orwellian real ID program

According to Jim Hightower, the feds have renamed the Real ID program as the Enhanced Driver’s License and are still trying to implement this scary act of domestic surveillance. Why does this matter?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t want to have my digital life available on a computer chip on a card that I have to use to get plane tickets or drive a car or anything else that the Director of Homeland Security decides I need it for. Talk about surveillance … all I’d have to do is hand this thing to someone who scans it and they’d have more than a digital footprint – they’d have my financials, my social security number. It’s a serious privacy issue, a serious personal security issue.

And it’s a huge waste of federal money. Give it to the Arts! That’d do more for national security!

Virginia has an anti-Real ID bill introduced, but none passed yet. A handful of states have passed statutes prohibiting implementation of the Real ID program.

Want to know more: Go to the ACLU’s Real Nightmare website.


wuthering heights of interdisciplinarity

Tonight my mom’s book group is talking about the classic Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Mom didn’t like it – says she doesn’t like gothic horror. I told her that I remember loving Wuthering Heights, but I also read it a long time ago. Maybe in high school, but I think as an undergraduate at Wellesley. I read it for school, like most people do. How many people pick up a classic novel to read for fun?

In a few minutes I have to finish reading chapter four from Moran’s Interdisciplinarity. Not a bad book, but not a novel either. I’m not doing much reading for pleasure these days … too much required reading and writing and making instead.

I am following a few blogs … the most consistent bloggers I’ve found so far are the genre writers. To promote his horror novel Afraid, J A Konrath is doing a month-long blog tour. Every day this month, he’s “appearing” on another writer’s blog … sometimes he’s interviewed and sometimes he writes a guest blog. I discovered him as a guest blogger on Murderati, a mystery / horror writers’ group blog and followed his link back to his home blog where he posts his itinerary. All in the name of marketing.

Took a break to watch Rachel Ray today and learned of a new women’s news / blog site backed by some powerful and wealthy women in the entertainment / news field. wowOwow which stands for women on web, I think. Candice Bergen is involved, as is Whoopi Goldberg. An interesting and varied site of stuff. That’s why they were on Rachel Ray … more marketing.

I find information flow a fascinating phenomenon to watch. How do we know / learn what we know? What writers / information purveyors do we trust and why? Flow … a good word for it. Seems tidal and organic in the web-world we’re in now. No wonder most people aren’t worried about the death of newspapers. Should they be?

spring break break

I took a few days off from blogging and from academic work … hadn’t planned to take a break, but I’m glad I did.

What did I do? I sorted through the chaos in my home office while re-watching the first season of Slings & Arrows, courtesy of Netflix.

The words “home office” don’t sum up this room.

The walls are painted a rich tourmaline green – a jewel color that is allegedly the color of the belly of a dragon – a fun fact I discovered long after I’d painted the walls. I chose the color purely because I love being surrounded by it.

In the corner, there is a huge collapsing arm chair that was in my grandmother’s upstairs den – I used to camp out in it and watch her tiny B & W TV after riding the school bus to her house. She lived off Mappsville square, next to Burton’s grocery store. I would get off the bus, walk across the square, into her garage and up the stairs into her house. In the kitchen she had change squirreled away in a cabinet and I would take just enough to go next door and buy a cold Coke and three Hostess cupcakes … the chocolate kind with white filling. I’d eat the cupcakes and drink my Coke curled up sideways in the armchair watching Gilligan’s Island or Merv Griffin or some other goofy afternoon show.

Can you tell I’m from rural Virginia? Nothing better than a cold Coke and Hostess cupcakes at 4 in the afternoon.

Now the chair rules a corner of my green room. I can meditate in it. I can read in it. The dog likes to sleep there. I’ve taken naps in it. I have to keep something soft under it or the sprung springs gouge the wood floor.

I also have a black metal file cabinet (almost full) and an old CD player and my books. Lots of books. On the walls … art I love. A Laura Loe painting of a girl standing next to the ocean, a paper/paint construction that an east German artist gave me as a thank you years ago. There’s a museum poster of a 19th century photograph … an empty boat on a river … that floats over my desk. A couple of frogs sit on my desk – one bought while I was grieving a failed relationship – I remember that I wanted skin as thick as a horned toad’s. The other frog was a gift from a Mexican taxi driver / tour guide when I was eleven and on a family vacation.

My desk is a drop-leaf kitchen table that my mom refinished before I was born. I think it was their first kitchen table.

Best of all, I’ve sorted the paper and created space in here – physical space and mental space. For now, rain outside the window, a dog sleeping in my grandmother’s chair, Bach on the CD player, a computer I’m about to put away. It was a good break!

getting a phd in what?

My parents haven’t quite figured out what MATX stands for and what, exactly, I’m studying. It’s interesting to mention what I’m doing in social settings … it certainly sounds cool but what exactly is a PhD in Media, Art & Text?

Oddly, it incorporates all my professional and creative interests … I’ve waited half a lifetime for someone to create this program. Photography, film, literature, oral history & memory, narratology, media & cultural studies, theatre, writing, teaching … it all fits in one place.

I love writing. I love research. I love teaching. I love making stuff – especially using photography or moving images or sound. I love that I can concentrate on a documentary project one semester and spend the next working on a theatre project that uses media as a character on stage, while researching Emily Dickinson’s fascicles for a major paper. It’s all good.

I guess interdisciplinary is where I naturally swim. Isn’t that where all artists naturally swim?

Here’s the official program website: MATX. It visually doesn’t do justice to the richness in the program. I suggest looking at these student websites / blogs if you want a better sense of the range of what we’re doing in the MATX program.

I Love Mark Making
multimodal mel @ matx
Markers. Ants. Tectonics. X. & Pain. & Illness.


more thoughts about blogging

I spent time yesterday adding links to my blog, rather than blogging. Still thinking about the “why blog” question – then read this Murderati blog about blogging. Made me think – I love that – and I may write a comment if I have time … Pari Noskin Taichert (writer/blogger) says that “I doubt that Poe or Christie considered direct reader input nearly as much as we do.” I don’t know about Christie, but I think Poe would have embraced the internet and the chance to connect with more people. In fact, he probably would be using Flash to create mini-movies … suspense-filled, of course … or publishing all kinds of e-zines.

The novelists in the 1800’s certainly paid attention to their base … didn’t Dickens change the ending to some of his stories based on reader feedback? I think some of the assumptions we make about earlier, non-internet days aren’t accurate. Although the technology – what it allows – is profoundly different from what they had access to. And the speed, the immediacy – that is something they didn’t have to contend with. Writers today have to guard time away from the technology in order to get anything of quality written. And, as Taichert points out, it might be better if more writers ignored the feedback.

VCU Prof Les Harrison’s blog has some interesting posts re: Edgar Allen Poe and about blogging / facebook / twitter. His blog: Machine Readable. I especially like the posting re: slow blogging and the role of RSS feeds.

taking risks

the glory of a snow day

Among other places I had to be yesterday was a meeting at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. I teach a class there called Playing with Words – truly an exploratory writing class. We occasionally disturb the class near us by laughing too much. It’s a class about letting go – about discovery – about play. It’s about taking creative risks, something I don’t give myself enough credit for knowing how to do.

varda’s gleaners and I

Just finished watching both the 2000 documentary by French filmmaker Agnes Varda called The Gleaners and I and her followup film The Gleaners and I Two Years Later. I’ve seen the first one before … it’s not just about gleaning in the fields, but about urban gleaning and about making art from found things. Mostly, though, her film loves the people in it. Even her filming of rotting potatoes has a compelling visual beauty.

It’s definitely a poetic film essay … exactly the sort of video essay we’d like to find to publish in Blackbird … which is why I needed to watch it again. It’s a film I may eventually have to own. Maybe it’s also the sort of film I should try making.

It’s got a social justice thread too – about consumerism and waste and poverty and respect. Reminds me of the new non-profit in Richmond called Stuff: a clearinghouse for creative resource reuse.

Here are two links with more re: Agnes Varda:
Senses of Cinema article on Agnes Varda
Harvard film archives on Varda

finding a voice

I’ve been blogging for two months now. And I’m still working on an answer to the question: why am I blogging?

I told a friend in the MATX program tonight that I think of a blog like a daily column. And my goal right now is to figure out my columnist persona – my voice. Also my subject material … what do I want to write about.

I generally work on these little snippets of writing – I revise them – I’m a writer – I can’t help myself. He told me I was going against the flow in blogging … that the reason people blog is so they talk out loud as spontaneously as they want (emphasize blah when you pronounce blog as in “blaog, blaog, blaog.”)

Okay, that sounds unkind … and the point of a blog is to reveal something of myself as I’m blogging. This dovetails with what I was told recently about my essays … that I don’t reveal enough of myself, that more vulnerability within the writing would make for a more compelling piece/voice. Of course, sometimes that’s fiction … I could also be fictionally revealing. Many writers do that one very well.

I think the question I really want to answer is: what do I want to write about? Why am I blogging? That’s what I’m exploring through this. No answer yet, of course, the figuring out is in the doing.

bruno schulz

“Carriage Driver (self-portrait), Drohobych” 1941-42

Behind Fairy Tale Drawings, Walls Talk of Unspeakable Cruelty

The 2/28 NYT’s story of Bruno Schulz includes the cruel details of his death, but also the fact that he almost escaped, almost.

Here’s the paragraph re: his death: “{Gestapo officer] Landau did save Schulz for more than a year, until November 1942, by providing him with work and the means for minimal sustenance. Schulz, whose literary reputation as a short-story writer had already been established, had obtained false Aryan papers and was about to escape when another Gestapo sergeant, Karl Günter, angry that Landau had killed his Jewish dentist, put a bullet in Schulz’s head. He is said to have told Landau: ‘You killed my Jew. Now I’ve killed yours.'”

No wonder Schulz’s story has captivated artists and writers for years. Some of the artwork that’s in the exhibit in Israel comes from the murals Schulz painted for Landau. He painted his own face on some of the fairy tale characters, as well as others he knew.

Is he interesting to us because of the tragedy in his story? The loss of someone whose artistic gifts were considered valuable? Would this loss be as tragic to us if he weren’t a gifted artist and writer? What about his humanity? Wonder if he’d want to be remembered for his tragedy or for his work? Wonder if he’d want to be remembered at all?

Maybe the writer Ethan Bronner wants to make us care about this man’s life and death … and that’s why he emphasizes how gifted Schulz was and, therefore, how great our communal loss.

Here’s an excerpt of Schulz’s writing (from the article): “My colored pencils rushed in inspiration across columns of illegible text in masterly squiggles, in breakneck zigzags that knotted themselves suddenly into anagrams of vision, into enigmas of bright revelation, and then dissolved into empty, shiny flashes of lightning, following imaginary tracks.”

Here’re more examples of his artwork: Bruno Schulz NYT slideshow