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New School Thesis Reading Day 2

Here are many of the things I remember from the graduation reading for The New School MFA program in creative writing. (The rest of the trip to NYC/Brooklyn was kind of a blur, too.)
There were over eighty readers spread over five and a half hours. In an order chosen at random by pulling names out of a bag, each graduate has precisely four minutes to impress the audience with an excerpt from his or her graduate thesis before yielding the stage to the next guy. There is an open bar and an excellent hummus platter and dessert spread.
I thought the format worked well for the fist two and a half hours, but after that it was kind of a marathon.
Each bullet point is a new reader:
  • A million flapping pigeons. A levitating train and a pregnant woman’s empty, hollow belly.
  • A guy read a poem about black kids in a school uniform with epaulets, waiting at the bottom of a hill.
  • An old jewish grandmother who drowned herself, fully clothed, in an indoor swimming pool in January, “the month when everything important happens.”
  • Nazi resistance, as teenagers departing a party.
  • The breakup poem where the reader first had to apologize to everyone in the room named “David” for what what she was about to unleash. Continue reading

Things overheard in Portland this weekend

Out of context, it’s as though you stepped into an episode of Portlandia… That show only works because the audience knows that the jokes aren’t supposed to have punch-lines. In context, all the punch-lines are just conversation. This is what makes Portland (and its people) so amazing.

“He’s white, but his parents are hippies.”

“Ski-ball league season doesn’t start up again for another three months.”

“So, now every time he enters Canada he has to produce proof that he’s going to leave.”

“He’s an alternate on your Geek Trivia team. He doesn’t get to critique your hipster activities.”

“That tree looks dead. It has a little sign saying ‘help me grow’ – that’s a plea for assistance if I ever saw one.”

“The guerrilla tree-planters put it there.”

“What?”

“They go around the city planting trees and leave notes hoping you’ll take care of them.”

The above is an illicit spin-off of a real thing: https://friendsoftrees.org. Their YouTube video is adorable.

And of course,

“Micro-roastery.”

Irony vs. Hypocrisy

Wholly embrace vs. completely reject. With vs. against. Status quo vs. anarchy.

Isn’t this trope played out everywhere except Hollywood, monotheistic religion, military hierarchy and high school cliques?

I like the irony of these photos. “Stop evil corporations” and”No taxes on public sidewalks” do a great job of underscoring how most people’s daily existence is inextricably intertwined with that which we abhor on principle.

“If I look at the mass I will never act”

Good, short article in the NYT about compassion fatigue/psychic numbing; how humans respond with more compassion to individuals in the immediate sense, rather than millions of individuals, each in equal distress. Mother Theresa said “If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” This is a deeply disturbing foible of human psychology.
Someone at Decision Research once described the numbing response like this: 1/1 person dead is a tragedy. 1/100,000 is a statistic. Individuals don’t have enough cognitive resources to extend sharp feelings of compassion to more than a few people at a time; the whole approach needs to be modified when dealing with widespread catastrophe.

NYT: Compassion Fatigue

If I look at the mass I will never act. Slovic, 2007.

It’s that time again…

This year I’m working on campus. I need to go to the Duck Store to get some clothes for my Fall Fridays uniform.

The experiment I’d do if I had children (which is one reason I really shouldn’t)

A couple in Toronto are conducting an (n = 1) social experiment in rising a “genderless” child. They have 2 other children, and this seems to be the culmination of their experience and philosophy regarding sex/gender/culture. It also apparently owes a lot to “Free To Be You and Me.”

After reading the articles (linked below), what worries me – aside from the number of Parent Central commentators insisting that Child Protective Services should get involved – is Jazz’s apparent upset that his gender-difference prevents him from going to public school. He and his parents seem to have made the choice that potential bullying and societal judgment are obstacles big enough to keep him from doing something he wants to do. This choice doesn’t foster Jazz’s self-assurance or his freedom; it limits both. Continue reading

San Diego

Sometimes it’s nice to travel someplace where you don’t know anyone and have no real agenda.  It often helps if the place is warm and has a well-functioning public transit system. San Diego fits that description.

Back in October, Southwest airlines offered discount flights to a number of locations during the travel dead-zone between New Years and Valentine’s Day.  Since it was autumn (and we had not yet spent all our money on Christmas) Ben and I picked a warm location (mostly at random) and decided to go there. I think it was a good choice. If San Diego weren’t located in California we would consider living there.

Our plans were ambiguous. We knew we were arriving at the end of “Restaurant Week” and that we wanted to stay downtown. We also wanted to walk on the waterfront and maybe visit the zoo.  A single article of Budget Travel managed to guide most of my reservation decisions. This worked out pretty well, since it relieved all the pressure of actually researching the city. Continue reading

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