another cool artist on the web

What a great link we got last night from the professor in charge of our production workshop. It was a presentation by an artist who uses the web in creating his art. Michael wanted to draw our attention to theWe Feel Fine project – but I also really like the Universe project. The Whale Hunt is an interesting approach to documentary work.

Jonathan Harris’ website

TED Talks: Jonathan Harris on collecting stories There’s another TED talks with Jonathan Harris. I watched both, but this one is the one I liked better – mostly because of my personal interest in documentary work.



We spent two and a half hours last night talking about disciplinarity, about academic disciplines as social constructions. The history of the academy is interesting. Colleges and universities as we know them in the west emerged from ecclesiastical institutions. The Royal Academy of Sciences was an aberration in that it was secular and rested on observation and empirical fact, discipline over doctrine. Academia, however, envelopes its outliers and makes them insiders. Take feminist theory … once an outlier, feminist theory is now firmly a part of the academy. When outliers are enveloped, however, they change the institution they join.

Interesting, yes … but I came home thinking how the life of the mind encourages belief in the material and physical world, but disdains the mysterious. I’ve never liked the categories or divisions between fields. They don’t make sense to me – they seem like a socially constructed means to exclude and criticize, a means of judgment. I’ve never felt comfortable with the academy for that reason. And I waited until now to pursue a professional path that has suited me since I was born, I waited until I could pursue an interdisciplinary Ph.D. that would allow me to transgress boundaries. That, to me, is where the most interesting and creative thinking happens – where innovation happens. Rigor is necessary for excellence, yes, but rigor can be meaningless and artificial, too. Rigor for the sake of rigor seems like a machoNerd activity … like the teacher who told his students that the test was so hard, most of them would fail it and that he was placing the trashcan in a strategic place so they could wretch there when they realized how badly they would fail. What, exactly, is the value in this style of pedagogy?

It’s not a mistake that I’m getting a Ph.D., but I don’t know that I’m ever going to feel completely at home in the academy. I think it’s a place I could get lost.

what flash can do

I’m going to redo my webpage – using photographs I took over the break and using flash to make my name and the other word/links fade in and then tremble slightly, like there’s a slight breeze. I might also add some natural sound – although I think I’ll get the basics up first.

Here are two websites I like that I found through the best website – full of award-winning designs done in Flash or CSS. I hesitate to say what they are, because they’re interesting enough to be destinations in themselves without having to be advertising for anything … which of course both are.
6 beers of separation

Getting my photo galleries built is also a priority. But first, I have to finish the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant application and the teaching assistantship application with the Dean’s office. And the reading for Monday night’s class, too. Before I do any of that … I have to supervise my daughter cleaning her room before she leaves for the birthday party in two hours. And I have to do at least one load of laundry so she’ll have clean socks.

I have to think marathon and not sprint, here … it’ll take time to redesign my webpage and to learn what I need / want to learn in this program. It’s all good. The washing machine is calling my name.

goals and a studio

What are my goals for the Ph.D.? An interesting question. I definitely like traditional academic work – research and writing and speaking and teaching. My stated goal is to gain the credentials to teach at the university level for a living wage.

I’m not a traditional student and that’s why this program fits me. The MATX program is interdisciplinary between my three strongest interests. English. Mass Communications. Art. For me, specifically, I love theatre and I love photography and film and I love writing and I love listening to other people tell stories.

I’m going to ask for a studio in the annex. I could do some really interesting work combining my interests, but I may need a space to cook it. A space to cook the mix that’s been brewing for years. Time to get to work.

Obama photos & a Flash poem

The trouble with including links to news sites is that a day later what I wanted to share will be history, literally. Since it’s no longer “news” it’s been moved to an archive and not always easy to find. Instead of changing yesterday’s post … I found the archived photos myself and here’s the link: BBC World News Obama inauguration photos.

I also read/watched a flash piece today called In Praise of an Elevator that I really liked. Sometimes “new media” pieces seem like novelties to me, sort of interesting but lacking depth. This one works as poetry and as a moving imagery / sound piece. All the pieces are equally strong; the sum of their parts even better. I also like the narrative arc – it pulls me through. There’re some other pieces in Born Magazine worth a watch.

inauguration 2009

I love my kid’s elementary school. A few days ago the principal let us know that all the kids (and teachers) were going to watch Obama’s inauguration in their classrooms or in the auditorium. When the kids saw President Bush getting on the helicopter to leave, they all cheered – even though they were supposed to be doing math at that point.

I watched the inauguration with my husband and a friend in our living room. We opened the champagne after Obama’s speech, just in time to offer a toast as we watched George W. climb into a helicopter. It’s not that I wish him ill – it’s just that having his administration in power was like letting the fox live in the henhouse for eight years. It’s a wonder there are any hens left. Electing Obama feels like we the people taking the country back.

A lot of other Americans must have felt the same way. The view of the mall filled with people was truly inspiring. His speech made me cry – as did the quartet playing the John Williams arrangement.

To see how the world viewed this event, I went to the BBC World News website. They have some great photos.

For a domestic read, there’s Maureen Dowd’s column The Long, Lame Goodbye Too much psychonanalysis for my taste … but she’s right that it does “feel good” to “trade a dogmatic president for one who’s shopping for a dog.”

Over hot chocolate …

Over hot chocolate after class, I told a friend I’d decided to blog. And that I’d blogged for one week. She laughed. So did I. How to blog every day without it becoming a diary – that’s the challenge. I’m going to have to start thinking more like a columnist. Have an ear, an eye cocked for my material all the time. Which is why I’ve decided to blog in the first place.

Found a cool artist on Blackbird in their archive. A sculptor who does narrative: George Ferrandi


good to be back on campus

The spring semester officially started today. I’ve been to my first meeting of Blackbird, the magazine I’ll be working for. I plan to spend some extra time reading it and looking through its galleries this week – while I still have time.

Blackbird: an on-line journal of literature and the arts

Tonight I attend my first class meeting of MATX 603: History of Interdisciplinarity and Multimedia. How’s that for a title? It’s the one I use as an example when I’m making fun of the program or me being in this program.

Here’s what the course description says:
“In order to analyze a series of select multimedia projects, this required first‐year PhD course surveys the history of a number of media (including manuscript and print, analog and digital sound, painting and sculpture). And in order to analyze a series of select interdisciplinary projects, it surveys the history of discipline formation, with emphasis on the humanities and the arts. Students will write a research paper, preceded by an abstract and a presentation, that models interdisciplinarity or engages a multimedia subject.” Hmmmm ….

I must be in the right program because I like the sound of this. Wonder what the readings will be like.

the water is rising!

I’ve accomplished a lot this week – my final week of “vacation”. Two fellowship applications completed. Two audiotaped oral histories for the project, plus several fruitful conversations about the project. The local historical society has signed on as the applicant organization for the grant. All good stuff!

Tomorrow morning I climb back in my car and drive the 3.5 hours home – two days away from the official start to the spring semester. I don’t feel like I’ve had any time off. Both my Blackbird internship and my oral history project are showing signs of becoming “flood water” projects … the kind of project with no bounds. As soon as Melinda suggested writing articles from the material I gather for the local newspaper and doing a lecture, I could feel the water rising. This project is going to grow. And with it, the in-kind donation of my time. It’s good – really it is. I better make sure I have some paddles in my boat.