Boom boom boom

18 09 2014

I am a mine-layer.

Some days—most days?—the most I can accomplish is to fling out enough mines that at least some will burrow into rather than merely roll off of my students.

I’m a pretty good teacher—I’d put myself in the B, B+ range—but I think even the best teachers fail to impart whole systems of thought or history or formulae to their students. One might be able to lay out the sets and subsets, the permutations and exemplars and exceptions, in as straightforward a manner as possible, noting what syncs up with which and where it all falls apart, but beyond the assignment or the test or the essay, the knowledge dissipates.

This isn’t their fault—the student’s, I mean—nor is it the teacher’s. Most of the material covered in a college course can only be fully taken in through repetition, and for many students in many classes, it’s one-and-done: the ticking off of requirements on their way to a degree. What they remember may be courses in their major, and that’s because they run into the same concepts and theories and studies over and over again.

If students are able to see the connections amongst ideas laid out in a 3- or 4-hundred-level course in their field, it likely has less to do with that particular professor than with the accumulation of bits from the 100- and 200-level courses.

So what to do when teaching a 1 or 200-level class, or even an advanced class which is supported by no major?

Lay mines. Try to expose the students to concepts they are likely to encounter again, so that the next time they run across “Aristotle” or “Arendt” or  “deontological ethics”, that little bomb will go off and they’ll say to themselves, Hey, I recognize this! and maybe not feel so estranged from what had seemed strange.

So many metaphors could be used here: taking a student down a path and pointing out enough landmarks so that when they traipse down it again, they’ll say Hey! . . . , and feel more confident in their surroundings, more willing to push further on. Tossing out enough seeds in the hopes that a few take root, sprout. Or maybe repeated vaccinations, priming the immune system to respond when next encountering the invasive idea (tho’ there are clear limits to this last analogy insofar as the knowledge isn’t to be annihilated).

Maybe it’s different for professors at elite schools, with students who’ve already been exposed to and are comfortable with these ideas. Or maybe even at my CUNY school I’d find less mine-laying if I were to teach more advanced-level courses in my field.

But maybe not, or, at least, not the way I teach. Yes, I want them to perform well on tests and papers, but more than that, much more than that, I am greedy enough of their attention that I want them to remember this stuff for the rest of their lives.

I’d rather they get a B and be bothered for decades than get an A and let it all go.

So this might explain why I’m partial to the mine idea: because it allows for the possibility of little bits of insight to explode whenever the student strays over forgotten territory. And if those mines are powerful enough and buried deep enough, there’s a chance those explosions might rearrange her intellectual landscape, might change how he looks at the world.

And yeah, I like the idea of blowing their minds, too.





Get back

16 09 2014

You know how people give you the back of the hand?

Well, this is Trickster’s preferred stance toward me:

Ignore that clawed-up ottoman.

Ignore that clawed-up ottoman.

Of course, sometimes giving me the back is simply a second effect to much larger (and known-only-to-her) purpose.

002

There is nothing on the other side of that door except floor and more doors. Doesn’t end her fascination, though.

007

No, I don’t usually have extra bags of cat food sitting around, but there was a sale!

She can’t even face me when she’s sitting in my lap.

010And when she’s had enough of that, she slithers on to the desk and comports herself just so:

012

Yes, I am clearly the center of her existence.





Listen to the music: It’s an inconvenient time

15 09 2014

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

I’ve dabbled in summersongs (fallsongs—or autumnsongs?—coming up!) and kicked around a song or two here and there, but after the disquisition on GY!BE and Miss Holly, the lacunae is noticeable.

I have been listening. This fistful of cds was, like the last, dominated by two names (albeit three performers): David  and Macy Gray, and Nanci Griffith (and rather a lot of Nanci Griffith). Unlike the last time, I zipped right through my listening of them, and ended with some lovely Charlie Haden.

The music wasn’t the problem: I just couldn’t be arsed to write about them.

Both of the Grays have the kinds of voices I like: a bit low, and skritchy. I mean, I’m not a Dave Matthews fan, but when he sings with, say, Emmylou, I dig that rasp.

Mr. Gray is another bloke I was introduced to while (whilst?) in Canada. He’s a bit of a mope, but what saves him, most of the time, from emo-overload are the bites he’ll snap out of the woe. There aren’t really any laughs in his songs, but there’s a sardonic sensibility which, again, cut against the despair.

I do wish for alternate production on some of his songs—he’s a sucker for the big whoomp—but when I’m havin’ one of those days, Life in Slow Motion goes down well with a beer or whisky and a slouch in the couch.*

And Nanci? Yeah, man, lotta cds. Her voice has a bit of the kewpie to it, but she’s a hell of a songwriter and I appreciate the hell out of the bottom-line humanness of her tunes.

And her cd, Flyer, helped get me through my dissertation. All hail Flyer!

~~~

234. David Gray, Life in Slow Motion
235. David Gray, a new day at midnight
236. Macy Gray, On How Life Is
237. Macy Gray, Id
238. Nanci Griffith, Storms
239. Nanci Griffith, Blue Roses from the Moon
240. Nanci Griffith, clock without hands
241. Nanci Griffith, Heart in Mind
242. Nanci Griffith, The Dust Bowl Symphony
243. Nanci Griffith, Flyer
244. Nanci Griffith, Other Voices, Too
245. Charlie Haden, The Montreal Tapes
246. Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny, beyond the Missouri Sky

*I don’t currently own a couch, but the line doesn’t work as well with “my one upholstered chair”.





All things weird and wonderful, 46

14 09 2014

A fox, which flies. From India. An Indian Flying Fox.

Otherwise known as a “bat”.

Indian Flying Fox 2 sm

Traer Scott Photography

What a glorious thing is chance and necessity, allowing for the emergence of mammals with wings where their arms could be.

And she is a night animal—my kind of animal. Along with the serval and the otter, the kangaroo rat and the possum, the snow leopard and the moth, creatures great and small and maybe a little bit creepy, Traer Scott has photographed them (not quite all).

But this is the one which captured me.

What a magnificent shot of a magnificent creature.

~~~

h/t Daily Dish





You’ve got to fight for your right to party

11 09 2014

Smartphones everywhere and no video?

Please let there be video:

There’s some sort of unofficial birthday/Iron Dog-type/snowmachine party in Anchorage. A nice, mellow party, until the Palin’s show up. There’s beer, of course, and maybe other things. Which is all fine, but just about the time when some people might have had one too many, a Track Palin stumbles out of a stretch Hummer, and immediately spots an ex-boyfriend of Willow’s. Track isn’t happy with this guy, the story goes. There’s words, and more. The owner of the house gets involved, and he probably wished he hadn’t. At this point, he’s up against nearly the whole Palin tribe: Palin women screaming. Palin men thumping their chests. Word is that Bristol has a particularly strong right hook, which she employed repeatedly, and it’s something to hear when Sarah screams, “Don’t you know who I am!” And it was particularly wonderful when someone in the crowd screamed back, “This isn’t some damned Hillbilly reality show!” No, it’s what happens when the former First Family of Alaska comes knocking. As people were leaving in a cab, Track was seen on the street, shirtless, flipping people off, with Sarah right behind him, and Todd somewhere in the foreground, tending to his bloody nose.

I generally avoid the half-guv, but c’mon, this is a can of Pringles to me.

I should also note that I am rather-too fond of the notion of bar brawls, treating them, affectionately, as a kind of good-time-gone-wrong.

I’ve never actually been in a bar fight (that I can remember, at least), but I’d like to think that, at some point before I die, I’d be involved in a tavern-related mêlée.

If not, well, after my next eye surgery, I’ll explain the facial bruises the same way I explained the bruises of my last surgery: bar fight.





All things weird and wonderful, 45

2 09 2014

Do you see what this is?

Colin/Creative Commons

Paisley Abbey in Scotland. Colin/Creative Commons

If you’re old like me, a second look should be all you need to figure it out.

Yep, this grotesque is an alien—or rather, the alien. From Alien.

I didn’t know, before I read this bit by Ella Morton on Slate, that there was a difference between gargoyles (water outlet from gutter) and grotesques (funky decorative figures), tho’ both are oft intended to ward off bad mojo.

At churches! Which presumably don’t need any help warding off bad mojo due to the major mojo of the Major Domo!

Yes, Christian houses of God are done up with gremlins and robots and astronauts and Darth Vader—and more than one Alien (check Atlas Obscura).

How can a syncretist such as myself reject such marvels? I cannot.

Such useless beauty, such curious love, such mischief amidst the sacred.





Summersongs: Frente!

31 08 2014

How did I hear of Frente? I have no idea.

I didn’t have cable so I wouldn’t have seen them on MTV (if they were on MTV), and I mostly listened to MPR when I lived in Minneapolis, so I doubt radio was the source.

I can think of two possibilities: a music review in either City Pages or the Twin Cities Reader, or it was playing at the Electric Fetus.

Anyway, “Accidentally Kelly Street” is pure confection, a state I associate with summer:

This is not wholly complimentary, insofar as I’m a more tang/salt than sweet kinda gal, and, of course, I don’t like summer.

Still, if one is in the right—which is to say, light—mood, it can be kind of charming.

Not all of the songs on Marvin the Album are as, well, twee, as this one, but Angie Hart’s high and breathy voice makes even political songs like “Cuscatlan” sound like bouncy summer fun:

Now, I’m not unalterably opposed to twee—I do own a coupla’ Belle & Sebastien cds, after all—but I can only listen to so much before it’s helium “hi! hi! hi!” attitude grates.

Still, in the summer, a song or two of helium-hi’s aren’t all bad.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,300 other followers