Most of the information streaming non-stop at us is filtered by someone else making a decision about what we ought to know. Education agencies and schools decide for us what we need to know. Of course, their take is not neutral: usually it is some blend of learning and developmental theory and some kind of input from industry about projections for the types of knowledge needed by the future workforce.
But, what do YOU think we need to know? In short, if you look back over your life or imagine your life going forward, what kind of knowledge or skill would have made your life journey, or that of the people around you, easier? What knowledge would make your life (going forward) easier?
I am serious. I want to know. Click on the link below to take a survey. Of the ideas already listed, you can choose as many as you want. And, you can even add your own ideas (they will appear after being screened for spam):
My hope is for this survey to go far and wide, to as many people and places as possible. It may actually help me shape the direction of some of my doctoral work. I would also like to hear comments, if you have any, about how certain knowledge might make your life easier. Feel free to post below (it’ll show once it’s been screened).
It’s been and still is a journey trying to get to the root of what plagues my mind and my heart when my mind and heart are being plagued. The process has been a cat and mouse game between the surface and the core: I imagine layers of velvet curtains, rich reds, maroons, so great to touch that they become what I think I am looking for, rather than what is behind them.
First, I was enchanted by digital media and the promise it holds. Next, I was caught up in the answer being in restructuring education from the bottom up (that might still be the curtain I like best). Now, I am digging through tools and technology.
Maybe what you want to know is my question? Still working that out, too. Nonetheless, I think it is a series something like this:
In a specific small deindustrialized community (like any number of them in southern West Virginia), what traditional and advanced technology capabilities do community members need (and to control) for that community to survive and to thrive?
What would be proposed potential changes in the understanding, acquisition, and use of previously established traditional and advanced technologies in a specific small deindustrialized community toward more control over their own and their communities’ destinies? What is a ranked battery of potential technological innovations that would meet the needs in a specific small deindustrialized community (like any number of them in southern West Virginia) to survive and to thrive? How could the most optimal be created and piloted?
What are the changes in technology and society policy from grassroots to local to federal needed for small deindustrialized communities to survive and to thrive?
The Barefoot Colleges have taken on the above questions and produced results and answers in the developing world. What hybrid of this model would work in the context of our society? Here are the tenets, from their website, of their approach, which also defines what they do (belief and practice come together):
Gandhi’s central belief was that the knowledge, skills and wisdom found in villages should be used for its development before getting skills from outside.
Gandhi believed that sophisticated technology should be used in rural India, but it should be in the hands and in control of the poor communities so that they are not dependent or exploited.
Gandhi once said that there is a difference between Literacy and Education.
Gandhi believed in the equality of women.
What would be applicable to life in a deindustrialized American “village” today? What collective technical and survival knowledge do people still have? Who possesses it and what could they teach the rest of us? How do you get advanced technologies for surviving and thriving into the control of people in a small deindustrialized American “village”? How should the knowledge be imparted? Who are the people that need the knowledge most and are most willing to impart it to others? How could people be trained to innovate amongst themselves, in technology, but also in sharing knowledge and skills?
That is what I have been thinking a lot about recently: post-industrial small communities and technology (and, to a lesser extent, food). What do I think of when I mean small? I think of former one-trick factory or natural resource towns like those in McDowell County, West Virginia (note that in 1950, there were a 100,000 people counted there in the Census– bigger than Charleston, WV, the capitol) or in former East Germany or those empty factories dotting the countryside in the Republic of Georgia. Is it for the best to let them shrivel up and their contents be scattered to cities, to the dirt, and to the wind? There is a lot of focus on the revitalization of former big cities, like Detroit. Most models of community revitalization, or, for that matter, developing for the first place, rely on outside capital. I have been thinking about the futility of relying on outside capital: it just won’t reach everywhere, and, when it does, what price beyond money comes with it?
So if the term “technology” can refer not only to fancy gadgets and computers, but also to crafts and systems of organization, then somewhere the fate of small communities seems to lie in its hands. How should post-industrial communities reorganize now that the money flow is gone? Should they? Is it better to maintain an H. L. Mencken-like disdain for the backwater town? Better to celebrate that most Americans now live in urban areas? I, myself, have lived mostly in urban areas since high school. Where do I get off suddenly being worried about the places no one else is worried about?
If science requires empirical and rational knowledge, then what am I basing my intuition on that small communities and how they function are going to become a lot more important sometime in the not-too-distant future? This week I have read data that suggests, or rather, proves, that as compared to the current small community model in the US of driving everywhere, city living in the US actually leads to a smaller carbon footprint. I was also reading this week about how when cheap oil from Russia stopped flowing to Cuba, the formerly “outside-the-mainstream” Cuban agriculture specialists proposing city rooftop gardens for providing most of Cuba with vegetables– those folks suddenly got to have their say. While getting this all going, seems that the average Cuban lost 20 pounds, and apparently the place is still not teeming with food, and now though it gets cheap oil from Venezuela, Cuban agricultural policy remains that most food is produced local and in the town where it will be sold. Maybe also not so difficult when you have four-season gardens.
My husband is always pointing out to me where lawns could be used to grow so much food. When we were in Eleanor, WV he pointed out to me that the lawn for the middle school could easily produce enough food to feed everyone in the town for a year (obviously with some canning, drying, curing, and freezing involved– the first three being technologies most everyone knew something about till the 1950s). I also have been thinking about what it would take to get communities to do that. Whom would you fight? How crazy would people think you were to suggest it? I have been thinking a lot about communities or cities and their “Plan B”? These little dead post-industrial towns certainly had no Plan B for when the factory stopped working. What would happen if my home town suddenly had to pull an agricultural stunt like Cuba had to pull? Who would you have to convince now to start Plan B as a way of life now?
Until recently, I used to think of education in terms of how to participate in it or improve upon it. Finally, with this year, I can say I have taught every grade something K – 10, the first year of college, adults, adult ed., and graduate school, that is, I have taught every grade K – graduate school, except grades 11/12 and the upper two years of undergraduates.
About seven years ago, I gave an eighth grade class of mine an assignment to create another shape for government–something not in a pyramid that mimicked, in its way, the top down power of kings or the Catholic Church. One kid had a government model shaped like a skateboard. I sort of feel like doing that with how we are educated, how we learn:– a total reshaping; a lot is researched in terms of working within the model we have; I am not sure that the future of our country, and, maybe the world, doesn’t depend on our coming up with another model than our current model/s for schools. I mean, have you, ever, really stopped to think about:
How until just about a hundred years ago, kids were rarely segregated out by age rather than by aptitude and skill-set?
What if kids could move on to higher ed. simply when they reach a certain aptitude rather than a certain age?
How, until maybe thirty years ago, if you were fine person, smart in your own way, adept at talk or with your hands, you could still make a decent living? How, more than ever, high-level reading is an essential skill now? I say this not to make anyone anxious, but, more to suggest, and, if that weren’t so? What would you do instead? I think of a few students I have now (first graders) for whom reading may never end up being their “thing,” and how they are fine people, but through no fault of their own, they may be even more up the creek by the time they hit the job market than someone even hitting the market today.
I am also back to– what would it take, really, for a community to be semi-self-sustaining? I mean, really, do people think you are going to be able to attract high tech into the former industrial mountain areas of West Virginia? Rust-belt Michigan or Indiana? And, if local folks are bright, and go to college, they almost never return to their communities. Is that really what we want out of life? To be dependent on outsiders and outside sources and other economic factors to dictate the terms and whereabouts of our lives? I think again:
What skills do we need in a community to be semi-self-sustaining? What would it take, for example, for a town like:
Bluefield, WV to be semi-self-sustaining in food, shelter, energy, and also have enough goods produced to contribute to a wider money economy and to pay state and federal taxes?
What if some foundation were to come in and fund a pilot project that would make a local community as self-sufficient as possible?
What would the folks in the community need to know? How would education change if self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship, and sustainability were its goals? If there were a blend of skills from food production to high tech communication within the same small community, or, maybe, even within the same people?
I often paraphrase Jung that if you want to know a culture’s psychology, know a people, then look at what they create. Our culture is becoming more and more disembodied, more and more cerebral in the skills we need. What if a community responded to the needs of industry, second, and its needs as a community, first? Not as in communism, which has in common with capitalism that the first concern is material. But, if the community sets its own priorities with a concrete plan for revamping whatever would need to be revamped to get there?
I started this entry about a month ago, then life got in the way (as you can see by the differing dates above).
What I wanted to write about was all of the art and the artists I have experienced since being back in West Virginia: frankly, some as good as anything I have seen anywhere….
There is an idea afloat that makers of the larger culture are slowly being decentralized from the large cities… for the most part, innovators in art and culture can’t afford to live in those. Furthermore, the internet allows for folks to sync up with a larger culture without having to pay big city rent. Just a few things I have seen… and been amazed by since being back.
Okay, so they need to change the tag on the far left on the Art Walk Facebook page… but I went to the March Art Walk. I saw a very cool exhibit of banjo pickers and other bluegrass and old time musicians. I met some interesting folks along Hale Street–which is the small, Charleston, WV version of a hipster street, what with its a sprinklin’ of bars and antique stores and gallery spaces. That evening, I also got to see work by friends of friends who now qualify as friends:
Keith Allen–Why didn’t I know this guy when we were in high school?
I’ve had this theory for a while that whatever coping mechanisms you developed to get through high school, you then have to turn around and deal with once you are an adult. Being back in WV has made me realize that this, in some way, also happens with people. I seem to be meeting quite a few folks that I feel as though I would have known in high school, that I-shoulda-coulda-woulda known and we all sorta ended up back where we started, but healthier versions. Keith is one of those people (and so is artist Jamie Miller, featured a little bit further down). Keith asked me an interesting question the evening we met–as I had gone out into the big world, lived in NYC, LA, and Europe and all, did I think those folks that didn’t leave WV missed out on something? I answered that 10 years ago I probably would have said “yes,” but now with social networking in place connecting people from all over, I’m not so sure. I certainly envy the closeness of the art-house crowd in Charleston and in WV…but I also envied similar sets of folks local/native to their environs when I lived in LA and in NYC. Maybe the outsider is just me… In any case, I wish Keith had more of his post-punk art up on the net to share. And, hands down, he is one of the funniest people I have ever met anywhere.
Next up, one of those people that just seems to be brilliant at whatever she does, Amanda Jane Miller. She plays a mean fiddle, can dance, and is also a very interesting artist and illustrator, with work featuring imps from your worst nightmares. She is also immensely entertaining to be around… and, again, one of those people that has carved out an artistic life despite, in spite, of, or due to, our local environs in WV.
I don’t quite know how Jamie and I didn’t know each other, though, I secretly learned that she had been a majorette. My take now–never underestimate where that will all lead to. Jamie Miller–I friggin’ love what I have seen of Jamie’s work. I hear the rich and famous have also admired it. Okay, again, like Amanda’s work, there is a definite stamp of femaleness– and in Jamie’s work, again come the stuffed animals from hell not to haunt, but enlighten you. Here are all the possible links I could find:
Last but not least, Kerry Bingaman–I wish I could find a link to her work on the net. I went over to Keith Allen’s studio for a while the night of the March Art Walk, and, Kerry had a small exhibit up. One photo in particular stood out: an iridescent red photo taken through the window of a laundromat in Brooklyn.
More incredible creative things from the last month
Lori McKinney must be one of the most gracious people on earth. She had invited me a while back to come and visit her and her husband’s art space in Princeton, WV….and, finally, back in March, we got a chance to. See: http://www.theriffraff.net/fr_home.cfm
I grew up near Princeton till I was 10… and I remember shopping on this street thirty years ago. Now, most of the Boulevard is abandoned. But, McKinney and company have brought hope to one corner. They now have two large adjacent buildings, one of which already houses a galley, a performance space, offices, studios, and a living space. Her sister Melissa McKinney owns the building across the street, and recently began a music school that is having riproaring success: http://www.theriffraff.net/fr_home.cfm
I have to say, I would have DIED to have gone to Melissa’s school when I was a kid. She has several all-girl teeny bands on rotation at the space.
The McKinney’s have started a local and downhome arts renaissance in their corner of the world. What they are doing with their local community is inspiring…And, again, pretty amazing to witness.
The one place we didn’t get a chance to see but everyone told us about while we were in Mercer County:
But! We did look in the window on a rainy Sunday afternoon! The storefront is pretty wild…. my dad tells me he did some printing work for Bowling thirty years ago when he apparently tried to get something like this off the ground…. only to come back years later to actually make it work. It is an art space/performance space. What you have to understand that nothing like that existed for miles around… till the McKinney’s started what they started in Princeton.
And, speaking of Bluefield…. this place where I shopped as a child, this town where I was born… has the most amazing buildings. My husband and I walked around on a dreary Sunday afternoon with our mouths agape. Bluefield had been known as “Little New York” in the 1920s… and the remaining buildings bear that out. Again, my father reminded me that many of those buildings were torn down by the 1950s and 1960s… though, the many buildings that are left were built between the 1880s and 1920s. Amazing tin roofs, incredible facades… I even liked the strange nulti-colored panel “mod” facades slapped on front of some of the buildings some time fifty years ago.
We also stood for a while at the train yard, which is still very active… and still very covered in coal dust.
I found these photos already online of Bluefield–scroll down to the bottom of that link for a lot of online photo galleries of art deco, ah, the art deco, work and of the amazing buildings: http://www.pbase.com/kstuebin/bluefield
Lots of huge homes caving in on themselves right up off Downtown. We watched a dude in shorts and a ball cap run back and forth down a hill…. he was a white dude selling pharmas to passing white people in fancy cars. I am used to seeing the hypodermic needle next to the beer bottle in neighborhoods in big cities… here, we saw the little brown pharma bottle and the beer bottle. Certainly, we were anomalies walking around in the near dark in this abandoned downtown… but I could imagine. I could imagine this area revitalized and vibrant. WV is building rich, and, maybe the artists are the ones that will reignite the needed vitality to make the buildings breathe again.
The C (creative, Crystal, calibrated, compiled) Week in Review #4
This week, I have been thinking about what tools we really need to fulfill last week’s list of the skills we actually need. I have gotten some enthusiastic responses to what skills a person ought to really know…that everyone should have a foundation in. The idea would be that along with specializing in a particular skill set, you would experience the most major sets of skills leading up to it along with studying the theory. I am a product of a liberal arts education…but I do wonder if that mode of learning, set up originally to address upper middle class career aspirations from a different age, is now the best fit moving forward. My instinct tells me that a mix of traditionally more “hands-on” learning and theoretical learning, even at the level of higher ed, is key.
In any case, back to working on my own work more this week… and tackling issues in web design and development–one of those things from last week’s post on the essential skills to have. Gettin’ there, gettin’ there.
As for creativity in my week, I watched a friend of a friend play a little concertina last night…or, rather play a little on a little concertina.
Apparently he busks in Charleston once a month near the library… we are going to seek him out a bit today.
Otherwise… here are two snippets of things that I recommend….
Finally saw it this week with my sister….Crazy Heart (which I think of as being titled after the main character “Bad Blake,” that is, when I think of the film I don’t think of the given title, but of his character) had me wrapped in amber, the kind from Arizona skylines, the one from aged whiskey, the kind of an insect caught in a viscous fluid….Amber of basking in sun-warmth, like how you know that light is anything but artificial. I don’t remember the last time a film wrapped its way around me… and, if you haven’t yourself, I have known those people: immensely talented drunks or addicts or former drunk or addicts that spin out more creative work from their little finger than most of us can from our whole hand. The film Crazy Heart captures all of this. Here is what I also love. No one is crucified, vilified, exempt, all bad or all good. I love that the amber doesn’t sink to the rock bottom and it doesn’t stand forever in the yellow spotlight. This is why you go see a film, a goddamn film, not a movie, but the way a film can be, dramatic without big drama. Good for them all. This from Wikipedia about the film (for as much as Wikipedia can be trusted, but here it goes anyway)…
Good for Scott Cooper from down Abingdon, VA that got it together to make it thanks to Robert Duvall, good for T Bone Burnett, good for Maggie Gyllenhaal, and by god, good god for Jeff Bridges. All in all in all one helluva a job…. One complaint was that it didn’t have much of a plot… actually, I think it showed the life of one type of addict quite brilliantly, that is, that things happen around him but his emotional life does not change till he sobers up. Gyllenhaal had to be our emotional barometer, which she pulls off brilliantly. Her characters also has a subtle arc, she does get what she wants in the end… not a marriage, but being a real journalist. That all worked for me….
One other note, I went looking for more about the actors and came across Jeff Bridges’ website. Very worth checking out… not every part of the site is a successful design, but I do like what they did with his “handwritten” and drawn bits: http://www.jeffbridges.com/main.html
Next bit– born and raised in West Virginia, I never knew Bill Withers was from there till I was listening to a PRI story this week. There is a new doc out (no theatrical release scheduled yet) about the Soul singer.
There was a fantastic bit they played on air in which Bill and his daughter sing together. I almost stopped the car. She blew me right out of the seat.
The gist of the doc seems to be that Withers retreated on purpose from the spotlight, that dealing with the things you deal with being famous never suited him. Until I looked up more about him, I also didn’t realize how accoladed he was.
Beautiful day here… going to do some more writing. I should go see Nikki Giovanni this afternoon for free…I’ll let you know if I get there.
A fantastic visual overview of the state of the internet and a brief history of social media. If you ever needed proof of the online revolution… or needed to convince someone of why they need to do this now (from http://www.jess3.com/blog/2010/02/our-social-media-history-animation.html):
The C (creative, Crystal, calibrated, compiled) Week in Review #3
At first this didn’t seem like a very creative week, mostly a skill-building kind of week. Spending some of my days now with kids under the age of ten has actually made me more hopeful about the future. If you haven’t been in an elementary school since you last attended one, the one I currently am spending my days in could come as quite a shock: bright classrooms, kids out of their seats now and again, tech labs, music rooms, art rooms, an array of interventionists to help kids along, teacher’s aides, etc… and this is in a public school in West Virginia. Seems like there certainly has been a shift from my days years ago in the same state, silent, in rows, where speaking out of turn got your knuckles cracked with a ruler.
But all of this change also leaves me thinking, and, I have been thinking about this for a while: what are the actual useful things to know?
This is a long and hard debate, and I think of the debate between Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglas about learning skills that would get you a job or learning for learning’s sake. My guess is that the truth is somewhere in between. If I could roll back the clock and have time to learn everything I really need to know… or, if I think of my husband’s kids or these kids I have in school now, if I could design a curriculum that would address life as we know it, I would include the following skills. Now, of course, not ONLY these skills, but as I approach the age of two score, these seem to be the essential skills for survival as a person in almost any situation and as a person that probably has to do something to earn money, or at the least, save money. These skills are not in order of relevance…yet, imagine how interesting and useful school would be if these skills were included, and, imagine what a different society this would be, too.
Web authoring and web design
You can’t have a business, get the word out, or do almost anything without involving this know-how.
Ditto. It is essential for life on the web as we know it.
Farming, nutrition, and cooking
Everyone should be growing part of their own food. Period. If you can grow it, and grow the right things, you then need to know what to do with it.
A martial art
As I approach two score, almost no one I know that knows a martial art really well is a major screw-up. They seem to have some self-reliance, and they certainly have some discipline. Also, most martial arts seem to be lifelong pursuits, unlike football or baseball or gymnastics.
If everyone knew that everyone knew the basics, well,what a different homelife many people might have.
Auto mechanics and bicycle repair
You have to get from here to there somehow. You should be able to do a lot yourself. Gun safety is also important (see below).
‘Nuff said. Know the nuts and bolts of yourself and others and how to deal with nuts. You are going to be working in teams and maybe “managing up” a lot, so learn maybe the reasons behind the why. Learn how to get along with almost (and almost, but not all) anyone: bosses, co-workers, partners, spouses, exes, children, neighbors…. In short, it’s not all about you…and the converse, no, they can’t do that/say that to you, either.
Childcare, teen care, elder care
At some point in your life you will most likely take care of a child, a teen, or an elder. Learn now what you need to know later.
Animal care, animal slaughter, food (or wool or leather) from animals
Don’t get a pet unless you know how to and can care for it. Ew, animal slaughter grosses you out? Then don’t eat or wear animals anymore–then learn how to make yourself a grass skirt when or if you may need it. If you can handle learning to prepare from step one on up the meat that you eat, then learn it. You never know when it may be essential.
At some point either you will be put into a position managing other people and you will have no business doing that or you will work for someone who is responsible for managing you and has no business doing it. Lots of people managing others have never taken one class in interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, or psych much less management. And no, having an MD, a JD, or a PhD does not make you a people person or endow you with one shred of sense when it comes to business plans, business orchestration, teamwork, etc… Also, you may have an MBA and find yourself managing up, which I hear about all the time from almost everyone I know dealing with Boomer bosses that can’t even log into their own email accounts (yes, still, in 2010) or who don’t like to learn anything technical (which includes anything about the web).
Stress, anyone? It’s the #1 killer, really. We should all probably know how to chill.
Household repairs, wood carving, and construction
Landlords or slumlords don’t show. Your McMansion is a McDisaster. The starter got up and left. Fix it so you can live in peace. Build it so you don’t have to pay to have it built.
Simple electronics and computer repair
Ditto. We should all not be afraid of opening up the back of a PC or Mac and installing the extra memory.
Accounting, Excel, personal accounting, and tax preparation
For your own finances, for where you work, so you don’t screw others or don’t get screwed in the spreadsheets.
It’s good for you and you should know how in case you need to.
Emergency preparedness, basic medical care, and CPR
Again, it’s good for you and you should know how in case you need to.
Basic video and audio production
Want it on the web? Need to show it? Learn how to make it.
Ethics, Philosophy, and World Religions
The first two are intertwined with the last one. In order to make sense of what to do and how to behave, and, how to make sense of the news, these seem more essential than ever.
Entrepreneurship, starting a business, making a business plan
Even if you don’t start your own, this is useful stuff to understand the ones you are working for.
Not just part of a World History class… but it’s own class that also discusses topography, climate, peoples, etc…
Principles of democracy, social movements, and organizing
I’ve needed these skills at any number of jobs–how to get people together, how to form groups that are fair, how to get the word out in a community. It’s something everyone should know how to do.
Piano or guitar
You can also write a song or make friends if you know one of these. I’ve seen this happen dozens of times in my adult life.
This may seem silly, but, at higher level social functions, many folks know how to swing, jitterbug, foxtrot, or cha-cha and this is true around the world. If you are suddenly in a room with diplomats and there is live dance music, this is a needed skill to have.
Marketing, PR, advertising & media literacy
Not only should you know the man behind the mirror, you should know how to make a mirror if you need to. Most business or most of life takes some kind of marketing know-how these days…
Driving a car, truck, or motorcycle, boat, or semi-
You never know when one or the other of these may be the thing you need to know how to work.
Gun safety and use
Same here–you never know when one or the other of these may be the thing you need to know how to work.
I am not so sure about this one, except that my husband laments he doesn’t know more about it. Seems like a natural to learn maybe in geometry class or something and could be useful in a bind (all puns intended).
This is my list, and, of course I don’t know everything on this list–or even a lot of it–but it now seems like a good list to use to start with. It seems that if you know these things, you’d be ready for most anything life could send your way. I could and maybe intend to build a school curriculum that builds these in. This list seems to have a good mix of “hard” technical and physical survival skills and “softer” skills like getting along with people and getting people together to accomplish things.
Hey, you out there, if you are listening, anything I’ve missed that should be on the list?
People let me know they enjoyed my love letter to some creative folks I know last week, so I thought I’d try this again. I like focusing on the creative acts that work for me, that have appeal, rather than those that don’t.
Here is the C (creative, Crystal, calibrated, compiled) Week in Review
Writers Workshop at the Charleston Culture Center
Last weekend I was surprised when about 200 (or more) people showed for a day of free writers workshops at the Culture Center in Charleston. I have taken writers workshops with many a master writer and this day was no exception. The morning I spent with
I heard him read two or three years ago with a group of Affrilachian Poets and was impressed with his imagery, topics, and energy. I then subscribed to his creative journal Pluck! that focuses on creative African-American work in Appalachia. In this workshop I appreciated his attempt at boiling down the main elements of poetry: image, rhythm, economy of language, and, I also appreciated his addressing persona poems directly. As a writer primarily of fiction, a persona poem allows me to enter into poetry from a place that resonates in me rather than out of a fear of treading too heavily and stomping all over a genre. I also got to see him read last Friday and was moved and impressed again…
Doug you read about in last week’s Valentine’s post. He subbed in an autobiography class for a writer that couldn’t make it. I don’t want to give away his tricks of the trade, but his exercise was well-thought out and particularly clever. In brief, out of a list of our top ten most significant life events, he had us focus on number 10 rather than number 1. The thought being that most of the top events of most folks’ lives are commonplace (births, marriages, graduations, jobs), but that number 10 is less emotionally charged, but maybe also less commonplace. This lent me more insight into those people that do write successfully about their own lives.
Mid-week Public Radio International ran a piece on the change of mood in Japan from giddy humor and anything’s possible to more somber. This fabulous skit from the Japanese version of the Johnny Carson show from the mid-1980s was used as a pop culture illustration of Japan’s former Zeitgeist. I loved this–everything about it: the costumes, the story, the cheekiness, the kitsch, and how well orchestrated it is. You gotta love this, right?
Japan seemed to be one theme of the week. After scoring organic udon noodles at Big Lots, we did a lot on a pseudo-Japanese food theme this week…. and, then, last night, the Unitarian Church here in Charleston, WV showed last year’s foreign film Academy Award winner for free:
Apparently it took ten years to put this film together. Really some just fantastic acting. This is also some of the finest screenwriting I have witnessed in a very long time. I had wondered if it were based in a novel or short story (I can almost always tell). Turns out it is roughly based on the autobiography of a Buddhist mortician. Far from being morbid, there are layers of love stories and types of love, lots of inner and outer struggle. The scenery is also spectacular. Sometimes I have found Japanese films too outside my cultural experience for me to really get the full picture of a film event’s significance. Departures struck home with me on universal and modern themes, without resorting to the grandiose. I would certainly watch it again.
The next creative things I am going to do:
After being asked often now for access to print copies, I have set out the task of getting my two books into print publishing shape this spring. For a while I was torn: do I try again with agents and publishers or do I keep giving it a go on my own? Three years ago I gave it a shot at larger scale publishing, only to be told by agents, that although they loved what they read, they felt they couldn’t market Bombardirovka. I know that despite very encouraging and positive feedback, I haven’t pushed the novel enough… but I am thinking that the right time presents itself for each creative work. My goals are to get it and Disco Hillbilly into print form by late spring and available through our new business entity MediaCauseGlobal as our first works out under that creative imprint. I am hoping to end up a sort of Ani DiFranco of publishing and multimedia. DiFranco started her own label back in the 1989: http://www.righteousbabe.com/ and has never worked through a major label. Now, she doesn’t have to.
Okay, maybe I should have started this twenty years ago… but better late than never. This is also what writer Dave Eggers did. He started out in ‘zines, then started McSweeney’s, which now also publishes him.
There is good proof, though, that one’s facility with language and story improves with age. I am hoping this is true of marketing oneself and one’s friends and the creative folks one admires. I guess I’ll find out.
What am I up to this weekend?
Hope to go see see Crazy Heart. The guy that wrote it is from this part of the country from down in Abingdon, VA… and got his start at the Barter Theatre there apparently.
Today, we are starting a photography project (once I get Edward out of bed). We are starting with what we have: ideas and some cheap equipment. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.
I also hope to get in some time updating a formatted version of Bombardirovka and also work on the next installment of Disco Hillbilly for the web.
I am also reworking a website of my dad’s…
Next Twyla Tharp questions — from her list of questions that help you figure out your creative DNA
Last time I answered questions from Tharp’s list (see an earlier post) on the best idea I ever had… here are its opposite and the links between the two…
5. What is the dumbest idea I ever had?
I am going to stick with the realm of ideas. We have all done things we regret…so the question focuses on an idea — what is the dumbest idea I actually never realized, that is, made reality?
Maybe trying to potentially set up a service that helps writers get writing work. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
6. What made it stupid?
I didn’t have the infrastructure in place to actually make it work. I spent way too much on a graphic and simple website and that would have been better spent with a consultant flushing out the ideas. My view, though, is that with time, bad ideas morph into somewhat decent ideas. I do thinking owning and starting a business was a good idea. Last summer I thought I wanted the business to focus on the nonprofit sector; now, I think the business has settled into a vehicle for exclusively creative work. Ideas need time to ferment and become what they are going to become. I am pretty happy with the idea of a business focused on creative work…. So, from a stupid idea three years ago comes a pretty good idea this year.
7. Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea?
My MFA program gave no advice or direction on the “what next” part of being a writer. Great. So now you have an MFA. What next? Only so many writing instructor positions exist, and a lot of those are now taken up by folks with a Ph.D. AND an MFA and a hefty publishing credit under their belts. I’d thought about giving seminars on the what next of creative writing, and then, using that to recruit writer-consultants. Frankly, about that time my day job amped up, and I just didn’t have the time to invest in this idea. Then online writing portals really took off, so my idea was so of already obsolete by the time I got around to thinking it.
8. What is your creative ambition?
To complete the projects I have already outlined for myself. These include:
getting Bombardirovka (which I refer to affectionately as Bomba) and Disco Hillbilly out in print and audio forms
investigating and theorizing a school of the arts and technology
becoming well-experienced in multimedia production
become well-experienced in creating art through using digital media, esp. the web
finishing a long list of creative projects: Dogfight film; Chicken Mountain project; several audio and video projects; two more Jada Perlmutter novels; several online interactive narratives; three docu-reality multimedia websites, etc.
to become a creative and learning theorist
to become/remain part of an exchange of ideas and art
I think sometimes about being part of a larger conversation on a larger stage, but I am not sure I even care about that, or have ever cared about it, really. I am not sure what a person gains, other than access to the people also on those stages– maybe more money? I don’t know, though, if that stage door closes behind you once you go through it. That would most definitely not appeal to me.