Saturday, January 31, 2004

Cutting Edge Poetry or Children's Literature

In the decade or so I've spent in academia I have met a lot of competent teachers who inform students of the facts, or how to read books, or how to answer problems. These teachers are needed because they help prepare us to do the necessary work of life.

While I appreciate the dedication and craftsmanship of these instructors there are a few, rare examples of another type of teacher. These teachers do not "just" prepare us to become a cog in the machine, they also teach us to imagine new possibilities for living in this world. They do not "just" provide us answers, but more importantly teach us how to ask "questions?" They do not tell their students what it all means, instead they open up their classrooms so that students can create their own meanings (and they move the class beyond the limiting boundaries of the classroom).

We should celebrate these teachers (through all walks of life) and recognize the impact that they have on our lives.

I never took a class with Joseph Thomas as the instructor (although we did take classes together as students), but he taught me more than most of my teachers. Below is a link to his current webpage. His course outlines are loaded with links to great online readings, guides to books and further links to creative resources.

Joseph Thomas

Friday, January 30, 2004

World Hum: Travel Dispatches From a Shrinking Planet

A very extensive website dedicated to travel writing from around the world, it also has a daily blog of travel reports/reviews.

Here are the editors describing the purpose of their website:

"We started World Hum because we love to travel, and because we wanted to offer an alternative to the type of travel writing that appears in most newspapers and travel magazines. We publish stories that reflect the reasons we like to travel: to see the world in all its beauty and complexity, and sometimes all its horror. We travel to learn more about others, and also to learn more about ourselves -- what we love and what we fear, what we believe in and what we don't. We travel to feel a giddy sense of discovery abroad, and to feel a sense of discovery, too, upon returning home, seeing our own lives, and the world around us, anew. We travel because, when it comes right down to it, it's just plain fun. "World Hum" is a phrase from a Don DeLillo novel, and it describes the rush we feel when we travel: a surge of adrenaline, electricity, and sometimes, on this ever-shrinking planet, connection.
We publish new dispatches about every ten days. We update our weblog daily with links to travel stories and narratives, new travel sites, or anything else that's so good we just have to share it. Enjoy the site, and let us know what you think.
The editors,
Jim and Mike"

World Hum

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Interview with "Bend It Like Beckham" Director Gurinder Chadha

The film Bend It Like Beckham with its great story, interesting characters and powerful message was one of my favorite films of last year. Here is Pop Matters Cynthia Fuchs' interviewing the director, Gurinder Chadha (posted at Alternet ):

"It is the ultimate kind of girl power movie, because it doesn't belittle the girls' experience. As much as I love Clueless, it's a little plasticky, even as it is about being plasticky, and it is a mainstream Hollywood movie. Given those constraints, it did pretty well. What I wanted to do was create a story about teens, but a teen movie with balls, so to speak. I wanted to make something that really looks at what you go through at that age. And it's all so complicated, dealing with boys, your girlfriends, your parents, trying to be your own person. And she's Indian, so you have all the Indian cultural stuff, and race, since she's in London."

Entire Interview

"The Sniper's Tale" by Anthony Swofford

An excerpt from Anthony Swofford's book "Jarhead" published in the Guardian :

"Anthony Swofford came from a military family. He was a US marine to the bone. But when he was sent to fight in the 1991 Gulf war and saw the devastation he was part of, doubts and despair set in. What were they fighting for? He tells how it felt to be a soldier on the ground, under fire from the enemy, and, worse, from his own side."

The Sniper's Tale

UBU Web: Ethnopoetics

From the introduction:

"The breakthroughs of the last 100 years in poetry and elsewhere have been marked by new approaches to language and performance. Largely this has been the work of several generations of experimental writers and performers, many of them now archived and available thru Ubuweb and related web sites. It fell to some of us, starting with forerunners like Tristan Tzara and Antonin Artaud, to track related but traditional approaches over a wide range of once impenetrable cultures throughout the world. In my own work I was able to bring some of these lines together in gatherings of the 1960s and 1970s like Technicians of the Sacred and Shaking the Pumpkin, as well as in the magazine Alcheringa that I co-edited for several years with Dennis Tedlock. The name that we gave this enterprise, as it applied to the world’s deep cultures – those surviving in situ as well as those that had vanished except for transcriptions in books or recordings from earlier decades – was ethnopoetics.

In the present Ubuweb collection of ethnopoetic openings, it’s our intention to build a sampler of what we take to be the second great breakthrough of the modernist poetry project. The search here is for a range of poetries outside the domain of customarily accepted literature. In particular we’re interested, in the spirit of other segments of Ubuweb, in soundings and visionings that are the traditional and often culturally acceptable counterparts to what in our own surroundings have been seen and heard as radical, even disturbing departures from conventional practice. In exploring these we will also be mindful of occasions on which the avant-garde experimental line has merged with or deliberately drawn from other culturally specific traditions.

We proceed in the spirit of Gertrude Stein, often quoted by me: The exciting thing about all this is that as it is new it is old and as it is old it is new, but now we have come to be in our way which is an entirely different way.

- Jerome Rothenberg, October 2002"

Enter Ethnopoetics

My Father the Mobster

The UK newspaper Guardian routinely has excerpts from books as a guide to readers. Here is a recent one from Albert Demeo's "For the Sins of My Father":

"At six, his father gave him his first gun; by eight, he could recite 'Two in the head, make sure they're dead,' and for his 11th birthday, his mother bought him the Bible and his dad gave him a copy of Machiavelli's The Prince. But it wasn't until he was 13 that the full weight of being the son of a Mafia capo hit home. In this extract from his gripping memoir, Albert De Meo recalls the conflict and confusion of growing up with a devoted father who was also a feared member of the Gambino crime family with more than 200 killings to his name."

Rest of the Story

Mainstream Media's Anti-Union Bias

Report from In These Times posted on Alternet :

"Unions, as the bumper sticker says, 'brought us the weekend.' The eight-hour day, too. A minimum wage. Social Security. Employer pension plans beyond the executive suite. And more. But those achievements do little to shape the perceptions of labor that dominate our cultural life. For many of the rest of us, organized labor is associated with corruption, high wages for a privileged few and job security for the unmotivated and undeserving. The disparity in our perceptions of unions is directly connected to the image of labor that is promoted by mainstream news coverage, union officials say."

Read Entire Article

Press Think: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine

A great site... an excerpt from their manifesto/introduction:

"We need to keep the press from being absorbed into The Media. This means keeping the word press, which is antiquated. But included under its modern umbrella should be all who do the serious work in journalism, regardless of the technology used. The people who will invent the next press in America--and who are doing it now online--continue an experiment at least 250 years old. It has a powerful social history and political legend attached..."

Rest of the Manifesto

or visit their homepage and browse their witty, incisive critiques:

Press Think

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The Girls Next Door: US Sex Slave Scandal

(thanks to Joseph Thomas for the email about this story)

Catches your attention doesn't it!

The January 25th cover story of New York Times Magazine featured Peter Landesman reporting about crime rings in the US that involve tens of thousands of young people forced into sexual slavery.

Landesman's Article

Immediately after he appeared on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" in an interview about his story:

Listen to the Interview

The day after the New York Time's Magazine story many people began to question the facts of this amazing story. One of the very first to question these facts was Radosh's blog , then the questioning of the facts of Landesman's story got louder and more mainstream as Jack Shafer of Slate Magazine picked up the story (with a reproduction of the 'original' NYT Magazine cover designed like a cheap slasher flick to titilate readers before horrifying them):

Sex Slaves of West 43rd Street

By tuesday it was a chorus of condemnation:

Doubting Landesman

This is disappointing on so many fronts. More evidence of the lengths that reporters are driven to in order to bring in the juicy story that will sell copies in a "if it bleeds it leads" market? Another in a long line of fabricated stories printed in respected mainstream news outlets? How does this hurt the case of real victims of slavery or sexual imprisonment?

This is a great example of the continuing role Internet new sources (downplayed by some mainstream news reporters and academic scholars as unreliable and low-class) serve in exposing stories that play with the facts.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The "Home" Project

I have a fascination with words and how we build our own particular meanings out of them. Here is a project from trAce that is creating a document of the many meanings of "home":

"This website invites you to contribute your own memories and imaginings of Home: the sound of it, the scent of it, the feel of it, the taste of it. The place where *you* go for rest, refuge and satisfaction. The site is designed as a series of questions to help focus your thoughts - please answer as few or as many as you wish. Your responses will be added to the collection immediately, and you can also read the contributions of others. Together we are building a Home Page with a difference."

Visit this great site and read contributions from around the world and then add your own particular interpretation of "home."

Enter Home

Over There: How America Sees the World--Part 2

( from Granta )

"Even an American society that has suffered the depredations of George W. Bush and John Ashcroft holds more hope as a model than one shaped by the caste system of India, the lockstep vision of al-Qaida and its supporters, the ethnic rivalries of the Balkans, or the strongman politics of most of Africa, Central Asia and the Arab world. Adam Hochschild on what's he values about American society."

Hochschild's Essay

Stillness by Scott Russell Sanders

( From Orion )

by Scott Russell Sanders
photographs by John Gruen

THROUGH THE AISLE of waving woodland sunflowers and purple ironweed, I approach a cedar hut where I plan to sit quietly for a few hours, gathering the scattered pieces of myself. Resting at the foot of a hill between a meadow and a forest, surrounded by a deck and railing, the tiny cabin seems to float on the earth like a gabled houseboat the color of whole wheat bread. Grasshoppers lurch aside with a clatter as I move along the path, but hummingbirds and butterflies continue blithely feeding. Here in southern Indiana the tall grasses have bent down under the weight of their seeds, the maples and sycamores have begun to release a few crisp leaves, and the creeks have sunk into their stony troughs.

Entire Essay

Over There: How America Sees the World--Part 1

Part of the Granta series of American experiences in other countries:

Nell Freudenberger makes a mistake in Laos and learns that 'ignorance is no excuse':

Freudenberger's Essay

The American Taliban

The American Taliban
Bill Berkowitz, Alternet

Daniel Levitas, author of 'The Terrorist Next Door,' speaks
about homegrown terrorists, the state of white supremacist
paramilitary groups, and rising racism.

The Interview

Amazing Pictures--Pt. 1

(courtesy of Robert Benton)

A series of pictures exploring the wonder of life:

Amazing Pictures