardizedtesting  standardization  experience  relatability  teaching  learning  schools  schooliness  kinship  perception  culturalliteracy  howweteach  howwelearn  comprehension  essays  writing  howwewrite  teachingreading  teachingwriting  noticing  civics  citizenship  democracy  democratic  malpractice  participatory  participation  unschooling  deschooling  pedagogy  uniformity  efficiency  bigdata  testing 
august 2018 by robertogreco
You can't teach writing (and why would you want to?) | The Open School
"volunteering as an after-school tutor for 1st through 8th graders. The place was technically a writing center, situated in suburban Seattle, and open, free of charge, to any kid in the city. Its mission was to help kids learn to write, which would presumably improve their school performance and their prospects for life success.

I walked past that writing center today (I’m visiting Seattle this summer), and spent a moment reminiscing fondly. I remembered the always-warm atmosphere and the kind, helpful teachers. I remembered the fun activities and writing prompts.

Then I remembered why I left, and why I can never work or volunteer at such a place ever again. In the final months of my volunteership, my faith in the basic premise of the writing center faded. The founders of that organization, and the dedicated people who staffed it every day, had to believe wholeheartedly in two things. And I no longer believed in either of those things.

Here are the two necessary beliefs:

1. It is possible for a person to make another person better at writing.
2. Writing is inherently and objectively interesting and valuable.

And here is why I don’t believe those things anymore.

Belief #1: It is possible for a person to make another person better at writing
Writing is hard. I suspect that people who seek writing instruction are feeling overwhelmed with the difficulty of the task and are looking for a way to make it easier — maybe some tips or tricks that the pros use which have somehow been kept secret from us plebeians. But there is no shortcut, no quick fix. There is only lots and lots of work.

A belief in the power of teaching shifts the responsibility for growth off of the learner and onto the teacher. This can only result in slacking on the learner’s part, frustration on the teacher’s part, and a bit of magical thinking to maintain the illusion of success in spite of perfect failure.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing, offered this piece of advice:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Perhaps On Writing would have been a fine book even if King had left it at that. By reading a lot, you develop a sense for what good writing looks like and what bad writing looks like — just as a child learns her native language by listening to people talk a lot and learns to detect good grammar and bad grammar. She can’t define good grammar, but she knows it when she hears it.

Once you have that sense, you can start producing your own writing. You’re terrible at first, but now you know you’re terrible because you have that sense. Then you try it a different way and maybe it’s a little better, or maybe not. Then you read some more and refine your sense. Then you practice writing some more.

I suppose a writing teacher can provide prompts, but then again, so can a computer.

I’m reminded of this discouraging piece of wisdom from bestselling novelist Haruki Murakami:

“Being a novelist isn’t a job for everyone. Nobody ever recommended or even suggested that I be a novelist—in fact, some tried to stop me. I simply had the idea to be one, and that’s what I did.”

A person who loves and values writing will read a lot and write a lot on their own initiative. You don’t need to tell them to write and you certainly don’t need to make them. A person who doesn’t love or value writing will not write, and that’s that. Which brings us to belief #2…

Belief #2: Writing is inherently and objectively interesting and valuable
I suspect that 9 out of 10 of the kids who attend that writing center do not really care about writing, or only care about writing text messages.

I suspect that their parents want them to care about writing, or want them to get good at writing despite not caring about it.

I know that the staff feel, as I do, that writing is the bomb! We love to write and we love to share our love of writing with kids.

But further, the staff believe, as I no longer believe, that writing is inherently, objectively, and universally interesting and valuable. They believe that if a kid doesn’t like writing, it is our job as teachers to inspire a love of writing within them — to awaken that dormant fire that must exist deep down in every person. This process of inspiration can be arduous and uncomfortable, as depicted in this cartoon (which was shared on Facebook by one of those teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week):

[image]

This cartoon is a feel-good fantasy for teachers. No kid has ever been inspired by being chased down and violated. Some kids discover a passion for writing and some don’t. Teachers like to seek validation by pointing to the kids who ultimately discovered a love of writing and saying, “That was me, I did that.” They rarely draw attention to the vastly more numerous kids who were not inspired.

We all have a tendency to feel as though our personal interests are shared by all of humanity. We want others to get excited about the things we get excited about. It’s a way of connecting with one another. We have to learn, by repeatedly butting up against the stubbornness of other people’s interests and values, that everyone is different.

And it’s good that everyone is different! Maybe I’m good at writing but someone else is good at speaking, and yet another person is good at presenting graphs and charts. There is no end to the variation. We compliment others’ weaknesses with our strengths.

I can never go back to that writing center because the very premise of the writing center is this: kids who don’t want to write should be manipulated into writing anyway. Manipulating people in that way has no appeal to me. I look at the above cartoon and imagine myself chasing down that poor kid and prying off his skull while he’s crying in pain and it makes me sick. I don’t want to have that kind of relationship with children.

It’s okay if a kid doesn’t like to write. And it’s okay if he does like to write. I have a notebook, a pen, and a stack of books that he can use anytime."
writing  openschool  aaronbrowder  teaching  teachingwriting  pedagogy  2018  howwewrite  universality  unschooling  deschooling  education  compulsion  compulsory  interest  interests  schooling  schooliness 
august 2018 by robertogreco
These ain't no books […]
"These ain't no books [...]
Realized projects lectures / talks / workshops
[...] But aesthetic investigations
these ain’t no books (…)

(…) But pro­jects in di­gi­tal and hy­brid pu­blis­hing.

*******

MISSION

We work at the in­ter­sec­tion of de­sign and tech­no­logy, crea­ting and de­si­gning in­di­vi­dual di­gi­tal and hy­brid pu­blis­hing work­flows.

Take a set of en­cy­clo­pe­dias and ask, “how do i make this di­gi­tal?” you get a Mi­cro­soft En­carta CD. Take the phi­lo­so­phy of en­cy­clo­pe­dia-ma­king and ask, “how does di­gi­tal ch­ange our en­ga­ge­ment with this?” you get wi­ki­pe­dia.

Post-artifact books and publishing – digital’s effect on how we produce, distribute and consume content.

“Most people are tal­king about a 1:1 Text trans­fer to di­gi­tal. Much more in­te­res­ting is the ques­tion: What lies bey­ond that bor­der? how do new ways of books look like? how can they be dis­played on di­gi­tal de­vices?” —Leander Wattig

*******

DESIGN

The de­ve­lop­ment of an in­di­vi­dual, cha­rac­te­ris­tic vi­sual lan­guage for every pu­blis­hing pro­ject is the main goal in our pro­cess.

By ex­pe­ri­men­ting, using tools dif­fer­ently and con­nec­ting lose ends in a new way, we try to find our own me­thods and work­flows.

*******

TECHNOLOGY

Pro­gramming and de­si­gning at the same time al­lows us to take ad­van­tage of the cur­rent tech­no­lo­gi­cal pos­si­bi­li­ties, thus co­m­ing up with uni­que so­lu­ti­ons.

“I don’t know… pro­gramming and de­si­gning is the same thing…” —Erik van Blokland

“We live in a tech­ni­cal rea­lity.” —Mercedes Bunz

“How ex­actly does the tech­no­logy we use to read ch­ange the way we read?” —Ferris Jabr

*******

ABOUT

“These ain’t no books (…)” is a pro­ject by John­son / Kings­ton, emer­ging from the en­ga­ge­ment with the fu­ture of the book and rea­ding on screens.

Tech­no­lo­gi­cal pro­gress has a big im­pact on so­ciety – it is our duty to take part in sha­ping these ch­an­ges.

*******

These ain't no books [...]
is a project by
Johnson / Kingston
Ivan Weiss / Michael Kryenbühl
Bern / Luzern

Contact us:
info@theseaintnobooks.com
www.johnsonkingston.ch"
books  bookfuturism  digital  screens  print  leanderwattig  publishing  technology  design  programming  erikvanblokland  mercedezbunz  ferrisjabr  ivanweiss  michaelkryenbühl  microsoftencarta  encarta  multimedia  encyclopedias  projectideas  howweread  reading  howwewrite  writing 
august 2018 by robertogreco
it’s hard enough for me to write what I want to... • shapes, figures & forms
"it’s hard enough for me to write what I want to write without me trying to write what you say they want me to write which I don’t want to write"

—Tennessee Williams, The World I Live In: Tennessee Williams Interviews Himself, The London Observer, 7 April 1957
tennesseewilliams  writing  howwewrite  motivation 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Journalist Alex Frank on writing, reading, and always making your deadline – The Creative Independent
"[Q] Do you read more for pleasure or more with an eye towards what will make you a stronger writer?

Sometimes you read books that are not well-written but they have information in them that you want. Even that is probably gonna end up somewhere. But I think I mostly only read good writing now. Reading is the most important aspect of writing. There’s no question. It’s the only training you need. You don’t need to go to college. You don’t need anything else really. You just need to read.

I think fiction can be really helpful sometimes, because I want my scenes and my stories to have a lot of life and fantasy and fun, and to take the reader somewhere. Sometimes you get that from fiction in a really amazing way, and you can incorporate some of those aspects.

I definitely do sometimes specifically obsess over a writer and try to figure out how they write. With Janet Malcolm, when I have a question about writing or I’m thinking about her and I’m wondering how she’s so good at what she does, I will go read her with the express purpose of sitting there and trying to figure out the formula. I will look at her sentences and obsess over them. I always find something new.

I don’t think there’s ever a separation between the pleasure and the productive work of reading, because I just think that they’re the same thing. If you’re reading a lot, it’s making you a better writer. It’s just a guarantee, even if you’re reading bad writing. It’s really important to read bad writing and to know what bad writing is. That’s something I work at knowing. I want to know whether or not it’s just not for me, or whether it’s not so great. Knowing that can be really helpful.

[Q] Who do you think of your work as being for?

It’s for the editor. I know that’s not a sexy answer. Maybe because I’ve been an editor, I know that they’re just trying to go home and have dinner with their spouse or whatever, and I think I am really interested in making sure that they feel good and don’t have to suffer while editing me. They’re my audience.

One thing I try not to think about is Twitter. I’m on Twitter like everybody else, and I’m obsessed with it, but it’s not the whole world. It is part of the world, but it’s not the whole world. Sometimes I read writing that I can tell is for the conversation on Twitter. There’s nothing wrong with that, because that conversation is a part of things and it matters. But I don’t want to just write for that, and I don’t want to have that in my head, because I think that can really affect your writing in a bad way. Or at least for me it’s bad, because again, I just want everybody to be able to read it, not just the people in on the conversation on Twitter. I don’t think writing should require expertise or being an insider to read.

When you put the ideas behind that kind of barbed wire, I think it just turns a lot of people off and makes them think books are not for them. It makes them think that books are only for certain people. I really passionately disagree with that. There used to be a time in which the a vast majority of the country was engaging with words in a fun, vibrant, vital way. I don’t see why that can’t exist anymore. You can’t just blame the internet. The writers I like, they don’t talk down to people, never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever. The writers that I like can be intimidatingly smart, and make you think in new ways, but they are never hard to read. It’s really a worthwhile pursuit to write with accessibility in mind.

[Q] Do you think the type of career you’ve had is possible for someone starting out now?

It’s hard for me to answer that, because I do know that it seems to be getting harder. I got in at a good time, maybe the end of the good times, but still a good time. I moved to New York right before the stock market crash, so the publishing industry was still healthy. Literally four months after I moved here the stock market crashed. It’s arguable that I didn’t get in at a good time, but the effects of the crash took a little bit of time to hit the magazine industry.

The luxury that I had—that I want everyone to be able to have—is that I got to work for print. I don’t say that because print is better than digital, because I don’t believe that. But I do think there are things that you learn in print that you will never learn online. Mostly word count and being concise, because you have a limit to the number of words you can put in print. This is incredible to have when you’re a young writer, because the most important thing is saying the thing you want to say in the least amount of space. That doesn’t change whether you’re writing for online or print. That’s the golden rule."
alexfrank  reading  writing  howweread  education  journalism  howwewrite  2018  fiction 
july 2018 by robertogreco
@cmonstah: EULOGY FOR JONATHAN GOLD  (a cut-up poem taken...
[poem links to the reviews the lines were taken from, so click though for that]

"EULOGY FOR JONATHAN GOLD
(a cut-up poem taken from his restaurant reviews)
(Photo by Javier Cabral @theglutster)

You may belong to L.A.’s great brotherhood of taco eaters
huddled around trucks late at night.
You munch still-muddy radishes to sweeten your breath,
but the stink of onions and garlic and cilantro and pig flesh
haunt you like a friendly ghost for days.
When we’re hungry, everything tastes good
Hunger is the best spice.

Pico was where I learned to eat
I saw my first punk-rock show on Pico
was shot at, fell in love, witnessed a knife fight,
took cello lessons, raised chickens, ate Oki Dogs and heard X, Ice Cube, and Willie Dixon perform
(though not together)
on Pico.

When this dining room was Tiny Naylor’s
my mom used to take us here for patty melts
when she didn’t feel flush enough
to spring for the onion rings across the street.
You could drive by the restaurant 300 times
without ever being tempted to stop.

You dump your Lexus off with the valet,
march down a breezeway.
It looks like the path to Thunder Mountain at Disneyland
You walk past a watery ditch lined with shattered rock whose cracks ooze green light.
You are led to an elevator in the rust-colored steel structure.

If you spend much time watching period Asian movies,
you will remember scenes of dark inns,
a crew of women tending an ancient grill,
prodding battered cookpots licked with yellow flame.
Their interiors resonate with dark wood and leather,
stone and iron, surfaces oozing water and flame.
Like the fifth level of any first-person shooter.
You never know quite whether to order a Dirty Martini
or to search the ground for a pulsing golden key.

It is time to go down into the dining room.
The minimalist soundtrack,
which sounds like the part
where the icebergs float by in a National Geographic film.
If you try to muscle your way toward a seat
that may not officially belong to you,
a stooped Chinese woman will cut you off at the knees.

A waitress will try to sell you a third or fourth martini.
The skull of Simon Le Bon splats on your forehead.
His brains trickle down your cheek like warm yolk.
I wave toward the canapé,
telling him that I had always considered truffle oil
to be the Heinz ketchup of the overbred.
Traditional dishes are more austere
than what used to be served,
possibly because of the seediness
radiating from the adult-video store next door .

Ghost-white Kobe beef grilled to a crisp-edged liquid succulence.
A foil-wrapped construction the size and girth of your forearm
drapes over a paper plate like a giant oozing sea cucumber.
The bare hint of sweaty afternoon sex in the scent of a juicy midsummer melon.
This is the first of many flowers you will see tonight.
You will recognize none of them.

What will happen is
that your date will suck up the last of his or her Jolly Roger Bowl
and carve your initials in the booth.
You hear the occasional lonely moan of a train whistle
from the tracks that run a few blocks south of here.
It seems exactly right.
As if you are eating your lunch
at some railroad-station restaurant
a hundred miles in the countryside.

And it is hard to avoid feeling that everything
is pretty all right in the world."
carolinamiranda  jonathangold  food  eulogies  writing  poems  poetry  2018 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Haibun - Wikipedia
"Haibun (俳文, literally, haikai writings) is a prosimetric literary form originating in Japan, combining prose and haiku. The range of haibun is broad and frequently includes autobiography, diary, essay, prose poem,[1] short story and travel journal.

History
The term "haibun" was first used by the 17th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō, in a letter to his disciple Kyorai in 1690.[2] Bashō was a prominent early writer of haibun, then a new genre combining classical prototypes, Chinese prose genres and vernacular subject matter and language.[2] He wrote some haibun as travel accounts during his various journeys, the most famous of which is Oku no Hosomichi (Narrow Road to the Interior).

Bashō's shorter haibun include compositions devoted to travel and others focusing on character sketches, landscape scenes, anecdotal vignettes and occasional writings written to honor a specific patron or event. His Hut of the Phantom Dwelling can be classified as an essay while, in Saga Nikki (Saga Diary), he documents his day-to-day activities with his disciples on a summer retreat.

Traditional haibun typically took the form of a short description of a place, person or object, or a diary of a journey or other series of events in the poet's life.[3] Haibun continued to be written by later haikai poets such as Yosa Buson,[4] Kobayashi Issa[5] and Masaoka Shiki.[3]

In English
Haibun is no longer confined to Japan, and has established itself as a genre in world literature[6][7] which has gained momentum in recent years.[8]

James Merrill's "Prose of Departure", from The Inner Room (1988), is an earlier example.

The first contest for English-language haibun took place in 1996,[9] organized by poet and editor Michael Dylan Welch, and judged by Tom Lynch and Cor van den Heuvel. Anita Virgil won first prize, and David Cobb won second prize. The contest resulted in the publication of Wedge of Light (Press Here) in 1999. As credited by Welch,[10] the first anthology of English-language haibun was Bruce Ross's Journey to the Interior: American Versions of Haibun (Tuttle), published in 1998.[11][non-primary source needed]

Jim Kacian and Bruce Ross edited the inaugural number of the annual anthology American Haibun & Haiga (Red Moon Press) in 1999; that series, which continues to this day, changed its name to Contemporary Haibun in 2003 and sponsored the parallel creation in 2005 of Contemporary Haibun Online, a quarterly journal that added Welsh haibun author Ken Jones to the founding editorial team of Kacian and Ross.

Characteristics
A haibun may record a scene, or a special moment, in a highly descriptive and objective manner or may occupy a wholly fictional or dream-like space.[citation needed] The accompanying haiku may have a direct or subtle relationship with the prose and encompass or hint at the gist of what is recorded in the prose sections.

Several distinct schools of English haibun have been described,[12] including Reportage narrative mode such as Robert Wilson's Vietnam Ruminations, Haibunic prose, and the Templum effect.

Contemporary practice of haibun composition in English is continually evolving.[13][citation needed] Generally, a haibun consists of one or more paragraphs of prose written in a concise, imagistic haikai style, and one or more haiku. However, there may be considerable variation of form, as described by editor and practitioner Jeffrey Woodward.[14]

Modern English-language haibun writers (aka, practitioners) include Jim Kacian, Bruce Ross, Mark Nowak, Nobuyuki Yuasa,[15] Lynne Reese,[16] Peter Butler,[17] and David Cobb, founder of the British Haiku Society in 1990 and author of Spring Journey to the Saxon Shore, a 5,000-word haibun which has been considered seminal for the English form of kikōbun (i.e., travel diary).[18]"

[via: "So I've been experimenting with writing haibun lately, and as a lifelong diarist (who's recently slacked in a major way but is now jumping back into it!) this form is opening things way up for me. Shoutout to Bashō."
https://twitter.com/gumbo_amando/status/1017249109416267776 ]
japan  japanese  journals  journaling  srg  haibun  poetry  prose  haiku  writing  diaries  essays  autobiography  bashō  classideas 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Kurt Vonnegut on how to write a good story
"1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages."
story  writing  vonegut  storytelling  via:lukeneff 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Dr. Lucia Lorenzi on Twitter: "I have two academic articles currently under consideration, and hope that they'll be accepted. I'm proud of them. But after those two, I am not going to write for academic journals anymore. I feel this visceral, skin-splitti
"I have two academic articles currently under consideration, and hope that they'll be accepted. I'm proud of them. But after those two, I am not going to write for academic journals anymore. I feel this visceral, skin-splitting need to write differently about my research.

It just doesn't FEEL right. When I think about the projects I'm interested in (and I have things I want desperately to write about), but I think about writing them for an academic journal, I feel anxious and trapped. I've published academic work. It's not a matter of capability.

I think I've interpreted my building anxiety as some sort of "maybe I can't really do it, I'm not good at this" kind of impostor syndrome. But I know in my bones it's not that, because I'm a very capable academic writer. I know how to do that work. I've been trained to do it.

This is a question of form. It is a question of audience, too. The "what" and the "why" of my research has always been clear to me. The "how," the "where," and the "who," much less so. Or at the very least, I've been pushing aside the how/where/who I think best honours the work.

In my SSHRC proposal, I even said that I wanted to write for publications like The Walrus or The Atlantic or GUTS Magazine, etc. because this work feels like it needs to be very public-facing right now, so that's what I'm going to do. No more academic journal articles for now.

With all the immobilizing anxiety I've felt about "zomg my CV! zomg academic cred!" do you know how many stories I could have pitched in the past year alone? SO MANY. How much research and thinking I could have distilled into creative non-fiction or long-form journalistic pieces?

It's not like I haven't also been very clear about the fact that I probably won't continue in academia, so why spend the last year of my postdoc doing the MOST and feeling the WORST doing my research in a certain way just for what...a job I might not get or even want? Nah.

Whew. I feel better having typed all that out, and also for having made the decision to do the work in the way I originally wanted to do it, because I have been struggling so much that every single day for months I've wanted to just quit the postdoc entirely. Just up and leave.

In the end, I don't think my work will shift THAT much, you know? And I've learned and am learning SO much from fellow academics who are doing and thinking and writing differently. But I think that "no more scholarly journal submissions" is a big step for me.

I also feel like this might actually make me feel less terrified of reading academic work. Not wanting to WRITE academic articles/books has made me equally afraid of reading them, which, uh, isn't helpful. But now I can read them and just write in my own way.

I don't want to not have the great joy of sitting down and reading brilliant work because I'm so caught up in my own fears of my response having to replicate or mirror those forms. That ain't a conversation. I'm not listening if I'm already lost in thinking about how to answer.

That's what's so shitty about thinking as a process that is taught in academia. We teach everyone to be so hyper-focused on what they have to say that we don't let people just sit back and listen for a goddamn moment without feeling like they need to produce a certain response.

And we wonder why our students get anxious about their assignments? The idea that the only valid form of learning is having something to say in response, and in this way that is so limited, and so performative, is, quite frankly, coercive and gross.

As John Cage said, "I have nothing to say and I am saying it." When it comes to academic publications, I am saying that no longer have anything to say. I do, however, have things to say in other places to say them.

My dissertation was on silence. In the conclusion, I pointed out that the text didn't necessarily show all the silences/gaps I had in my years of thinking. I'd wanted to put in lots of blank space between paragraphs, sections, to make those silences visible, audible.

According to the formatting standards for theses at UBC, you cannot have any blank pages in your dissertation. You cannot just breathe or pause. Our C.V.s are also meant not to have any breaths or pauses in them, no turns away, no changes in course.

I am making a course change!"
form  academia  cvs  dissertations  johncage  pause  silence  reading  howweead  howwewrite  writing  2018  lucialorenzi  anxiety  coercion  response  performance  conversation 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Birds Art Life - Kyo Maclear
"In Birds Art Life, writer Kyo Maclear embarks on a yearlong, big city adventure chasing after birds, and along the way offers a luminous meditation on the nature of creativity and the quest for a good and meaningful life.

For Vladimir Nabokov, it was butterflies. For John Cage, it was mushrooms. For Sylvia Plath, it was bees. Each of these artists took time away from their work to become observers of natural phenomena. In 2012, Kyo Maclear met a local Toronto musician with an equally captivating side passion—he had recently lost his heart to birds. Curious about what prompted this young urban artist to suddenly embrace nature, Kyo decides to follow him for a year and find out.

Birds Art Life explores the particular madness of loving and chasing after birds in a big city. Intimate and philosophical, moving with ease between the granular and the grand view, it celebrates the creative and liberating effects of keeping your eyes and ears wide open, and explores what happens when you apply the core lessons of birding to other aspects of life. On a deeper level, it takes up the questions of how we are shaped and nurtured by our parallel passions, and how we might come to cherish not only the world’s pristine natural places but also the blemished urban spaces where most of us live."
books  toread  kyomaclear  2018  birds  birding  nture  life  creativity  writing  art  urban  cities  observation  wildlife  animals  multispecies  morethanhuman  vladimirnabokov  johncage  butterflies  mushrooms 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Children, Learning, and the Evaluative Gaze of School — Carol Black
"That's when I understood: when you watch a child who is focused on learning, and you let them know you’re watching, and you let them know your opinion as though your opinion matters, you just took that thing away from them. You just made it yours. Your smell is all over it now.

The evaluative gaze does the greatest harm, of course, to the kids who live under a biased eye; the ones who enter school with a test score or a disciplinary record or a skin color that shades the gaze against them. Once an assessment of a child's ability has been made, positive or negative, that child will feel it; if you think you can conceal it from them, you're wrong. They know. They always know. Studies have shown that even lab rats learn more slowly if their researchers believe that they aren't smart rats. The kids who grow up under a negative gaze, the ones who day after day, year after year, feel themselves appraised and found wanting –– these kids pay the greatest price, their psyches permanently damaged by it, their futures irrevocably harmed. (The fact that our appraisals are shown again and again to be wrong never seems to discourage us from making them.) But even the kids who get the good grades, the high scores, the perfect "10's" –– even they are subtly blighted by it. They've won the prize, and lost their power.

Why is it clear to us that it's degrading and objectifying to measure and rank a girl’s physical body on a numeric scale, but we think it’s perfectly okay to measure and rank her mind that way?

Over the years I've watched the many ways that children try to cope with the evaluative gaze of school. (The gaze, of course, can come from parents, too; just ask my kids.) Some children eagerly display themselves for it; some try to make themselves invisible to it. They fight, they flee, they freeze; like prey animals they let their bodies go limp and passive before it. Some defy it by laughing in its face, by acting up, clowning around, refusing to attend or engage, refusing to try so you can never say they failed. Some master the art of holding back that last 10%, of giving just enough of themselves to "succeed," but holding back enough that the gaze can't define them (they don't yet know that this strategy will define and limit their lives.) Some make themselves sick trying to meet or exceed the "standards" that it sets for them. Some simply vanish into those standards until they don't know who they would have been had the standards not been set.

But the power of the gaze goes beyond the numbers and letters used to quantify it. It exists in looks and tones and body language, in words and in the spaces between words. It is a way of looking at another human being, of confronting another human life; it is a philosophical stance, an emotional stance, a political stance, an exercise of power. As philosopher Martin Buber might have put it, the stance of true relationship says to the other, "I–Thou;" the evaluative gaze says "I–It." It says, "I am the subject; you are the object. I know what you are, I know what you should be, I know what 'standards' you must meet." It is a god-like stance, which is actually a big deal even if you think you are a fair and friendly god.

The evaluative gaze of school is so constant a presence, so all-pervasive an eye, that many people have come to believe that children would actually not grow and develop without it. They believe that without their "feedback," without their constant "assessment," a child's development would literally slow or even stop. They believe that children would not learn from the things they experience and do and see and hear and make and read and imagine unless they have an adult to "assess" them (or unless the adult teaches them to "self-assess," which generally means teaching them to internalize the adult gaze.) For people whose experience is with children inside the school system, it may seem self-evident that this is true. For people whose experience is with children outside the school system, it may seem like believing that an acorn would not grow into an oak tree unless you measure it and give it your opinion. Because an oak tree does not actually require your opinion, and believe it or not, 90% of the time, neither does a child.

A pot boils whether you watch it or not. It just needs water and fire.

There are ever-increasing numbers of people raising their kids outside this Panopticon of constant evaluation and measurement and feedback, and what they find is simply this: they grow and develop very much like other kids. Like other kids, they don't all conform to the same "standards;" like other kids, they are individual and diverse. Like other kids, they have triumphs, and struggles, and doldrums, and passions, and frustrations, and joys. "Assessment," or the lack of it, seems to have remarkably little to do with it. Because what an oak tree actually needs is not your opinion but soil and water and light and air, and what a child needs is love and stories and tools and conversation and support and guidance and access to nature and culture and the world. If a kid asks for your feedback, by all means you can give it; it would be impolite not to. But what we should be measuring and comparing is not our children but the quality of the learning environments we provide for them. "
carolblack  canon  unschooling  deschooling  evaluation  assessment  schools  schooling  schooliness  cv  petergray  judgement  writing  art  sfsh  rubrics  children  childhood  learning  howwelearn  education  discipline  coercion  rabindranathtagore  panopticon  observation  teaching  teachers  power  resistance  surveillance  martinbuber  gender  race  racism  measurement  comparison  praise  rewards  grades  grading  2018 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Poética del lápiz, del papel y de las contradicciones | CCCB LAB
"Reflexiones de un escritor que transita entre el medio analógico y el digital, entre lo material y lo virtual."



"Aprendimos a leer en libros de papel y nuestros recuerdos yacen en fotos ampliadas a partir de un negativo. Actualmente vivimos en un entorno digital repleto de promesas y ventajas, y aun así parece que nuestro cerebro reclama dosis periódicas de tacto, artesanía y materia. El escritor Jorge Carrión reflexiona sobre este tránsito contradictorio entre un medio y otro: desde la firma de un libro garabateado o las lecturas repletas de anotaciones, hasta la necesidad de esbozar ideas con un bolígrafo o dibujar para observar y comprender, pasando por el móvil usado para tomar notas o fotografiar citas.

Hoy, en un avión que, a pesar de ser low cost, atraviesa el océano, leo estos versos en un librito extraordinario: «Escribo a mano con un lápiz Mongol Nº 2 mal afilado, / apoyando hojas de papel sobre mis rodillas. / Ésa es mi poética: escribir con lápiz es mi poética. / […] Lo del lápiz mal afilado es indispensable para mi poética. / Sólo así quedan marcas en las hojas de papel / una vez que las letras se borran y las palabras ya no / se entienden o han pasado de moda o cualquier otra cosa.»

Ayer, minutos antes de que empezara la conferencia que tenía que dar en Buenos Aires, una anciana se me acercó para que le dedicara su ejemplar de Librerías. Lo tenía lleno de párrafos subrayados y de esquinas de página dobladas («cada librería condensa el mundo», yo siempre pensé lo mismo, sí, señor), de tarjetas de visita y de fotografías de librerías («este folleto de Acqua Alta es de cuando estuve en Venecia, un viaje muy lindo»), de recortes de diario («mire, la nota de Clarín que habla del fallecimiento de Natu Poblet, qué tristeza») y hasta de cartas («ésta se la escribí a usted cuando terminé su libro y de pronto me quedé otra vez sola»). No es mi libro, le respondí, usted se lo ha apropiado: es totalmente suyo, le pertenece. De perfil el volumen parecía la maleta de cartón de un emigrante o los estratos geológicos de un acantilado. O un mapa impreso en 3D del rostro de la anciana.

La semana pasada, en mi casa, leí este pasaje luminoso de Una historia de las imágenes, un librazo extraordinario de David Hockney y Martin Gayford publicado por Siruela:

En una fotografía el tiempo es el mismo en cada porción de su superficie. No así en la pintura: ni siquiera es así en una pintura hecha a partir de una foto. Es una diferencia considerable. Por eso no podemos mirar una foto mucho tiempo. Al final no es más que una fracción de segundo, no vemos al sujeto en capas. El retrato que me hizo Lucian Freud requirió ciento veinte horas de posado, y todo ese tiempo lo veo en capas en el cuadro. Por eso tiene un interés infinitamente superior al de una foto.

Hace unos meses, en el AVE que une Barcelona con Madrid, leí un artículo sobre una tendencia incipiente: ya son varios los museos del mundo que prohíben hacer fotografías durante la visita; a cambio te regalan un lápiz y papel, para que dibujes las obras que más te interesen, para que en el proceso de la observación y de la reproducción, necesariamente lento, mires y pienses y digieras tanto con los ojos como con las manos.

Vivimos en entornos absolutamente digitales. Producimos, escribimos, creamos en teclados y pantallas. Pero al principio y al final del proceso creativo casi siempre hay un esquema, unas notas, un dibujo: un lápiz o un bolígrafo o un rotulador que se desliza sobre pósits o sobre hojas de papel. Como si en un extremo y en otro de lo digital siempre hubiera una fase predigital. Y como si nuestro cerebro, en un nuevo mundo que –como explica afiladamente Éric Sadin en La humanidad aumentada– ya se ha duplicado algorítmicamente, nos reclamara dosis periódicas de tacto y artesanía y materia (infusiones de coca para combatir el mal de altura).

Hace dos años y medio, tras mi última mudanza, pasé un rato hojeando el álbum de fotos de mi infancia. Aquellas imágenes envejecidas y palpables no sólo documentan mi vida o la moda o las costumbres de los años setenta y ochenta en España, también hablan de la evolución de la fotografía doméstica y de los procesos de revelado. Tal vez cada foto sea solamente un instante (un instante sin una segunda oportunidad, sin edición, sin filtros, sin anestesia), pero las páginas de cartulina, las anotaciones manuscritas en rotulador negro o en boli Bic azul, los cambios de cámara o las impresiones en brillo o en mate crean un conjunto (un libro) en el que la dimensión material del tiempo se puede reconstruir y tocar, elocuente o balbuciente, nítida o desdibujada, como en un yacimiento arqueológico. O como en un mapa impreso en 3D de mi futuro envejecimiento.

Hoy, ahora, acabo de leer este librito extraordinario, el poemario Apolo Cupisnique, de Mario Montalbetti, que han coeditado en Argentina Añosluz y Paracaídas. Y lo cierro, con versos subrayados, páginas con la esquina doblada, la entrada de un par de museos porteños y un lápiz de Ikea que probablemente también se quede ahí, para siempre secuestrado. Y en el avión low cost empiezo a escribir este texto gracias a mi teléfono móvil, porque no soy (no somos) más que un sinfín de contradicciones. La cita de Montalbetti la copio directamente del libro, pero para la de Hockney tengo que recurrir a la foto que hice de esa doble página la semana pasada. A la izquierda el texto, a la derecha el retrato que le hizo Freud. La foto del retrato. Se pueden ver, en efecto, las capas dinámicas que dejaron en la pintura las ciento veinte horas inmóviles. Con el dedo índice y el pulgar amplío sus ojos y durante un rato –en la noche que se disuelve en jet lag– nuestras miradas se encuentran en la pantalla sin estratos."
jorgecarrión  digital  writing  print  virtual  material  2018  art  poetry  apolocupisnique  mariomontalbetti  añosluz  paracaídas  paper  books  ebooks  éricsadin  algorithms  davidhockney  martingayford  natupoblet 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Blog—Jarrett Fuller — The Soul-Crushing Student Essay
"I taught a writing class for the first time this semester and it was easily the hardest course I’ve ever taught. My experience tracks pretty closely to Korb’s story. It was hard to get students to contribute, to discuss readings, to bring their own thoughts into the texts we’d read together. Even though I ranted against the five-paragraph essay on the first class, and presented on why we’d be dismantling that form to use for our own purposes, I referred to it only as a problem of structure, not of content. I hadn’t connected that only does that format inhibit new styles and structures of writing but also how much of yourself is brought into it. I wish I had read this at the beginning of the semester instead of the end. I have all sorts of ideas for the next time."
jarrettfuller  2018  fiveparagraphessays  structure  form  writing  teaching  howweteach  content  style  teachingwriting  education 
april 2018 by robertogreco
How to make a book
"Anyone who has ever attempted to write a book knows that the job requires a lot of you—for instance, a cat, Diet Coke, an onion, an emotional crisis, avoiding all socialization for at least four weeks, or, better yet, disappearing into the Mariana Trench until further notice. Of course, you must know when to stop. Also, it’s best if you “don’t try.”

There is a lot of writing advice out there, but I don’t find much of it especially helpful. I do not mean that it’s “inaccurate”; I only want to note that a lot of it suggests that there are only a few “correct” methods, and that can endanger the process, or at least make it a lot less fruitful. Writing a book is an individual endeavor, an expression of a writer’s unique and thoughtful approach to inspiration, process, and refinement. The way a book is written is part of what makes it so singular. This guide points to a few approaches that have worked for some writers.

Like writing a book, there are many ways to publish one. For the sake of this guide, I’ll be referring to books sold through the trade marketplace—that is, books that are edited, designed, and printed by a publishing house like MCD x FSG, where I work, and distributed to bookstores and online retailers. This guide provides some practical advice from writers on how to find an agent, working with an editor, and engaging with your audience—crucial parts of trade publishing.

To demystify the process of writing and publishing books, I sought advice from some of the authors of MCD x FSG—Jace Clayton, Araminta Hall, Bruce Holbert, Liska Jacobs, Catherine Lacey, A.G. Lombardo, Tamara Shopsin, Robin Sloan, Héctor Tobar, Jeff VanderMeer, and Joshua Wheeler—to compile this guide. It’s honest, self-deprecating, contradictory, and a bit long-winded. We call it “How to make a book.”

— Naomi Huffman"
naomihuffman  nakim  2018  books  classideas  bookmaking  writing  howto  tutorials  publishing 
april 2018 by robertogreco
My Classroom Win: Scribing for Students - Long View on Education
"Even though I always tell students that I want to hear their ideas, that works against their conditioning. I have a huge sign on the wall telling them that I trust them to go to the bathroom, get a drink, stretch, or eat a small snack without asking me. Yet, they still ask me. Can I open the window? I tell them to ask their classmates.

This kind of conditioning – doing the grammar of school – can be difficult to overcome. And it’s not just that they err on the side of being polite or have somehow abandoned the self-centeredness that all teenagers (and adults, of course) contend with. I find students want affirmation that they have permission to do things that they have long been told that they must seek approval for. Can I write in the first person? Can I give my own opinion? Nothing would make me happier. 

My writing instruction is heavily influence by the writer’s workshop (Columbia Teacher’s College) and culturally sustaining pedagogies. There is a strong and powerful role for direct instruction and using model texts, but this must take place inside a larger liberatory project that aims to undo deficit theories of language use. “Abundant linguistic research has demonstrated, however, that youth, especially those from economically, racially, and/or linguistically marginalized communities, are in fact innovative, flexible, and sophisticated language users, and that language is central to young people’s creation of their identities.” (Mary Bucholtz, Dolores Ines Casillas, and Jin Sook Lee) Scribing for students can be one way to show them that they are thinkers and writers, that they have a story to tell, and that someone wants to listen."
pedagogy  writing  teaching  conditioning  schools  schooling  schooliness  benjamindoxtdator  scribing  education  learning  howwewrite  directinstruction  language  2018  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  cv 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Rebecca Solnit on a Childhood of Reading and Wandering | Literary Hub
"In the most egalitarian of European—and New Mexican—traditions, forests were public commons in which common people could roam, graze flocks, hunt and gather, and this is another way that forests when they are public land and public libraries are alike: as spaces in which everyone is welcome, as places in which we can wander and collect, get lost and find what we’re looking for.

The United States’s public libraries sometimes seem to me the last refuges of a democratic vision of equality, places in which everyone is welcome, which serve the goal of an informed public, offering services far beyond the already heady gift of free books you can take home, everything from voter registration to computer access. I’ve joked for a long time that if you walked up to people in the street and asked them whether we could own our greatest treasures collectively and trust people to walk away with them and bring them back, a lot of people would say that’s impossibly idealistic and some would say it’s socialist, but libraries have been making books free for all for a very long time. They are temples of books, fountains of narrative pleasure, and toolboxes of crucial information. My own writing has depended on public libraries and then university libraries and archives and does to this day. I last used a public library the day before yesterday."



"So let’s begin by recognizing that all this was—and in many moral ways still is—Coast Miwok land, before the Spanish came, before Spanish claims became Mexican claims, before this was considered to be part of Mexico, before it was part of the United States."



"Browsing, woolgathering, meandering, wandering, drifting, that state when exploring, when looking to find what it might be possible to find rather than seeking one particular goal, is the means of locomotion. I often think that hunter-gatherers must move a lot like this, seeking game or plant foods, flexible about what might show up on any given day. I was lucky that children were weeds, not hothouse flowers, in those days, left to our own devices, and my own devices led in two directions: north to the hills and the horses, south to the library."



"These linked paths and roads form a circuit of about six miles that I began hiking ten years ago to walk off my angst during a difficult year. I kept coming back to this route for respite from my work and for my work too, because thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals. After all those years of walking to work out other things, it made sense to come back to work close to home, in Thoreau’s sense, and to think about walking.

Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts."



"Moving on foot seems to make it easier to move in time; the mind wanders from plans to recollections to observations."



"Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go…"



"Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out that other side and met people there. Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone."



"Libraries are sanctuaries from the world and command centers onto it: here in quiet rooms are the lives of Crazy Horse and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Hundred Years War and the Opium Wars and the Dirty War, the ideas of Simone Weil and Lao Tsu, information on building your sailboat or dissolving your marriage, fictional worlds and books to equip the reader to reenter the real world. They are, ideally, places where nothing happens and where everything that has happened is stored up to be remembered and relived, the place where the world is folded up into boxes of paper. Every book is a door that opens into another world, which might be the magic that all those children’s books were alluding to, and a library is a Milky Way of worlds. All readers are Wu Daozi; all imaginative, engrossing books are landscapes into which readers vanish."
rebeccasolnit  2017  children  unschooling  deschooling  parenting  education  libraries  wandering  howwelearn  freedom  autonomy  forests  childhood  novato  california  learning  canon  publicgood  us  egalitarianism  democracy  socialism  thoreau  walking  cv  unknowing  uncertainty  woods  writing  howwewrite  books  literature  stories  storytelling  listening  reading  sanctuary  vanishing  nature  plants  wildlife  multispecies  morethanhuman  society 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Overleaf: Real-time Collaborative Writing and Publishing Tools with Integrated PDF Preview
"Overleaf is an online LaTeX and Rich Text collaborative writing and publishing tool that makes the whole process of writing, editing and publishing scientific documents much quicker and easier."
onlinetoolkit  collaboration  writing  latex  texteditors  googledocs  editing  via:vruba 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Isis Lecture (Lecture given at the Oxford Literary festival in 2003 ) - Philip Pullman
[from this page: http://www.philip-pullman.com/writings

"This was the first extended piece I wrote about education. I wanted to say what I thought had gone wrong with it, and suggest some better ways of doing things. The lecture was given during the Oxford Literary Festival in 2003."]

"I’m going to talk about culture this afternoon, in the widest sense; about education and the arts, especially literature. It’s my contention that something has gone bad, something has gone wrong in the state of education, and that we can see this very clearly in the way schools deal with books, and reading, and writing – with everything that has to do with literature, and the making of it. When more and more good teachers are leaving the profession in disillusion and disappointment; when the most able undergraduates are taking one look at a career in teaching, and deciding that it offers no scope for their talents, and turning away to do something else; when school headships are proving harder and harder to fill – then we’re doing something wrong.

I think it boils down to this: that education now is suffused with the wrong emotion. Somehow, over the past quarter of a century, ever since James Callaghan’s famous Great Debate speech, we have seen confidence leaking away, and something else slowly seeping in to take its place. What that something else is, I shall come to near the end. No doubt some of the confidence was misplaced; no doubt we needed a Great Debate. But I think the benefits that came from it have long since been exhausted. It’s time for another way of doing things.

So first of all, I’m going to look at what’s happening now, and I’m going right in to the glowing, radioactive core at the heart of the engine that drives the whole thing: the National Curriculum and the SATs. I won’t spend too long on these things, but we do need to look at the actual stuff to get a flavour of the thought behind it, and this is what the Qualifications Curriculum Authority says about the Reading part of the English tests at Key Stage 2 – that means, in human language, at age 11.

They think that reading consists of using a range of strategies to decode, selecting, retrieving, deducing, inferring, interpreting, identifying and commenting on the structure and organisation of texts, identifying and commenting on the writer’s purposes and viewpoints, relating texts to the social, cultural and historical contexts.

That’s it. That’s all. Nothing else. That’s what they want children of 11 to do when they read. They don’t seem to know that reading can also be enjoyed, because enjoyment just doesn’t feature in the list of things you have to do.

Mind you, it’s just as well that they don’t have to enjoy it, because they’re not likely to have a copy of the books anyway. In another unit of work – 46 pages, to get through in a fortnight – they are to study Narrative Structure. The work’s built around two short stories and part of a novel. It’s not expected – this is interesting – that the children will have their own copies of the complete texts, though some pages may be extracted and photocopied.

But the whole book doesn’t matter very much either, because books exist in order to be taken apart and laid out in pieces like Lego. One of the things the children have to do in this unit of work is to make a class list of “the features of a good story opening.” This is where it stops being merely tedious, and starts being mendacious as well. The teacher is asked to model the writing of an alternative first paragraph for one of the stories. The instructions say “Read through the finished writing together. Check this against the criteria for a good opening – does it fulfil all of these?”

I can’t say it clearly enough: this is not how it works. Writing doesn’t happen like this. What does happen like this is those Hollywood story-structure courses, where there are seven rules for this, and five principles of that, and eight bullet-points to check when constructing the second-act climax. You cannot write a good story by building up a list of effective openings. It is telling children a lie to say that this is the way you write stories. Apart from anything else, it’s profoundly vulgar.

Then there is the Reading Journal, which children have to keep. Among other things, they have to:

List the words and phrases used to create an atmosphere

Write a fifty word summary of a whole plot

Pick a descriptive word from the text and, using a thesaurus, write down five synonyms and antonyms for that word

And so on. What concerns me here is the relationship this sets up between child and book, between children and stories. Stories are written to beguile, to entertain, to amuse, to move, to enchant, to horrify, to delight, to anger, to make us wonder. They are not written so that we can make a fifty word summary of the whole plot, or find five synonyms for the descriptive words. That sort of thing would make you hate reading, and turn away from such a futile activity with disgust. In the words of Ruskin, it’s “slaves’ work, unredeemed.”

Those who design this sort of thing seem to have completely forgotten the true purpose of literature, the everyday, humble, generous intention that lies behind every book, every story, every poem: to delight or to console, to help us enjoy life or endure it. That’s the true reason we should be giving books to children. The false reason is to make them analyse, review, comment and so on.

But they have to do it – day in, day out, hour after hour, this wretched system nags and pesters and buzzes at them, like a great bluebottle laden with pestilence. And then all the children have to do a test; and that’s when things get worse."



"So said Ruskin in 1853. Again, we didn’t listen. Ruskin went on to point out that when you do trust people to act for themselves, they are free to make mistakes, to blunder and fail; but there is the possibility of majesty too. Do we want human beings teaching our children, with all their faults and follies and limitations, but with all their depth and grandeur as well? Or do we want managers, who are glib and fluent in the language of audits and targets and performance indicators and mission statements, but who are baffled by true originality, who flinch and draw back from it as if it were deadly poison?

The extraordinary thing is that they are the same people. They could all be free, if they chose. Some of the young people who come into teaching may be timid and narrow-minded, but don’t think for a moment that I think that they’re not capable of courage and curiosity. They’ve never had a chance to show it; their teachers are afraid themselves. Marilyn Mottram of the University of Central England in Birmingham, who has been studying the way the National Curriculum and the Literacy Strategy work in schools, wrote to me last month: “When I work with teachers on developing ways of using texts I’m frequently asked ‘… but are we allowed to do that?’ This sort of continuing anxiety about literacy teaching,” she goes on, “suggests that a culture of conformity has been quite securely established among our primary teachers and, like many others, I find this deeply disturbing.”

These young people are tigers born in cages, and kept caged until they think that being caged is a natural condition; and they look down at themselves, and they see their magnificent stripes, and the only way they can understand them is to think that they themselves must be made of bars: they are their own cage; they dare not move outside the little space they occupy. But they are tigers still, if only they knew."



"So here are five steps we should take, starting right now.

Do away with these incessant tests; they only tell you things you don’t need to know, and make the children do things they don’t need to do.

Abolish the league tables, which are an abomination.

Cut class sizes in every school in the country. No child should ever be in a class bigger than twenty.

Make teaching a profession that the most gifted, the most imaginative, the most well-informed people will clamour to join; and make the job so rewarding that none of them will
want to stop teaching until they drop.

Make this the golden rule, the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath: Everything we ask a child to do should be something intrinsically worth doing.

If we do those five things, we will not bring about a golden age, or an earthly paradise; there are more things wrong with the world than we can cure by changing a system of schooling. But if we get education right, it would show that we were being serious about living and thinking and understanding ourselves; it would show that we were paying our children the compliment of assuming that they were serious too; and it would acknowledge that the path to true learning begins nowhere else but in delight, and the words on the signpost say: “Once upon a time …”"
philippullman  education  canon  teaching  writing  howwelearn  howweread  howweteach  howwewrite  reading  literature  management  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  schooling  policy  curriculum  culture  society  meaning  johnruskin  learning  schools  pedagogy  literacy  purpose  life  living  pleasure  via:derek  storytelling  stories  fear  intrinsicmotivation  children  self-esteem  self-confidence  language  communication  time  slow  results  accountability  measurement  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  2003 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Molly Ringwald Revisits “The Breakfast Club” in the Age of #MeToo | The New Yorker
"John’s movies convey the anger and fear of isolation that adolescents feel, and seeing that others might feel the same way is a balm for the trauma that teen-agers experience. Whether that’s enough to make up for the impropriety of the films is hard to say—even criticizing them makes me feel like I’m divesting a generation of some of its fondest memories, or being ungrateful since they helped to establish my career. And yet embracing them entirely feels hypocritical. And yet, and yet. . . . 

How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.

While researching this piece, I came across an article that was published in Seventeen magazine, in 1986, for which I interviewed John. (It was the only time I did so.) He talked about the artists who inspired him when he was younger—Bob Dylan, John Lennon—and how, as soon as they “got comfortable” in their art, they moved on. I pointed out that he had already done a lot of movies about suburbia, and asked him whether he felt that he should move on as his idols had. “I think it’s wise for people to concern themselves with the things they know about,” he said. He added, “I’d feel extremely self-conscious writing about something I don’t know.”

I’m not sure that John was ever really comfortable or satisfied. He often told me that he didn’t think he was a good enough writer for prose, and although he loved to write, he notoriously hated to revise. I was set to make one more Hughes film, when I was twenty, but felt that it needed rewriting. Hughes refused, and the film was never made, though there could have been other circumstances I was not aware of.

In the interview, I asked him if he thought teen-agers were looked at differently than when he was that age. “Definitely,” he said. “My generation had to be taken seriously because we were stopping things and burning things. We were able to initiate change, because we had such vast numbers. We were part of the Baby Boom, and when we moved, everything moved with us. But now, there are fewer teens, and they aren’t taken as seriously as we were. You make a teen-age movie, and critics say, ‘How dare you?’ There’s just a general lack of respect for young people now.”

John wanted people to take teens seriously, and people did. The films are still taught in schools because good teachers want their students to know that what they feel and say is important; that if they talk, adults and peers will listen. I think that it’s ultimately the greatest value of the films, and why I hope they will endure. The conversations about them will change, and they should. It’s up to the following generations to figure out how to continue those conversations and make them their own—to keep talking, in schools, in activism and art—and trust that we care."
mollyringwald  thebreakfastclub  #MeToo  2018  film  1980s  teens  youth  identity  sexism  harassment  johnhughes  chauvinism  nationallampoon  writing  homophobia  tedmann  sexuality  sixteencandles  prettyinpink  change  harveyweinstein  adolescence  havilandmorris  insecurity  sexualharassment  misogyny  racism  stereotypes  outsiders  invisibility 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Novels Are Made of Words: Moby-Dick, Emotion, and Abridgment
"Paul Valéry tells the story: The painter Edgar Degas was backhanded-bragging to his friend Stéphane Mallarmé about the poems that he, Degas, had been trying to write. He knew they weren’t great, he said, “But I’ve got lots of ideas—too many ideas.” “But my dear Degas,” the poet replied, “poems are not made out of ideas. They’re made of words.”

Paintings, for that matter, are not made of pretty ballerinas or landscapes: they’re made of paint.

Which brings us to Syuzhet, Matthew Jockers’s new program that analyzes the words of a novel for their emotional value and graphs the sentimental shape of the book. Dan Piepenbring has explained it all here and here on the Daily, with links to the original postings and the various outcries, some of them in the comments, that have blown up around Jockers.

Many people apparently find Jockers’s research the latest assault of technocratic digitocracy on the citadel of deep humanistic feelings, but that’s not how I see it. What the graphs reveal about potboiler narrative structure versus high-literary arcs, for instance—Dan Brown’s higher average positivity than James Joyce’s, and his more regular cycle of highs and lows to force the reader through the book—is insightful, useful, and great.

In some ways, it’s hard for me to even see what the fuss is about. “It’s not that it’s wrong,” one commenter writes. “It’s just that it’s an extremely poor substitute for reading, enjoying, and discussing literature.” But who said anything about a substitute? Does this commenter not notice that the discussions of the graphs rest on having read the books and seeing how the graphs shed light on them? Another: “Okay, fuck this guy for comparing Dan Brown to James Joyce.” Well, how else can you say Joyce is better and Brown is worse? That’s what’s known as a comparison. Or do you think Joyce can’t take it?

Freak-outs aside, there are substantive rebuttals, too. What seems to be the most rigorous objection is from SUNY professor and fellow digital-humanities scholar Annie Swafford, who points out some failures in the algorithm. “I am extremely happy today” and “There is no happiness left in me,” for example, read as equally positive. And:

Longer sentences may be given greater positivity or negativity than their contents warrant, merely because they have greater number of positive or negative words. For instance, “I am extremely happy!” would have a lower positivity ranking than “Well, I’m not really happy; today, I spilled my delicious, glorious coffee on my favorite shirt and it will never be clean again.”

But let’s actually compare “Well, I’m not really happy; today, I spilled my delicious, glorious coffee on my favorite shirt and it will never be clean again” to “I’m sad.” The positivity or negativity might be the same, assuming there could be some kind of galvanometer or something attached to the emotional nodes of our brain to measure the “pure” “objective” “quantity” of positivity. But the first of those sentences is more emotional—maybe not more positive, but more expressive, more histrionic. Ranking it higher than “I’m sad” or even “I am very happy” makes a certain kind of sense.

“There is no happiness left in me” and “I am all sadness from now on” are the same seven words to a logician or a hypothetical emotiomometer, but not to a novelist or a reader. Everyone in advertising and political wordsmithing knows that people absorb the content of a statement much more than the valence: to say that something “is not horrific and apocalyptic” is a downer, despite the “not.” Or consider: “Gone for eternity is the delight that once filled my heart to overflowing—the sparkle of sun on the fresh morning dew of new experience, soft envelopments of a lover’s thighs, empyrean intellectual bliss, everything that used to give my life its alpenglow of hope and wonder—never again!” and “I’m depressed.” An algorithm that rates the first piece of writing off-the-charts positive is a more useful quantification of the words than one that would rate the emotional value of the two as the same.

Some years back, Orion Books produced a book called Moby-Dick in Half the Time, in a line of Compact Editions “sympathetically edited” to “retain all the elements of the originals: the plot, the characters, the social, historical and local backgrounds and the author’s language and style.” I have nothing against abridgments—I’ve abridged books myself—but I felt that what makes Melville Melville, in particular, is digression, texture, and weirdness. If you only have time to read half the book, which half the time is more worth spending? What elements of the original do we want to abridge for?

Moby-Dick in Half the Time seemed like it would lose something more essential than would Anna Karenina in Half the Time or Vanity Fair in Half the Time or Orion’s other offerings. I decided to find out. So I compiled every chapter, word, and punctuation mark that Orion’s abridger cut from Melville’s original Moby-Dick; or The Whale, and published the result, with its inevitable title, as a book of its own: a lost work by Herman Melville called ; or The Whale.

Half the Time keeps the plot arc of Ahab’s quest, of course, but ; or The Whale arguably turns out closer to the emotional ups and downs of Melville’s novel—and that tells us something about how Melville writes. His linguistic excess erupts at moments of emotional intensity; those moments of intensity, trimmed as excess from Half the Time, are what make up the other semibook. Chapter sixty-two, for example, consists of a single word, “hapless”—the only word Orion’s abridger cut from the chapter, trimming a 105-word sentence to 104, for some reason. That’s a pretty good sentiment analysis of Melville’s chapter as a whole. Reading ; or The Whale is a bit like watching a DVD skip ahead on fast forward, and it gets at something real about Melville’s masterpiece. About the emotion in the words.

So I would defend the automated approach to novelistic sentiment on different grounds than Piepenbring’s. I take plot as seriously as he does, as opposed to valorizing only the style or ineffable poetry of a novel; I also see Béla Tarr movies or early Nicholson Baker novels as having plots, too, just not eventful ones. Jockers’s program is called Syuzhet because of the Russian Formalist distinction between fabula, what happens in chronological order in a story, and syuzhet, the order of things in the telling (diverging from the fabula in flashbacks, for instance, or when information is withheld from the reader). It’s not easy to say how “plot” arises out of the interplay between the two. But having minimal fabula is not the same as having little or no plot.

In any case, fabula is not what Syuzhet is about. Piepenbring summarizes: “algorithms assign every word in a novel a positive or negative emotional value, and in compiling these values [Jockers is] able to graph the shifts in a story’s narrative. A lot of negative words mean something bad is happening, a lot of positive words mean something good is happening.” This may or may not be true, but novels are not made of things that happen, they are made of words. Again: “When we track ‘positive sentiment,’ we do mean, I think, that things are good for the protagonist or the narrator.” Not necessarily, but we do mean—tautologically—that things are good for the reader in the warm afternoon sunshine of the book’s positive language.

Great writers, along with everything else they are doing, stage a readerly experience and lead their readers through it from first word on first page to last. Mapping out what those paths might look like is as worthy a critical approach as any."
paulvaléry  edgardegas  writing  novels  mobydick  mattherjocker  2015  digital  words  language  hermanmelville  reading  howwewrite  automation  emotions  algorithms  narrative  nicholsonbaker  bélatarr  moby-dick 
april 2018 by robertogreco
What We Can Learn From Neruda's Poetry of Resistance
"Instances of social injustice, war, and the los of liberal democracy call us off the sidelines and into action. Neruda drastically adapted his poetry in response to crisis. At the start of the Spanish Civil War, he abandoned his desolate, introverted experimental poetry in favor of a decisive style, one that would compel others into action.

Whether we’re poets, teachers, readers, activists, or ordinary citizens who care about the world, we, too, can transform the way we express ourselves. In the era of social media, we don’t need to make pulp out of flags to transmit our message to the troops of resistance. We can all speak. We can all be part of the dialogue. And poetry can be part of the collective way we, in Neruda’s words, “explain some things.” From Neruda and others we can see how the act of expressing ourselves, and the act of hearing, are core components of resistance—and of poetry’s unique, enduring power."
pabloneruda  2018  poems  poetry  resistance  writing  chile  spain  españa  arieldorfman  pinochet  cantogeneral  spanishcivilwar  oppression  activism  war  gabrieljackson  franco  kwamealexander  ernesthemingway  langstonhughes  nancycunard  bahiashehab  markeisner  gabrielgonzálezvidela  federicogarcíalorca 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Teach Kids When They’re Ready | Edutopia
"Our friend Marie’s daughter Emily just entered kindergarten. Emily went to preschool, where the curriculum revolved around things like petting rabbits and making art out of macaroni noodles. Emily isn’t all that interested in learning how to read, but she loves to dance and sing and can play with Barbies for hours.

Emily’s older sister, Frances, was reading well before she started kindergarten, and the difference between them worried Marie. Emily’s grandparents thought it was a problem, too, and hinted that perhaps Marie should be reading to Emily more often. When Marie talked to another mom about it, her friend shared the same concern about her own two daughters, wondering if it was somehow her fault for not reading to her younger daughter enough. Would these younger siblings be behind the moment they started kindergarten?

This scenario drives us crazy because it’s grounded in fear, competition, and pressure, not in science or reality. Not only are parents feeling undue pressure, but their kids are, too. The measuring stick is out, comparing one kid to another, before they even start formal schooling. Academic benchmarks are being pushed earlier and earlier, based on the mistaken assumption that starting earlier means that kids will do better later.

We now teach reading to 5-year-olds even though evidence shows it’s more efficient to teach them to read at age 7, and that any advantage gained by kids who learn to read early washes out later in childhood.

What was once advanced work for a given grade level is now considered the norm, and children who struggle to keep up or just aren’t ready yet are considered deficient. Kids feel frustrated and embarrassed, and experience a low sense of control if they’re not ready to learn what they’re being taught.

The fact is that while school has changed, children haven’t. Today’s 5-year-olds are no more fundamentally advanced than their peers were in 1925, when we started measuring such things. A child today can draw a square at the same age as a child living in 1925 (4 and a half), or a triangle (5 and a half), or remember how many pennies he has counted (up to 20 by age 6).

These fundamentals indicate a child’s readiness for reading and arithmetic. Sure, some kids will jump the curve, but children need to be able to hold numbers in their head to really understand addition, and they must be able to discern the oblique line in a triangle to recognize and write letters like K and R.

The problem is that while children from the 1920s to the 1970s were free to play, laying the groundwork for key skills like self-regulation, modern kindergartners are required to read and write.

Brain development makes it easier to learn virtually everything (except foreign languages) as we get older. Work is always easier with good tools. You can build a table with a dull saw, but it will take longer and be less pleasant, and may ingrain bad building habits that are hard to break later on.

One of the most obvious problems we see from rushed academic training is poor pencil grip. Holding a pencil properly is actually pretty difficult. You need to have the fine motor skills to hold the pencil lightly between the tips of the first two fingers and the thumb, to stabilize it, and to move it both horizontally and vertically using only your fingertips. In a preschool class of 20 we know of in which the kids were encouraged to write much too early, 17 needed occupational therapy to correct the workarounds they’d internalized in order to hold a pencil.

Think of it: 85 percent of kids needed extra help, parents spent extra money, and parents and kids felt stressed because some adult thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be swell if we taught these 4-year-olds to write?” without any regard to developmental milestones.

We see this early push all the way through high school. Eighth graders take science classes that used to be taught to ninth graders, and kids in 10th grade read literature that used to be taught in college. In Montgomery County, outside Washington, DC, the school district attempted to teach algebra to most students in eighth grade rather than ninth grade, with the goal of eventually teaching it to most kids in seventh grade. It was a disaster, with three out of four students failing their final exam. Most eighth graders don’t have sufficiently developed abstract thinking skills to master algebra.

Historically, kids started college in their late teens because they were ready; while there have always been exceptions, on the whole 14-year-olds weren’t considered developmentally ready for rigorous college work. Ironically, in the attempt to advance our kids, our own thinking about these issues has regressed.

Ned fields requests from many parents who want their kids to start SAT prep in the ninth grade. Ned tells them that it’s a mistake to spend their kid’s time and their money for him to teach them things that they will naturally learn in school. It’s far better to wait for them to develop skills and acquire knowledge at school, and then to add to that with some test preparation in their junior year.

Starting test prep too early is not just totally unnecessary, it is actively counterproductive. It’s like sitting your 14-year-old down to explain the intricacies of a 401(k) plan. It’s not going to register.

The central, critical message here is a counterintuitive one that all parents would do well to internalize: Earlier isn’t necessarily better; and likewise, more isn’t better if it’s too much."
children  education  schools  readiness  unschooling  deschooling  kindergarten  reading  learning  teaching  schooling  writing  acceleration  policy  curriculum  parenting  pressure  williamstixrud  nedjohnson 
april 2018 by robertogreco
marwahelal on Twitter: "𝙰𝚗𝚍, 𝚘𝚏 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎, 𝚊 𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚞𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚖𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚊 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚘𝚏 𝚟𝚘𝚌𝚊𝚋𝚞𝚕𝚊𝚛𝚢 𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚜𝚎
"𝙰𝚗𝚍, 𝚘𝚏 𝚌𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎, 𝚊 𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚞𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚗𝚘𝚝 𝚖𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚊 𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚘𝚏 𝚟𝚘𝚌𝚊𝚋𝚞𝚕𝚊𝚛𝚢 𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚜𝚎𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚐𝚛𝚊𝚖𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚕 𝚛𝚞𝚕𝚎𝚜. 𝙸𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚊 𝚏𝚕𝚊𝚜𝚑 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚑𝚞𝚖𝚊𝚗 𝚜𝚙𝚒𝚛𝚒𝚝, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚗𝚜 𝚋𝚢 𝚠𝚑𝚒𝚌𝚑 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚘𝚞𝚕

𝚘𝚏 𝚎𝚊𝚌𝚑 𝚙𝚊𝚛𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚊𝚛 𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚎 𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚜 𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚊𝚕 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍. 𝙴𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚞𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚊𝚗 𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚐𝚛𝚘𝚠𝚝𝚑 𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚎𝚜𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚍, 𝚊 𝚠𝚊𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚑𝚎𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝, 𝚊𝚗 𝚎𝚗𝚝𝚒𝚛𝚎

𝚎𝚌𝚘𝚜𝚢𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚖 𝚘𝚏 𝚜𝚙𝚒𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚞𝚊𝚕 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚋𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚒𝚎𝚜." - 𝚆𝚊𝚍𝚎 𝙳𝚊𝚟𝚒𝚜

Welcome to the VERNACULAR HOME, a @nomadreadings #crafttalk. Before we begin, I ask that if you are following along, that you engage these ideas by sharing them, faving, RTing, and chiming in with your own comments.

This talk is dedicated to all displaced peoples and all people who engage in creating a home of language on the page.

1. We’ve witnessed in recent years how advertisers have co-opted vernacular made popular by Black communities on this very platform and profited from it.

2. What these advertisers know is what any good poet knows: vernacular is the pathway to transformation. It is your first language — that language before you were aware of language. It is “like a howl, or a shout or a machine-gun or the wind or a wave,” K. Braithwaite writes.

3. Sidenote: Transformation has a cost but cannot be bought.

4. And as this scene from Spike Lee’s Malcolm X reminds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfRDUsvu5fE , English is an inherently oppressive and racist language. As Malcolm X feels through this new insight into our language — a “con” as we’re told — he transforms and viewers are transformed with him.

5. Perfect segue to the next point…

6. If the poem does not transform (itself or the reader) it is not a poem. I repeat: If the work does not transform, what you have are words on a page — not a poem.

7. Let's now establish what vernacular [poetry] is.

8. Vernacular is a term used to express the idea that all languages are equal. It eliminates hierarchies of dialects vs. language.

As Baldwin writes in an essay I will share more of later, “...language functions as ‘a political instrument, means, and proof of power,’ and only politics separates a language from dialect.” (from the introduction by ed. Dohra Ahmed, Rotten English) https://bit.ly/2pXfk3h

9. Now that we’ve established what vernacular is, please don’t tell me you speak only one language...

10. Your dreams are a vernacular. Nature is a vernacular. Your sneaker collection is a vernacular! Signage: a vernacular. Your unique way of looking at the world: a vernacular. Your heartbeat: a vernacular. Breath: same, a vernacular.

Whenever I teach this material, I end up yelling “EVERYTHING IS VERNACULAR” by the end of every class. So get ready.

11. Building on that (pun intended), vernacular is also the synthesis between the language (words and symbols in any language) we choose, and how we construct it with grammar, punctuation, syntax and form.

12. It is inaccurate to say we are "decolonizing" a language. What we are doing is reclaiming it by colonizing it with our own vernaculars and inventing what it has failed to imagine. It is a language that has failed to imagine 𝘜𝘚. And so this craft talk is also a call

A call to pay attention to where this language has become dull, stale, and boring. A call to pay attention to intentional and unintentional connotations. And to undo those connotations. In undoing them, I ask that we create radical solutions for this language that troubles us.

13. “It was during the anti colonial struggles of the twentieth century that the latent political potential of vernacular literature fully emerged.

14. Our resistance is in the refusal to assimilate, the preservation of our native vernaculars, the creativity in that preservation.

It is in understanding that there is a particular language [they] want [us] to know -- that particular language that is taught in schools, and the rules or codes implied in that agreed upon language and resisting those implications or overturning those agreements.

15. June Jordan said, “Good poetry & successful revolution change our lives, & you cannot compose a good poem or wage a revolution without changing consciousness—unless you attack the language that you share with your enemies & invent a language that you share with your allies.”

Now, with these ideas in mind, let’s go into the texts…

Harryette Mullen, "We Are Not Responsible," "Elliptical" and "Denigration" from Sleeping with the Dictionary [3 images of text]

Note the attention to language, the transformation or awareness brought to the everyday humdrum of signage and those aforementioned 𝓬𝓸𝓷𝓷𝓸𝓽𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓸𝓷𝓼.

Note the attention to punctuation. Each poem uses exactly one form of punctuation in a very distinct way.

I will leave the joy of those discoveries to you! We have more to read...

Here, this breathtaking excerpt by @yosuheirhammad from “break (clear)”, breaking poems [image of text]

The Arabic words "ana" and "khalas" are doing overtime.

"ana" = I am and becomes "I am my" in the last two instances. "Khalas" stands on its own line in the first instance -- open to many translations: "enough," "stop," or "no more" and establishes its commitment to finality in that last line, "khalas all this breaking."

MORE! Solmaz Sharif’s “Persian Letters” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/57580/persian-letters

Here the vernacular “bar bar bar” not only shows us the creation of a word: “barbarians” -- it holds a mirror up to the ones who made it.

“We make them reveal
the brutes they are, Aleph, by the things
we make them name.” - @nsabugsme

NOW Baldwin: “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances, or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate. (And, if they cannot articulate it, they are submerged.)”

"Black English is the creation of the black diaspora. Blacks came to the United States chained to each other, but from different tribes: Neither could speak the other's language. If two black people, at that bitter hour of the world's history, had been able to speak to each...

other, the institution of chattel slavery could never have lasted as long as it did. Subsequently, the slave was given, under the eye, and the gun, of his master, Congo Square, and the Bible--or in other words, and under these conditions, the slave began the formation of the

black church, and it is within this unprecedented tabernacle that black English began to be formed. This was not, merely, as in the European example, the adoption of a foreign tongue, but an alchemy that transformed ancient elements into a new language:

A language comes into existence by means of brutal necessity, and the rules of the language are dictated by what the language must convey.

Link to the full essay: “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” James Baldwin https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/98/03/29/specials/baldwin-english.html

Further reading: “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan
Link: http://theessayexperiencefall2013.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/files/2013/09/Mother-Tongue-by-Amy-Tan.pdf

I leave you with this poem by @kyle_decoy “American Vernacular” via @LambdaLiterary
https://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/poetry-spotlight/09/19/a-poem-by-kyle-dacuyan/ ]
marwahelal  language  poetry  writing  words  vernacular  culture  resistance  2018  jamesbaldwin  displacement  transformation  appropriation  malcolmx  english  poems  dohraahmed  grammar  punctuation  syntax  decolonization  colonization  assimilation  creativity  preservation  junejordan  harryettemullen  connotation  suheirhammad  solmazsharif  arabic  amytan  kyledacuyan 
april 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 52. John Michael Greer in “The Polymath” // Druidry, Storytelling & the History of the Occult
"The best beard in occultism, John Michael Greer, is in the house. We’re talking “The Occult Book”, a collection of 100 of the most important stories and anecdotes from the history of the occult in western society. We also touch on the subject of storytelling as well as some other recent material from John, including his book “The Coelbren Alphabet: The Forgotten Oracle of the Welsh Bards” and his translation of a neat little number called “Academy of the Sword”."



"What you contemplate [too much] you imitate." [Uses the example of atheists contemplating religious fundamentalists and how the atheists begin acting like them.] "People always become what they hate. That’s why it's not good idea to wallow in hate."
2017  johnmichaelgreer  druidry  craft  druids  polymaths  autodidacts  learning  occulture  occult  ryanpeverly  celts  druidrevival  history  spirituality  thedivine  nature  belief  dogma  animism  practice  life  living  myths  mythology  stories  storytelling  wisdom  writing  howwewrite  editing  writersblock  criticism  writer'sblock  self-criticism  creativity  schools  schooling  television  tv  coelbrenalphabet  1980s  ronaldreagan  sustainability  environment  us  politics  lies  margaretthatcher  oraltradition  books  reading  howweread  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  facetime  social  socializing  cardgames  humans  human  humanism  work  labor  boredom  economics  society  suffering  misery  trapped  progress  socialmedia  computing  smarthphones  bullshitjobs  shinto  talismans  amulets  sex  christianity  religion  atheism  scientism  mainstream  counterculture  magic  materialism  enlightenment  delusion  judgement  contemplation  imitation  fundamentalism  hate  knowledge 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The tools matter and the tools don’t matter
"What I love about Gardner and Barry is that they believe that the tools you use do matter, but the point, for them, is finding the proper tools that get you to a certain way of working in which you can get your conscious, mechanical mind out of the way so that your dreaming can go on, undeterred.

You have to find the right tools to help your voice sing.

For Lynda, it was the paintbrush that allowed her to get to the point where she could basically take dictation—“to dream it out” without editing—but it could’ve been anything, really. (I should note that Lynda happily details the exact sumi-e brush and ink she used to make One! Hundred! Demons! in the back of the book.) While I don’t myself use a brush and legal paper to draft my work, I keep a page from the manuscript hanging in my bedroom to remind me of the importance of handwriting and slowing down."



"As for non-fiction writing, my friend Clive Thompson took the “pencil vs. typewriter” thing literally and researched when you should write with a pencil and when you should type on the keyboard.

What he discovered was that handwriting is great for coming up with ideas, for note-taking and big picture thinking. So, when you’re at lectures or in meetings or brainstorming ideas, it’s a good idea to scribble or doodle in your notebook. So always carry a pencil. (Clive got me into Palamino Blackwings.)

Typing, on the other hand, is great for producing writing for other people, say, writing an article. The faster you type, Clive said, the better your ideas will be. There’s a thing called “transcription fluency,” which boils down to: “when your fingers can’t move as fast as your thoughts, your ideas suffer.” If you help people increase their typing speed, their thoughts improve. (Learn to type faster!)

So, yes, the tools matter, but again, it’s all about what you are trying to achieve. So a question like, “What brand of pen do you use?” is not as good as “How do you get that thick line quality?” or “How do you dodge Writer’s Block?”"
austinkleon  tools  writing  howwework  2018  advice  art  lyndabarry  johngardner  clivethompson  typing  handwriting  ideas  notetaking 
february 2018 by robertogreco
It’s Time We Hold Accountability Accountable – Teachers Going Gradeless
"Author and writing professor John Warner points out how this kind of accountability, standardization, and routinization short-circuits students’ pursuit of forms “defined by the rhetorical situation” and values “rooted in audience needs.”

What we are measuring when we are accountable, then, is something other than the core values of writing. Ironically, the very act of accounting for student progress in writing almost guarantees that we will receive only a poor counterfeit, one emptied of its essence.

Some might say that accountability only makes a modest claim on teaching, that nothing prevents teachers from going beyond its measurable minimum toward higher values of critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Many seem to think that scoring high on lower-order assessments still serves as a proxy for higher-order skills.

More often than not, however, the test becomes the target. And as Goodhart’s law (phrased here by Mary Strathern) asserts, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” What we end up aiming at, in other words, is something other than the thing we wanted to improve or demonstrate. When push comes to shove in public schools — and push almost always comes to shove — it’s the test, the measure, the moment of reckoning we attend to.

For most of my career, I’ve seen how a culture of accountability has caused the focus of administrators, teachers, and students to solidify around the narrow prescriptions and algorithmic thinking found on most tests. When that happens, the measure no longer represents anything higher order. Instead, we demonstrate our ability to fill the template, follow the algorithm, jump through the hoop. And unfortunately, as many students find out too late, success on the test does not guarantee that one has developed the skills or dispositions needed in any real field. In fact, students who succeed in this arena may be even more oblivious to the absence of these."
writing  howwewrite  teaching  accountability  2017  arthurchiaravalli  johnwarner  testing  tests  standardization  routinization  audience  measurement  metrics  rubrics  grades  grading  quantification 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Book Review: Love And Other Words I Mispronounced — ONI MAGAZINE
"Instead of layers of irony and distance that, like with the poets referenced above, add up to a superficial, sarcastic, hipster-ish voice what this book offers is a sincere expression, beauty in vulnerability, and self-reflection and a search for truth in the aftermath of an abusive relationship."
jamieberrout  poetry  instagtam  blogs  blogging  socialmedia  multimedia  gumroad  transgender  dictionaryofobscuresorrows  johnkoenig  kierra  loveandotherwords  words  poems  writing  books  vulnerability 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Hilton Als on writing – The Creative Independent
"Your essays frequently defy traditional genre. You play around with the notions of what an essay can be, what criticism can be, or how we are supposed to think and write about our own lives.

You don’t have to do it any one way. You can just invent a way. Also, who’s to tell you how to write anything? It’s like that wonderful thing Virginia Woolf said. She was just writing one day and she said, “I can write anything.” And you really can. It’s such a remarkable thing to remind yourself of. If you’re listening to any other voice than your own, then you’re doing it wrong. And don’t.

The way that I write is because of the way my brain works. I couldn’t fit it into fiction; I couldn’t fit it into non-fiction. I just had to kind of mix up the genres because of who I was. I myself was a mixture of things, too. Right? I just never had those partitions in my brain, and I think I would’ve been a much more fiscally successful person if could do it that way. But I don’t know how to do it any other way, so I’m not a fiscally successful person. [laughs]

[an aside in italics:

"I was struck by this quote:

“I believe that one reason I began writing essays—a form without a form, until you make it—was this: you didn’t have to borrow from an emotionally and visually upsetting past, as one did in fiction, apparently, to write your story. In an essay, your story could include your actual story and even more stories; you could collapse time and chronology and introduce other voices. In short, the essay is not about the empirical “I” but about the collective—all the voices that made your “I.”"]

Do people ever ask you about writing a novel?

No. I could try, but It feels like a very big, weird monolith to talk about your consciousness as an “I” without being interrupted by other things. That’s what I don’t understand. That it’s just “I” and the world as I see it, when there are a zillion other things coming in. Fictional things that I’ve written I’ve not been satisfied with because I didn’t put in the real life stuff, too. So maybe I should just go back and do that. But I don’t think that one exists without the other for me. Fictional worlds are interesting, but real life is impossible to ignore."
hiltonals  writing  fiction  boundaries  genre  genres  criticism  format  invention  howwewrite  virginiawoolf  words  nonfiction  storytelling  emotions  breakingform  form 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Shira Erlichman on Twitter: "I teach writing. A lot. & If I had to distill the lesson that comes up the most it would be: Sensuality > Concepts Sensuality > Concepts Sensuality > Concepts Sensuality > Concepts Sensuality > Concepts Sensuality > Concepts"
[via:
"Dear poets-I-chaperone-through-the-process-of-exploring-creative-writing: this thread is to be considered #requiredreading. And then some."
https://twitter.com/jsamlarose/status/960434099524644864 ]

"I teach writing. A lot. & If I had to distill the lesson that comes up the most it would be:

Sensuality > Concepts
Sensuality > Concepts
Sensuality > Concepts
Sensuality > Concepts
Sensuality > Concepts
Sensuality > Concepts

Sure, I'd like to know what you think about the world. But only if I can trust that you can invite me into the world: sense by sense. If you write "That year was really hard for me" I don't know what year it is, I don't know what "hard" means for you. Give me bone, give me break.

If I wrote, "When we moved to the US my dad protected us" like, okay? What is protected? What do I mean? The same thing you mean? What if I said "We lived in a basement apartment. The first time I saw snow it blocked our whole front door. My dad dug us out."

& Then, there's so much room for specificity. "Aba" instead of "my dad." My language is not conceptual; it's based in migration, country, movement, slang, whozeewhats, whatevertheFiwant.

You are the only you, you-ing right now.

Be specific.

Be sensual.

Give us the gift of your aliveness.

The second thing that comes up the most when teaching is a total misunderstanding of editing. I get that. Because about 7 years ago I was really skeptical of a 2nd, let alone 19th draft. However, the palace I live in now is the Utter Joy of the (Literally) 21st Draft Palace.

What changed?

For one, I was writing so much that sometimes I'd go back (years later!) to an old 1st draft & see the second Russian Doll hiding inside it. "Whoa, that's weird," I thought & I'd open up that second Russian Doll. Behold, a third Russian Doll (draft) inside it. [image of Russian dolls]

I banished the idea of editing as boring, reductive. Poems were suddenly turned inside out, upside down. I'd find a hidden gem (an image, let's say) & like Sardines, there'd be all these possibilities tucked up beside it. Editing. Became. More. Creative. Than. Writing.

The proof was in the pudding. I'd write a poem, work on it with my little chisel for years & then BAE WOULD ARRIVE! This poem would suddenly strut, sing, thank ME! As if I hadn't been chasing her for her number all these years!

This poem, "Barometer," 2 years before publication basically read like a Dream Journal LOL. Not great. But necessary! Maybe if I get brave I'll post that first draft here. I send it to students to show them the journey!

https://preludemag.com/posts/ode-to-lithium-6-barometer/

Think about going 2 the doctor. When you go, you want a listener. Tenderness. Empathy. Thats how I approach a draft: How can I best listen to u? To whats hiding here? Can I have patience for ur glitches & starts? What might u already know––& if I ask the right questions––show me?

& Always remember baby!

There's nothing wasted!

Even if you get to draft 22 & throw that lil beast out. So what? So you sat there, refining & chiseling & flipping language & seeking secret caves & spelunking?

You're muscular as fuck for it. I promise. You'll glow for it."
shiraerlichman  writing  advice  howwerite  classideas  editing  poems  poetry  via:jslr  sensuality  aliveness  individuality  tenderness  empathy 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin
"In the temperate and tropical regions where it appears that hominids evolved into human beings, the principal food of the species was vegetable. Sixty-five to eighty percent of what human beings ate in those regions in Paleolithic, Neolithic, and prehistoric times was gathered; only in the extreme Arctic was meat the staple food. The mammoth hunters spectacularly occupy the cave wall and the mind, but what we actually did to stay alive and fat was gather seeds, roots, sprouts, shoots, leaves, nuts, berries, fruits, and grains, adding bugs and mollusks and netting or snaring birds, fish, rats, rabbits, and other tuskless small fry to up the protein. And we didn't even work hard at it--much less hard than peasants slaving in somebody else's field after agriculture was invented, much less hard than paid workers since civilization was invented. The average prehistoric person could make a nice living in about a fifteen-hour work week.

Fifteen hours a week for subsistence leaves a lot of time for other things. So much time that maybe the restless ones who didn't have a baby around to enliven their life, or skill in making or cooking or singing, or very interesting thoughts to think, decided to slope off and hunt mammoths. The skillful hunters then would come staggering back with a load of meat, a lot of ivory, and a story. It wasn't the meat that made the difference. It was the story.

It is hard to tell a really gripping tale of how I wrested a wild-oat seed from its husk, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then I scratched my gnat bites, and Ool said something funny, and we went to the creek and got a drink and watched newts for a while, and then I found another patch of oats.... No, it does not compare, it cannot compete with how I thrust my spear deep into the titanic hairy flank white Oob, impaled on one huge sweeping tusk, writhed screaming, and blood spouted everywhere in crimson torrents, and Boob was crushed to jelly when the mammoth fell on him as I shot my unerring arrow straight through eye to brain.

That story not only has Action, it has a Hero. Heroes are powerful. Before you know it, the men and women in the wild-oat patch and their kids and the skills of the makers and the thoughts of the thoughtful and the songs of the singers are all part of it, have all been pressed into service in the tale of the Hero. But it isn't their story. It's his.

When she was planning the book that ended up as Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf wrote a heading in her notebook, "Glossary"; she had thought of reinventing English according to a new plan, in order to tell a different story. One of the entries in this glossary is heroism, defined as "botulism." And hero, in Woolf's dictionary, is "bottle." The hero as bottle, a stringent reevaluation. I now propose the bottle as hero.

Not just the bottle of gin or wine, but bottle in its older sense of container in general, a thing that holds something else.

If you haven't got something to put it in, food will escape you--even something as uncombative and unresourceful as an oat. You put as many as you can into your stomach while they are handy, that being the primary container; but what about tomorrow morning when you wake up and it's cold and raining and wouldn't it be good to have just a few handfuls of oats to chew on and give little Oom to make her shut up, but how do you get more than one stomachful and one handful home? So you get up and go to the damned soggy oat patch in the rain, and wouldn't it be a good thing if you had something to put Baby Oo Oo in so that you could pick the oats with both hands? A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a pot a box a container. A holder. A recipient.

The first cultural device was probably a recipient .... Many theorizers feel that the earliest cultural inventions must have been a container to hold gathered products and some kind of sling or net carrier.

So says Elizabeth Fisher in Women's Creation (McGraw-Hill, 1975). But no, this cannot be. Where is that wonderful, big, long, hard thing, a bone, I believe, that the Ape Man first bashed somebody with in the movie and then, grunting with ecstasy at having achieved the first proper murder, flung up into the sky, and whirling there it became a space ship thrusting its way into the cosmos to fertilize it and produce at the end of the movie a lovely fetus, a boy of course, drifting around the Milky Way without (oddly enough) any womb, any matrix at all? I don't know. I don't even care. I'm not telling that story. We've heard it, we've all heard all about all the sticks spears and swords, the things to bash and poke and hit with, the long, hard things, but we have not heard about the thing to put things in, the container for the thing contained. That is a new story. That is news.

And yet old. Before--once you think about it, surely long before--the weapon, a late, luxurious, superfluous tool; long before the useful knife and ax; right along with the indispensable whacker, grinder, and digger-- for what's the use of digging up a lot of potatoes if you have nothing to lug ones you can't eat home in--with or before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home. It makes sense to me. I am an adherent of what Fisher calls the Carrier Bag Theory of human evolution.

This theory not only explains large areas of theoretical obscurity and avoids large areas of theoretical nonsense (inhabited largely by tigers, foxes, other highly territorial mammals); it also grounds me, personally, in human culture in a way I never felt grounded before. So long as culture was explained as originating from and elaborating upon the use of long, hard objects for sticking, bashing, and killing, I never thought that I had, or wanted, any particular share in it. ("What Freud mistook for her lack of civilization is woman's lack of loyalty to civilization," Lillian Smith observed.) The society, the civilization they were talking about, these theoreticians, was evidently theirs; they owned it, they liked it; they were human, fully human, bashing, sticking, thrusting, killing. Wanting to be human too, I sought for evidence that I was; but if that's what it took, to make a weapon and kill with it, then evidently I was either extremely defective as a human being, or not human at all.

That's right, they said. What you are is a woman. Possibly not human at all, certainly defective. Now be quiet while we go on telling the Story of the Ascent of Man the Hero.

Go on, say I, wandering off towards the wild oats, with Oo Oo in the sling and little Oom carrying the basket. You just go on telling how the mammoth fell on Boob and how Cain fell on Abel and how the bomb fell on Nagasaki and how the burning jelly fell on the villagers and how the missiles will fall on the Evil Empire, and all the other steps in the Ascent of Man.

If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it's useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and then next day you probably do much the same again--if to do that is human, if that's what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time.

Not, let it be said at once, an unaggressive or uncombative human being. I am an aging, angry woman laying mightily about me with my handbag, fighting hoodlums off. However I don't, nor does anybody else, consider myself heroic for doing so. It's just one of those damned things you have to do in order to be able to go on gathering wild oats and telling stories.

It is the story that makes the difference. It is the story that hid my humanity from me, the story the mammoth hunters told about bashing, thrusting, raping, killing, about the Hero. The wonderful, poisonous story of Botulism. The killer story.

It sometimes seems that that story is approaching its end. Lest there be no more telling of stories at all, some of us out here in the wild oats, amid the alien corn, think we'd better start telling another one, which maybe people can go on with when the old one's finished. Maybe. The trouble is, we've all let ourselves become part of the killer story, and so we may get finished along with it. Hence it is with a certain feeling of urgency that I seek the nature, subject, words of the other story, the untold one, the life story.

It's unfamiliar, it doesn't come easily, thoughtlessly to the lips as the killer story does; but still, "untold" was an exaggeration. People have been telling the life story for ages, in all sorts of words and ways. Myths of creation and transformation, trickster stories, folktales, jokes, novels...

The novel is a fundamentally unheroic kind of story. Of course the Hero has frequently taken it over, that being his imperial nature and uncontrollable impulse, to take everything over and run it while making stern decrees and laws to control his uncontrollable impulse to kill it. So the Hero has decreed through his mouthpieces the Lawgivers, first, that the proper shape of the narrative is that of the arrow or spear, starting here and going straight there and THOK! hitting its mark (which drops dead); second, that the central concern of narrative, including the novel, is conflict; and third, that the story isn't any good if he isn't in it.

I differ with all of this. I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.

One relationship among elements in the novel … [more]
ursulaleguin  1986  marxism  economics  labor  work  capitalism  feminism  writing  stories  storytelling  heroes  virginiawoolf  elziabethfisher  lilliansmith  humans  human  hunter-gatherers  humanity  scifi  sciencefiction  fiction  literature 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Akala - Knowledge is Power | London Real - YouTube
"18:06 Society is designed by the cultural appetites of the thinkers and maintained by the powerful.

19:22 Difference in expectations for public and state educated children. Benefits of the Saturday morning schools."

[via: https://twitter.com/ecomentario/status/953850955275079680 ]
education  akala  2014  schools  schooling  society  inequality  prisonindustrialcomplex  schooltoprisonpipeline  povery  racism  economics  meritocracy  politics  criticalthinking  criticalpedagogy  power  culture  unschooling  deschooling  music  football  soccer  activism  poetry  reading  writing  alberteinstein 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Describing Words - Find Adjectives to Describe Things
"This tool helps you find adjectives for things that you're trying to describe. Also check out ReverseDictionary.org and RelatedWords.org."
dictionaries  onlinetoolkit  writing  reference  adjectives  words  english  via:tealtan  classideas 
january 2018 by robertogreco
How to find your voice
"Young artists are always being told to “find your voice.”

Whatever that means!

I’ve never heard anyone explain it better than Billy Collins at a White House poetry workshop. I couldn’t find the text anywhere, so I transcribed it below. (If you’ve read Steal Like An Artist, this might sound really familiar…)
What I don’t like about the expression ‘finding your voice’ is that it’s very mystifying in the minds of young people. It makes you feel — made me feel when I first heard it — that your voice is tied up with your authenticity, that your voice lies deep within you, at some root bottom of your soul, and that to find your voice you need to fall into deep introspection… you have to gaze deeply into yourself. The frustration and the anxiety is that maybe you won’t find anything there. That you’re on this terrible quest to nowhere.

Let me reassure you that it’s not that mysterious. Your voice has an external source. It is not lying within you. It is lying in other people’s poetry. It is lying on the shelves of the library. To find your voice, you need to read deeply. You need to look inside yourself, of course, for material, because poetry is something that honors subjectivity. It honors your interiority. It honors what’s inside. But to find a way to express that, you have to look outside yourself.

Read widely, read all the poetry you can get your hands on. And in your reading, you’re searching for something. Not so much your voice. You’re searching for poets that make you jealous. Professors of writing call this “literary influence.” It’s jealousy. And it’s with every art, whether you play the saxophone, or do charcoal drawings. You’re looking to get influenced by people who make you furiously jealous.

Read widely. Find poets that make you envious. And then copy them. Try to get like them.

You know, you read a great poem in a magazine somewhere, and you just can’t stand the fact that you didn’t write it. What do you do? Well, you can’t get whiteout, and blank out the poet’s name and write yours in — that’s not fair. But you can say, “Okay, I didn’t write that poem, let me write a poem like that, that’s sort of my version of that.” And that’s basically the way you grow…

After you find your voice, you realize there’s really only one person to imitate, and that’s yourself. You do it by combining different influences. I think the first part of it is you do slavish imitations, which are almost like travesties, you know. But gradually you come under the right influences, picking and choosing, and being selective, and then maybe your voice is the combination of 6 or 8 other voices that you have managed to blend in such a way that no one can recognize the sources. You can take intimacy from Whitman, you can learn the dash from Emily Dickinson…you can pick a little bit from every writer and you combine them. This allows you to be authentic. That’s one of the paradoxes of the writing life: that the way to originality is through imitation.”


You can watch video of the whole workshop below. (Collins speaks at around the half hour mark.)"

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVIOKLXK9uY ]

[via: https://twitter.com/austinkleon/status/950133096610967552 ]
2015  2011  austinkleon  billcollins  writing  voice  multitude  poetry  art  beauty  personhood  williamcarloswilliams  influence  influences  remixing  agglomeration  authenticity  interconnectedness  interconnected  interconnectivity 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Ask Dr. Time: Orality and Literacy from Homer to Twitter
"So, as to the original question: are Twitter and texting new forms of orality? I have a simple answer and a complex one, but they’re both really the same.

The first answer is so lucid and common-sense, you can hardly believe that it’s coming from Dr. Time: if it’s written, it ain’t oral. Orality requires speech, or song, or sound. Writing is visual. If it’s visual and only visual, it’s not oral.

The only form of genuine speech that’s genuinely visual and not auditory is sign language. And sign language is speech-like in pretty much every way imaginable: it’s ephemeral, it’s interactive, there’s no record, the signs are fluid. But even most sign language is at least in part chirographic, i.e., dependent on writing and written symbols. At least, the sign languages we use today: although our spoken/vocal languages are pretty chirographic too.

Writing, especially writing in a hyperliterate society, involves a transformation of the sensorium that privileges vision at the expense of hearing, and privileges reading (especially alphabetic reading) over other forms of visual interpretation and experience. It makes it possible to take in huge troves of information in a limited amount of time. We can read teleprompters and ticker-tape, street signs and medicine bottles, tweets and texts. We can read things without even being aware we’re reading them. We read language on the move all day long: social media is not all that different.

Now, for a more complicated explanation of that same idea, we go back to Father Ong himself. For Ong, there’s a primary orality and a secondary orality. The primary orality, we’ve covered; secondary orality is a little more complicated. It’s not just the oral culture of people who’ve got lots of experience with writing, but of people who’ve developed technologies that allow them to create new forms of oral communication that are enabled by writing.

The great media forms of secondary orality are the movies, television, radio, and the telephone. All of these are oral, but they’re also modern media, which means the media reshapes it in its own image: they squeeze your toothpaste through its tube. But they’re also transformative forms of media in a world that’s dominated by writing and print, because they make it possible to get information in new ways, according to new conventions, and along different sensory channels.

Walter Ong died in 2003, so he never got to see social media at its full flower, but he definitely was able to see where electronic communications was headed. Even in the 1990s, people were beginning to wonder whether interactive chats on computers fell under Ong’s heading of “secondary orality.” He gave an interview where he tried to explain how he saw things — as far as I know, relatively few people have paid attention to it (and the original online source has sadly linkrotted away):
“When I first used the term ‘secondary orality,’ I was thinking of the kind of orality you get on radio and television, where oral performance produces effects somewhat like those of ‘primary orality,’ the orality using the unprocessed human voice, particularly in addressing groups, but where the creation of orality is of a new sort. Orality here is produced by technology. Radio and television are ‘secondary’ in the sense that they are technologically powered, demanding the use of writing and other technologies in designing and manufacturing the machines which reproduce voice. They are thus unlike primary orality, which uses no tools or technology at all. Radio and television provide technologized orality. This is what I originally referred to by the term ‘secondary orality.’

I have also heard the term ‘secondary orality’ lately applied by some to other sorts of electronic verbalization which are really not oral at all—to the Internet and similar computerized creations for text. There is a reason for this usage of the term. In nontechnologized oral interchange, as we have noted earlier, there is no perceptible interval between the utterance of the speaker and the hearer’s reception of what is uttered. Oral communication is all immediate, in the present. Writing, chirographic or typed, on the other hand, comes out of the past. Even if you write a memo to yourself, when you refer to it, it’s a memo which you wrote a few minutes ago, or maybe two weeks ago. But on a computer network, the recipient can receive what is communicated with no such interval. Although it is not exactly the same as oral communication, the network message from one person to another or others is very rapid and can in effect be in the present. Computerized communication can thus suggest the immediate experience of direct sound. I believe that is why computerized verbalization has been assimilated to secondary ‘orality,’ even when it comes not in oral-aural format but through the eye, and thus is not directly oral at all. Here textualized verbal exchange registers psychologically as having the temporal immediacy of oral exchange. To handle [page break] such technologizing of the textualized word, I have tried occasionally to introduce the term ‘secondary literacy.’ We are not considering here the production of sounded words on the computer, which of course are even more readily assimilated to ‘secondary orality’” (80-81).

So tweets and text messages aren’t oral. They’re secondarily literate. Wait, that sounds horrible! How’s this: they’re artifacts and examples of secondary literacy. They’re what literacy looks like after television, the telephone, and the application of computing technologies to those communication forms. Just as orality isn’t the same after you’ve introduced writing, and manuscript isn’t the same after you’ve produced print, literacy isn’t the same once you have networked orality. In this sense, Twitter is the necessary byproduct of television.

Now, where this gets really complicated is with stuff like Siri and Alexa, and other AI-driven, natural-language computing interfaces. This is almost a tertiary orality, voice after texting, and certainly voice after interactive search. I’d be inclined to lump it in with secondary orality in that broader sense of technologically-mediated orality. But it really does depend how transformative you think client- and cloud-side computing, up to and including AI, really are. I’m inclined to say that they are, and that Alexa is doing something pretty different from what the radio did in the 1920s and 30s.

But we have to remember that we’re always much more able to make fine distinctions about technology deployed in our own lifetime, rather than what develops over epochs of human culture. Compared to that collision of oral and literate cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean that gave us poetry, philosophy, drama, and rhetoric in the classical period, or the nexus of troubadours, scholastics, printers, scientific meddlers and explorers that gave us the Renaissance, our own collision of multiple media cultures is probably quite small.

But it is genuinely transformative, and it is ours. And some days it’s as charming to think about all the ways in which our heirs will find us completely unintelligible as it is to imagine the complex legacy we’re bequeathing them."
2018  timcarmody  classics  homer  literature  poetry  literacy  orality  odyssey  walterong  secondaryorality  writing  texting  sms  twitter  socialmedia  technology  language  communication  culture  oraltradition  media  film  speech  signlanguage  asl  tv  television  radio  telephones  phones 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Tome PressDigital Academic Publishing Tool
"Tome is for scholars and students to write online with media and community in mind

SIGN UP FOR TOME
Digital academic writing poses new opportunities and challenges. While there is no substitute for good writing, digital formats affect the ways we write and read on screens. Can long, scholarly arguments be sustained online? Rich media offers us ways to capture movement, sound, and other forms of 'live' practice that could not previously be included in print publications. Online and collaborative writing additionally build their own communities of readers, reaching audiences that previously did not have access to many important materials. Over the past 10 years, we have worked closely with scholars and students to develop books, dossiers, journals and other forms of online publications.

Why Tome?
Tome features MLA and Chicago referencing, academic type formatting, interactive Google maps, audio, galleries, chat, comments, blog, and annotations in a powerful but intuitive platform built on the WordPress framework. Easily manage your chapters or essays, media library, and bibliography. Share, and invite others to write and contribute for broader course projects. Publish and flatten your book when finished to preserve the material.

Do it Together
With the ability to invite multiple users, write multilingual chapters, keep blogs and easily create and manage a large, 5GB online archive, it is easy to create class-wide collaborative writing and digital humanities projects. We have created pilot programs with professors and libraries at Columbia, NYU, NYU Abu Dhabi, University of Colorado Boulder, USC, and UCSB and University of Miami to explore the role of technology in pedagogy. We have consulted with hundreds of students and scholars to create quick essays, continuing publication series, published books, and collaborative class projects.

Who We Are
We are dedicated to developing the next generation of academic writing tools and techniques. By working hands on with students, authors, librarians, archivists and visual artists, we hope to expand familiarity and participation in the digital humanities. Our interests include preservation, meta-data, tags, and accessibility. Tome's research team has involved students, professors, authors, designers, film makers, and activists. Our designers have created digital books for 10 years."
hemipress  tome  webdev  publishing  mla  annotation  digital  digitalpublishing  writing  onlinetoolkit  archives 
january 2018 by robertogreco
An Xiao Busingye Mina on Instagram: “My #2017bestnine includes talks/panels at Harvard Law School and the V&A Museum as I started looking at memes in the physical world and the…” • Instagram
"My #2017bestnine includes talks/panels at Harvard Law School and the V&A Museum as I started looking at memes in the physical world and the political implications thereof, signs of the resistance in the United States as I rediscovered photography after a 6 year hiatus, artsy selfies, a real-life security robot, a rainbow on a road trip and falling snow while we worked on @thebagx.
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Amidst this are many things I didn’t Insta about so much — countless misinformation events, new software initiatives, research with refugees in Berlin, an artist residency in Lijiang, the birth of @thecivicbeat’s Meme Lab, and the end of something started nearly 3 years ago. In 2017, I also submitted my book manuscript — by this same time in 2018, it will be ready to come to life (fingers crossed). It’s a book about Internet memes, movements and, I think, the rise of authoritarianism, and it reflects 6 years of thinking.
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2017 was a privileged one for me, as I got to travel the world, but it was not a rosy year. I saw the rise of swastikas and open hate in the United States, extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, a clamping down on the internet in China and increased demolitions in Beijing, the ripple effects of the war in Syria, and the global ravages of new digital forms of propaganda and manipulation. I didn’t write about these things specifically here, but they influenced me nonetheless. These, and two things I did post about — visits to the concentration camps at Sachsenhausen and Manzanar — left me with a deep sense of how fragile peace and democracy can be.
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Along the way, this little Insta account has become a blog of sorts, tapped away and edited on buses and planes and trains. Thanks for being here with me on this journey."
anxiaomina  2017  blogging  instagram  travel  experience  writing  howwewrite 
january 2018 by robertogreco
How to build a book: Notes from an editorial bricoleuse | HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory: Vol 7, No 3
"This piece offers an editor’s reflections on the ethos and craft of writing. General suggestions, words of encouragement, and detailed tips emerge through a discussion of unexpected affinities between writing and building. An annotated list of further readings accompanies the text.

Ce texte offre les réflexions d’une éditrice sur l’ethos et l’art de l’écriture. Des suggestions générales, des encouragements, et quelques conseils précis se dégagent d’une discussion sur les affinités inattendues entre l’écriture et la construction. Une liste annotée de lectures complémentaires accompagne ce texte."



"The inevitable risk in writing a document like this one is that authors will interpret my advice as an example of editorial fascism that is appeased only when others subsume their ambition to conformity. I would hate for that to be the lesson of this meditation (which is, in itself, something of an oddity).

Times change, architectural styles go through inevitable change and recombination, and books change too. No intelligent person would demand that every room conform perfectly to a single model or that every book do the same. Variation is one cornerstone of beauty. So, please, surprise me. But do so from a position of intimate understanding. Mastery of tradition, in writing as in other crafts, is the first condition for innovation."

[via: https://twitter.com/npseaver/status/944918352773951494

"Some nice, not obvious advice in this piece on writing academic books (aimed at anthro, but more broadly relevant), from @priyasnelson: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.14318/hau7.3.020 … (I especially like the “finding the center” metaphor.)

Not that anthropologists are unique snowflakes, but I wish we had more writing advice like this aimed at us particularly: we have some particular strengths and weaknesses that generic academic writing advice doesn’t appreciate."]
writing  editing  craft  2017  priyanelson  variation  conformity  innovation  citation  anthropology  srg  neologisms  socialsciences  academia  revision  publishing  serendipity  details  planning 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Harvard EdCast: Lifelong Kindergarten | Harvard Graduate School of Education
"The concept of kindergarten — as a place for young children to learn by interacting with materials and people around them — has existed for over 200 years, but never has the approach been so suited to the way the world works as it is today, says Mitchel Resnick, the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab.

“That approach to kindergarten is really aligned with the needs of today’s society," says Resnick, citing the need to adapt to the speed at which things change in the world. "As kids in the traditional kindergarten were playfully designing and creating things, they were developing as creative thinkers…. That’s exactly what we need.”

Being given the room to explore, experiment, and express oneself is vital to becoming a creative thinker — and to the learning process as a whole — says Resnick, author of Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play. If people aren't encouraged in their creativity at an early age, and if this isn't nutured throughout their schooling, then they aren't as prepared to deal with the unexpected when it arises.

“We’re trying to spread that approach to learners of all ages," says Resnick, who also leads the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at MIT. "We want to take what’s worked best in kindergarten and here at the Media Lab and provide opportunities for all kids of all ages to be able to explore and experiment and express themselves in that same spirit.”

In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Resnick talks about the importance of nurturing creativity in learning and explains why kindergarten is the greatest invention of the last millennium."

[See also:
"Mitchel Resnick - MIT Media Lab: Lifelong Kindergarten" (2014)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRxD-pe3PN0

"Helping Kids Develop as Creative Thinkers" (2017)
https://vimeo.com/244986026 ]
mitchresnick  lifelongkindergarten  mitmedialab  2017  interviews  kindergarten  play  projects  projectbasedlearning  passion  collaboration  experimentation  creativity  medialab  scratch  making  pbl  teaching  sfsh  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  risks  risktaking  education  schools  lcproject  openstudioproject  curiosity  schooling  unschooling  deschooling  mindstorms  writing  coding  programming  leaning  creating  lego  reasoning 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Critic and poet Fred Moten is profiled by Jesse McCarthy | Harvard Magazine
"IN 2013, a manifesto entitled The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study began making the rounds among the growing pool of nervous graduate students, harried adjuncts, un-tenured professors, and postdocs whirling through the nation’s faculty lounges. The Undercommons was published by the small anarchist press Autonomedia and made freely available for download; in practice, however, it circulated by word of mouth, copies of the PDF forwarded like samizdat literature for those in the know. On the surface, the text is an analysis of alienated academic labor at the contemporary American university. But it’s also more radical than that: it is a manual for free thinking, a defiant call to dissent within educational institutions that betray their liberal credos, filling their coffers even as they prepare students, armed with liberal arts degrees and “critical thinking” skills, to helm a social and economic order in which, “to work…is to be asked, more and more, to do without thinking, to feel without emotion, to move without friction, to adapt without question, to translate without pause, to desire without purpose, to connect without interruption.”

For those with little or no knowledge of black studies, the text’s deployment of terms like “fugitivity” and “undercommons” may seem baffling. To those in the circle, however, this lexicon of continental philosophy, remixed with a poetic and prophetic fire resembling Amiri Baraka’s, bears the signature of one of the most brilliant practitioners of black studies working today: the scholar and poet Fred Moten ’84."



"This past fall, Moten took up a new position in the department of performance studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, arriving from Los Angeles and a teaching appointment at the University of California at Riverside. In early September, his office was still a bare room with a single high window looking out over Broadway. He hadn’t had a chance to unpack his library, but already a small stack of books on jazz theory, performance, and quantum mechanics rested in a pile near his desk. It soon became clear, however, that he is the kind of thinker who keeps all his favorite books in his head, anyway. His Paul Laurence Dunbar is always at his fingertips, and he weaves passages from Karl Marx, Immanuel Kant, or Hortense Spillers into his conversation with equal facility.

In someone else this learnedness could come off as intimidating, but in Moten it’s just the opposite. Something about his composure, his relaxed attentiveness, the way he shakes his head with knowing laughter as he pauses over the direction he’s about to take with a question, instantly erases any stuffiness: one can imagine the exact same conversation taking place on the sidelines of a cookout. And then there’s his voice: warm, low, and propelled by a mellow cadence that breaks complex clauses into neat segments, their hushed, conspiratorial air approaching aphorism. At one point, Moten asked about my dissertation, which I confessed, sheepishly, was kind of a mess. His eyes lit up. He leaned back with a wide grin, his hands spreading out in front of him. “You know what a mess is?” He said. “In Arkansas, a mess is a unit of measure. Like of vegetables. Where my people come from folks might say: ‘You want a bushel?’ And you’ll say, ‘Nah, I want a mess.’ You know, like that great James Brown line: ‘Nobody can tell me how to use my mess.’ It’s a good thing to have. A mess is enough for a meal.”"



"One difficulty for outside readers encountering Moten’s work is that he tends to engage more with the avant-garde than with pop. It’s easy to see why the art world has embraced him: his taste gravitates toward the free-jazz end of the spectrum so strongly it’s as if he were on a mission, striving to experience all of creation at once—to play (as the title of a favorite Cecil Taylor album puts it) All the Notes. This spring, Moten is teaching a graduate course based on the works of choreographer Ralph Lemon and artist Glenn Ligon. In recent years he has collaborated with the artist Wu Tsang on installation and video art pieces, where they do things like practice the (slightly nostalgic) art of leaving voicemail messages for each other every day for two weeks without ever connecting, just riffing off snippets from each other’s notes. In another video short directed by Tsang, Moten—wearing a caftan and looking Sun Ra-ish—is filmed in “drag-frame” slow motion dancing to an a cappella rendition of the jazz standard “Girl Talk.”

By way of explanation, Moten recalls his old neighborhood. “I grew up around people who were weird. No one’s blackness was compromised by their weirdness, and by the same token,” he adds, “nobody’s weirdness was compromised by their blackness.” The current buzz (and sometimes backlash) over the cultural ascendancy of so-called black nerds, or “blerds,” allegedly incarnated by celebrities like Donald Glover, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Issa Rae, leaves him somewhat annoyed. “In my mind I have this image of Sonny Boy Williamson wearing one of those harlequin suits he liked to wear. These dudes were strange, and I always felt that’s just essential to black culture. George Clinton is weird. Anybody that we care about, that we still pay attention to, they were weird.”

Weirdness for Moten can refer to cultural practices, but it also describes the willful idiosyncracy of his own work, which draws freely from tributaries of all kinds. In Black and Blur, the first book of his new three-volume collection, consent not to be a single being (published by Duke University Press), one finds essays on the Congolese painter Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu and C.L.R. James, François Girard’s Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a comparison between Trinidadian calypso and Charles Mingus records composed in response to the Little Rock Nine, David Hammon’s art installation Concerto in Black and Blue, Wittgenstein and the science fiction of Samuel Delany, a deconstruction of Theodor Adorno’s writings on music and a reconstruction of Saidiya Hartman’s arguments on violence. Sometimes the collision can happen within a single sentence: “Emily Dickinson and Harriet Jacobs, in their upper rooms, are beautiful,” he writes. “They renovate sequestration.”

Taken together, Moten’s writings feel like a Charlie Parker solo, or a Basquiat painting, in their gleeful yet deadly serious attempt to capture the profusion of ideas in flight. For him this fugitive quality is the point. We are not supposed to be satisfied with clear understanding, but instead motivated to continue improvising and imagining a utopian destination where a black cosmopolitanism—one created from below, rather than imposed from above—brings folks together.

For Moten, this flight of ideas begins in the flight of bodies: in the experience of slavery and the Middle Passage, which plays a crucial role in his thinking. “Who is more cosmopolitan than Equiano?” he asks rhetorically, citing the Igbo sailor and merchant who purchased his own freedom, joined the abolitionist movement in England, and published his famous autobiography in 1789. “People think cosmopolitanism is about having a business-class seat. The hold of the ship, among other things, produces a kind of cosmopolitanism, and it’s not just about contact with Europeans and transatlantic travel. When you put Fulani and Igbo together and they have to learn how to speak to each other, that’s also a language lab. The historical production of blackness is cosmopolitanism.”

What can one learn from the expression of people who refuse to be commodities, but also once were commodities? What does history look like, or the present, or the future, from the point of view of those who refuse the norms produced by systems of violence: who consent not to be a single being? These key concerns course through the entirety of Moten’s dazzling new trilogy, which assembles all his theoretical writings since In the Break. At a time of surging reactionary politics, ill feeling, and bad community, few thinkers seem so unburdened and unbeholden, so confident in their reading of the historical moment. Indeed, when faced with the inevitable question of the state of U.S. politics, Moten remains unfazed. “The thing I can’t stand is the Trump exceptionalism. Remember when Goldwater was embarrassing. And Reagan. And Bush. Trump is nothing new. This is what empire on the decline looks like. When each emperor is worse than the last.”

* * *

A THESIS that has often been attractive to black intellectuals (held dear, for example, by both W.E.B. Du Bois and Ralph Ellison) was that the United States without black people is too terrifying to contemplate; that all the evidence, on balance, suggests that blackness has actually been the single most humanizing—one could even say, slyly, the only “civilizing”—force in America. Moten takes strong exception. “The work of black culture was never to civilize America—it’s about the ongoing production of the alternative. At this point it’s about the preservation of the earth. To the extent that black culture has a historic mission, and I believe that it does—its mission is to uncivilize, to de-civilize, this country. Yes, this brutal structure was built on our backs; but if that was the case, it was so that when we stood up it would crumble.”

Despite these freighted words, Moten isn’t the brooding type. He’s pleased to be back in New York City, where he’ll be able to walk, instead of drive, his kids to school. He’s hopeful about new opportunities for travel, and excited to engage with local artists and poets. His wife, cultural studies scholar Laura Harris, is working on a study of the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, who is currently being “re-discovered” by American artists and critics. “I circulate babylon and translate for the new times,” opens another poem in The Feel Trio, … [more]
fredmoten  2017  2013  highereducation  highered  work  labor  anarchism  race  slavery  blackstudies  dissent  radicalism  via:javierarbona  resistance  blackness  bodies  aesthetics  amiribaraka  dukeellington  adrianpiper  billieholiday  nathanielmackey  poetry  scholarship  academia  rebellion  subversion  karlmarx  marxism  hortensespillers  kant  paullaurencedunbar  attentiveness  messes  messiness  johnashbery  ralphellison  webdubois  everyday  writing  undercommons  margins  liminality  betweenness  alternative  preservation  uncivilization  decivilization  consent  empire  imperialism  body  objects  cosmopolitanism  charlieparker  basquiat  weirdness  donaldglover  neildegrassetyson  issarae  georgeclinton  tshibumbakanda-matulu  charlesmingus  samueldelany  saidiyahartman  clrjames  françoisgirard  davidhammon  héliooiticica  lauraharris  charlesolson  susanhowe  criticism  art  stefanoharney  jacquesderrida  jean-michelbasquiat  theodoradorno 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Experimental trials and ‘what works?’ in education: The case of grammar for writing - Wyse - 2017 - British Educational Research Journal - Wiley Online Library
"The place of evidence to inform educational effectiveness has received increasing attention internationally in the last two decades. An important contribution to evidence-informed policy has been greater attention to experimental trials including randomised controlled trials (RCTs). The aim of this paper is to examine the use of evidence, particularly the use of evidence from experimental trials, to inform national curriculum policy. To do this the teaching of grammar to help pupils’ writing was selected as a case. Two well-regarded and influential experimental trials that had a significant effect on policy, and that focused on the effectiveness of grammar teaching to support pupils’ writing, are examined in detail. In addition to the analysis of their methodology, the nature of the two trials is also considered in relation to other key studies in the field of grammar teaching for writing and a recently published robust RCT. The paper shows a significant and persistent mismatch between national curriculum policy in England and the robust evidence that is available with regard to the teaching of writing. It is concluded that there is a need for better evidence-informed decisions by policy makers to ensure a national curriculum specification for writing that is more likely to have positive impact on pupils."

[via: https://twitter.com/alfiekohn/status/936614840684154883 ]
grammar  education  writing  directinstruction  policy  english  2017  teaching  teachingwriting 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Gendered Text Project
"Keep the plot. Keep the prose.
Change the pronouns.

Purpose
Dynamically rewrite the gender of personae in texts
Challenge unconscious biases about gender and characters"
gender  literature  flipforlessonplans  writing  classideas  via:lukeneff 
november 2017 by robertogreco
////////// from “Commitment from the Mirror-Writing Box,” Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Woman, Native, Other
"Nothing could be more normative, more logical, and more authoritarian than, for example, the (politically) revolutionary poetry or prose that speaks of revolution in the form of commands or in the well-behaved, steeped-in-convention-language of “clarity.” (”A wholesome, clear, and direct language” is said to be “the fulcrum to move the mass or to sanctify it.”) Clear expression, often equated with correct expression, has long been the criterion set forth in treatises on rhetoric, whose aim was to order discourse so as to persuade. The language of Taoism and Zen, for example, which is perfectly accessible but rife with paradox does not qualify as “clear” (paradox is “illogical” and “nonsensical” to many Westerners), for its intent lies outside the realm of persuasion. The same holds true for vernacular speech, which is not acquired through institutions — schools, churches, professions, etc. — and therefore not repressed by either grammatical rules, technical terms, or key words. Clarity as a purely rhetorical attribute serves the purpose of a classical feature in language, namely, its instrumentality. To write is to communicate, express, witness, impose, instruct, redeem, or save — at any rate to mean and to send out an unambiguous message. Writing thus reduced to a mere vehicle of thought may be used to orient toward a goal or to sustain an act, but it does not constitute an act in itself. This is how the division between the writer/the intellectual and the activists/the masses becomes possible. To use the language well, says the voice of literacy, cherish its classic form. Do not choose the offbeat at the cost of clarity. Obscurity is an imposition on the reader. True, but beware when you cross railroad tracks for one train may hide another train. Clarity is a means of subjection, a quality both of official, taught language and of correct writing, two old mates of power; together they flow, together they flower, vertically, to impose an order. Let us not forget that writers who advocate the instrumentality of language are often those who cannot or choose not to see the suchness of things — a language as language — and therefore, continue to preach conformity to the norms of well-behaved writing: principles of composition, style, genre, correction, and improvement. To write “clearly,” one must incessantly prune, eliminate, forbid, purge, purify; in other words, practice what may be called an “ablution of language” (Roland Barthes)."

— from “Commitment from the Mirror-Writing Box,” Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Woman, Native, Other

[See also PDF of full text in a couple of places:
http://www.sjsu.edu/people/julie.hawker/courses/c1/s2/Trinh-T-Minh-ha-1989.pdf
https://lmthomasucsd.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/minh-ha-reading.pdf ]
trinhminh-ha  rolandbarthes  literacy  clarity  writing  language  taoism  zen  buddhism  persuasion  authority  authoritarianism  power  control  tradition  poetry  prose  canon  rhetoric  grammar  rules  expression  classics  communication  subjection  instrumentality  beauty  style  genre  composition  correction  improvement  purification  speech  vernacular  schools  churches  professions  professionalism  convention  conventions 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Against Productivity – The Message – Medium
"Here is what really happened in Puerto Rico four years ago: I fell into a funk, beat myself up a bit, and spent the rest of the time wandering around (mostly to the same places) and daydreaming. I wrote a few strange blog posts which no one read. I went a bit further into credit card debt. My days themselves were pretty quiet. I began to really think hard about what the internet does to society by just being the internet. I wrote out some of what I’d seen, and replayed them in my mind while I wandered around the beach. I made a video about being a robot in a Japanese blues bar asking if anyone could really see a singularity from inside of it. I tried to imagine 2010 me without the net. I tried to imagine 1989 me with the net. I talked about how the internet does and doesn’t change things in a place like PR. I read about Rwanda, and about the trade union history of PR and read and talked more about the history of coffee. Puerto Ricans are big on coffee. And then I left. I don’t remember where I went next.

But it all means something else now. When I look back on not only the wasted time in PR, but the couple of unproductive years around it I see it differently now. When I wasn’t beating myself up for not being productive enough, I was thinking about and interacting with the world. I was laying the first stones of a new foundation, a new way of thinking about networked culture, and even about our place on this planet. Instead of getting things done I was learning, smiling at people I didn’t share a language with, and cross-connecting the notions of my brain and the experiences of my life. It all lay fallow in me for a long time, as notes on my blog, snatches of poems, story bits to never be written. The pieces of this change were pieces of lyrics I wasted time writing on post-it notes I promptly lost, and articles I read instead of working and bits of conversation and pop songs that clung like ribbons and buttons and bits of flowers stuck all over my psyche.

My wasteful and unproductive time was the only time I asked: What should I be doing? What is a worthwhile life? And so it followed that was the only time when I could start to answer those questions. What is good work? Is any of this worth it? What makes life worth living? What good can I do in this world?

What is this world anyway?

I am only now beginning to harvest what was sown in that wasted and unproductive time. But now there are so many threads and ideas from that time, I can’t possibly follow them all. I see the world differently now. I like it more, and I see, just a tiny bit better, how it fits together.

Wisdom takes time. It takes staring out into the rain, It takes service to others. It takes getting nothing done to make us human again. To see the connections between things requires studying the blank spaces between them, days that slip into boredom and loneliness with only a person and their senses and their imagination to keep them company. I can now see that much of what I’ve written in the past year started in 2010, in Puerto Rico. I can see how the time around it allowed me to work the stories of 2011 and 2012 with an insight and understanding that I couldn’t have gotten without the failures to produce that shaped my 2009 and 2010. I can now see that my productive work — at least the good stuff, comes from my unproductive time, from my empty yearning to understand the world.

In many ways foolishness isn’t the opposite of wisdom, but its absence. Productivity is the opposite of wisdom. Humanity is a creature of time and imagination. From these things our fruits are born more than manufactured. Productivity is a quality of perfect robots. Stories, adventures and all new things still have to come from messy humans.

We should spend more time wasting time. We all need to be bored more. We all need to spend more time looking quizzically at birds we don’t recognize. We all need a little more time to connect the dots and see if they matter. I don’t know how much more, but sometimes you have to do things without knowing how much you need.

As for me, I want to go back to Puerto Rico."
productivity  life  philosophy  quinnorton  2017  slow  slowness  writing  idleness  transcontextualism  internet  web  networkedculture  purpose 
november 2017 by robertogreco
003: Craig Mod - I Want My Attention Back! • Hurry Slowly
"Did you know that the mere presence of a smartphone near you is slowly draining away your cognitive energy and attention? (Even if it’s tucked away in a desk drawer or a bag.) Like it or not, the persistent use of technology is changing the quality of our attention. And not in a good way.

In this episode, I talk with writer, designer and technologist Craig Mod — who’s done numerous experiments in reclaiming his attention — about how we can break out of this toxic cycle of smartphone and social media addiction and regain control of our powers of concentration.

Key takeaways from the interview:

• How Facebook and other social media apps are lulling us into “attention slavery”

• Why interrupting your workflow to post on social media — and sharing pithy thoughts or ideas — shuts down your creative process

• How short digital detox retreats and/or meditation sessions can “defrag your mind” so that you can deploy your attention more consciously and more powerfully

• Why mapping your ideas in large offline spaces — e.g. on a whiteboard or blackboard — gives you “permission” to get messy and evolve your thinking in a way that’s impossible on a screen

• How changing the quality of your attention can change your relationship to everything — art, conversations, creativity, and business"



"Favorite Quotes

“If there was a meter of 1 to 10 of how present you are or how much you can manipulate your own attention — how confident you are that you could, say, read a book for three hours without an interruption, without feeling pulled to something else. I would say the baseline pre-smartphone was a 4 or 3. Now, it’s a 1.”

“I think that a life in which you are never present, in which you have no control over your attention, in which you’re constantly being pulled in different directions, is kind of sad — because there is this incredible gift of consciousness. And when that consciousness is deployed smartly, it’s amazing the things that can be built out of it.”

Resources

Here’s a shortlist of things Craig and I talked about in the course of the conversation, including where you can go on a meditation retreat. You should be aware that vipassana retreats are offered free of charge, and are open to anyone.

Craig’s piece on attention from Backchannel magazine
https://www.wired.com/2017/01/how-i-got-my-attention-back/

Vipassana meditation retreat locations
https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

Craig’s article on post-100 hours of meditation
https://craigmod.com/roden/013/

Film director Krzysztof Kieslowski
http://www.indiewire.com/2013/03/the-essentials-krzysztof-kieslowski-100770/

Writer and technologist Kevin Kelly
http://kk.org/thetechnium/

The Large Hadron Collider at Cern
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/large-hadron-collider-explained "
attention  craigmod  zoominginandout  ideas  thinking  focus  meditation  technology  blackboards  messiness  presence  writing  relationships  conversation  art  creativity  digitaldetox  maps  mapping  brainstorming  socialmedia  internet  web  online  retreats  jocelynglei  howwethink  howewrite  concentration  interruption  kevinkelly  vipassana  krzysztofkieslowski  largehadroncollider  cern 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Bat, Bean, Beam: Inside the Personal Computer
"The inside of a computer looks a bit like a city, its memory banks and I/O devices rising like buildings over the avenues of soldered circuits. But then so do modern cities resembles motherboards, especially at night, when the cars sparkle like point-to-point signal carriers travelling along the grid. It is a well-worn visual metaphor in films and advertising, suggesting that the nerve centres of business and finance have come to resemble the information infrastructure that sustains them. Besides, isn’t the city at the sharp edge of the late capitalist era above all a generator of symbols?

And yet this technology with which we are so intimate, and that more than any other since the invention of writing has extended us, remains mostly opaque to us. Why would anyone bother to learn what digital machines look like on the inside? What difference would it make, when the uses we make of them are so incommensurate with this trivial knowledge?

I like pop-up books, and early pop-up books about the inner workings of computers have become obsolete in an interesting way. They are the last thing we would think to use to demonstrate such knowledge nowadays. They are so prone to jamming or coming apart. They have none of the grace and smoothness that our devices aspire to.

The centre piece of Sharon Gallagher’s Inside the Personal Computer – An illustrated Introduction in 3 Dimensions (1984) is the machine itself, complete with keyboard and floppy disk drive.

If you push the disk inside its unit and lower the flap, a Roman blind-like mechanism changes the message on the screen from INSERT DISK AND CLOSE DOWN to HELLO: THIS BOOK EXPLAINS WHAT I AM AND HOW I WORK. BY THE END YOU’LL KNOW ME INSIDE OUT.

It’s a neat trick. But the book is at its best when it gets into the basics of how transistors work, or uses wheels to explain how to translate a number into binary code, or a typed character first into ASCII, then into its binary equivalent.

Or simply what happens when you type “M”.

There is the mechanical action that alienates us from the digital word. Writing technologized language but still allowed us to write in our own hand, whereas there is simply no way of typing gracefully. Any M is like any other M, and even if we choose a fancy font the translation from the essential M (ASCII code 77) to the fancy M happens inside the computer and in code. This is not a ‘bad thing’. It’s just the state of the tools of our culture, which require a different kind of practice.

The other thing that this book makes clear is that the personal computer hasn’t changed very much at all since 1984. Its component parts are largely unchanged: a motherboard, a central processing unit, RAM and ROM, I/O ports. Floppy disks have become USB sticks, while hard drives – which boasted at the time ‘between 5 and 50 megabytes of information – the equivalent of between 3,000 and 30,000 typewritten pages' – have fewer moving parts. But their function is the same as in the early models. Ditto the monitors, which have become flatter, and in colour. Even the mouse already existed, although back then its name still commanded inverted commas. Today’s computers, then, are a great deal more powerful, but otherwise fairly similar to what they were like three and a half decades ago. What makes them unrecognisable is that they’re all connected. And for that – for the internet – it makes even less sense to ‘take a look inside’. Inside what? Does the internet reside in the telephone exchange, or at the headquarters of ICANN, or where else?

The inside of a computer looks a bit like a city, but it’s an alien city. None of its buildings have doors or windows. The roads are made not of stone or asphalt but of plastic and metal.

The pictures above, by the way, show the guts of mine, which I recently upgraded. It’s what I used to write this blog and everything else from 2010 to June of this year, but I feel no attachment to it – it would be silly to.

There are guides on the web to help you mine your old computer for gold using household chemicals. They come with bold type warnings about how toxic the process is. But in fact computers are both hazardous to manufacture and to dismantle. Waste materials from all the PCs and assorted electronic devices discarded since 1984 have created massively polluted districts and cities in the global south. Places like the Agbogbloshie district of Accra, Ghana, and countless others. Vast dumping sites that are mined for scraps of precious metals as much as for the personal information left onto the hard drives, while leeching chemicals into the local water supply.

This would be a more meaningful inside in which to peer if we want to understand how computers work, and their effect on the world’s societies. One effect of globalisation has been to displace human labour. Not eliminate it, far from it, but rather create the illusion in the most advanced nations that manufacturing jobs have disappeared, and meaningful work consists in either farming the land or providing services. Automation has claimed many of those jobs, of course, but other have simply shifted away from the centres where most of the consumption takes place. This is another way in which the computer has become a mysterious machine: because no-one you know makes them.

Inside the Personal Computer was written 33 years ago in an effort to demystify an object that would soon become a feature in every household, and change everyone’s life. On the last page, it is no longer the book that ‘speaks’ to the reader, like in the first pop up, but the computer itself. Its message is perfectly friendly but in hindsight more than a little eerie."
giovnnitiso  computers  computing  2017  globalization  labor  hardware  geopolitics  economics  pop-upbooks  1984  sharongallagher  writing  technology  digital  physical  icann  ascii  accra  ghana  objects  environment  sustainability  ecology 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin - Los Angeles Review of Books
"How do you feel about ebooks these days?

When I started writing about ebooks and print books, a lot of people were shouting, “The book is dead, the book is dead, it’s all going to be electronic.” I got tired of it. What I was trying to say is that now we have two ways of publishing, and we’re going to use them both. We had one, now we have two. How can that be bad? Creatures live longer if they can do things in different ways. I think I’ve been fairly consistent on that. But the tone of my voice might have changed. I was going against a trendy notion. There’s this joke I heard. You know what Gutenberg’s second book was, after the Bible? It was a book about how the book was dead."



"You once clarified your political stance by saying, “I am not a progressive. I think the idea of progress an invidious and generally harmful mistake. I am interested in change, which is an entirely different matter.” Why is the idea of progress harmful? Surely in the great sweep of time, there has been progress on social issues because people have an idea or even an ideal of it.

I didn’t say progress was harmful, I said the idea of progress was generally harmful. I was thinking more as a Darwinist than in terms of social issues. I was thinking about the idea of evolution as an ascending staircase with amoebas at the bottom and Man at the top or near the top, maybe with some angels above him. And I was thinking of the idea of history as ascending infallibly to the better — which, it seems to me, is how the 19th and 20th centuries tended to use the word “progress.” We leave behind us the Dark Ages of ignorance, the primitive ages without steam engines, without airplanes/nuclear power/computers/whatever is next. Progress discards the old, leads ever to the new, the better, the faster, the bigger, et cetera. You see my problem with it? It just isn’t true.

How does evolution fit in?

Evolution is a wonderful process of change — of differentiation and diversification and complication, endless and splendid; but I can’t say that any one of its products is “better than” or “superior to” any other in general terms. Only in specific ways. Rats are more intelligent and more adaptable than koala bears, and those two superiorities will keep rats going while the koalas die out. On the other hand, if there were nothing around to eat but eucalyptus, the rats would be gone in no time and the koalas would thrive. Humans can do all kinds of stuff bacteria can’t do, but if I had to bet on really long-term global survival, my money would go to the bacteria."
usulaleguin  2017  evolution  progress  change  diversity  differentiation  diversification  complication  difference  ebooks  publishing  writing  sciencefiction  scifi 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Jen Bervin: Artist as Researcher de Make/Time
"Jen Bervin’s interdisciplinary work often combines art, science and writing. One recent project is Silk Poems, a poem written nanoscale in the form of a silk biosensor in collaboration with Tufts University’s Silk Lab, and also published as a book. Another project, The Dickinson Composite Series, is a series of large-scale embroideries that depict the variant markings in Emily Dickinson’s original manuscripts. Jen's work as a poet and visual artist takes her in surprising directions. She says, “I love research because I don’t know what I’ll find.”

Make/Time shares conversations about craft, inspiration, and the creative process. Listen to leading makers and thinkers talk about where they came from, what they're making, and where they're going next. Make/Time is hosted by Stuart Kestenbaum and is a project of craftschools.us. Major funding is provided by the Windgate Charitable Foundation."

[via:

"I love @jenbervin's work. @tchoi8, if you don't know about it already, you should :)
via https://twitter.com/jenbervin/status/920512592409513984"
https://twitter.com/shannonmattern/status/920517416211419136 ]
jenbervin  art  research  interdisciplinary  science  2017  poetry  making  drawing  creating  artists  silk  writing  tolisten 
october 2017 by robertogreco
How Civilization Started | The New Yorker
"In “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States,” James C. Scott, a professor of political science at Yale, presents a plausible contender for the most important piece of technology in the history of man. It is a technology so old that it predates Homo sapiens and instead should be credited to our ancestor Homo erectus. That technology is fire. We have used it in two crucial, defining ways. The first and the most obvious of these is cooking. As Richard Wrangham has argued in his book “Catching Fire,” our ability to cook allows us to extract more energy from the food we eat, and also to eat a far wider range of foods. Our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, has a colon three times as large as ours, because its diet of raw food is so much harder to digest. The extra caloric value we get from cooked food allowed us to develop our big brains, which absorb roughly a fifth of the energy we consume, as opposed to less than a tenth for most mammals’ brains. That difference is what has made us the dominant species on the planet.

The other reason fire was central to our history is less obvious to contemporary eyes: we used it to adapt the landscape around us to our purposes. Hunter-gatherers would set fires as they moved, to clear terrain and make it ready for fast-growing, prey-attracting new plants. They would also drive animals with fire. They used this technology so much that, Scott thinks, we should date the human-dominated phase of earth, the so-called Anthropocene, from the time our forebears mastered this new tool.

We don’t give the technology of fire enough credit, Scott suggests, because we don’t give our ancestors much credit for their ingenuity over the long period—ninety-five per cent of human history—during which most of our species were hunter-gatherers. “Why human fire as landscape architecture doesn’t register as it ought to in our historical accounts is perhaps that its effects were spread over hundreds of millennia and were accomplished by ‘precivilized’ peoples also known as ‘savages,’ ” Scott writes. To demonstrate the significance of fire, he points to what we’ve found in certain caves in southern Africa. The earliest, oldest strata of the caves contain whole skeletons of carnivores and many chewed-up bone fragments of the things they were eating, including us. Then comes the layer from when we discovered fire, and ownership of the caves switches: the human skeletons are whole, and the carnivores are bone fragments. Fire is the difference between eating lunch and being lunch."



"It was the ability to tax and to extract a surplus from the produce of agriculture that, in Scott’s account, led to the birth of the state, and also to the creation of complex societies with hierarchies, division of labor, specialist jobs (soldier, priest, servant, administrator), and an élite presiding over them. Because the new states required huge amounts of manual work to irrigate the cereal crops, they also required forms of forced labor, including slavery; because the easiest way to find slaves was to capture them, the states had a new propensity for waging war. Some of the earliest images in human history, from the first Mesopotamian states, are of slaves being marched along in neck shackles. Add this to the frequent epidemics and the general ill health of early settled communities and it is not hard to see why the latest consensus is that the Neolithic Revolution was a disaster for most of the people who lived through it.

War, slavery, rule by élites—all were made easier by another new technology of control: writing. “It is virtually impossible to conceive of even the earliest states without a systematic technology of numerical record keeping,” Scott maintains. All the good things we associate with writing—its use for culture and entertainment and communication and collective memory—were some distance in the future. For half a thousand years after its invention, in Mesopotamia, writing was used exclusively for bookkeeping: “the massive effort through a system of notation to make a society, its manpower, and its production legible to its rulers and temple officials, and to extract grain and labor from it.” Early tablets consist of “lists, lists and lists,” Scott says, and the subjects of that record-keeping are, in order of frequency, “barley (as rations and taxes), war captives, male and female slaves.” Walter Benjamin, the great German Jewish cultural critic, who committed suicide while trying to escape Nazi-controlled Europe, said that “there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” He meant that every complicated and beautiful thing humanity ever made has, if you look at it long enough, a shadow, a history of oppression. As a matter of plain historical fact, that seems right. It was a long and traumatic journey from the invention of writing to your book club’s discussion of Jodi Picoult’s latest."



"The news here is that the lives of most of our progenitors were better than we think. We’re flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great. Still, we are where we are, and we live the way we live, and it’s possible to wonder whether any of this illuminating knowledge about our hunter-gatherer ancestors can be useful to us. Suzman wonders the same thing. He discusses John Maynard Keynes’s famous 1930 essay “The Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Keynes speculated that if the world continued to get richer we would naturally end up enjoying a high standard of living while doing much less work. He thought that “the economic problem” of having enough to live on would be solved, and “the struggle for subsistence” would be over:
When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life—will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

The world has indeed got richer, but any such shift in morals and values is hard to detect. Money and the value system around its acquisition are fully intact. Greed is still good.

The study of hunter-gatherers, who live for the day and do not accumulate surpluses, shows that humanity can live more or less as Keynes suggests. It’s just that we’re choosing not to. A key to that lost or forsworn ability, Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. Unlike gathered plants, whose proceeds are “not subject to any strict conventions on sharing,” hunted meat is very carefully distributed according to protocol, and the people who eat the meat that is given to them go to great trouble to be rude about it. This ritual is called “insulting the meat,” and it is designed to make sure the hunter doesn’t get above himself and start thinking that he’s better than anyone else. “When a young man kills much meat,” a Bushman told the anthropologist Richard B. Lee, “he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. . . . We can’t accept this.” The insults are designed to “cool his heart and make him gentle.” For these hunter-gatherers, Suzman writes, “the sum of individual self-interest and the jealousy that policed it was a fiercely egalitarian society where profitable exchange, hierarchy, and significant material inequality were not tolerated.”

This egalitarian impulse, Suzman suggests, is central to the hunter-gatherer’s ability to live a life that is, on its own terms, affluent, but without abundance, without excess, and without competitive acquisition. The secret ingredient seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As he says, “If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.” There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire."
jamescscott  fire  technology  hunter-gatherers  2017  anthropology  johnlanchester  anthropocene  sedentism  agriculture  nomads  nomadism  archaeology  writing  legibility  illegibility  state  civilization  affluence  abundance  jamessuzman  bushmen  kalahari  namibia  khoisan  mesopotamia  egalitarianism  humans  self-interest  jealousy  greed  inequality  accumulation  motivation  society  happiness  money 
october 2017 by robertogreco
The Mind of John McPhee - The New York Times
"Much of the struggle, for McPhee, has to do with structure. “Structure has preoccupied me in every project,” he writes, which is as true as saying that Ahab, on his nautical adventures, was preoccupied by a certain whale. McPhee is obsessed with structure. He sweats and frets over the arrangement of a composition before he can begin writing. He seems to pour a whole novel’s worth of creative energy just into settling which bits will follow which other bits.

The payoff of that labor is enormous. Structure, in McPhee’s writing, carries as much meaning as the words themselves. What a more ordinary writer might say directly, McPhee will express through the white space between chapters or an odd juxtaposition of sentences. It is like Morse code: a message communicated by gaps."



"“Draft No. 4” is essentially McPhee’s writing course at Princeton, which he has been teaching since 1975. This imposes a rigid structure on his life. During a semester when he teaches, McPhee does no writing at all. When he is writing, he does not teach. He thinks of this as “crop rotation” and insists that the alternation gives him more energy for writing than he would otherwise have.

McPhee’s students come to his office frequently, for editing sessions, and as they sit in the hallway waiting for their appointments, they have time to study a poster outside his door. McPhee refers to it as “a portrait of the writer at work.” It is a print in the style of Hieronymus Bosch of sinners, in the afterlife, being elaborately tortured in the nude — a woman with a sword in her back, a small crowd sitting in a vat of liquid pouring out of a giant nose, someone riding a platypus. The poster is so old that its color has faded.

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, where McPhee has been a staff writer for more than 50 years, took McPhee’s class in 1981. “There was no fancy discussion of inspiration,” he told me. “You were in the room with a craftsman of the art, rather than a scholar or critic — to the point where I remember him passing around the weird mechanical pencils he used to use. It was all about technique. In the same spirit that a medical student, in gross anatomy, would learn what a spleen is and what it does, we would learn how stuff works in a piece of writing.”

Much of that stuff, of course, was structure. One of Remnick’s enduring memories is of watching Professor McPhee sketch out elaborate shapes on the chalkboard. One looked like a nautilus shell, with thick dots marking points along its swirl. Each of these dots was labeled: “Turtle,” “Stream Channelization,” “Weasel.” Down the side of the chart it said, simply, “ATLANTA.” An arrow next to the words “Rattlesnake, Muskrat, etc.” suggested that the swirl was meant to be read counterclockwise."



"John McPhee lives, and has almost always lived, in Princeton. I met him there in a large parking lot on the edge of campus, next to a lacrosse field, where he stood waiting next to his blue minivan. He wore an L.L. Bean button-down shirt with khaki pants and New Balance sneakers. The top half of his face held glasses, the bottom a short white beard that McPhee first grew, unintentionally, during a canoe trip in the 1970s and has not shaved off since. He is soft-spoken, easy and reserved. Although McPhee possesses intimidating stores of knowledge — he told me, as we walked around campus, the various geological formations that produced the stone used in the buildings — he seems to go out of his way to be unintimidating. Whenever we stepped outside, he put on a floppy hat.

McPhee proceeded to show me every inch of Princeton, campus and city, narrating as we went. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone so thoroughly identified with a place. His memories are archaeological, many layers deep. Not 30 seconds into our orienting drive, we passed the empty lot where he used to play tackle football as a child, and where, at age 10, he first tasted alcohol. (“One thing it wasn’t was unpleasant,” he wrote recently.) The lot is no longer empty; it is occupied by a new house, boxy and modern. I asked McPhee if he felt any animosity toward the structure for stomping out his memories.

“No,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of stomping grounds stomped out.”

McPhee was born in 1931. His father was the university’s sports doctor, and as a boy McPhee galloped after him to practices and games. By age 8, he was running onto the field alongside Princeton’s football team, wearing a custom-made miniature jersey. He played basketball in the old university gym, down the hall from his father’s office; when the building was locked, he knew which windows to climb in. McPhee was small and scrappy, and he played just about every sport that involved a ball. To this day, he serves as a faculty fellow of men’s lacrosse, observing Princeton’s practices and standing on the sidelines during games.

Every summer growing up, McPhee went to a camp in Vermont called Keewaydin, where his father was the camp doctor. One of his grandsons goes there today. (“I have 200 grandchildren,” McPhee told me; the number is actually 10.) McPhee speaks of Keewaydin as paradise, and his time there established many of the preoccupations of his life and work: canoeing, fishing, hiking. “I once made a list of all the pieces I had written in maybe 20 or 30 years, and then put a check mark beside each one whose subject related to things I had been interested in before I went to college,” he writes in “Draft No 4.” “I checked off more than 90 percent.” Keewaydin put McPhee into deep contact with the American land, and introduced him to the challenge of navigation — how the idealized abstractions of plans and maps relate to the fertile mess of the actual world. The camp’s infirmary is now officially named after McPhee’s father. McPhee’s own name still sits in the rafters, an honor for having been the second-most-accomplished camper in 1940, when he was 9."



"McPhee is a homebody who incessantly roams. He inherited Princeton and its Ivy League resources as a kind of birthright, but he comes at the place from an odd angle: He was not the son of a banker or a politician or some glamorous alumnus but of the sports doctor. His view of the university is practical, hands-on — it is, to him, like a big intellectual hardware store from which he can pull geologists and historians and aviators and basketball players, as needed, to teach him something. He is able to run off to Alaska or Maine or Switzerland or Keewaydin because he always knows where he is coming back to.

“I grew up in the middle of town,” McPhee said. “It’s all here.”

McPhee took me to his office in the geology building, in a fake medieval turret that, before he moved in, was crowded with paint cans. Now its walls are full of maps: the Pacific Ocean floor, United States drainage, all the world’s volcanoes. On the carpet in the corner of the room, a box sat stuffed with dozens more, from the center of which protruded, almost shyly, a folded map of Guayaquil, Ecuador. His enormous dictionary, open to the letter P, sat on top of a minifridge. Multiple shelves were loaded with books published by former students, above which stood framed photos of McPhee’s wife, Yolanda, and his four daughters.

McPhee sat down at his computer and clicked around. Green text appeared on a black screen. That was all: green text. No icons, rulers, or scrollbars.

McPhee began to type in command lines.

x coded.*

dir coded.*

x coded-10.tff

x coded-16.tff

Up came portions of his book “The Founding Fish.” He typed in further commands, and hunks of green text went blinking around: a complete inventory of his published articles; his 1990 book, “Looking for a Ship.”

I felt as if I were in a computer museum, watching the curator take his favorite oddity for a spin. McPhee has never used a traditional word processor in his life. He is one of the world’s few remaining users of a program called Kedit, which he writes about, at great length, in “Draft No. 4.” Kedit was created in the 1980s and then tailored, by a friendly Princeton programmer, to fit McPhee’s elaborate writing process.

The process is hellacious. McPhee gathers every single scrap of reporting on a given project — every interview, description, stray thought and research tidbit — and types all of it into his computer. He studies that data and comes up with organizing categories: themes, set pieces, characters and so on. Each category is assigned a code. To find the structure of a piece, McPhee makes an index card for each of his codes, sets them on a large table and arranges and rearranges the cards until the sequence seems right. Then he works back through his mass of assembled data, labeling each piece with the relevant code. On the computer, a program called “Structur” arranges these scraps into organized batches, and McPhee then works sequentially, batch by batch, converting all of it into prose. (In the old days, McPhee would manually type out his notes, photocopy them, cut up everything with scissors, and sort it all into coded envelopes. His first computer, he says, was “a five-thousand-dollar pair of scissors.”)

Every writer does some version of this: gathering, assessing, sorting, writing. But McPhee takes it to an almost-superhuman extreme. “If this sounds mechanical,” McPhee writes of his method, “its effect was absolutely the reverse. If the contents of the seventh folder were before me, the contents of twenty-nine other folders were out of sight. Every organizational aspect was behind me. The procedure eliminated nearly all distraction and concentrated just the material I had to deal with in a given day or week. It painted me into a corner, yes, but in doing so it freed me to write.”"



"McPhee’s great theme has always been conservation, in the widest possible sense of the word: the endless tension between presence and absence, staying and leaving, existence … [more]
johmcphee  writing  howwewrite  structure  2017  conservation  princeton  place  humility  process  kedit  organization  belonging  local  gaps  shyness  celebration  nature  geology  time  editing  outlining  naturalhistory  history  maps  mapping  writingprocess  focus  attention  awareness  legacy 
october 2017 by robertogreco
The Transformative Experience of Writing for “Sense8” | The New Yorker
"A large number of the American writers I know, and I know a few, are involved in writing or developing long-form narrative television. One reason for this was recently provided by John Landgraf, the C.E.O. of FX Network, who said that four hundred and fifty-four scripted original series had aired in the U.S. in 2016; he thought that the number could rise to five hundred this year. Apparently, the industry needs writers and, black-hole-like, is sucking in galaxies of them. Until I was asked to work on “Sense8,” I’d never been interested in that particular black hole, even though I had come to believe that American television had overtaken narrative literature in its ability to deal with contemporary realities. No novel has addressed the Bush years’ crypto-fascist notion of “leadership” with the same clarity of thought as “The Sopranos.” If you wanted to understand the waste laid by the so-called War on Drugs, you wouldn’t read a novel—you’d watch “The Wire.” Television, in other words, offers opportunities to confront and report from the world as it changes.

Before “Sense8,” my screenwriting experience consisted of co-authoring a script with the Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić for her comedy “Love Island,” in 2014. The rest of my writerly life had taken place in the self-imposed isolation of my head. I don’t take part in workshops or writing groups; I don’t share ideas or drafts with my fellow-writers for feedback; I make all the decisions and am responsible for every word in the book that I am writing, acknowledgments included. My solipsistic authorial habits would seem to feed into a common misconception about writing, which is that it is merely a conduit for the writer’s interiority, and that a good writer—or even just a capable one—possesses the skills to transfer the contents of that interiority onto the page with as little loss as possible. Much of the creative-writing industry depends upon that misconception and the promise, implicit or explicit, that the acquisition of those skills is unconditionally achievable. I’ve grown to be suspicious of that notion, as I have learned that writing generates the content and therefore transforms—or even creates—the interiority. Writing is a means of interaction with the world, and therefore it changes the writer. If it doesn’t, it contains no discovery and merely reproduces the already known and familiar. Writing, I believe, should be a matter not of execution but of transformation.

My screenwriting experience confirmed my belief. While Lana, Lilly, and Joe were responsible for the foundations of the show—for all the characters and their narrative trajectories—my role was to make proposals that would be taken up by the other people in the room and spun around a few times. The version of the proposal that emerged would have little to do with the original, yet belonged to me as much as to everyone else. In the course of one of those spins, I realized that, whenever I spoke or listened to someone, I was looking at the center of a circle that was delimited by the participants. Somehow, we started calling this space, and the collaboration that it housed, the Pit. A whole Pit-related phraseology soon emerged: “I’m going to throw this into the Pit.” “Let’s spin it in the Pit.” “The Pit concurs.” “The Pit needs a pendulum.” I enjoyed losing myself in the process, which felt all the more fascinating for the fact that the distinguishing characteristic of the heroes of “Sense8” is an ability to inhabit someone else’s mind. All this may be yesterday’s news to the film, television, and theatre people out there, but I’d never experienced the pleasure of temporarily losing my intellectual sovereignty—of watching my bright idea be destroyed, only to be transformed into something entirely different.

After that week in 2015, David and I went back home. (My home is about five blocks away from Kinowerks; David’s is in Ireland.) For the rest of the year, we were regularly assigned scenes to write on short deadlines. Cognizant of their place and role in the larger narrative, we were tasked with working out the dialogue and the details, tossing in our suggestions for a remote Pit spin. “The Wolfgang and Lila dinner, 2-3 pages, tomorrow,” Lana would write in an e-mail. The following day I’d submit the requested two to three pages. Lana and Joe would perform the bulk of the Pit work, developing, amending, or just rejecting the pages we sent in. Over the course of three months or so, I sent in some hundred and twenty pages, happy in the knowledge that not a single one of them would make it to the final seven-hundred-page script in the form in which I had written it."



"In my literary projects, the plotless structures I gravitate toward allow me to seek connections and meanings that emerge primarily not from characters and events but from language and the potentialities of thought within it. I think inside endless semantic, syntactic, rhythmic variations. Both David and I were continuously tempted to apply our respective colored pencils to the pages of the script (David’s grammatically persnickety alter ego is named Lawrence and likes to use a green pen), but there was little time and even less need to attend to the language in the way we were accustomed to. We did, however, often discuss the structure of individual events and their positioning in the larger plot. For instance, the second season of “Sense8” ended with a cliffhanger, the resolution of which would necessarily prohibit certain future plotlines. There was, nevertheless, an infinite number of possibilities for the plot that would follow; not unlike language, our plot was a discrete combinatory system, in which from a finite number of elements any number of combinations could be made. From our respective couches (which Lana, David, and I named, for reasons that I cannot explain here, “Illumination,” “Ireland,” and “Doom,” respectively), before making any notes, we spent hours reshuffling the abstract, as yet nonexistent structure of the story.

During one of those sessions, I had a near-Proustian involuntary memory of a time, some thirty years ago, when I was a freshman at an engineering college. My friend and I were studying together for an advanced-differential-calculus exam, solving tough integral problems, until we ran into one that we could not break. For two days, for at least twelve hours a day, we sought a solution; the process required reducing the integral to some identifiable type and then applying a preëxisting algorithmic protocol. (We finally called in a math-genius friend, who looked at the unbreakable integral and solved it in just a couple of steps.) The memory made me realize that plotting a narrative is a logical, algorithmic operation, albeit one that has an infinite number of possible outcomes, rather than one correct resolution. Building a plot is like creating an algorithm from scratch, starting before the problem is even defined and then backtracking after the desired solution has been selected.

The memory also suggested that my subconscious was following a logical algorithm. My dreams are usually amorphous, featuring a field of confusingly connected events—a description that also applies to most of my work, as well as to my waking mind. The subconscious authority governing my dream life, however, had lately begun to insist that the events and the characters in my dreams be logically connected, that they follow one another causally. In recent dreams, I’ve struggled to connect discrete events, so much so that I’ve woken in despair. Once, I dreamed that I was a screenwriter trying to untangle a plot knot. Some dreams have featured “Sense8” characters, others those from the New Project, who sometimes act like real people in my dreams and are sometimes just structural problems that I have to solve.

Back in my early years in the U.S., at the time when my English was in transition from tourist to survival mode, I’d catch myself dreaming in English, and noticing, in my dream, that the people who shouldn’t be talking in English were doing so. Even more bizarrely, I would recollect English conversations with my family or friends, which would certainly have taken place in our native language. I interpreted those dreams and memories as my subconscious mind welcoming this non-native language. If I hadn’t absorbed the new language in that way, I wouldn’t have been able to write any of the books I’ve written in English, or to have lived a full life in this language. I am writing this on the last day of the Pit’s screenwriting session, overwhelmed by the feeling that the sandbox is about to be dismantled, that my friends will go back to their separate lives and careers, and that, very soon, I’ll be returning to my former, stark, monastic literary practices. What the experience of exultant plotting at Kinowerks may have done to my mind, I cannot begin to know, at least not yet."
aleksandarhemon  2017  writing  sense8  collaboration  collaborativewriting  english  languageacquisition  dreams  dreaming  memory  kinowerks  television  screenwriting  howwewrite 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Fall In | Submitted For Your Perusal
"I’m writing this on the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

Depending upon where you are, it might not feel like fall yet. Right now, for instance, it’s 92°F outside where I live. And humid. More summer than fall. Yet, at the same time, school’s back in session, football is being played, and Halloween paraphernalia is appearing in stores.

The leaves on one of the trees outside my window are starting to change color. Some leaves have even started to fall. It’s getting darker earlier and lighter later. And even though it’s still hot out during the day, it’s cooling down more at night.

Change is in the air.

This leads to a question: Should one also change in conjunction with the seasons? By this I mean more than donning a natty scarf when the temperature drops below a certain level—I mean changing things about the way you eat, sleep, live, and work.

Conventional productivity advice doesn’t really take up this question. One of the things, in fact, that irks me about such advice is that it tends to frame things in terms of daily routines, routines that are ostensibly the same regardless of the season. In other words, most productivity advice is seasonless. Here I’m thinking of things like Mason Currey’s engrossing 2013 book Daily Rituals and Tim Ferriss’s more tech bro-y late-2016 knockoff Tools for Titans.

Now, I’m as interested in famous people’s daily routines as anyone. But at the same time, I feel it’s important to resist the tyranny of “the day.”

What do I mean by that?

Well, we live in a world of seasons—and increasingly more variable and violent seasons at that—but productivity advice seems to always think in terms of the day, the week, the year, or five years, never the season, the sun, and the shadow.

In Lewis Mumford’s endlessly-rich 1937 book Technics and Civilization, he explains how the clock altered human relations by organizing everything around twenty-four little hours instead of, say, the rhythm of the seasons.

The consequences of this, Mumford argues, are profound:
When one thinks of the day as an abstract span of time, one does not go to bed with the chickens on a winter’s night: one invents wicks, chimneys, lamps, gaslights, electric lamps, so as to use all the hours belonging to the day. When one thinks of time, not as a sequence of experiences, but as a collection of hours, minutes, and seconds, the habits of adding time and saving time come into existence.

Because of the clock, Mumford continues, “Abstract time became the new medium of existence. Organic functions themselves were regulated by it: one ate, not upon feeling hungry, but when prompted by the clock: one slept, not when one was tired, but when the clock sanctioned it. A generalized time-consciousness accompanied the wider use of clocks: dissociating time from organic sequences….”

Since we all pretty much live according to “clock time” now, the autumnal equinox presents us with an opportunity to cast off our Apple Watches and reflect on some of the benefits of living according to what might be called “seasonal time.” To that end, I encourage you to step out of “clock time” and into “seasonal time.”

This will, no doubt, strike some as unappealing. Many people see nature as something to overcome or counteract, not as something to flow with or submit to. For others, it will be impossible. “Clock time” is simply imposed on them too strongly. But if you can do it, even just a little bit, I strongly recommend it, if only for the perspective it brings.

To quote Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season.” What if we took that adage seriously, not just by buying pumpkin spice lattes but by doing key things in a more fall-like way? Fall-like might take different forms. The point is to embrace fall in particular and seasonal change in general. I’m definitely not recommending becoming “Mr. Autumn Man”. I’m talking about something else, something deeper.

One example I like is how novelist Lee Child sits down every September and begins work on a new Jack Reacher novel. He finishes up sometime the following spring and then spends the rest of the year doing other stuff—stuff like spending the entire month of August on vacation. (I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty nice.) Note, too, that this routine produces a book a year. (As someone who writes much more slowly, this sounds pretty nice to me as well.) And Child has been doing things this way since the late 1990s. (For more on Child’s process, see Andy Martin’s Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me.)

Fall is a time to write for me as well, but it also means welcoming—rather than fighting against—the shorter days, the football games, the decorative gourds. Productivity writer Nicholas Bate’s seven fall basics are more sleep, more reading, more hiking, more reflection, more soup, more movies, and more night sky. I like those too. The winter will bring with it new things, new adjustments. Hygge not hay rides. Ditto the spring. Come summer, I’ll feel less stress about stopping work early to go to a barbecue or movie because I know, come autumn, I’ll be hunkering down. More and more, I try to live in harmony with the seasons, not the clock. The result has been I’m able to prioritize better.

And yes, fall for me also means some of the stereotypical stuff: apple picking, leafy walks, we’re even trying to go to a corn maze this year.

In sum, as the Earth wobbles around the Sun, don’t be afraid to switch things up. I can’t promise an uptick in productivity, but when you think of things in terms of seasons instead of a single day, the entire year becomes your canvas."
mattthomas  seasons  routine  2017  tempo  change  writing  work  productivity  rhythms  lewismumford  timferris  clocks  time  fall  autumn  clocktime  nature  calendars  leechild  nicholasbates 
october 2017 by robertogreco
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