31.3.10

How to Write a Research Paper

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Use this simple hand out to teach students how to form an argument for a research paper.

Photo: On the Streetcar with Airplane

To Lafayette Square -


Marengo Street Free Collective Library

I was at Hey Cafe on Magazine street yesterday, sipping a coffee and writing, as usual.
I walked over to Marengo and Magazine and saw this green box.

Thit Marengo Collective Library
Take a book / leave a book
Take a DVD / Leave a DVD

Read! Watch!

Free Materials for the People
Noticed some Richard Wright; Season One of the Office.

Come help feed starving readers, at least with words, not spaghetti.

30.3.10

Photo: "Police at Crystal Burger"

The Finest dine at Krystal Burger (Nothing Like It!) on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Opinion Poll: Do Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and Virginia Woolf Look Alike?

For all you Virginia Woolf fans out there, here is a nice picture of her in youth. And then there is a photograph of Thérèse of Lisieux, the Catholic Carmelite saint. Am I the only person who thinks Woolf has an uncanny resemblance to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux?
Photograph of Virginia Woolf as a Child
Thérèse of Lisieux dressed up as Joan of Arc

Art: "Hands"

26.3.10

What is the Difference between Comedy and Tragedy?

"Midway in my life's journey, 'I stumbled into a wood.'" 
 Dante, Inferno, Canto I, Line 1
    What is the difference between comedy and tragedy? We enter the woods; at the threshold of woods and plain are the dividing lines between tragic and comedic, between love and loss. The woods represent chaos in literary symbolism. Or not. Everything depends on the red wheelbarrow. Is it how we see it? In Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, when the eloping lovers enter the woods at night, all hell breaks loose. Lovers are switched. A wayward actors' troop is also lost, set to perform at a state wedding, but one of their players is turned into an ass, being an ass anyway - his name is Bottom. Puck, the mischievous sprite, pours a potion into the Queen of the Fairies' eyes and she falls in love with Bottom.
    In the morning, though, after all the enchantments have worn off, everything is turned right - the basic structure of a comedy. A comedy is technically a narrative that begins with a conflict, like mixed up lovers or lost in a wood, but in the end conflict is resolved - which is why Dante's journey through Hell is called a comedy. Dante goes through the stages of hell and survives to tell the tale. Dante, with Virgil the poet's help, makes it to Purgatory and, eventually, with Beatrice's intercession, ends up seeing the beatific vision (which is quite boring, if you ask me). Isn't the journey in the telling?
    And what is the difference between a comedy and a tragedy? Is the line always direct, written in the sand? I agree the line is a thin one, as played out in Woody Allen's farce Melinda and Melinda. The movie is a demonstration of the thin line between both genres. Is life at its essence tragic or comic? The movie tells the story of Melinda from two perspectives, one tragic, the other comedic. In the tragic version, Melinda shows up at her sister's dinner party unannounced and all hell breaks loose. She dumps her husband for a younger photographer but the center cannot hold and she ends up in the tragic version in a mental hospital. In the comic version, Melinda shows up at the dinner party as a childless and down-trodden neighbor who captures the attention and delight of the guests. The film cleverly goes back and forth between the two stories as a way to illustrate the point the difference between tragedy and comedy. For the ancient Greeks, tragedy was primarily a cathartic experience. To process tragedy, the events of the narrative are re-enacted on the stage and by seeing the horrible events unfold on stage (or on screen) the spectator comes away cleansed from the experience. Thus the invention of drama. Emotion is processed publicly as a way to experience collectively the pain of tragedy. Even today don't we go to a sad movie and cry? What happens in this experience? Are we sad for our own sorrows or someone else's? Are our tears and identification with a character on the stage? Do we cry so we can replace our own sufferings with the sorrows of someone else, an emotional scapegoat? Tragedy is not a private act, but a public one. We publicly place sorrow on the stage to feel better afterward in the same way we laugh collectively in front of a prime time TV show even when it is not funny. Catharsis is a purging of the emotions but the same can be said when we witness, and privately enjoy the suffering of others; a little bit of schadenfreude, gaining pleasure from the downfall of others somehow makes us feel a little bit more exalted. Even though we don't like to admit it, don't we often say to ourselves about someone else's tragic story, I am glad it isn't me?
Odysseus slays the suitors
Comedy and tragedy depend on a slight twist of fate; Woody Allen likes to play with this idea, beginning Melinda and Melinda with a discussion of the difference between the two. It is a gross deduction, but life is a comedy when we are the ones who do not suffer and it's a tragedy when the tables are turned. When Dante is in hell he is a comedy for he goes through hell commenting on the suffering of other people. Dante meets Odysseus in hell, the man of many wiles who was separated from his wife and family for twenty years. Dante punished Odysseus in hell for his extreme pride or hubris, a lack of understanding of his own human weakness. Odysseus in life is punished to roam the seas in a search for home because he relied on his own intellect and not on the gods. Odysseus returns home, rids his halls of the suitors and he reunites with his wife and son. Dante does not view Odysseus so comedically, however, and remains suspicious of Odysseus as if inspired by Poseidon's rage. Dante sees Odysseus as the man of many deceits. The flip flop is directly related to fate, perception, choices, and perhaps luck. If I am deceived to believe life is merely either a comedy or a tragedy, I deceive myself. Pride and self-deception cause war; cause intolerance - the inability to see truth in any given situation. The blindness is our own. Someone may ask, why are seers physically blind? By losing their physical sight, they gain an inner sight of the mind. It is not what you see but how you see it. The narcissist sees only himself. The hero sees his victories. A murder does not see his crime. A lover sees an ideal. I am blinded from truth not because truth is absolute, but I am unable to decode properly what I see before me. The Greeks seem to have understood this which is why they created the blind seer who could see but they also saw that most of us are Cassandra and we do not listen. It is not that we do want to listen, but rather, we are blocked - flustered for a bit, and we cannot read properly. It is in the tangle of interpretation that we go back and forth: comedy, tragedy, comedy, tragedy, comedy, tragedy, comedy, tragedy . . .

Poem: "Voting Booth"

their children's legs stick out of
the nylon curtains
pretending to vote

Scott says he
became political when
he was six,
Truman
was president.

Mom stays in the car,
having already cast her vote,
the voting commissioners will fuck it up, though

On the way no one knows
who to vote

dappled road

smiling
ken davis

whenever my dad
had a few Pabst Blue
Ribbons then later it was miller -
he would run down FDR
a Pinko

and Edwin Edwards -

because we knew he was
a crook
better the crook you
know -

Buddy Tauzin drove up on
the trains tracks in La Place,
ruffled
feathers draped across
the front of the caboose -

touching the crevice of a hole,
chiseled into the polished marble,
wall of the State Capitol
where Senator Long was shot
in Second Grade,
a school field trip, -
with Ms. Cerami,
we were allowed to trace our fingers into the depressed hole -

consciousness is a tumulus on
the plain of death

"cowards die many times
before their deaths, the brave
only once"
 PDF Copy for Printing © 2010 Greig Roselli

24.3.10

Photograph: Swiss Guards

In 2007, I visited the Vatican and took this photograph of two Swiss Guards.
Swiss Guards © 2007

Is this the End of Publishing?

I  thought this video was thought-provoking. I presented the video to my classroom with mixed results.




Some comments from ninth grade students:


  • "I get distracted when I read. It's not ideas I don't like, it's reading."


  • "I think it's ironic they posted it on Youtube."

  • I get it but it's hard to explain." 


  • "Well, I don't read but I'm still smart."


  • "I read in magazines what Lady Gaga's wearing, does that count?"


  • "Oh, it reverses!"

  • "They say 'Lady Gaga" with an "R" sound." 

22.3.10

Invocations Inspired by the Odyssey of Homer

A little handout of made up invocations for the Odyssey (with apologies)

credits: odysseus, penelope, telemachus, athena   text: greig roselli © 2010 with apologies to the muses and to homer

21.3.10

Poem: Test Anxiety

photo credit: trainsignaltraining
his face flushes rust
pen to paper smooth
his face squished, concentrated

in the morning,
before school

he is aglow with the joy
of youth

in the span of a day,
will you complete the cycle of turns?

will you go from ruddy to rude?
from studious to confused,
or cling to a man, a boy or a girl,

unaware as of yet on how to
articulate a body in space
time
laughing, loving
the essence of being human?

NOLA: Saint Charles Streetcar at Nashville

Passenger Peering
Streetcar Seat Slats
Groovy Grounds

20.3.10

Poem: "Weight Problem"

photo credit: transiacc













I was shaving, showing my tummy in the mirror
A plump pudge gathered round
my navel,
a pink mound
peering and chuckling
over my pyjamas.
I poked my pinky into my flesh
a skin landscape, a planet of hair
laughing back at me
as I glided my razor across my
smooth gilette face.

19.3.10

Libraries and Librarians in Film

EW did a thing on 18 movies with libraries, but I thought I'd add to the mix with just 3:
Citizen Kane
The Library Matron
The librarian grants access to a journalist to read the diary of Charles Foster Kane's guardian William Thatcher.
Citizen Kane (1941)
William Thatcher's diary in the famous Citizen Kane library scene
A stern-looking librarian leads a reporter into a cell containing a diary by Charles Foster Kane's guardian William Thatcher that may give him leads to the infamous newspaper magnate's sudden death. The journalist in the film plays the part of the dogged researcher who seeks out every possible avenue to sort out why did Kane spout out before he died, "Rosebud." He arrives at a fortress (or what appears to be a prison) that turns out to be an imposing archive. Granting permission to the journalist to peruse Thatcher's diary, The librarian tells him he can only read pages 83-142 and that he must leave the library premise by 4:40 sharp. I watched Citizen Kane for the first time with a librarian and she was quick to point out how librarians are erroneously depicted in popular culture as stern "guardians of the stacks." The mantra, it seems, is "the book shan't leave my sight!" I chuckle because the Kane library scene is sometimes true. I knew a librarian who went to the grocery store one afternoon and saw a patron in line and instead of telling her hello demanded to know why she had not turned in her overdue library book. True story. Anyway, I still consider this scene the quintessential library scene in film history even though it stereotypes librarians as "sole proprietors" of knowledge, I still love it. I think I was mesmerized by Greg Toland's brilliant cinematography: the way the light shines from above, illuminating the manuscript on the spare table, the way the camera makes you feel trapped inside the library walls, chained to nothing but a book. Then the camera focuses on a page in Thatcher's diary, I first encountered Mr. Kane in 1871." The book morphs into a flashback scene of little Charlie Kane playing in the snow with his sled. It's a stark effective scene as well as a metaphor for the increasing mystery of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane's mysterious life.


Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
The Library Know-it-All
Obi-Wan Kenobi scours the library databases in the Jedi library but to no avail.

Obi-Wan is surprised that not even the library has it!  
Obi-Wan Kenobi goes to the library to look for a planet in the star database in the Jedi Archives.  Obi-Wan has the right information but cannot find the planet. The librarian insists the planet does not exist because it does not appear in the star charts where it is supposed to be located. If it is not in the database, then it does not exist, the librarian remarks. Coincidentally, I was with the same librarian I saw Citizen Kane with when I saw this movie and she pointed this out to me with the same chagrin on her face as she did when she pointed out the Kane librarian trope. The Star Wars librarian is another variation of the Kane librarian: not only does the knowledge not appear in the record, if the knowledge is not in the record then it does not exist. So, does that mean if I do not have a birth certificate I do not exist? I become a tad bit nervous when librarians began messing with my existential priorities. The flip slide is the student researching a term paper: "I cannot find anything on my topic." It doesn't exist? Even Obi-Wan knows that; in case you were wondering, it was the Sith who smudged the planet from the star charts to hide their nefarious plans to create a clone army. So it just goes to show you, if it is not in the database, and it is supposed to be there, someone bad took it out, like a Sith Lord.    

Ghostbusters
The Library Catalog Haunted by a Ghost

I ain't afraid of no ghosts
The Ghostbusters stumble upon a ghostly specter in the stacks.
 If you thought an archive powered by the Force was cool, what about a card catalog haunted by a slimy ghoul? Ghostbusters has a fun opening sequence that features none other than the famous New York Public Library (although the interior shots were filmed in a library in California). I like the part when the green slime emits from the card catalog. Priceless shot!

EXTRA! EXTRA! See my post on the library scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

18.3.10

Poem: Secret/Poet

As an adolescent,
I learned the art of poet/secret;
I would climb into the bedroom closet on all fours, enough space between the smelly, discarded shoes laces to
stretch out my body; I would somehow find comfort, if that is what you’d call it, more like respite, a kind of shelter

              to be with my secrets,
              stowed away porno’
O              masturbation never was so great as
              the closeted days,
shielded from reality,
              the ceiling gathered immense freedom
              around its enclosed haunches and
              I had secrets to bare, to the wooden
              old filing cabinet stuck, where I stowed
              my poetry, my scribbles — under
              hanging sports coats and sweaters,
              secrets being such a burden —
              they had to go somewhere,
              born from my self-imposed compulsion to translate suffering into poetry —

Poetry is couched in metaphor but never becomes what it was,
like a closet,
it still remains closed,
like a secret it is never meant to be shared.

              To put into words something about
              myself that I am unable to transcend
              is a secret/poetry like a poet makes,
              for isn’t that what the poet does?
              reveal secrets,
              lay bare the state of affairs?
the poet in me, crashes into state of affairs, crashes into a secret,
to lay bare.

© 2010 Greig Roselli

Poem: Rotten Avocados


rotten avocado

the avocados were not yet ripe when I bought them.
but I found them ensconced in their own avocado skin, black as printed words;

and I remember the faint smell of hunger I had when purchasing them,

thinking they would be ripe and plump to eat.



© 2010 Greig Roselli
image credit: Wikimedia

14.3.10

Poem: Holy Water Font

when they come to the water on sunday it barely touches skin, smoothed over and onto the next thing,
honey, darling, sweetheart, dear, let’s park the car close, don’t forget the lights
    but when this child touched the water
        he slowly extended his arm and advanced
        toward the font as if time itself, punctuated by the deliberate movement of his hand, slowed down
    for him, so it

 was very important
    to dip into the water in this particular way, middle finger first,
        then the rest,
    a little playfully, but not too much so,
enough
to withdraw
his hand and cross himself
enough to convince that he saw something in the depths that I didn’t see, not before not since, only scant reflection: once after reading something from the 19th century did I ever feel similar
        but he did see something of

    the trinity

        and I suspect the whole revolving sphere of fluid stood still like in some mediaeval astronomy book
and he was able to stop time, for a bit,
because he was grinning,
        drops of holy water falling to the granite floor
and someone like his dad picking up his five-year-old body to the pew, replete with a jesus coloring book and an entrance hymn.

3.14.2010

13.3.10

The Iron Rail: Community Library, Art and Music Center in the Marigny Neighborhood of New Orleans

The Iron Rail hosts a community library in its building on Marigny Street
This out of the way community library, art center, music center, and volunteer bookstore in the Marigny is a really cool place. People come and go talking about music, and Michelangelo. In a studio in the back of this World II era warehouse, guys practice experimental music.

My buddy Airplane introduced it to me on Friday. For ten dollars or through volunteers hours, members have access to a nice collection of philosophy, literature, art, back issues of zines, anarchist tracts, and other good stuff.

If you have a paper to write for college in a humanities course, you have pretty much everything here. I found an Iris Murdoch book I've been wanting to read. Also, I lost my original Of Grammatology and they have that too. Items in the collection are organized by subject and author. The library is a browsing collection so don't expect a card catalog.

Hours are sporadic but the place seems to be mostly open after 1 until like 7.

Movie night is on Tuesday. Meetings are on Wednesdays.

The Iron Rail
511 Marigny Street
New Orleans LA
United States

10.3.10

Caravaggio at the Quirinale in Rome

Caravaggio's The Annunciation (c. 1608)
The New York Times has a write up on a new Caravaggio art exhibit in Rome's Quirinale. Caravaggio may trump Michelangelo in popularity. It used to be people posted pics of the David's classic ass on their refrigerators, but it seems people are out with the classical, refined body and want their art rough, and out of the bed. I compared Michelangelo's Last Judgement with Caravaggio's "Boy with a Ram" along with Michael Kimmelman's quotes.

Detail of Michelangelo's Last Judgment (1536-1551) 
"[Michelangelo's] otherworldly muscle men, casting the damned into hell or straining to emerge from thick blocks of veined marble, aspired to an abstract and bygone ideal of the sublime, grounded in Renaissance rhetoric."

John the Baptist (Youth with a Ram), c. 1602
"Caravaggio, on the other hand, exemplifies the modern antihero, a hyperrealist whose art is instantly accessible. His doe-eyed, tousle-haired boys with puffy lips and bubble buttocks look as if they’ve just tumbled out of bed, not descended from heaven."

credits: wikimedia

Flash Fiction: In the Pitcher's Box

"So, I turned to her and said, "Lawd. You got them cockroaches out of the kitchen zink? Them roaches be as old as a dinosaur; I ain't your momma. Clean that shit up before I go all stegosaurus on your ass."
image credit: © Greig Roselli
Ginny was acting like an overblown blow-up doll. She had strapped over her shoulder a Ziploc bag of ice. She was so animated she was cartoonish. Her shoulder had been in pain since she'd pulled a muscle at last week's game. She squinted her face like one of those black and white Laurel and Hardy pictures. She was imitating a character on a television commercial. "Yeah, baby. We love you hard, hard, swear to God." She had pulled up her boxer shorts out to show the rest of the girls her Bugs Bunny drawers. "She was standing next to the macaroni. I'm not your momma. But, at this diner, we fill up your coffee cup without draining your wallet." The boys were all dressed in white tees and nylon running pants. The girls wore helmets. "But, I could give a rat's ass to what she thought. I told her to get away from the macaroni and cleaning the fucking zink." Zack got up to bat next. At the end of the box was a digital rendition of a pitcher. He would virtually throw the ball over his shoulder which would cue one of the boys to throw a hard, unofficial baseball into the throwing machine. "Swing. Bat. Bunt. Cunts." They would say.
Sacrevoir, Untitled
    Stopher was acting like a gentleman. He crossed his legs like Abraham Lincoln. "Now, you see, the problem with our team is one of emotion." Coach Liniski paid Taylor no mind. He felt for his chest, passed his hand through the unbuttoned part of his lapel. "Where is your tie, Coach Lineski?" He pulled it out of his coat pocket. He was making a dozen of the softball players laugh their asses off. "So, you see, here, this is what I don't understand girls. Why do the girls? See them over there? Why do they use softballs, but the boys use hardballs? I don't get it." Nora laughed. "He said, 'hard balls.' Oh my god. He said 'hard'." Nora was on the turf. She clutched her tummy as if she were in pain. Her laughter was unnoticed by the boys, who batted in the box without helmets. The girls were dutiful. They wore plastic helmets; they never argued about whose turn was next. The boys were quieter, only talking if conversation necessitated speech. Jackson was the leader of the boys. He had a suave gentleness that calmed the kids, unlike Ginny's rude brouhaha. "We don't talk to Freshman. They practice with us, but we don't talk to them. That's Jackson going to bat. He hits pretty good." The ball would have been a home run, for sure. Jackson was cool about accomplishment. He didn't demand adulation. He seemed to attract it like Michelangelo's David attracts admirers of beauty. The swerve of the body. Crack. Ginny laughed; she basically chortled. "Pull your pants up Ginny. There are boys in the batter's box." "Yeah, I'm showing them my bruise. Looks like the Milky Way." Houston incredulously stooped to look at Ginny's bruise. The other boys froze. Coach Lineski stopped chewing his dip. We thought he would swallow it. Houston brought his finger closer to touch Ginny's darkened bruise. It was easy to tell a ball had hit her over the weekend. The otherwise dark markings had begun to soften and lighten. Houston's touch hadn't hurt like the initial punch to the gut. Nora still laughed. The quiet baseball drone droned. Mr. Lineski pulled Houston away. The girls were engaged in a maniacal giggle. The boys seemed scandalized. One young boy without a name, short, lithe, stood up with his "pimp stick" and swung the bat, blissfully unaware, almost hitting little Le Roy. Mr. Lineski spun around, conflicted at the chaos that had ensued. The unnamed boy swung again; not intending to hit anyone, the polychrome bat stunned Coach Lineski. Blood poured relentlessly. Coach Lineski lunged for the unnamed boy but the pain of the hit pummeled him and he fled to the hard astroturf. Blood stained the ground. Someone called 911. Nora was to the left of the crowd; she tugged Jackson close to her body. He had tears in his eyes. The head baseball coach barged in the doors. "Everyone outside now." The boy with no name did not show emotion. He had dropped his bat to the ground and dutifully waited outside for Coach Lineski to be born again.

9.3.10

Poem: The Porter Cat


soft and malleable;
I stroke the porter cat
when he lingers near the patio,
spreads his body on my lap and I tell him that he’s home;
his leonine form stretched from end to end;
he purrs with content      


6.3.10

Movie Review: Adaptation of a Children's Classic Now on DVD

Whoop. Woot. Rawrr. Claw. Battle. Rumpus. Fantastical beasts. An omnipotent little boy. A busy mother. A boat. Feed me. Let the wild rumpus start!

Where the Wild Things Are is out on DVD.
I remember vividly as a child reading Sendak’s book. The potent image in my mind is Max’s whiskers. And the almost excessive use of dark, black lines to form the outline of the bodies, the monsters, and the jungle-like setting. I appreciate Spike Jonze’s adaptation of the story and Karen O’s soundtrack. The film is true to the heart of the story. I recently saw the film Synecdoche, New York and realized that Jonze and Kaufmann are similar artists. Perhaps we forget that Kaufmann and Jonze are in similar camps. Both directors understand an adaptation of a book or a story for the film is not the same as a retelling of the story. The film of the Wild Things is not the book. It is something different. For example, in the film, Max is 
swallowed alive by one of the wild things as an act of protection but as well as a projection of the Freudian id. But its difference does not offend the original heart of Sendak’s story. The simple message of a boy's journey from raw emotion to belonging, the meal was still hot, is still intact. A must see. The film is in the spirit of “Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

I Have No Idea What To Call This Rant

“I ate it, knowing the rabbit had sacrificed itself for me.  It had made me a gift of meat.” Maxine Hong Kingston.
    In an ironic turn of events in the film Iris – about the novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch (who has, consequently has had a few things to say about education) – stares at a television screen of Tony Blair repeating, “education, education, education,” unable, in her final stage of dementia, to put coherent thoughts together (not that Blair was coherent in this scene, but that is another matter). Murdoch's life long career of dazzling prose diminished, in the end, to a babbling baby. I recently saw the film, and read excerpts from her husband John Bayley's memoir. Murdoch was a philosopher and a poet. She eloquently wrote about education, as not making a person happy, but allowing a person to see how they are happy. I liked the film because it depicted the life of a person dedicated to learning, who tragically loses her deposit of learning due to Alzheimer's. Iris lived in her mind; She lost her treasure. John Bayley believed even though the disease had ravaged his wife of her memory, there was still something "clear" and "pure" insider of her mind. He supplies her with a pen and notebook paper, in case she gets an inspiration to write.

Education – you might not know – literally means “to lead out,” like guiding a child by the hand as she learns to walk. “To lead out,” then, is a fair starting off point to explore education.  For isn’t this what education really is – in both the formal sense of the word – the institution of education – and also in the less formal, the organic sense, the leading that comes from within, not necessarily from without.  Just as learning to walk is an education in the literal sense of the word – from guiding your legs across the coffee table for support or swimming out into the deep end without a warm adult body at your side is education – so is the formal discipline of reading, writing and arithmetic a leading out as well – the problem (if you want to call it that) is to think these two concepts together.  Education as both something lived and something learned. The art is to put them together. To live and to learn.
    Thinking of two spheres of education – the education, as someone once put it – of life – and the education from books, “book learnin'” are convenient ways to think about education.    Education is for the elite?  Or can you learn everything you need to know from “life”.  I work with a man who claims he doesn’t need an education.  He told me, “I wouldn’t tell a kid this, but I wouldn’t go back and get an education.  I have no regrets about having no education.  Books – I don’t remember books – but life, I remember life.”  He was resentful that he didn’t pass the CDL exam to drive a truck.  He had been grandfathered in – as he put it – forty years ago when he first drove a truck for Camel Express (“Humpin’ to please” was their motto).  Now for him to get a job he’d have to pass that test.  “Now you tellin’ me that I can drive a truck better than anybody’s business but because I can’t pass the paper test I can’t do it?  Put a man with degrees in that truck and let me see him do it.  That don’t make no sense.”   The things we do to prove that we are competent.  That we fit in and can be considered productive members of society are tightly constructed by power and the roles we have been assigned.
    I am surrounded by this language.  This is the language of people who do not see real value in education.  People I know and live with put value in what you can do, not what you can say.  “I want to see what you can do,” a boss may say.  Words are good for human development and public relations – but work – that don’t got nothing to do with work.  The most popular question after what is your name is what do you do?  What goes in the inner life of the mind is considered not so important.  Down here in the south we are interested in the trajectories of hurricanes, the date of deer hunting season and mardi gras.  Which is interesting considering the South has produced some of the best writers the world has ever known.
    I have been described by people as a “dreamer,” “having an eidetic imagination,” “space cadet”, “lost in the clouds,” “self-absorbed,” “head in the clouds,” and “not in touch with the obvious,”  People – when they catch me thinking have remarked, “What are you doing?” or mimicking a space alien spacecraft have sing-songed, “Do Do Do Do Do – Earth to Greig”.  The one about having an eidetic imagination was said by my shrink.  The education of the mind – at least in my provincial experience – is not encouraged – instead, we much rather people who can do stuff.  Sure – we love a writer – just not when he’s writing.  We don’t mind philosophy.  We just don’t want to hear it.  Give it to me straight.  Not complicated.  I don’t want to hurt my head.
    But what is so terribly wrong about being lost in one’s head? I mean, what bad stuff can possibly happen from thinking too much? Reading too much? Don’t read into it. But why not? What is reading into it going to do? Make you think? God forbid. Just enjoy the movie. Well, I am enjoying it. I do think too much, as my mother pointed out once - and mothers always know.
    My mother gave me a beautiful paperweight for Christmas one year.  It is in the shape of a bird with a long glass tapered tail and heavy opaque body with a pocket of air trapped inside like bubbles.  Without counting the cost I immediately began to wonder out loud what this present could possibly mean.  I had the suspicion that this gift had to be symbolic of something and as I began to theorize to my mother a possible interpretation of the gift. I looked up and saw the expression on my mom’s face.  I had hurt her feelings.  I immediately stopped talking and changed the subject; thanked her for the gift.  But, I knew her feelings were still hurt.  I don’t blame her.  It was just a gift.  That was her only rejoinder after my long analysis, “Greig, it’s only a gift.  I thought it would look good in your room”.
    Now I realize that I was not wrong in analyzing the gift.  I had no intention of hurting her feelings or undermining the generosity she bestowed on me in the object of the glass bird paperweight.  But my mind could not put down the image of the bird suggesting that I impose meaning on it. For isn’t this what we do? Impose meaning? We are really good at it.  We itch to find meaning in everything we see and do.  We are not satisfied that a cup is just a cup.  It has to be something, an implication of something else. But, alas, I guess a cup is sometimes a cup.  (In the back of my mind I am resisting that notion)
    Later on, I called Mom on the phone to apologize about the bird paperweight incident.  Once I asked for forgiveness it freed her up to voice her feelings about the subject in a way that was beneficial for the both of us.  She realized that I had some sensitivity and was not really trying to hurt her feelings.  I realized that sometimes it is just best to say you’re sorry and move on.  Just the other day I was visiting her at her house.  She has twelve oak trees in her yard that she is very proud of as if she planted them herself.  When we came back to her house after Hurricane Katrina to survey the damage, the one thing she was worried about were her trees.  Her trees were safe.  Actually she sustained minimal damage on her property and recently installed an above ground swimming pool on her property – mainly for my niece to paddle around when my brother and his wife come to visit.  She was cleaning the pool when I saw her and I brought up the paperweight again.  This time in the sense of shared interests.  As Mom waded in the pool, removing a bottom layer of collected grime, I opened myself up to her.  I brought up the paperweight because I wanted her to know that this is how I think.  This is how I perceive the world and I resented – even though I did not verbalize it – this lack of understanding from her because she is very similar.  The only difference is education.  I am more educated.  I’ve got more sheepskins.  Mom is a surgical technician; she works for a neurosurgeon.  She preps patients for surgery, makes sure everything is copasetic before the surgeon comes in to perform.  She hands him the surgical tools necessary to cut into the skull and makes sure the folds of skin stay where they are, ready with a suction tube in case too much blood gushes.
    I can’t do any of that.  I can barely change the tire on a bicycle.  If you would put me in that operating room I would most certainly cause death – or even worse, cause a malpractice suit that would have me to the neck in legal fees.   I admire my mom and her ability to perform professionally in the operating room.  She has been working for the same neurosurgeon for twenty years, as well as on and off with other doctors through the years, but she has proved herself to be reliable and focused and very good at what she does.  She prides herself in how well she has done – although she is modest – I know for a fact she makes more money than my father did in the electrical engineering business. In fact, I don’t know much about what my father did growing up.  I do know that it was a small source of bitterness between the two of them because I remember my father saying once – after my parents had split – that he should get to claim me as a dependent because mom made more money.  Maybe he felt a little bit less successful than her.  My parents split up and my father retired.  But mom still works.
    I realized talking to mom at the pool that mom is analytical just like me.  She loves to interpret what’s going on and has a very shrewd mind.  She’s just been insecure for most of her life, so that part of her personality does not come out at first.  It surprises me that she got involved in fundamentalism when she was younger but I think the movement fueled into her need to be accepted. Richard Rodriguez talks about not being accepted by family once you are “educated.” But then again, Henry Adams wrote about being educated at Harvard but not learning anything. I am okay with being like Iris Murdoch. I can learn all kinds of stuff, and in the end, act like a baby.

Movie Review: Club Silencio Scene "Llorando" Muholland Drive

Mulholland Drive by David Lynch is one reason why I increasingly favor film as a superior art form.
"Llorando" 
why you must see Lynch


A superb film depiction of the blurry divide between dream and reality:
      Mulholland Drive by David Lynch is one reason why I increasingly favor film as a superior art form. In this scene, a singer at Club Silencio (Rebekah Del Rio) sings "Lllorando," a turning point in the film's plot. The scene is a dividing line between the character Diane/Betty's dream world, and her awake world. When you see Betty's face, her tears, she realizes all has been a dream - the shocking intrusion of reality into her constructed fantasy world - and her coming to grips with her complicity in the murder of her unrequited lover and femme fatale Rita. When I watch this scene all the painful memories of past loves comes rushing into my body and I choke up. Notice at the end. The final sequence is important. The singer collapses (the dream has ended) but her voice remains (the fantasy persists). Both women cry. Diane/Betty reaches into her purse and pulls out the blue box; the blue box is the film's MacGuffin; the hidden object we desire to learn its meaning, but in the end rather meaningless. Similar to most dreams, I guess. The scene reminds me of a person who goes to bed with serious guilt in their heart; uses dreams to escape their guilt, but in the end, the dream collapses on itself and reveals nothing in the end, no salve to take away the irreparable act. The film is tragic in the end. I don't want to reveal too much ... you just gotta see this film.
Credits:
"Club Silencio"
Muholland Drive (2001) directed by David Lynch.
Laura Harring
Naomi Watts
Rebekah Del Rio

4.3.10

What is the Difference Between Immanence and Transcendence?: A Visual Philosophy Primer

Look at the two following details from 
"The School of Athens" by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino.jpg
School of Athens, Raphael, The Vatican
Raphael's mural "The School of Athens." In the first image, a depiction of Aristotle shows him thrusting his arm outward; while, in the latter picture, the figure of Plato points towards the heavens. What do these two images tell us about the interplay between what is at hand and what is out of reach?
Aristotle points his hand outward as a sign of immanence.


Plato points his index finger upward to the sky as a sign of transcendence.

credits:"The School of Athens." Raphael. The Yorck Project:10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002.ISBN 3936122202.
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Anatomy of a Scene: Au Revoir Les Enfants (Scene 20)

Movie Still - Au Revoir Les Enfants (1989)
In Louis Mallé's haunting autobiographical film, Au Revoir Les Enfants (1989), figures come out of the Northern European mist as if half-dead, draped in dark shrouds of black. The setting is not Auschwitz or the Western front, but a small Catholic boarding school outside of Paris, Winter 1944, months before the fall of the Third Reich. Mallé's focus is not the battlefield nor is it the concentration camp, but rather, he focuses his exploration on the effects of racism and evil on the lives of young French adolescents boys holed up in a confined space, apart from their upper-class parents. The school's headmaster, Father Jean, has decided to matriculate three new students at the start of the Winter term. What no one knows is that the three new students are in fact Jewish stowaways, hidden by the school to save their lives. In this scene (scene 20 according to Mallé's screenplay): students are marching to the public baths for their periodic soapy wash. The scene is a mixture of everyday rituals of boarding school life, similar to other scenes in the film, of the boys sleeping, praying, going to class, playing war games, playing the piano, taking tests. The "normal," almost painterly scenes are punctuated by news from the war zone: talk of hatred against Jews, the Resistance, French collaborators with the Germans, and the impending intimidation enforced by the conquering Germans. Rations are scarce. Even the wealthy schoolboys suffer; their only allowance is jam and sugar which they exchange for cigarettes. France is occupied by Germany but the Resistance is rumbling. News of German defeat on the Russian front has been circulating.