Sunday, January 23, 2011

I'm in Love with Saul Williams

On tap for my creative writing class tomorrow: slam poetry

Why Aren't You Writing?

I just realized that a week has passed, and I haven't written anything on my blog.  I always feel guilty when I don't find time to write...kind of like the guilt I feel when I don't exercise.  Problem there is that it's usually more than a week that has gone by, and I wonder if just watching the following will help me burn calories...sing know you know the words:

 And I used to think that was just a song about exercising...

All joking aside, it's usually a combination of things that keep me from writing anything: tired, stressed, heavy work load, stepping outside after being cooped up in my apartment all day because I've forgotten what fresh air feels/smells like, not wanting to go back in because that means I have more work to do.

Back in '98 or '99 (I wish I could remember), my aunt was dying of cancer.  It was one of those rare moments in life when I actually had the opportunity to "say goodbye" to someone I loved.  I always thought that would be easier.  But, truth be told, it wasn't.  My dad had died in '97 of a massive heart attack in the middle of eating lunch, and that was a shock to the system I can't even begin to describe.  There were no goodbyes there.  One day he was around and the next day he wasn't.  But given the chance to say goodbye is just "different," not "easier."  Not long before my aunt died, I walked into her room.  She was not having a good day, and she could barely motion me in.  I walked over to her bed and sat down gently.  She reached over and held my hand.  There was no, "Hello, how are you," or "How is school going," but instead she asked me:

"Are you writing?"

I shook my head.

"Why not?"

I didn't have an answer for her.

She looked at me and said, "Never stop writing.  Promise me?"

I promised.

But it's not a promise I always keep...

So tonight, I don't have anything particularly profound or insightful for my readers...I just felt the need to write...Mickey would have wanted me to.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Are the Golden Globes Still "Golden?"

I can't remember the first time I sat down to watch the Golden Globes...and I'm not talking about the "fair-weather" viewer who turns the show on the first and last thirty minutes to see the "big" awards. (The producers have caught on in case you haven't noticed.  You have to wait a good hour between Best Supporting Actor and Actress these days).  I'm talking about sitting through the entire 3+ hours, only getting up to go to the bathroom or shake awake the foot that has fallen asleep.  Why?  I guess the simple answer is, I love films.  I always have.  And like thousands of other starving artists, I wanted (okay, still do) to be an actress.  I even wanted to go to an arts high school (I thought it would be just like Fame), but my parents wouldn't let me.  They said I wouldn't be able to find a career in the arts, and I should focus more on "academics."  (Insert irony here: I am, after all, a University Instructor teaching drama.)

Fine.  I'll repeat that story when I win my first Oscar. 

My first role was going to be Annie.  You know, the red-headed orphan.  Couple of problems there -- one, I don't have red hair, and two, I can't sing.  Okay, in the car I've belted out notes that I feel are deserving of the Grammy and the Tony.  (If you've been in the car with me, keep quiet.  I'm telling a story.)  But when I was sitting on my dresser with my comb or brush in my hand, I sounded just like this...

She was no Barbra Streisand, but it resonated with me.

As the years went on, my tastes began to change and a new standard was set in place: Meryl Streep.  Now how a kid goes from Annie to Meryl Streep is as big of a mystery to me as it might be to you, so I can't give a logical explanation there.  Maybe it's the same line of thinking that makes me enjoy a Monty Python film as much as Cinema Paradiso.  The first Meryl Streep film I remember seeing was Sophie's Choice.  I was blown away by her acting ability in that film and the ones that were to follow throughout the 1980s.  She truly defined "talented actress" to me, the same way Kate Winslet does today (think past Titanic here). 

Streep was brilliant.  Yes, she was a beautiful woman on the big screen, but this woman could really act.

And when I sit down to watch the Globes, I want to see real actors celebrated for real work.  What do I see instead?  Continuous shots of Brangelina (the most horrifying one -- if there was only one -- was when Angie decided that she needed to reapply her lip gloss during a brief filmography of Robert De Niro's work just before he received the Cecil B Demille award.)

Thank god for the last 30 minutes of the Globes when my faith was restored by the choices for Best Actor and Best Actress.  But as I was sitting there watching, I really started thinking about where awards shows have gone over the past thirty years (I'm just including the ones I've remembered seeing and experiencing).  Have tastes in what defines "best" just changed?  Was The Social Network really the best film had to offer this year?  And, yes, I know about the petitioning/political arena that surrounds these award shows...but the powers that be still manage to get it right once in while, don't they?

So what's changed here?

While you think about it, I'll put in The Social Network and think this over some more...or read this article on why Helena Bonham Carter's choice in shoes overshadowed her performance in The King's Speech.

Biggest News of the Night?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

enter here: take two

I just moved on to my third load of laundry this morning (being a teacher aka academic aka "Visiting Lecturer," my personal, "need-to-get-to" list fills up during the week more often than not). Somewhere in the sorting process, I began thinking about my trek through this blog.  I thought about where I'd like this to go, and I began thinking about creating a space for educators to "weigh in" on how things are going in the classroom.  We do it already, don't we?  In the break room, around the coffee machine (we love our coffee), on why not here as well?

I was joking with my creative writing students the other day after defining the apostrophe.  I told them about the now infamous, "O Captain, My Captain" line from Dead Poets Society:

And although this has never happened (it's Hollywood, folks...this is as likely to happen as the scarring, "You complete me" line from Jerry Maguire), it has come close.  When I had to leave my first teaching job in Selma, TX after the sudden passing of my father (those students are now sharing Facebook pictures of their pregnancies and weddings, by the way), I was saying goodbye and started to cry.  At that moment my students began singing a pronoun song that I had made up in class.  It was my "O Captain, My Captain" moment that has yet to be recreated quite that way since.

I have called myself a teacher now for over a decade.  But I am still a student when it comes to learning and would love to hear about your experiences as a teacher.

I often find myself telling potential teachers that you can't teach someone how to teach.  Think about it.  What we learn in the classroom as teachers comes so much more from doing than reading about it, doesn't it?  I'm not saying that I haven't picked up on new techniques or asked for advice from fellow teachers on certain issues that have come up.  It would be hypocritical of me to call myself a teacher and then close the door on learning anything new for myself.  But ideas that have worked for others may not necessarily work for me.  We bring our personalities into the classroom.  Our classes are, in turn, shaped by the personalities of the students themselves.  I always feel sad at the end of the semester when I've had the "perfect mix" of students and know that that will never be re-created again.  It reminds me of a story a musician told about his experiences at concerts -- thousands get together under one roof for one night, and this group will never be the same, the exact same, ever again.  It's what makes the experience unique, exciting, memorable. addition to talking about writing/art/creating, I'd also like to use this open forum to discuss the ups and downs of teaching in the 21st century.  Even though I said "what may work for you may not work for me," it still helps to know when other teachers are experiencing similar issues or dealing with some of the same issues that I am faced with.  And in the sharing of ideas, I may find a solution that fits my needs through our discussions and conversations online.  A virtual chat room for the educators/innovators.  A virtual classroom.

So, class...let's begin.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ekleksographia Is Here!

 Published Work(s) by yours truly and fellow U-La-La'ers:


enter here

Last night I was watching OWN...wait...maybe I shouldn't admit to that right off the bat.  Well.  Too late.   Can't go wrong with Oprah, right?  Debate.

Jay-Z was being featured on the new show Master Class.  He was talking about the "flow" in art...the words he uses, the way they weave in and out of rhythms and rhymes that he creates/(re)creates...and I began thinking about conversations I've been having with some of my fellow writers/artists/creators/innovators.  Why we write.  Why we stop writing.  What motivates us, unmotivates us.  How do we begin to measure the quality of our art in a world inundated by it?

I don't have all the answers, nor do I want them.  I see the world the only way I know how.  It seems normal for me to be sitting in a car wash, watching the purples/blues/greens of the soap falling down my windshield and immediately thinking, "This would be a great time to try out my new lens."  It seems normal to me to be driving on a long stretch of road and watching how the weeds are moving in rhythm on the side of the road for the next several miles.  It seems normal to me to be up late one night, begin to fall asleep, and come up with a poem in my head...that I never get up to write down and hope that one night in the future it will find itself there again.  You will not always see what I see...some of what I do is made public, some of it is not.  And I'd like to keep it that way.  I think that's why I've hesitated to create an online blog for so long.  But if this new outlet finds other outlets for creating/thinking/(re)creating, it's worth pursuing.

So, we'll see where this open forum takes me...takes us...