One of the most fun projects I have been invited to so far in my PhD program has been my time as a Fellow of the Paulo Freire Democratic Project. We meet and discuss ways that we can interact with the to local community that surrounds Chapman University, and we talk about the schools and projects around the world that work to embody and live out the educational framework Freire presented throughout his writing. We also plan events where we can host speakers to discuss the concerns that everyone faces outside (and sometimes within) the university.
To that end, I have been part of a subcommittee that has worked to develop a framework for a salon (think Modernist Salons of Paris and New York that encouraged discussion and participation from and with everyone) to take place on campus. And I presented, as a stretch and because I knew I would love it, that for the first topic we discuss comics and comic books. I expected the idea to be disregarded, because most of the rest of the board are not involved or particularly interested in such a niche community. But everyone so far has loved it. We presented the idea to one of the (apparently billions) Vice Chancellors of the university, and he was completely supportive of the idea.
So now I have to help make this whole project become real. It will take place around the time of WonderCon, and it will be open to the community. And we would really love to have creators participate, but we’re trying to work out those details. More information will be posted here as soon as it all gets settled. But if you’re in the area for WonderCon, Chapman University (where the Salon will happen) isn’t that far away.
Also, if you want to chime in with ideas, that would be awesome! Leave comments here or reach out through the contact page.
The Grand Jury decision came back yesterday with a No Indictment. I’ve been seeing some people equate that with a Not Guilty. They aren’t the same thing, because Darren Wilson wasn’t actually on trial. The Grand Jury was convened by county prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, to decide whether there should be a trial or not. He could have laid out a case before a jury of Darren Wilson’s peers and actually had a trial. But I don’t think he ever wanted to go to trial. And I think the Grand Jury was a legal cover.
I went to a drag show fundraiser the other day, to support Orange County Dream Team and my friends who preformed. And I was talking with some of my friends before the night really took off, when one of them asked if I thought of them differently since they were in drag. (for a bit of context – this particular part of the conversation included me and 2 male friends, 1 gay and 1 hetero, and it was the gay one who asked the question). And I thought about it a moment (because I can only answer trivial questions without thinking), and I said I didn’t think differently about either of them, because what does it matter to me what clothes they wear?
And this is true, but it is the simple gloss of my thoughts on that situation. Especially, since the way the question was phrased and asked, it felt most like a question about whether I felt differently about my hetero friend dressing in drag.
The longer answer is that seeing my friends in drag helped me better understand them and my thoughts and feelings toward them. I realized that they could’ve been dressed in trash bags, and I would’ve still been standing with them, talking, because they are my friends. Socially, it’s more acceptable for gays to drag, but societal conventions are really the best rules to break, and they both looked phenomenal in their dresses and wigs and makeup. They’re both attractive when they look like the social definition of male, and they were still attractive when they were dressed in the social markers of female.
But their physical attractiveness isn’t even what I saw when my friend asked what I thought. I saw my friends; 2 guys I’ve talked and shared with and worked toward a more just world with and debated ideologies with. And I thought of specific moments in Saga* and Game of Thrones** and realized I finally understood these moments more completely.
There’s a moment in book 2 of Game of Thrones where 1 character, a spy and master of disguise comes to the house where another character has hidden his mistress, a prostitute, to discuss the political situation. The man doesn’t immediately recognize the disguised spy, until his mistress calls the spy by name to offer him a drink. Her lover realizes that she can see beyond the physical distractions of appearance to see the person, and he attributes this to professional necessity.
Saga has a gorgeous moment in Chapter 8 when Alana is talking with Marco’s father, Barr. He is trying to understand why Alana would forsake her own race to run away with Marco, in an effort to understand why his son would willingly sacrifice everything for her. Alana begins by telling Barr that Marco annoyed her when they first met, so Barr asks her why she would risk everything to be with him. Alana says because Marco is “so goddamn beautiful.” Barr assures Alana looks don’t last forever, and Alana explains she wasn’t talking about Marco’s looks.
In a moment where my friends were disguised and asking if I viewed them differently in a context where others might have thought less of them, I saw my friends as they are and thought, through breaking the conventions (1 even more so than others) they were showing those who haven’t had the chance to get to know them like I have what I knew already – how beautiful they are. And sometimes they only way to see the truth of a person is to see through the disguises they wear.
*Saga is the great comic by Brian Wood and Fiona Staples. It’s other-worldly (like literally set on other worlds) and set in the middle of a war no one really understands but is over differences no one can change. I love this series, and highly recommend it, especially if you like comics that deal with issues.
**Seriously, if you don’t know what Game of Thrones (I know the real book series goes by Song of Fire and Ice but that’s too long to reference all the time) is, run the Google search and you can catch the drift. Basically it’s an epic fantasy about politics…
It’s part of THATCamp, which is a collection of academic unconferences. From what I gleaned from their site, it’s the conversation part of an academic conference without the paper-reading part. I have a feeling it’ll feel more like the nerd cons I’ve been to, which will be great.
I’m not sure yet if I’m going, as they have an application registration process. And they keep their cons small, so I may have submitted the registration form too late.
But I hope I get to go. It would be nice to meet other people who are as interested in technology and the ways social media is shaping us and our understanding of ourselves. I’d like to learn more about what I should know and what ideas are being turned over. And it be nice to have a conversation with people about what I find fascinating without their eyes immediately glazing over (ever an optimist).
Just another possible adventure in the near future!
Update: I just heard back from THATCamp Feminisms West, and I’m definitely going! I’m quite excited about this fact! I can’t wait to meet everyone and chat!
Remember (years) back when everyone was talking about the Lord of the Rings movies and how amazing they were? I wasn’t one of those people. I absolutely love and adore the series by J.R.R. Tolkien. And though I do not like the movies, I was content to merely let my dislike stand amongst the shadows unless pressed.
While visiting friends in Arizona recently, I ended up meeting new people (it does happen from time to time). We were discussing various topics in the midst of which I stated my dislike for the movies clearly. One of the guys seemed shocked and ready to question, but I was using the statement as an example for a different discussion. The conversation never got back around to my outlandish claim, so this is my explanation.
I have the über-nerd complaints about the missing and mis-represented characters and secondary storylines, but those would not be enough for me to dislike a movie. I completely understand that not everyone will see the story the same way I do and that there is only so much time one can sit in a theater.
My new project at work concerns drafting a mini-curriculum set for The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman as an independent reading project with either 1 or several upperclassmen because one of the 11th grade English teachers at a local high school is spending a significant portion of the class teaching cursive writing. This limits the amount of time the class reads which presents some difficulty in keeping the kids reading who dislike the activity. So I decided, along with one of the students, to create an extra program to keep him reading.
The project presents many challenges, not the least of which have to do with not overwhelming the students in the work load. So I went to the most helpful, general resource available for all daunting projects – Google. And what I discovered is that no one really uses Neil Gaiman’s series in a classroom setting.
But one post in particular caught my attention and spurred me to write some thoughts on reading. The post comes from The Graphic Classroom and is written by Kevin Hodgson, who does not recommend the series for K-12 and is hesitant about using it at the college level. I guessed at his recommendation from his introduction.
There are a handful of books that I purposely tuck away from the eyes of my children when I am done reading, for fear that the allure of a comic book will expose them to some unsettling things. Continue reading On reading tough books→
It’s been a couple of weeks because the students had mid-terms, scholarship applications, and then there was Spring Break. So this is a recap for around 3 weeks worth of discussion, which works out to be about an hour’s worth of actual conversation.
The students, for the most part, really enjoy the novel. The action has picked up (I mean there was a dead body in a swimming pool at the party they crashed), and the students are in.
What I’ve noticed most through the discussions are the numerous elements that need explaining. Not because the story is necessarily complicated, but because the story takes place predominantly on the East Coast and most of the students haven’t even made it to Northern California. The element that stood out this time around was the father/daughter relationship. Most of the students find Blue’s relationship with her dad a little creepy, but they understand why Blue would be so connected. It’s interesting seeing the father/daughter relationship through the eyes of students who either don’t know their father or don’t have a good relationship with him. It’s yet another aspect of the novel that they tend to react to as though the concept comes from Mars.
This week, hopefully, we’ll get to have more of a conversation. I’m trying to come up with more interesting questions that can be answered regardless of the number of chapters the students have read. We’ll see what the week holds.
Well week two could have had a better discussion, but it wasn’t terrible considering the sophomores had just completed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and the seniors were all caught up in scholarship deadlines. So the number of students who had not completed the reading outnumbered those who had.
But we started with some predictions. For those that had completed the reading, they had a chance to predict some of what Blue will face. Most of them suspect that life for Blue will take another turn for the worse, but they still don’t have specific predictions.
For those who hadn’t completed the reading, I had them write their predictions for the chapters based on the paragraph synopses of the books the chapters pull their names from. Some of them were able to predict fairly well, but others did not draw a solid connection between the title and what could happen.
What I learned this time was that foreshadowing is more difficult if you haven’t read much. Most of the students in the reading group aren’t readers (yet), and I am learning that what seems obvious to me and jumps off the page as contrived or trite appears new to them. I have some suspicions as to why they are in high school and yet lack the skills to point to examples of foreshadowing.
Next week we will meet more of the characters who will play a larger role in the remainder of the story. We will also hit some of the longest and slowest parts of the novel, but I’m hopeful that the students trust my judgment enough to stick it out. I’d forgotten, until I reread it, that Pessl does a great job laying a solid foundation for the rest of the story to stand on. Why this fantastic world building may trip up several of the students is that so few authors do it anymore. And since many of the students prefer stories that keep up the action (and yet don’t like fantastical elements in their stories), the initially slow pacing may get the better of some of them. But I have faith in the students.
If you’ve managed to go this long missing out on who the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas is, you probably want to stop reading now. Because finding out about them will probably set you on a path toward the nearest hard surface to bash your head against.
They are the church that seems to have entirely missed God’s message of love for all people, regardless of action, national descent, personal belief, skin color, number of tattoos, gender, or sex. In their focus on what God hates, they have lost sight of what God loves, which only matters because they choose to share their understanding of a brutal and vengeful God on signs created to offend whoever sees them. And their favorite place to show off their handy work is at the entry to the funerals of U.S. military men and women. Because, apparently, if you believe that God hates everything except you, then you don’t have to extend compassion to hurting and suffering people.
The book is a fantastic first-person recounting of the narrator’s, Blue van Meer, senior year in high school on the U.S. east coast. It’s an interesting choice for the kids I work with, because there will be little common experience. Most of the students have lived their whole lives in the city and have little experience with life outside of Southern California or Mexico. Continue reading Discussing Special Topics in Calamity Physics with teenagers 1→