Archive for February, 2015

Culture

February 25, 2015

Real People: Thinking Caucasian Little Boy Questioning Wonder

This Teacher Doesn’t Make It Easy!

 

If my son knew the material,

he could tell me which material the test covered.

But he doesn’t.  Which, of course, he wouldn’t,

seeing as how he needs to learn… it.

But so far I’m fairly certain that it’s biology.

Perhaps a little about cell morphology.

A question about ‘telomeres’  (put me onto chromozones)

and the word ‘pedigree’, plus the terms ‘incomplete’ and ‘non-complete’ dominance,

I see cramped like coded messages inside of little yarn balls of inked drawings

would seem to anchor us in Genetics.  Hoorah!

So we turn to that chapter,

but only portions of it seem to be the portions of it he remembers,

that is, the portions of it he has to study,

at least, as my son sees it.

This teacher doesn‘t make it easy!

 

The teacher gives some of the material in a handout,

some in varied sections of the textbook,

a portion of the material they have all read together,

…some seemingly as short as a paragraph –

while other information he delivered as a lecture in class.

Then there’s the information from the various tests,

which, unfortunately, had to be turned back…

-“What’s the point of a test, if we can’t study what you got wrong?”

-“Dad.  Why do you have to go off on all sorts of things that don’t matter?”

And there’re quizzes, versus major tests, for which the rules are somewhat different.

On the major exams, if you perform poorly, you can re-take the test.

But meanwhile, the class moves on.

-“So which are we working on?!” I exclaim.  “The past, or the present?”

-“Dad, please!  Just settle down.”

 

All the while, we’re in a rush, of course.  Not mine, but his.

There’s chats, meetings and activities

continually being updated by texts from his friends, he takes as we study.

-“Dad!  Dad.  Why do you have to go off on all sorts of things that don’t matter?”

-“Because I’m explaining this to you while you have your head in a phone!’

-“We don’t have time now to read the whole chapter!

Just help me to answer these 10 questions.  Number one:

Some person’s son has a different blood type from either of his parents.  Is this possible?”

-“Oh yeah.  Certainly.”

‘Maybe even probable?’  I mumble.

 

Photo from Google Images

 

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From the Editor’s Perch

February 23, 2015

Global Warning

Global Warning

 

First it was Global Warming, and the Seas Were Going to Rise and Drown Us.

The seas didn’t rise.  The Maldives are still there.

And Global Warming is now Climate Change.

Then a Great Shelf of Ice was supposed to dislodge from a Melting Antarctica,

fall into the water, and…  the Seas Were Going to Rise and Drown Us.

 

A little back story:  After fears in the 1970s of Global Cooling had abated,

Y2K was going to destroy civilization in the year 2000,

and then Second Hand Smoke was going to kill us.

But from there on out, the playbill got a lot more crowded,

as various performers realized  something  a lot of us fully allow

both In and Out of Government, and On Both Sides of the Question.

And that is that “A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste”.

 

So next up, and coming soon!  are melting methane beds, from deep within a dying ocean…

expect a cold vortex pushing south, down from Canada, in between

summertime projections of starving, drought-stricken farmers moving up from the south,

a flood of undocumented aliens carrying ebola,

(insert where appropriate: the dissolution of our shorelines and possibly Manhattan)

ISIS fanatics running rampant across all of the mid-East, and thence to disseminate by air to everywhere where they might find you, and an atomically armed Iran.

 

Exacerbating the crumbling financial picture from within the European Union,

either Greece, Italy, Spain, or all three could default.  Or Germany – that economic engine – could pull out altogether leaving the whole European Consortium to collapse like a circus tent.

The High Pressure Fracking for oil in the Fly-over States, which could possibly destroy all potable water,

is also challenging the dominance of the former oil-rich countries, who came about their oil too easily,

putting their regimes in jeopardy creating more and more instability,

in a soon to be nuclear armed Near East.

While the newly created, well-paying blue collar jobs and cheaper oil in the heartland

is fuelling the rush to more fracking, even cheaper oil, and ever more CO2,

plus a lot more money-enhanced Bubbas , exacerbating the chances, Climate Change Will Occur, as it always has in the past, or that we will Be in Denial all the while we have our air conditioners turned up high.

So maybe yes, at least, to that.

 

“97 out of 100 scientists believe excess C02 causes Global Warming.”

This is what we are told, even by the President.

What was actually determined was that,

“97 out of 100 scientists believe excess C02 contributes to Global Warming.”

 

So, say the Doubters, “Just me being alive contributes to Global Warming, as does my friend’s pug dog’s farts.”

“And the President contributes to Global Warming every time he speaks!”

And probably much moreso than me.  Nevertheless,

by the President’s measure, I’d guess we could say that he personally has caused Global Warming.

And that 97 out of 100 scientists would agree on this.

Fair enough.

 

Picture from Google Images

February 15, 2015

Editor’s Note:  I have decided to try writing my essays as poems.  This can take a bit longer.  The form of this first essay was suggested to me by a friend.  It is a Pantoum.  Hopefully the repeating lines will add to the rhetorical punch.

Bacon and eggs Gov

How Governmental Succor Undermines Home and Family

 

It’s like he’s being recruited by a gang!

This morning I fixed an onion, sausage omelet, buttered whole grains toast, and slices of orange with tea for breakfast.

And my son refused it!  He stared at it.  “I can’t eat this,” he said.

My wife and I beamed, welcoming him.  Oh! the love of home, hearth and family.   “You have to have breakfast, son.”

 

This morning I fixed an onion, sausage omelet, buttered whole grains toast, and slices of orange with tea for breakfast.

At school my son could get a bacon, egg and cheese pizza plus fruit, milk, or three to four different kinds of cereal, breakfast bars or bagels off the rack.

My wife and I beamed, welcoming him.  Oh! the love of home, hearth and family.   “You have to have breakfast, son.”

“I can get it at school.”

 

At school my son could get a bacon, egg and cheese pizza, plus fruit, milk, or three to four different kinds of cereal, breakfast bars or bagels off the rack.

“Or you could eat right here.”

“I can get it at school.”

“They let us go to the school cafeteria if we have first period study hall,” he said.

 

“Or you could eat right here.”

How is it that a bureaucrat, untucked as his dingy sheer shirt, as he reaches for the ring binder to retrieve this morning’s mandated breakfast menu, can charm our intelligent son?

“They let us go to the school cafeteria if we have first period study hall,” he said.

“Is this how the government serves us?”  I asked the ceiling fixture.

 

How is it that a bureaucrat, untucked as his dingy sheer shirt, as he reaches for the ring binder to retrieve this morning’s mandated breakfast menu, can charm our intelligent son?

To return our hard-earned money to us as fast food pork?

“Is this how the government serves us?”  I asked the ceiling fixture.

Subsidizing my son’s rash dash to be as late as he pleases?

 

To return our hard-earned money to us as fast food pork?

Offering all sorts of empty convenience

Subsidizing my son’s rash dash to be as late as he pleases?

with no more, “Good morning.”

But, “Don’t talk to me, please dad.  I’m in a hurry.”

 

Photos from Google Images

The Short Version / Reviews

February 3, 2015

Art Worlds

As I matured, it occurred to me post-discussion that often groups of people had not really been talking about what it seemed we were ostensibly talking about.  In book groups their conclusions puzzled me.  It was as if while I was discussing the text, they were shopping at Nordstorms; holding up some piece of information or impression to see if it were ‘okayed’.

Moreover, later I suspected that they didn’t really know that they weren’t talking about what they were talking about.  (Definitely, I was puzzled what they were talking about.)  Whatever!   I also suspected that they weren’t having the feelings which they reportedly felt or felt that they had felt.  Their feelings just didn’t ring true to me.  And as I aged out, I also realized that many of my teachers hadn’t lived the advice that they offered, and suspected also, that they hadn’t realized that they weren’t living the advice that they offered.  So often,  in fact, their advice was the direct opposite of what they were doing.  Didn’t they notice?  What the hell?

 Have you ever crafted a very reasoned response for a discussion others are a part of, to find they listen and then carry on without a remark as if nothing had been said – as if you were a spirit which had drifted through the room, shrieked – and left, without a mention?  As an artist, have you watched artistic leaders make the most preposterous assertions without a blush to a fully accepting crowd?  If you have ever considered the artistic community – or any community, for that matter – and come away dumbfounded regarding something or other – this might be the book for you.

Self-Portrait1
As I type this, I am still incredulous that after all of the time I have spent in the art world, trying to find my way, and trying to understand the art world, that it never occurred to me to read what a sociologist would have to say about the art world.  That is, of course, they would study these things!

Well.   I’m certainly late to the game, but feel I’ve arrived.

Because, Typing and Sales 101 are two courses I’ve always felt should be in any practical educational curriculum.  Now I would have to add a third, and that is a study of the book, Art Worlds by the sociologist Howard Becker.

Howard Becker’s book is fundamentally about ‘conventions’; about a conventional thought, about a conventional activity.   Art Worlds discusses how humans utilize convention to organize and to ‘regularize’ production, so that in a professional arena, not everything need be discussed.  This is the bread and butter of Becker’s work.

In fact, very little of any accepted convention must be discussed.   Because the sources of conflict have already fought their nasty little internecine wars and spawned conventions which have been codified as standards, long before you ever arrived, or perhaps were even hatched and people do their work amongst them like fish swim in water.  Dissenters have long ago been herded off (and actually continue to be ‘hauled off’) and penned somewhere ‘beyond the pale’.

These conventions determine the flowcharts of nearly all social organizations.  But they are very apparent in the arts where it is quite necessary that something nebulous be defined so that it might be crafted and produced and then be ‘authenticated’ (which is in the art world a way of being ‘realized’) in order to be understood  and sold to its consumers.  “Art Worlds” examines just this.  But as Becker notes, “the world of art mirrors society at large”.  What would look to be a good book for any aspiring art worker to study – actually, is a good book for any aspiring human to study.  That is, if you would like to get on in life.

Harry51

This is all about getting on in life.  Becker makes no aesthetic judgments.

It's important to uphold standards.

It’s important to uphold standards.

When an arts organization tells you that they “must uphold standards”, they really can’t emphasize this enough.  Because the life of the organization, their jobs, their professional status and their livelihoods all depend upon meeting the specifications of the art product they produce.  Not to do so would be like a blind Sampson pulling down the pillars of the temple.

Becker doesn’t theorize; he observes.  “…sociology does not discover what no one ever knew before…  Rather, good social science produces a deeper understanding of things that many people are already pretty much aware of.”  Becker, as sociologist, explains the functioning of an Art World in a way that those who understand only a part of it can’t.

Art is Social

Art is Social

Becker begins his book by noting that “art is social”.  That whereas we commonly think, in our culture, as the artist being the creator of the work – Becker goes to great effort to describe the community of ‘personnel’ who, taken together, produce the ‘art’ product.  Further, he shows how the art cannot attain any stature without this community of ‘personnel’.  Nor, can it even claim to be ‘Art’.  As Becker observed, “Most history deals with winners.  The history of art deals with innovators and innovations that won organizational victories… (my italics)   Only changes that succeed in capturing existing cooperative networks or developing new ones survive…  Art worlds routinely create and use reputations.”  Art worlds regularly criticize and defend themselves, authorize membership and reject aspirants.  And they all define themselves, their places and their actions through an establishment of ‘conventions’.

My first quarter playwriting teacher might have agreed with Becker on at least this first point.  The first question our instructor asked our class was about what is the defining characteristic of theater.  His answer was that it is “social”.   Becker continues though, to extend this  observation much further than what my playwriting teacher might authorize.  In fact, Becker’s exploration uncovers so vast an area of questionable action as to make at least this art worker wonder, ‘What the hell am I, or was I, aspiring to be a part of?”

It’s a personal belief of mine that any true appreciation of reality is an ‘unmooring’ experience.  T.S. Elliot remarked, “Most people cannot stand too much reality.”  In truth, most of us fight the Alice in Wonderland, topsy-turvy quality of reality.  We really cannot stand to be a part of this.  We’d rather manufacture something with more stability.   “That is our story, and we’re sticking to it,”  is rather the nature of how we go about it.

So a book like Becker’s “Art Worlds” – which can leave this artist/reader feeling unmoored – to my mind, is quite a book indeed.

Photos by Carl Nelson

Alien Abductions Are Loud, Bright Affairs

Alien Abductions Are Loud, Bright Affairs

 


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