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n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency
Sunday, October 29, 2006
biking today: burning lungs in the cold, slightwind, slats of sun, slats of shade. i passed humbolt park pedalrunning to meet my advisor at the alliance bakery, and putzypedaling home afterwards... some drifting geese, the leaves following their name. and of course, the pleasure of toeclips and stopping at lights, pumping on the go, tapping the pedal and snapping my toes into place. the sensation that happens when you forget you're working, when motion doesn't feel foreign and it's all about something passing and then another passing.
my advisor was chipper today, which made me happy, because she's pretty intense and sometimes i'm resistant to her resistance. trying not to define by the lack of, not always looking for the unknowable or unseeable, since that's just about everything. instead, just sitting in the sun and talking about yepez or selene, having people go to the bakery, the scent of coffee and sugar on my tongue, feeling the rattle of an autumn almost gone. that smell around, no longer decomposition, but waves given off a puddle wanting to feel its body solid.
last night, a halloween party. i went as a "fine arts student"... pinned to my shirt little clippings i'd taken from a wellness center's catalogues, which were inserted into the free newspapers i'd brought home for paper mache. (trying to get the paper mache going again... it's been awhile since i've created of my gooing paws, but i forgot how long the drying project is and my "three personal rings of hell" hat was not even dry for the frescos to be painted onto its surface. trying to decide what my three personal rings are.) but the catalogue clippings were for classes such as the Love Bootcamp 101, Safari Lovemaking, Dating a 10 When You're Not One, Street Flirtation, S & M Bondage, Finding the Xspot, and so forth... it made me laugh that nobody at the party understood why I called myself a "fine arts" student, when i thought the classes spoke to the title pretty well.
i'm trying to decide whether to leave logan square. don't want to bag out on my roommate, don't want to leave the fluffy kitty, don't know what i'm doing this summer.
this week is going to be hard - i have a reading of the "poLITical" piece i posted earlier, which i couldn't get past hating, and so started re-writing from scratch. scared about whether i'll finish. and then there's teaching, which i'm all sad and annoyed about again because the students again turned in a crop of crappy papers, but worse yet, unrevised (in a three-week revision process). art students are selectively lazier than any i've known before. yet another disillusion - i thought they'd be more into the learning process, more willing to throw themselves out there and take risks. so, i've got all these papers to grade and on my first read, i couldn't commit to the idea of passing more than a few of them. good that teaching is in my soul, or i might despair.
gonna carve my pumpkin tomorrow, gonna drink spiced cider, gonna write up a storm tonight, gonna put on ten sweaters and think language, and muse my language to engulf. i want words, i want wordsnew, i want words like the motion of water and leaves and wind and good friends and blankets and biking and goosebumps and broken wineglasses. i want to find myself in the middleof, bereft of adjectivation, able to toesnap the exact point along a running line.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Saturday, October 21, 2006
for my short prose class, we had an interesting assignment aimed at getting us to re-see our pieces. basically, each of us took a piece that for some reason or another we had abandoned as a project (just about everything i ever wrote would qualify), but that was still somehow precious to us. the other stipulation was that it had to be a piece we were not so attached to that we couldn't give it over. because once we found these "damaged darlings," we had to trade them with another person in class, randomly chosen.
when you had someone else's piece, the goal became to "finish" it, but this meant a number of different possibilities: continuing at the original's ending; condensing and rearranging; or using the piece as a launch-point for a related, but new piece. I decided to use the damaged darling I was working with—the original written by mp—as a launch point, although I kept all the same characters and most of the basic conditions of the original. I changed the setting and time-span, and since the original was about 12 pages, I also set the condition on myself of creating a "completed" short short (no more than 1/3 the size of the original).
a good project - to see how the different pairings in the class did or did not work out. mp chose to add onto my damaged darling and also condense a fair amount of what I handed over - interesting to see, and helpful to see what she would condense and why. other people found that their prose styles were so different, it was hard to access each other's stories, but when it did work, I would hazard a guess that the new writer chose to take full ownership of the text/idea and really change its form to meet their own vision of language. it's an odd practice... taking someone else's piece. the exercise ended up raising some of the following questions for me: is the new piece, which I wrote from scratch using mp's piece almost like backstory, my work? does it belong to anyone really? can I use her title, which we both really liked, but I think she wants to use in a piece "of her own"?
anyhow, a little nerve-wracking, but just an exercise and here it is, including mp's original title: [removed, because I'm taking off old drafts for the re-work. sorry.]
towards an earlier piece
here's some prose, written this summer but rawdraft towards a longer earlier project.
two kingfishers, blue and white with noticeable long smirks, flicker and drop across the pond, a pair of small kites with strings tightening and sweeping in burst. one fisher finds a low alder branch and perches; i watch and perch, lift my arms and split another piece, this time down the center, right from side to side, and the axe is sharp, this wood dry. slivers fall down by the block, and i already have little pieces of wood, fine sawdust, stuck to my undershirt. muscles pull without sweat and i carry a wry expression on my face, unseeable and unnoticed, like a tree falling in the woods; most of our lives unexpressed and perhaps nonexistent.
i think of home and television, addictive with all the people surviving by walking the mechanized beaches, each putting into their collective purgatory, and i too am busy surviving. by bread and milk alone, by bread and milk we are alone. solitude and sustenance stretch miles on the west and more miles to the east. they pull and tug at whoever stands in their center, stretching her taut like a rotating coin on a rubber band; the directions have us; in this hemisphere, it’s always north when we look to the frozen beginnings.
the wood has been chainsawed from my beach. it is enjoyable to say “my” beach like anything is owned and so it becomes a term of irony, used only to express the plunge taken when i step on her back and personify her expression, anthropomorphize her pebbled surface and see her rapier sharp tongue wrap around me as if from a dinosaur’s beak. she is ancient, ridden with pinched furrows and knobs where the ancestors, who long ago claimed me to their returning salmon souls, built their badarkas to live in and smoke fish and light fuses from seal fats. we, to be slightly more modernized, chainsawed these cedar logs from my beach’s bank using the saw with the slipping belt.
there’s nothing i like about chainsaws but their expediency, and this is how machines fall into groups for me: those machines with nothing but expedient force, the ability to cut ratios into fractions—the time otherwise spent in this direction or another, but no pleasure, maybe some fear, a noise and the rush potential to lose digits or slice a foot in half. second category: the machines that splinter time like wood on a block, one half to one and the other to it’s own, gone or imagined, the ax present in the center. the heart pulses extra hard to push the blood through the center; like a boat engine that saves rowing or sail time but does not threaten to chop you up and yet gives one that rush of heat from left hand pull and push, the waves belching over the bow although if you slow and surf, speed and cross, the pat-pat-pat is minimized and one can even stay mostly dry onboard. or the third kind of machinery, the negative of the first, something that sieves time and keeps all the beach debris, all the graveyard collections of weed and dry, twisted logs, washed-in starfish with stomachs spewed last-timely across their multiplicity of miniature hose vacuums—these machines that collect the intricacy of tide-line and hold it apart, separate from the body and flashed outward, as if art were a hovering ghost, intangible but in pixels and wishful identifications and such. the last machines i have left for the moment, discarded televisions still spitting their white noise like angry grunts of surf and spittle.
instead i stand the middle ground—trying to find the machine that helps and yet is part of too—created and guarded by sensation and unhindered emotion: these are the landscapes i see as extremes collected for joy or grief. that is, the middle ground: formed in the center of the line between two extremes—say, static and unhalting, or practical and fanciful—might just be the furthest reactionary tip of a line perpendicular to the first set of extremes. thus, i find myself—having utilized the practical chainsaw and shunned the fanciful television, yet having also shunned the practical shower and started splitting logs for the fanciful banya—directly in the middle of both extremes and practicalities, either end, and this end is composed of something so far away from placid or normal that i actually have hope for finding myself standing here. that is, i am initiating ceremony.
i split my wood near the banya, a hut built years ago. of unpainted plywood, it is roughly six feet tall and takes no more space than a large outhouse with a bench cobbled together with dry logs brought in from the same beach i now steal from to split wood and ceremonialize my need. on one end of the hut, a stove has rusted so thoroughly that the door no longer hangs on its hinges. it has pulled free and i myself ripped the frame off the stove so i could place wood in the interior and the prop the door in such a way as to encourage the fire to make sounds—like a high-pitched wheeling sound—but not roar, which is prone to generate chimney fires that cause the aluminum chimney and aluminum roof to creak and shudder when touched. the high-pitched creak of right heat fills the small wooden space and warms the stones we have buried the stove in, stones i have collected in buckets and hauled to the fields, until things shudder, we wait for the shudder.
i wait for the shudder. the fire spits hot and sends flames, and outside the small window in the banya, i can see our backyard: the pond shallow and reeded, two kingfishers, first here then branched, then streaking sidewise, down and sliverflashed, over the reeds which have a kind of ritual to them. their long slicing stalks shimmer and bend, pass invisible creatures over their surface, like intestinal cilia lifting nutrients and giving them from one area to another; they all bend one to the next, the first reeds lifting their tips up again when the invisible weight has left their shoulders, sometimes rushing backwards to check for some new chain of command, while the others keep passing, keep passing, rushing faster and faster, and then falling, all reeds dropping the weight in one place and then bending around it in a circle, as if kneeling to pay homage at a shifting alter. each section of reeds has its moment—whether stillness or prayer—and near them, tiny dipped ripples start at the shoreside and pit pit pit out to the hills across the pond’s surface, stopping only to circle lily pads, but continuing new-directional after circling.
the wood inside the banya is starting to shudder, and outside i wade through the reeds into the pond and dip a bucket at the surface, allowing only the top layer to rush over the rim. i do this slowly to keep the silt from the water, and what does come in will settle to the bottom and the water will be clean and holy next to the reed bank, from inside the ripples, with only a dead mayfly to lift out, or maybe a couple mosquito larvae twitching around like spastic ballet dancers who’ve fallen into the pit. the water flows over the rim, one sediment following another, a broken leaf tip waterfalling off the plastic edge and churning upon the shallow bucket rocks, she gains speed, the water reaches further and i tilt the bucket back upright and lift her, splashing long baptismal along my arms and pant-legs. i carry the water back up to the banya and then return four times to the pond, each time tiptoeing softer through the stirred-up shallows, boot bottoms sinking further and further into murky ooze that lies bellyup along the pond’s ground floor.
she is shaking and creaking, a pft-fzzz of steam escapes wood, red wildflowers wick around underneath the propped stove door and heat the flat slate feldspar, the pebbles of quartz and feldspar, the chunks falling onto the floor—of feldspar. my hand feels its way to the rocks, lies flat on their surface; they are hot to touch, and rust flakes from the stove in long streaks revealing more rust. a mist-rain starts (if in greenland they have a thousand words for snow, in southern alaska they must’ve had a thousand words for rain because it never comes one way, straight down, but sneaks in and around, flutters, beats and pricks, enshrouds and so forth in so many ways, such that i know the weather here gets its existence in game-playing with its denizens. the eagles on the beach get more and more sodden when it rains until they looks like the tideline seaweed, dejected and sulking, nearly dead with all the undertufts dazed in water as well as the key feathers. the seagulls on the other hand, just wind themselves tighter and tighter into balls until each looks like a little net cork, washed up after a storm. but the kingfishers play the weather’s game back to her, not taking a slight as a slight, but everything as a reason to smirk and swirl; i want their philosophy but tend to get wet and cold outside). and so inside the rusted stove is near rattling, the pit-pit of rain leaking through the stovepipe, falling to the back of the feldspar, charging downhill horses on legions and hissing to disappear in the heat.
when it’s time to bathe, my fishing companions go before me, and i wait in the cabin, forgetting i’m spending time by the window drifting, full of everything, dirty awash at a moment’s break. bread and milk alone, i want to hum to myself, and my sister stands across the bay, bread and milk too, looking at her still water, her different green, with her philosophy (which i’d place at anger reined back with ironical and leather thongs) pulling on her shoulders as multifarious and ranging as the kodiak hellkinny-cat rain that hisses inside a complete bubble-dome of grey.
i hiss along with it; my skin creaks hot and rattles; i carry invisible weights across grasslands and drop them, pray to them briefly and return to carry the same weights back again. ripples billow and pat, pieces split and scream in opposite directions, smelling cedar-like and mediumwet. useless internal machines rev up and churn endlessly as the night turns dimmer and dimmer; flickering lit fragments and idolatrous identifications roam from the reel—other people’s stories—and who knows what to keep or what to discard with so much talking; but other machines expedite time into chore and pleasure. i stand by the window as my boss goes to the banya and then returns talking mile after mile and my ears can’t hear anything because i have the story of my lovers and friends and lost nephew, and in this sedimented land, there is nothing i can find to hope for; bread and milked with no appetite and i try to stay for an hour; an hour to make it without motion until my ceremony.
last, as last as i want, the only one awake, i enter lampless and darkclouded into the field—where maybe a bear rolls along the reeds she’s claimed for her bedding—walking brisk with a towel, ritual tobacco, hot tang doused thick with rum, soap. my towel stashed in the banya, i light the cigarette, not having smoked for days now and not knowing why but for others, which is how we move from east to west, from net to net anyway. no kingfishers, darkness, only the wheeling rift of fireweed and reed from one side of our flat valley up to the ridge where a grim line of christmas spruce knob up the darkness with further darkness. my smoke curls from fingers so tight and gruff i have to hold the cigarette with three fingers instead of two and my exhalations enter the banya smoke, the rum disappears. i am naked, i finish the first half of ceremony, a mouthful of water, lick the drop from one reed, and unhook the door latch, with which i once locked my sister in the banya accidentally and then remembered a half-hour later to come down and find her wild-red and about to do the window in with a rock. i remember her, red hair, a sister who keeps buried and ferocious because she will not easily love anything (with humanity, isn’t it always the fight to show each other we know our own value?), the opposite of me, who loves like a slut—too easy and often, and too easily and often soiled.
soiled, dirty awash and full, the banya heat, humidity wraps around and with the door’s close, to pore, permeating like nutrients absorbed through the skin touch: “i am finally sweating,” i say. the rusted stove creaks back hot-flamed, feverish and flaking apart. “we are both spirits,” we say in tandem and then moan with the addition of bucketed water on our decaying skins.
the rust drops off under distinct temperature extremes, and again i pick up slices of wood i have halved and broken. the encouragement of combustion via the particular rearrangement of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen; into the shuddering stove i place the trees that have grown, whispered, shunted sap, dropped leaves, stretched bare-limbed in an unseen forest somewhere and then fallen unheard to wash abroad in epic and wooden iceberg journeys until they finally found “my” graveyard, the pebbled land just outside our cabin’s reach, where they cover themselves partially in sand and wait for their relatives to find them and mark their loss with some slab of memory. all winter, they miss us, those who are to put flowers on top of the remains, but then i found their bleached carcasses, their last green breaths stripped from them in the salty marker of time, and expedited their dissolution via chainsaw and axe. they will join me in ceremonial loss and gain; they will find themselves in the middle of extremes, pulled to burn themselves into nothing by way of a sharp nothing—for what really is flame?
everything on my skin, around my skin, in my skin is water, steam and sweat. i lick my arm and taste in it my labor, all that i have being the salt i have earned and which makes my hands thick and swollen, each knuckle puffed and creaky, grey blue with ornery disavowal of my choices. in the banya, my body is the shifting alter, and i stand alone in the center of the world, landscape but a singularity between grief and joy. i am certain i’ve been carried here, along the backs of grasses blowing in variable winds, and i have come to wash myself clean, to rub the clinging scales from my elbows, the stinging slime of jellyfish from my cheeks, the sole remaining fruits of our existence. but in this moment of extremes, as the water hisses from punctured cans resting on the top of the stove, and the stove shudders, her sound like a woman’s birthing hum, i am nothing but a pile of humility with a needy grief on my shoulders because in the world i have found myself, loss can only be dealt with alone, and this is the land outside, i have taken myself here to put my rough fingers on the pulsing heart of why i shudder and leak from each opening under the stress of new realignment.
the only answer to such humility is prayer and homage, and i do not say those words like a man climbing a wooden box with a bible, but as a woman looking landward for some koan philosophy that will enter a rift in my knowledge like water pouring over the edge of a bucket. “tell me how to live,” i ask the sheets of rust fallen to sit atop feldspar, “and i swear i’ll hear you fall.” i soap my body, and the bubbles engorge on sweat, fattening and sliding between every crevice i never knew, and i rub the soap through my hair; it falls into my eyes stinging, so i blindly pull a bucket of pond near me and pour cupful after cupful down my back and it is from the glacial north, thin shallow water that stings cold and i gasp and gasp, but after each cupful my skin springs reincarnated back towards the shuddering stove. i am in perfect balance of extreme, simultaneously heat-soaked and drenched with cold water, back forth, the steam so thick and hyper i have to place a washcloth over my mouth so as to breathe. i scrub my skin, and some form of answer is there as rust flakes my skin and the stars outside grow like quartz flashing in feldspar.
when i can no longer breathe in the heat, i walk out stinging red and stand baby-birthed off the fire in the midst of fireweed and dreadfully still reeds, and look up at nothing to ask for the other dimension of the point i’m standing on, because it is death to stand in one place and not see the forms and layers of difference that coexist simultaneously. “i will fall,” i tell those ancient eyes, “only if i am alone.”
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
this means you
shoving the foot in me own gullet
I feel like I've been doing this too much (again). Talking too much, ranting about stuff I don't really feel anymore, or that which was just a gut ammo, or shit I am only pretending I know enough about. I chalk it all up to sudden onset hormone increases and six months without a date.
This is a hard world for those who refuse to hook up (anymore) with anyone in the same school program. I'm rethinking my ethical web, and trying to find a wisdom somewhere, anywhere, that makes things a little less rigid. Sigh.
But I finally stopped yapping to myself about NS and what she said last meeting, and read the article she gave me. It was amazing (although i wonder a bit about the nostalgia for something that never was, even by his own form of fiction) and I think NS is great all over again. I'm just a jackass who rubs against any challenge people give me because I've got a monstrous ego and a twenty foot internal Berlin Wall erected around the blast zone of my intellectual/writerly space. I really need a friend around me who says, "derrrrrrr, j, what the fuck?" Where are you?
So, here are some exerpts from the great article, "on character," by heriberto yépez:
when i write a character it must feel to me as if composed of bubble gum. a character is not a stable thing. a plasma. characters should always melt.that seems like a good stopping point for here and a good starting point for elsewhere... i'm off to cajole myself into revision, or adequate murder, as it were.
jealousy makes the other recognizable, 'predictable,' imaginable. jealousy draws a 'truth' soon to be discovered, a property we can have thanks to a mental map, a system of control on the body of the other. // i write fiction while i hear music so i don't forget that this is what 'characters' became, but not how they structurally must be. in the past, characters at least in one form of discourse were plasmatic, even invisible, ghostly, not solid; in fact, characters had no other architecture than that of mystical music.
time to look at what we've done as writers serving optimistic politics. making the reader a co-producer, we declared we were empowering him or her. the truth was that everything became work, even leisure, play or silence. in our era even 'words work' (barren watten). workaholism. writing as the metaphysical shop window was proof that language was also labour, everything was working - well. the reader as co-producer means him/er as slave. we (writers and readers) made the 'reader' believe s|he had to be active too, because if s|he was not s|he was 'passive.' that myth. even working when he dreams or reads. that's why i like books that don't work.
we cannot change. we are already everything. changing would mean turning into something different. (and would mean producing). 'changing' is simply a very complex way to die. a pseudo-category created in order to not accept that 'transforming' / 'changing' / 'producing' are those skills which aim to attack or wound us. 'changing' means killing some of us inside or outside. even my training in psychotherapy teaches me this: we must murder some of what/who we are. healthy is adequate murder. and my mexican culture reinforces this also: the most important thing is to know we must die. storytelling for me is writing about how we commit suicide or participate in homicide both in life and in history. not how a story unfolds or how a character develops, but how death happens all the time. for me the page is war.
'autobiography.' we should read this term the other way around, and say something like this: writing is always auto_bio_graphical. never writing on me. but: graphos (text) constructing bios (life) that appears as auto (on itself). autobiography: language writing on itself and thus becoming 'alive.'
Sunday, October 15, 2006
hard brittle belching of skipped seasons
leaves evaporated, stopped midtwist. back to the tendency to sit next to the window and peruse the passersby, the clouds, the drynesses.
I made chicken noodle soup yesterday, with chicken cooked and chopped, with carrots and celery, with noodles, and onions. a tad of spice, but no rosmary, which is a shame. the noodles, the mexican kind that get fatter and fatter and never stop chicken saturating. it was nice and wintery and i've been lusting for soup and hydration, lip licks, and scarves of all shades and styrations, saturations. it snowed a bitty bit. it did that for the bike. perhaps it is time for hot chocolate, rummy rumming. and she:
exquisite when she snows, so white thickened and everywhere, something sleek to fall back on, to stretch angellic and scribe an outline of body, a version or rendition, a tried fictional negative possible when she is exquisite, when she is snow, when she exquisitely snows and I can see the fat condensed flakes of our unspoken, drifting and settling. all along the outline of her, she is fleeced, trimmed with white, and it hurts equally to not speak or to speak sometimes, because there’s always what’s made with motion and what’s made when she snows, and what’s made with the stories we lie ourselves into, and sometimes when a word is spoken, there’s no plucking it back, no catching it like dandelion fluff and holding it sweatingly until the right wish comes, and then releasing it again, because an unreleased wish is a nonwish, a flake held to melting, and I want to say it again. but when she snows, the words melt here, or they melt then. and it’s not when she rains; it’s not sunlight or light shining bone thin through flesh; it’s not how much she’s capable of weathering, or weathering in; it’s when she snows. something falling inside her frozen but warmer than wind. something shaped and shapable both, because each snow piece has form, each its own, even as it rises down from clouds. but part of this form are unattached hydrogens or oxygens that crystalline in the damp desire, will clutch the tentacled ends of each other when shoved into place, and up rise homes and houses, up rise snow creatures with carroted nostrils, up rise the forts and walls and hurtling pellets, any new form brought to, or maybe brought out. formed and forming, amenable to her being and our making, or anyone making. yet, it could just be a given: she is exquisite when she snows.
friday night, I went out dancing, and it was okay partially because I went with a couple of friends who turned out to be good dancers, the kind that boogieshake and close their eyes when the beat is just right. but I’m not too fond of the places we went to dance, I have to say. I think I’ve just about given up on there actually being a solid queer scene in Chicago. we went to the Closet, which is just a little hidey-hole pub for chatting it up. nothing sucky, but nothing interesting… no pool table or dancing really, just a bunch of couples talking with each other in tight little circles. and then we went to Spin afterwards, which was so horrible I thought I’d pass out. it was “shower night,” where they have this contest involving a shower and music for gay boys. granted, they had nice bodies, but it wasn’t worth it, and the host kept shushing us, like you can shush a crowd. basically porno for folks who can’t dance to watch, and I wanted dancing, full energy sweat beating rubbed up next to and under the chins of and hot and the smell of people who put on perfume and then washed it all off in the deluge of their vigor. but this didn’t happen and by one o’clock the place was a practical trickle, and here’s a deal:
if anyone in this city can take me someplace that really really has good music, you know, great dj’s (house, electronic, hip hop are all fine with me), queer or straight, naughty or nice, I will buy you a drink or two if the place really rocks.
because friday I just ended up wandering home and taking the long walk at three a.m. just to be moving in the remnants of a fast-walking autumn. and yesterday, I stayed in and watched a good movie (born into brothels) and drank rum and make chicken soup and thought about exquisite snow and looked forward to the next gathering of friends who I don’t see enough.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
first call to my friends and readers...
This is my "hey, you're gonna do me a favor, right?" look. Heh.
So, here it is: I'm going to send out an email soon to friends, but I'm asking folks to help out in my teaching by acting as external audience to the students of my essay-writing class.
Basically, what I'm trying to tackle is the fact that most papers written in first-year composition or comp-like classes throughout college and high school tend to be audience-less. This tends to enforce certain writing behaviors like: not thinking about how to attract a reader to the word through the expression of love for words-ideas-topics, not explaining or describing sufficiently for a non-teacher to understand, not seeing where the "gaps" in thought are, and not thinking about how to explore multiple perspectives as a means of bridging experiential, ethical, or intellectual difference. In general, students tend to learn to write to the teacher, which is great and grand for writings that are merely meant to test a student's basic comprehension, but not so great and grand for the larger project of opening students to the idea that writing is a tool of communication and interaction. "Writing to the teacher" tends to neglect the fun fluidity of writing, and its potential for catharsis of thought; and truthfully, it often doesn't even provide a personal and safe forum for a student to one-on-one interact with a teacher.
All of these are reasons for my project of starting blogs for my students to do their "informal" work in. Up to this point, their blogging has mostly been about figuring out how to simply post and comment, but now I'm asking them to practice quoting and bring in outside examples of in-class topics and I'd like to expand the potential for them to think about "who the hell is reading this" by inviting you to comment on their posts, whether anonymously or not.
Maybe their posts don't interest you yet, but even asking random questions about what might interest you would help them see that not just their teacher is accessing this writing arena. So... here are the addresses (they came up with the new titles and descriptions):
Voice of the Voiceless
Bricks on the Street
The Micro Machines
Thank-you, folks. Hugs and kisses.
nonfiction and fiction
I can't help wondering why this remains such an item of interest for my advisors, who seem to have a bizarro stake in getting me to differentiate the two or to destroy my own differentiation. And it's downright frustrating at times, I think because maybe my advisors persist in thinking I have some kind of naive border erected between the two and when I say, "this piece is nonfiction," or even if I refrain from warning that it's nonfiction, all of a sudden it goes into a discussion of what the difference is for me and, if I am talking to NS, whether I am forcing myself into genre typifications, blah blah blah, or if I was talking to AC, whether my interest in nonfiction means I am capitulating to societal standards of truth.
Maybe what creates this recurrent nightmare of a conversation is the persistence people have in believing that nonfiction and fiction are binary oppositions, that one is created by the lack of the other--nonfiction being made like a negative portrait of what is left over from the creation of fiction. But nonfiction is not the absense of fiction, and it can't be defined by simply being what fiction is not. These two genres do not belong on the opposite sides of the library shelves, and I am sorry if the capitalist machine insists on codifying and groupifying experience to the extent that must draw some kind of strange line I can't see between, say, fantasy and science fiction.
But when I use the terms, I do not use them like libraries use them... in that "this is where this belongs," or "this is where that belongs." But more of an understanding with myself of the type of task I'm approaching, maybe like different parts of fishing--nonfiction being more like mending a net and putting it out there to catch fish, and fiction being more like thinking about other ways to put out the net, or to utilize the net. It's the same material--mesh that has been woven into a form--and without one you don't have the other, i.e. if you don't mend, or if you don't get the net out there, you don't catch fish, but if you can't think through alternatives and keep your mind on its toes, you might not continue to catch the fish in the same place time and time again, and also life gets a little boring and rote if you don't think of new options.
And I don't see the point of creating a hierarchy as to which is better, which is more engaged in truth. They are both methods of truth search, and some people are drawn to making truth in one form, by seeing and questioning, by pulling together and realigning sense, or in the other form, by creating new futures or parallels in order to understand the flexibility and maleability of the one we think we are standing in.
But for me, making a distinction between nonfiction and fiction has also been kind of a refuge when my mind is not healthy or happy. Knowing the difference between what I experienced and what I made has been important. And even if it's somewhat arbitrary, drawing a line between fiction and nonfiction has provided a means of escaping insanity. To recycle another metaphor... I keep thinking of definitions as being like the task of wrapping a baby. Too tight and the baby suffocates, too loose and the freedom makes the baby feel lost and unheld. We like our definitions because we like boundaries to surround us and hold us inside some comprehension of where we are. But we also like to cross boundaries, to untie ourselves from the blanket, when we feel confident. But if we are not confident, being held is a place to begin to feel that way.
I can't help feeling that only a person who has never lost their sense of reality can afford to take away the language we use to create a sense of firm ground. It is a dangerous task, looking to invest in nonlanguage.
In the case of my conversation with my advisor NS, I also feel like she keeps wanting me to abandon narrative even, or at least to question my interest in narrative, much less put up with categories such as nonfiction or fiction. But I understand all about the power structures created and recreated in narrative, and I understand that anecdote doesn't solve everything, but this does not remove the love I've had my whole life, from when I was three years old and spending hours with my books, for stories, stories and stories. Yarns and fables, fairy tales, gossips, everything having to do with stories. Yes, there was the love of language in general like babbling rhythms, but more than that for me, has been the love of story. And I don't feel like apologizing to postmodernists, who's notion of non-narrative seems like something that wants more than anything else to become the next fixed point. And I don't feel like apologizing to traditionalists, who's notion of normative narrative makes my brain ache with boredom. I don't know what I really think, but right now I feel like these questions are counterintiutive and push against the nature of writing, which in my case involves the release of all consideration of what I'm doing for the nonintellectual process of just doing it.
So, I find it totally bizarre to have these conversations, repeated, about distinctions and boundaries, when what they are are simple words and ways of approaching the task. When I say, "this is nonfiction," I guess I mean to suggest something about the nature of my creative process, and less about the product and whether I want someone to "believe" it. Writing nonfiction sometimes feels more intuitive for me, although lately, maybe because I haven't been journaling as much, it feels a little too demanding. At this moment, the flexibility to make shit up feels more fun and honest. Also, I'm just not that intrigued in what's going on around me... that little travel open-window-everything-rushing-little- detail-before-me instinct is gone. But that never stays put.
Anyhow, just a little irk and thinking about things too much boredom. Maybe I need to get out of this country this summer...
Oh, I should mention however that I heart Beth Nugent. She is an amazing teacher, and I am so thankful to get to work with her. And of course, NS is a good advisor as well; I just think she feels she has so much at stake in a particular way of looking at writing that she sometimes forgets to notice who I am.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
the backfiles: advise columns that went astray (#1)
Great that you finally got your column. Hopefully, I can be the first one to write in search for your wise words. My heart is breaking these days, and I can't imagine how anyone but you could help. My husband of eleven years just cheated on me with my sister, who's younger, and none of us knows what to do. We all love each other very much, and have always hung out together. She has the condo below us, and takes care of her niece on a regular basis. But now, we are all awkward around each other. I cry myself to sleep each night, and my husband is talking about leaving the country. We've tried to discuss it rationally, but I ended up shredding a beanbag and filling my sister's bird-feeder with the beans that fell out (she loves her birds). Do you have any suggestions?
Sincerely, Confused in Tight Confines
Dear Confused in Tight Confines,
Confining tight can be stretchy. In the stretch of stretchy tension, we find it tightly so. She will look at the tension and locate its rubber and discover the elastic nature of tight stretches, stretchy confines. Elastic is lasticky, you see. And when she touches the elasticity of lasting stretches, she will find the tension, which will be tense and full of long pulls. She will examine the stretch and ask herself if the stretch stretches out to tension or if the tension is inside the stretch. Tight? See, nothing elastic tightens in beanbags although they give said impression. Amoebic furnitures, they do not stretch but thrust pseudopodic blobules of themselves towards the stretched stretches in order to confine our stretch. Stretching, she will know if the elastic stretches stretch enough to confine blobular blobules of beans, tightly or confining, I'm confident.
Hopefully that helps. Good-luck,
(p.s. this publication does not hold itself responsible for any typographical or otherwise errors in Ms. Stein's column. we abdicate all responsibility, in fact.)
I really need your help. I hear you are blind and I feel blind right now but with anger not because I have no eyes. I just got fired after working thirty years at the same place and I think it's because they want to only hire young people these days and I'm sure young people are great but they don't know their job like I know my job. I could do much better than them and I think I was doing my job. My progress reports were always positive but now my boss is "shaking things up," he says. But our company is doing fine without shaking and I know there is no other reason than my age to have fired me and I want to go back. Any Suggestions?
Yours, Blind in Rage
Mighty Blind in Rage:
Odysseus paused at the shore of the ever-changing ocean and called for his son, Telemachus. With his frothy white beard, Odysseus looked very different and even his own son did not recognize him. Odysseus's long journey had changed him, and his now-grown son threatened to whip him. With all that time looking at the sparkling stars and finding his way back to Penelope, Odysseus felt impatient but loving towards this young spawn. So, he took the rod from Telemachus with his monster-smiting musculature and then told Telemachus who he was. Telemachus's eyes flowed. Odysseus asked his tear-flowing son how the beautiful Penelope was, and how the condition of the kingdom was holding up. His son gave him the gossip and the two listened to each other, each hearing the knowledge the other held. After their consult, Odysseus lit a pyre to Athena and asked for her intervention in justice and wisdom.
Then he went and slaughtered all the drunken young usurpers with his mighty bow. His wife was glad to have him back and life shaped up soon after.
Omni Omnibus, Homer
(p.p.s. this publication really abdicates responsibility for Mr. Homer's column.)
I'm having difficulty sleeping. All I think about are my downstairs neighbors, who I think have a meth lab in their spare bedroom which is below my bedroom. I've never fancied myself a rat, but I'm scared I might get blown up and I'm also worried they might go on a psychotic killing spree. Do you think there is any way to talk to them without causing offense? Or do you think I'm just being paranoid?
Respectfully, In Need of a Meth-od
дорогой In Need of a Meth-od,
You are a desperate man... you are a vile and bitter man. I believe you're probably a lonely man. Your esophagus hurts. However, I am not sure if you have given all the information about your problem, and I don't know what to advise you. You don't go to the police, and you are frightened of them, although you seem to understand the concept of ethics and laws. In general, I guess you've never read a single philosophy book. Besides that, you seem very stupid. No, I will not give you any advice on ethics. You would probably be confused anyways.
Well, I see you have a dilemma though. Of course, I have no idea the nature and character of your downstairs neighbors and so have no way of ensuring that any advice to such a stupid and vile man will not backfire. But they are probably not without their own flaws, making meth possibly being one. So you might explode--let things break!
How long have you been going on like this? Is this a problem that has haunted you for years? I imagine you are very old, and it seems likely you once were an accountant, for you are fond of an accounting. You were a desperate accountant. You were stupid and patted your back for such ethical cleanliness. And for these naive jiggerings, you probably felt baptized in righteousness. (This is cruel of me to write, and I thought about erasing everything and starting over with the assumption that your neighbors indeed make too much meth, but I choose not to simply because I have one of those old typewriters, and don't believe in white-out. I shall burn this. Yes!)
When the meth-heads downstairs rattle their kettles and mix their materials, you lie upstairs with your hands folded on your chest. You keep your hands folded on your chest to look like a dove. It is your dove-nature you value, and you do not want to mar it with the recriminations of angry psychotics. You do not stand up, do not walk over and yell through the air conditioning. You do not exploit your position of being above, because you relish the idea of being one flight on top. This is your success and it folds your hands for you.
You have already decided! You know what to hold onto, your hands; you know what to love and how to hate. You are oppressed by your own obsequiousness, but you think it prime achievement too. You are paralyzed, sleepless for freedom of drug-bubbling, and I think of you as a kind of average and stupid man. Soon you shall explode and a new idea will be born!
Best of luck, Fyodor
(p.p.p.s. this publication doesn't even understand what it is abdicating responsibility for, in regards to Mr. Dostoevsky's column.)
Saturday, October 07, 2006
portals aligned to windtunnel strings to subatomic...
it's just that time of my life again.
You know how I know? Well, here's how I know:
1. I've got some really great titles.
2. I bought a bike Saturday, and she is Wonder Woman. You know, the amazon. Her major downside is that her seat was built out of cement and channeled into something the size of a vibrator but not nearly so much fun, but certainly as bruising, perhaps more. And so, for a couple of reasons I will add to shortly, I've decided to name my bike "Bruiser Bruiser the Battle Cruiser."
Bruiser is a backroads bike who's replacing the mountain bike I had stolen (from me) the first month I was here. I've managed to find Bruiser just in time for perhaps the last sun in Chicago until spring, and just to highlight this fact, I heard on the radio today that on Thursday the temp's not supposed to get out of the 30's. But right now: it's 70s and such. So, I bruised my thigh region today by roaming around on my new bike and thinking how it's so much a better investment in anger management than powder donuts with cherry filling. I love Bruiser and she loves me. At least, I think she loves me.
She flirted with me right away, and this is how I knew I had finally found that lasting relationship I've been wanting: real quicklike, Bruiser added to the statistical data indicating I'm mostly attracted to bitches. Bruiser, within the first 10 minutes of our meeting, bucked me over my handlebars, thus damaging my paw-pads (shown in the pictures right and above).
Yeah. She loves me.
But going on into the whole predictable, "but I deserved it" bent, I have to point out that it was my fault. A friend who-shall-not-be-named suggested Friday that when I went go to Working Bikes to get my refurbished babe, I should not only get there at noon on the nose, but also check the brakes, "since they don't always work in mint condition." So, I checked the brakes.
They work. (Especially the front one).
I love Bruiser. I am convinced that merely loving Bruiser in the soon-to-come 30 degree weather will somehow fill me with great happiness and a sense of achievement. She completes me. Makes me whole. I know a few girls actually who have a club called the "Bruiser Bruiser the Battle Cruiser Makes Me Wet Club." Me too. (oy).
And I'm not lying about this: I biked around very happy today and felt confident of my brakes, and less confident of my skill, and yes that seat hurts, but that bike rocks.
Then, because it is one of those days like I said before: the cap I have on one of my front teeth (5th-grade soccer on cement) fell off in fear of Bruiser and the approaching alley. Which in the past has made me look so much like a hillbillneck that I've made sonic booms on my way to the dentist. But it's the weekend, and I guess I'm going to have to wait. I should mention that it looks worse than the photo might give you the impression of. Much worse.
3. And a line here or there that rocks out.
4. I am addicted to sudoku, House, and many many other things. Sigh.
5. I'm not in my teaching panic failure mode any longer. I spent quite a bit of time and rearranged a few parts of my syllabus and approach, and am now taking the time for more conversation and articulating more about essay-writing in worksheets instead of lecture. I think it'll smooth out for awhile, and then we'll see.
6. Leaves turning, moon fool, sore ass.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
teaching, gonna pull my hair out
Note to self: 18 is 18 whether at art school or otherwise.
Note to self: this school is so heterogenous it amazes me.
Note to self: 3 hours once a week f-ing sucks.
Yeah, I've been having intense personal crises over teaching and am at that stage where I'm convinced I'm a personal failure and should scrap together my honor, shave off all my hair, and dress in black.
No, I've never been told I'm dramatic. Shut up.
The thing is, by the time I've figured out that something went wrong, a whole week has gone by and I can't go back in time and undo anything. My students are turning nothing in on time, and skipping assignments, and not enjoying their readings, and turning in the same draft of a paper over three weeks of a "revision" process, and I'm supposed to be evaluating these papers now with a little explicit grid that I have that shows where they're developing and where they still have lots of room to grow, and the thing is: they're not changing anything, so I have no means to assess how they're changing. Or I simply don't have their papers.
And man, this is a no-grade class, which I've emphasized to my obvious detriment although I've pointed out that 5 categories for evaluation that they need to get a satisfactory in doesn't exactly make an easy breeze. So, I can't just slap a D on half their papers and say: you suck, you didn't even take a chance which I said was the main thing I was looking for. So I don't know what to do. I'm apparently giving low satisfactories or unsatisfactories to half the class, but does that mean in the balance of things I have to read more drafts? On top of new drafts?
And the thing is, I know I have mismanaged time in class and haven't emphasized what I needed to emphasize enough, but I've been really uncomfortable trying to cram so much into one class at a time and create a sense of continuity. Not to mention that in addition to teaching them to write an essay, I'm supposed to be moving around a big, important topic that I really love and want to talk about - and I have lots of articles I want to give them but: when can I give it to them if they have to read about writing essays and get their money's worth out of the book I made them get? and if they aren't even doing the writing that's the basis for the class?
I think I'm going to ditch the writing book for a while and hope they don't notice until the end, when I can make them read some more from it. Shit. Shit. Shit.
Anyhow, I'm sure life is good and I'm overreacting, and they will shape up, and I needn't shave my head, but:
Monday, October 02, 2006
i should be reading but i'm going to mention...
...the funny thing that happened today.
So, I've been fighting, or near-fighting, with the evil loan company, which is in this case Citibank, who acquired my loans about five or six months ago and have been giving me headaches since that moment.
See, I'm a student, and I have loans. They are headaches. And too big. But not as big as many folks' loans or headaches since I turn down lots of loans too. But still.
Anyhow, since we have our evil President who seems intent on not changing my mind about him and his folks in any capacity at all, there's been the removal of our nice 4.25% interest-rate cap from our student loans, and basically the rates doubled overnight on July 1st. So, back before it doubled I decided to consolidate all my new loans with my old ones and lock in the better interest rate. So, I got my butt in gear and did that.
Only, it wasn't easy, and I really really hate forms and am actually form-inept, which my friends tell me should be considered a developmental disability in my case. So, I called up the Citibank advise line several times to make sure I was doing it right and considering all the different considerations I should be considering.
Each representative seemed to disagree with the next, and I had one person tell me to look up the addresses for the companies with my new loans and call Citibank back when I had them, which I did, and the next person told me I didn't need to look them up, they had them on file, and in fact I had the wrong addresses. I asked if I could get the right addresses, and she said, and I quote:
"Don't worry about it. We have the addresses. Just send the forms in."
To which I said, and I quote, "Are you sure? It says on this form that you must have the addresses on there."
And she said, "Yeah, don't worry about it. We have them."
Thus, I sent in the forms a few days before the due date, and then called a day before to once again make sure everything was in order. They assured me it was.
Yeah. You know what's coming. I get the letter almost a month later telling me they had consolidated the loans that were already consolidated and in their holding! But not the others. You know, the unconsolidated ones.
I called them up right away and asked what's up and they told me that because I did not put down the addresses, they could not consolidate those loans. I got really really pissed at this point, and tried very hard not to yell at the poor woman, but made a couple of sarcastic comments nonetheless, like:
"Why would I want loans that are already consolidated to be consolidated again under the same interest rate and with the same company? It did not strike you to call me and ask this? Or ask what the other addresses were?"
And then I told her the whole story and told her that the conversation I had with the advise-line woman should be recorded in their files since they told me they recorded everything. Look it up.
She knew I was pissed and also knew I was trying very hard to be nice to her. So, she said she'd launch an official inquiry and get back to me in four working days. I told her I would be out of communication range, fishing, in two working days and asked if she could speak with my mother instead of me. She said no. I said pretty please. She said no, but she'd handle things personally and get back to me in a month when I was back. The month passed and I didn't hear back from her when I got back, and everything was awhirl and so I didn't contact them like I should have, partially because I was still pissed off and didn't want to deal with them.
But this Friday, I got a letter from them and it says that...
I am two weeks past due on my payment and have been remanded to the collections agency!
(p.s. I am still a student, and filled out all the official paperwork, which I remind you I am retarded at but got right that time, last year to have my in-school deferment, regarding which Citibank sent three notices to me confirming when they took over my loans.)
So, truthfully, I spent a part of this weekend absolutely stewing and requesting an official complaint form (in my head since the office was closed) and worrying that I was going to have to come up with an additional hundred bucks. Of course, I called Citibank this morning and told the poor customer service girl what had happened in my surliest voice, and she said, roughly speaking:
"Oh that's a mistake. You have a student deferment until the end of next year, and we're processing your other loans for consolidation, since it was our error."
If she had been in the same room, I would have kissed her, which would have been strange after all the stress they've given me, but I have to say that after all the build-up, this conversation did make for a few completely joyous butt-wiggles.
Oh, and two other things:
I went apple-picking yesterday with a few friends and it was super lovely. I'm badly in reading debt though. And also, my (roomate's) kitty cuddled upside-down on me all Saturday as I worked, and her little paws curled up into the air, and her tail wicked out over my keyboard, and she is the fluffiest, softest, cutest kitty in the world and I'm never giving her back. Never! Viva la build-ups and the resulting pull-ups!