Friday, December 14, 2012

Taking a Feminary View

The OED word-a-day email for today is feminary, adj.

Etymology:  < classical Latin fēmina woman (see female n.) + -ary suffix1.
derogatory. Obs.

  Feminine, womanly.

1630   S. Lennard tr. P. Charron Of Wisdome (new ed.) ii. iii. 277   A feminarie, sottish calmenesse and vitious facilitie [Fr. une feminine, sotte, bonasse & vitieuse facilité].

A wonderful word. Makes me realize there's always been something a bit off for me about the feeling of the word feminist. I use it regularly to describe myself and many struggles I've been in, but there's a harsh sibilance to "-ist" which has always felt combative in a way I don't really feel about these issues. Now feminary, that's a word that just lolls along, not in any hurry, ready to open her heart that's been hinted at with the smile of the femme at the opening, not cut off like the definitiveness of an -ist, that t that slams shut in defiance. I'd much rather roll along with the long drawn out song of shifting identities which a feminary can slide into, dragging out the eeeey into a proper fairy verse.

Fred at David and Zoe's

This is another entry in the category "men who wear scarves and cry in public."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Spontaneous Free

Listening to a podcast from Your Call, interview with Nina Simon, Executive Director at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History: she describes their policy of "spontaneous free" -- If someone is looking around, hesitating, not reaching for their wallet, we'll go up to them and invent a reason to invite them in--"Oh, it's your first time here? It's free for you. You're an artist? It's free for you today." Makes me think of the Diggers' 1% Free..
The 1% Free Graphic from the back of the Digger Papers

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What exhilarates you most about Connected Learning?

From a free write at the Connected Learning dinner meeting at the Annual Meeting this year: The potential to return real learning to ordinary public schools is exhilarating. The possibility that this movement we’re part of could actually accomplish the goal we’ve all dreamed of is spine-tingling. Things have felt so depressing, overwhelming, in the face of the testing and control regimes of the NCLB era. It does appear that a small window is opening. If we can make the light that shines in clear enough, it will have the power to spread in its rhizomatic fashion.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

If the data are driving, who decided where they are taking us?

I've begun a campaign to expunge the term "data-driven" from the popular discourse.

School of data

If one must use the term data (much compromised by the brilliant Star Trek character), please substitute "data-informed." The problem with letting the data take the wheel is that they have an uncomfortable habit of not turning out to show (or even be) what they purported on first glance to resemble. There is a bent towards the third person in the discourse of science, a pretense to objectivity as a matter of creed which hopes to remove the observer effect by leaving her out of the grammar altogether. But practicing scientists know how fragile and ambiguous our perception, not to mention our recording, of what we observe can be. They take pains to be careful but mostly recognize the ease of failure. This is part of the reason for the insistence on repeated results in experimental science.

The practitioners of the so-called social sciences are deservedly looked down upon by their "hard" counterparts, since so much of what they claim to be studying scientifically is not capable of rigorous experimental investigation. There is a pretense to scientism in the very labeling of the field, and most practitioners would probably admit their misgivings in small groups, though perhaps not for the record. Education professionals have recently been hoodwinked by a cadre (one might even call it a cabal) of pretenders to authority who have shoddily fudged a lot of their so-called data to make a case for the reckless destruction of our public education system in order to privatize and profit from that system.

We must vigorously resist this "deform" movement. The imposition of a regime of testing is not a neutral data-gathering effort but part -- if not the root -- of the problem. Assessment of learning is different from testing. Good teachers are constantly assessing--to be able to notice and take advantage of the teachable moments which arise with regularity as they interact with students about their learning, they must be on perpetual alert for the level of current understanding being displayed by the student and the best way to help her reach her next step into her zone of proximal development. This interaction cannot be "driven" by any form of data I've ever seen. It's an ineffable process, challenging to teach to others, certainly capable of being informed by many kinds of data, but not a moment I would ever surrender to the direction of a spreadsheet.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mastery, Mentorship and Chirality

Reflecting on the "Forage III: Arts-driven instruction" experiment that Ed Martinez and I have begun, the current focus of my thinking is on how best to extend and continue this workshop series. Ed has already outlined to me an idea he has for Forage IV: a two-dimensional art exploration, where various classes get the opportunity to take the environmental awareness and activism we were encouraging with Forage I-III to a new level, to really think hard on and plan how to bring about real social action that will further the environmental restoration which needs to be done to restore forage species to health.

In this iteration, Ed has enlisted the aid of a well-known and locally prominent visual artist--I can't share his name right now, as we are still out working the details of how he will be involved, so I don't want to jump to any conclusions. The aspect of this planning which fascinates me is how to ensure that the projects that students work on reflect their own interests and ideas. One of the startling realizations that I've come to through working on this experiment with Ed is how important the shift in my thinking about arts-integrated instruction has been. When we began the project, Ed made it very clear that his priority in executing the construction was that the result would be a piece of fine art of museum quality about which the students could feel an authentic pride. My own orientation, as a non-artist who manages to imbue a handmade, homemade funky flavor to all my creations, has always been that the artistic quality of the product is irrelevant. Art-making for me as for most elementary students is a process-oriented activity, where we don't expect to have to meet the standards of a fickle and unforgiving commercial art world.

Ed is himself a successful commercial artist, and it's that perspective of mastery which he brings to art-making which I want to highlight now. Ed wants his art to stand alone as beautiful and inspiring, and also to have the art he makes have an impact on the lives of its viewers and the community from which it springs. Similarly for his students, he wants them to expeince the pride and sense of accomplishment which comes from creating a work with lasting and intrinsic value. Without the mastery of an artistic medium to enable such lofty aspirations, I've always been satisfied to think of the art experience I offer  to students as most importantly about process, without being particularly concerned with making aesthetic judgements about the products or trying to measure the impact and durability of what students produce. If they are happy with their work, if they have something to bring home and show to their parents, that's enough for me. But Ed is setting higher goals for the students, and it's the authority he brings to the situation from being a master artist that gives resonance and credibility to those goals.

It's that mastery that also helps to make him an effective mentor to students who are forming their sense of what is possible for them to achieve. I can't model for them what it might mean to become a successful artist, because I'm not. I can encourage them to try art, and reassure them that it doesn't matter if they fail or if others don't appreciate their work, because it's the process that's important. But that kind of encouragement doesn't produce real courage. Having a role model who has tried and mostly failed is not inspiring. An authentic mentor can motivate unusual effort and help students to overcome our culture's pervasive fear of failure because she can model both striking success and how to cope with its lack.

So the personal stature and authentic voice of an accomplished practitioner in any field can bring them to be regarded as masters of their craft, but those qualities alone will not guarantee that a particular master will be an effective mentor. Mentorship has a crucial affective dimension--the mentor is empathetic, has tools with which to establish rapport, and knows how to balance challenge and acceptance in giving students feedback on their work. The mentor is not always or even mostly a teacher of skills in their field. Most of the work is about building relationships, establishing trust, and facilitating good communication. Then the task of the mentor is to foster or awaken the sense of possibility, of opportunity for success in the chosen field of the mentee. How exactly to teach mentors to fulfill that role, beyond general exercises in developing empathic and communication skills, is not obvious nor clear. It is this conundrum which leads me to the third point in this dialectical discussion: chirality.

Chirality refers to things which are handed, in the sense of having some form of bilateral symmetry, but where the mirror image of either side cannot be superimposed on the other. It is the sometimes subtle differences between the two sides which are important in this context. The duality of so much of our thinking, its polarities – right/left, male/female, practical/romantic – tend to exaggerate difference and obscure commonalities. The point about chirality is that there is an overwhelming symmetry and at the same time some important differences. It is this inherent contradiction in our approaches to duality which I think makes chirality a potent ground for developing fruitful ways to acknowledge mastery without denigrating efforts which fail, and to educate both mentors and students in how to interact for mutual benefit.

There is an inherent inequality in the associations we have with a relationship described as master to apprentice or mentor to student. Yet the goal in each case is to reach equality, to enhance the experience of the less powerful member of the dyad so that her skills and understanding begin more closely to approach that of the other. Recognizing that there are areas of commonality between their two characters--that they can, in fact, relate, and find connection--must occur on each side. We often call the process of exchanging ideas about a shared experience as a process of "reflection." I want to highlight the mirrored sameness of the images that first come to mind associated with that word. Yet to be of value to the other, the content of a reflection must point out some difference. Learning to see and acknowledge samenesses and differences is a perpetual negotiation, a recursive process which is at the heart of education.

So I return, finally, to one of the great "Ah hah!" moments I had during the Third Space Conference in St. Louis last summer. A crucial task for us in recovering the agenda for repairing our badly wounded public education system is to elevate the field of mathetics--the study of the way people learn--to an even higher status that that which we accord to pedagogy, the study of teaching. The over-emphasis on teaching in our approach to education has created a poisoned landscape in which right-wing privatizers have co-opted the terminology of educational "reform" to push the bizarre notion that technology and scripting can "teacher-proof" instruction, and the deadening spread of test-driven regimes and commodifying "value-added" teacher evaluation schemes have removed all heart and spirit from both students and teachers. We need to ignore the specious calls for "rigor" and instead return vigor to our schools. Our students need arts-driven curricula, not data-driven drivel. We need students who are truly engaged in and capable of managing their own learning, because they've been empowered to become lifelong learners and mentored by empathetic adults who have achieved both mastery and compassion. Bringing art back into learning--not as a frill to be restored but as a core which should inform every area of the curriculum--STEM to STEAM!--is key to that process.

Lenses and framing: how chirality and mathetics can transform our teaching of creativity

The ways in which we talk about difference are mostly framed by binary oppositions, like right and wrong or good and bad, which seem not to admit of finer distinctions. Yet it is obvious that there are many other things to be noticed and pointed out about how things may differ. To arrive at a level of discourse where we can talk about difference in terms more finely grained, we need to move the frame up or down a continuum of observational perches which will allow for other perspectives than the binary. 

Yet there are myriad obstacles in our way whenever we try to do this. Shifting our vantage point for an evaluation requires flexibility and agility. 

This morning in the bath I had a classic “Eureka!” moment. I'd like to commission a team to develop a video game based on a never-ending dialog between [among] Dexter and Sinister, the Chiral Twins: a contradiction in terms. You see, Dexter, the upright, Dudley DoRight character, who’s always striving for clarity and balance, for rectitude, the proper way to do whatever it is, never seems to understand fully the objections his sister Sinister, with her slinky, sinuous equivocations, perpetually dancing around and over and under the hard edges of truth and rightness, is always ready to offer to any of Dexter’s attempts at “setting the record straight.” Straightness seldom appears in Sinister’s slippery world, except occasionally as the brilliant path a series of points left aligned by overlapping circles and curves of elaborate contour may define, almost as an afterthought: “yes, of course, one can look down this straight-seeming path and get from here to there, but remember that the grand curlicues which formed the line could still shift, meander a bit, distort the track.” Don’t let the peripheral vision relax, there’s almost always something just out of sight which will disturb Dexter’s efforts to impose order on whichever slice of the multiverses is his current focus.

At the risk of cliché I must conform to the convention that Dexter is male and Sinister female. Yet they announce their androgyny at birth, given that each of us had both a left and a right, and a dominant and receptive sides, which are already often not in conformity to our self-definitions, so we immediately transcend our pre-formed notions of gender when we recognize and identify and begin to play with these inner dualities. What can you do with your non-dominant hand? How dexterous are you?

If you’re left-handed, do you feel less dextrous since you live in a right-dominant world? Are there unspoken signals that there is, after all, something sinister inherent in your sinistrality? Try this: pick up a writing implement with your dominant hand and write the animal you feel best represents you.  Put the pen down, turn the paper over, or fold it over, clear your mind for a moment (picture a fluffy cloud in a clear blue sky), pick up the pen with your non-dominant hand, and again write the name of the animal you feel best represents you.

Same animal? Different? Discuss...

What you get

What you is see is what you get, but there are things going on that are not what you see and that will still be what you get.

What it is which brings me so easily to tears -- I seldom see it coming more than a half a sentence or so in advance, and then it just wells up -- a good friend said to me, "You're puddling up" in a kind and loving voice, as I recounted some tale with tears brimming in my eyes...

The odd triggers, the incongruous timing: since tears are never appropriate in ordinary American life, especially not from a male, there's nothing that can excuse such behavior. So it might as well be any weird reminder of our predicament which moves me to cry. It's awkward, often inappropriate, sometimes acutely embarrassing. Still, necessary--actually unavoidable. When it comes, it's genuine, an outpouring. The culture is overrun with violence, and it desperately needs voices of gentleness, of peace, to counter the violence with activist peace-making.

So here's my latest campaign: I am calling on other men who wear scarves to cry in public. It's the crying in public that's important, not the scarves, but I do think the scarves really help. I made the observation a few years ago that most descriptions of past events that I hear from women include some information about what they were wearing at the time. I can't think of a time when a man included an article of clothing in a memory tale.

So I'm calling out the lack of attention men give -- verbally -- to their adornment, and pointing to scarves as a lovely option to begin some care for a bit of flair. I certainly enjoy the compliments I get now that I've been wearing scarves. I don't remember ever getting compliments on my looks over the last twenty years without scarves...

And along with the flair some dispair, some real feeling for the desperate state we've brought the planet to, the meagerness of our efforts to correct the damage to Mother Earth, some tears of sadness for all the opportunities lost, and the renewal of energy for continuing the struggle that comes from surrendering to loss and failure.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Direct Instruction: Exemplar videos in #KhanAcademy style string figure lessons

The String Games Association mailing list has become quite active lately, after some years of dormancy, and I've been finding delightful tidbits on it. Here's a short video with step-by-step and good visuals on making three quite complex figures. Used in Khan Academy style, with lots of pauses and repetitions, it should work very well for that kind of learning.

I've begun to incorporate my string game lessons as examples in my "Telling the Computer What to
Do" presentation, as a way to point out that implementing a student-centered real-world-relevant curriculum does not rule out direct instruction per se. It simply means that the direct instruction is created by the teacher in response to student engagement and requests, not prescribed beforehand.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Feckless no more!

Serendipitously discovered the etymology of feckless, on receiving the OED Online Word of the Day: fech -- from the German for an occupation or trade.

Etymology: <  German Fach compartment, subject, field, trade (see fec n.).

  A line of work or business; an area of activity or expertise; (a person's) métier.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Do something with that anger!

Exclamation points seem to be the mood of the day these days, and the command from organizers to

Do something with that anger!

rang in my ears, as tears welled, thinking of what drives me to continue scheming and dreaming about how to bring real learning into the public school system. It was inspiring and touching to hear the tears in Greg Palast's voice, when he answered Dennis Bernstein's question yesterday:

What drives you to do what you do? He told some stories about people he knew, family, who had been harmed by reckless and greedy businesses, but what I remember is not his stories but the feeling in his voice, the tears that I could sense just from that combination of a certain timbre and intensity when one speaks through great upsurges of emotion. My friend Susan called it "puddling up" –– I'd not heard that term for the edge of tears before, and it's stuck with me. I do it almost every day, often more than once, and the triggers can be bizarre, but I think it's important to do. I want more men to cry in public, to break that macho myth that crying, grieving, lamenting, sobbing, weeping, and even the occasional bit of moaning in pain, are all verboten to the real man.

Men who wear scarves and cry in public!

Men who know nothing of football and could care less!

Part of why I so enjoy continuing to teach in the public schools as a substitute is that I get to be a role model for kids of other ways that men can be that differ a lot from the men they usually see. It feels good to be complimented on my scarves, and it's interesting that it's almost always done semi-anonymously, while I have my back to a group and will likely never know just who it was who said, "Nice scarf," or "I like your scarf." Carrying around jars of tea is also a strange, Russian Jewish/hippie thing to do, but the question is usually only "What's that?"

But we move together, doing our finger calisthenics, learning to switch hands, put the energy of the mind into parts of the body that the kids often don't even know the names of:

El meñique


The original impetus for teaching string games was that the names of the fingers, needed to teach keyboarding, were not common vocabulary even among educated Spanish-speakers, I discovered, so I used 'juegos con cuerda' to teach the finger names, and to develop the and strength dexterity to keyboard properly. It's still necessary, on both counts, more than twenty years later!

So every chance I get, I teach a string game or two, and some finger calisthenics, and the fist-pointing game, to embed the bilaterality in the body. Kids have so little chance to be ambidextrous these days, with music classes gone.

And we're back to the anger. Why do these kids not deserve the same kind of wonderful elementary school experience I had? Of course they deserve it and can handle it with ease, given the opportunity and some coaching and mentoring in pro-social behavior. That's why I keep trying...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I'm Telling!!

Encouraging voluntary rather than assigned participation from the students in the Third Space workshop I'm doing with Ed Martinez at the MAH, I was toying with the word "telling" as one of the ways to ask for a submission without making it requisite. What can you tell me about...? And then the reflection of all the connections and resonances of the word, from storyteller to tattle tale, from retelling to tall tales, and so of course I went to the Visual Thesaurus:

The Visual Thesaurus array for "telling"
"Telltale" and "tattle" were the most intriguing connections. What is the impulse to "tell on" the sibling about? Obviously an effort at understanding something about rules and consequences, as well as an exploration of the variations of truth in a recounting. But it's the breaking of a co-equal bond with a or friend sibling, by invoking the authority of an older other, that makes the cultural denigration of the snitch make sense. 

So the "Teacher's Pet" syndrome also enters here somewhere, I think, but I'm not going there right now. The upshot of the reflection is that questions are the key, and learning how to facilitate asking the right questions is the core of this work.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Learning vs. studying

At Harry's birthday party, which Zoë, whose birthday is also today, crashed, so they had 127 years to celebrate, together, Zoë told a story about her daughter saying to her, "Oh, I didn't know you were studying painting," to which she responded, "When I'm in Sefla's painting class, I'm just playing--I never thought of it as studying."

That's the kind of teacher Sefla is--she lets people paint, and then interacts with each person around their painting in the way that feels appropriate for that person, that painting, and that particular moment--there couldn't be a scripted curriculum for her art "Teaching," because she's not expounding from some pre-planned set of Standards that her students must master by the time they move on from her class. She's engaging each student, individually, in their particular journey along the way to becoming the painter they want to become. Many of her students come from years of academic art school experience, training, classes, workshops--many have advanced degrees. Almost all of them say that no one else until Sefla had ever really helped them paint.

Sefla Joseph teaching art class, big grin on her face

Sefla doesn't teach painting, and her students aren't studying it. They're learning painting, and she's helping each of them figure out how best they learn. They learn by doing, they play, they practice, sometimes they do exercises together to discover something unexpected, sometimes they talk about color or shape, emotion or expression, line or figure or ground--and sometimes there are no words in an exchange. Sometimes she guides a hand, touches a brush, even touches their canvas with her brush, but mostly they are exchanging energies. What they share is attention to a project that the student has chosen, a painting the student has composed of her own choosing, and is executing almost entirely on her own. Sefla's role as teacher is a unique creation for each student, a relationship they agree to maintain and nurture together, focusing their mutual attention on a work in progress.

Obviously small group classes of adults are of a very different character from any public school setting, yet I still want to find some lens there to use to ask better questions of K-12 educators: How do we focus on each learner, on their learning and their sense of ownership in that learning, rather than on ourselves as teachers? I wrote a short piece on Seymour Papert's reinvigoration of "mathetics" (to contrast with didactics) as part of our Third Space work this summer, and I mean to find it and link it here... That's one of the essentials of real education reform, a return to honoring the learner and making the learner's experience central, rather than this bizarre obsession we've developed with the teacher and the curriculum. For educated citizens who are life-long learners to emerge from schools, they must each be greeted on school entry as individual learners who each have as their primary responsibility to learn how to take charge of their own learning, and to master the skills they will need to learn what they want to learn. Each one of us....

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The postures of language

An image came to me while I was sitting this morning, of a sort of diamond array, with a shiny point near the top of the figure – this array represented the energies of language we use around each of these body centers – right where the third eye would be, which sparkled and danced, but didn't extend very far at all. These were the highfalutin words, the $2 or $100 words, depending on the era, words not well understood by most, but used to claim membership in the elite group which owns the vocabulary of intellect and power. Then just below, circling the mouth, a much broader ring, the first facet of the diamond, where the proper words for ordinary discourse swim around, occasionally flashing a bit of color or nuance here and there, but most reserved. Then around the belly, the widest circle of all, the words of emotion and feeling, of bodily functions and messy lives, understood and used by all from time to time, but vastly underrepresented in the speech of those who use the sparkly head-trip words. Just below that largest ring, starting the taper towards the bottom, the girdle of the loins, the crude and soft, or cruder and sharper words of the impolite, words never spoken in public by those who hope to rise above the solar plexus of word circles. And below the loins, the unnoticed incidentals, the fillers and helpers completely ignored most of the time, but essential to keeping the diamond properly proportioned. Then I began to imagine the bodily stances that went with each constellation of words – the still "talking head" of the intellectual, the false smiles and dissimulations of the media commentators using most of the mouthy words, the simple straightforward posture of the heart-speakers, and then I saw the parallel between the hands-on-hips tellin' off a no-good with just the right cuss words of the belly-belt words, the slow swivel back in of the hips for the really dirty words, and the nimble footwork being done constantly by those stalwart little words at the bottom.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Earth Commune

I wrote this piece for Cowbird, a storytelling collective and network which grew out of the Occupy movement. It started in the NWP iAnthology, with one of our weekly prompts. I'm cross-posting here: One of the original participants in Occupy Oakland was speaking on KPFA several months ago, and she said how she prefers to use the term "the Oakland Commune" for their movement. Without saying so, explicitly, she's obviously harkening back to the Paris Commune, the shining moment of Utopian communalism. When a writing group of teachers recently had the prompt "Design your own Reality TV Show," I flashed on the notion of the whole Earth as a Commune, and wrote a blurb for the show that I think worthy of a pretty slick Hollywood pitch-person. Earth Commune: the ultimate global deimplosion of the simultaneous online presence of everyone on the planet, as the "Occupy Everywhere" movement succeeds in trans-manifesting all means and modes of communication into a single instantaneous realization that we are our own TV show. This is reality, and we might as well live it together, peacefully. Once everyone could see, hear, feel, and understand everyone else all at once, it became obvious that "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need" was a clear, easily understood, and easily implemented way to organize not only human life, but all life, and disagreements about the allocation, distribution, and enjoyment of the earth's resources ceased instantly. The only tasks that remained all revolved around healing the grievous harms inflicted before the "Communal Realization," as it came to be known. We never had to turn any of the TVs on again. We just looked at each other every once in a while, as we worked, and smiled.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The energy of threes

My step-mother Martha once taught me a bit of some numerology that she had learned as a sort of Cabalistic lore, I believe, and it stuck with me – I've repeated it (or rather riffed off of it) many times, usually in the form of an impromptu birthday message to someone for whom I've just added up the sums of their age numerals in my head. So this year, for me, 6 + 8 = 1 + 4 = 5; a five year is complicated, the first real star, drawable with one hand, interlacing, layering and triangulating in multiply intricate ways. But the three has really always been my favorite, the one that results from the union of the two, synthesis, a joining together of aspects which at last reflect in varied ways, unlike the clear unity of the ones or the rigid bifurcations of the twos.

I thought about the threes and why I love them as I rehearsed in my mind--questioned myself about--the tripartite time frames I've been using in my pitches to describe the work we're undertaking with 3rd Space as a continuation of the Maker Project. The three levels of chronology are the immediate, as in, we just scheduled a workshop at the MAH for August 31 from 4 pm to 8 pm; near term, as in, there will be three follow-up workshops in that series, and we'd like to initiate a tri-County planning process for awareness of and potential participation in the upcoming 3rd Space Monterey Bay, May 14-17, 2013 (or May 21-24, depending on when the Maker Faire will be); and long term, as in, we need a seven figure grant to support teachers throughout our region participating in creating locally relevant project-based curriculum to implement the Common Core Standards effectively by 2015.

Martha was obviously hurt when, near the end of her life, I jokingly told her that teaching me that cold water is better than hot water to remove smells from fishy dishes was the most important thing I'd ever learned from her. I weaseled out of it in the moment somehow, but I've often reflected on that hurt that I caused her, and the implied anti-feminist denigration of her contributions to my character as being "merely" domestic. Recently NPR has been doing a bit on asking people and celebrities [celebrities are people too, my friend!] to record a memory of their parents' record collection. I was almost immediately reminded of the moment when Martha came back from one of her many trips to Las Vegas -- it must have been in 1956 -- with stories about a wild singer that the teenage girls were so mad for, they were carving his initials into their arms! The Elvis stories didn't really grab me, but she immediately went to a black record store and bought a huge collection of authentic R&B 45's - the Coasters, the Drifters, Fats Domino, and many others quite esoteric at the time. This was my introduction to the music that would define my musical world from then on, for many years. So I'd begun to think of writing a piece to Martha, telling this story and thanking her for a much more psychologically significant gift than getting smells off of dishes.

But I think the amateur Jewish numerology was even more profound. And it make a nice trilogy of anecdotes about Martha....

Our family gathered on April 20, 2008, to celebrate her life.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No soap, radio

As part of my efforts to get myself to write more, I've decided I need  a space where I can ramble, free associate, not worry about being rational and coherent, rather just "detox," in Monica Hardy's terminology. Though that's a bit of an off-putting way to phrase it, sounds dismissive, and really what Monica is proposing is a structured process for self-reflection. That's not what I'm envisioning here...I just want to ramble, be the bricoleur of ideas, grabbing something here and associating it there based on the most tenuous of links, perhaps, but allowable in this freed-up space.

So here I am, already starting a second paragraph, without really having said a thing. I guess I'm fulfilling my mission.