Monthly Archives: July 2010

Jara – 1973 Concert in Peru

Axé.

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We Are Asked to Teach Online

We are asked to teach online because we need money and the University of Phoenix has a corner on that market here. I might be better at teaching online than some people just because of my blogging and web design experience, and my interests in media. However, there are serious reasons not to volunteer.

Some reasons why people resist teaching on line:
+ prior bad experience with e-books, commercial course websites and workbooks, and CMS software that doesn’t work well and is tedious;
+ because the most fun and creative part of teaching is the face to face part — without which all one has left is the tedious parts (grading, e-mail, updating clunky websites, dealing with other technology driven problems that limit one rather than expand possibilities);
+ because we are given static, bureaucratic formats for online courses, so these are far more antiquated in terms of format, content, and skills development than what can be done in person;
+ because whereas faculty members create their own in person courses, it is not clear whether we will even be considered “stakeholders” in the determination of content for online courses.

Why online courses might be useful for me and mine:
+ for the same reasons as we have had distance learning by video. This had problems, including the fact that there was an actual and also a remote classroom. But an online course, if the teaching modules and software were good, and if it were not 100% online for all students but could be hybrid in some way, with the possibility of some face to face meetings and events, could serve the purposes of the older distance learning program in a more functional and interesting way.

How I think this whole initiative could be made attractive:
+ allow for a lot of control and creativity by the actual professor, in terms of decisions about content and delivery;
+ make sure content created could also be used in face to face courses, so that effort is not toward a one-off thing or toward the creation of something that will pass out of one’s control;
+ let faculty members in on the decisions about technology.

What I think is wrong with the hopes expressed above:
+ the “live music” aspect of face to face teaching — it cannot be replicated.
+ the fact that students would have to be seriously trained to take online discussion seriously. I strongly discussion skills are best learned in person first.

Everyone I know who has taught on line is dissatisfied with it. Everyone I know who has taken online courses says they had their reasons for being glad the option was available, but had they been in a position to commute or move they would have preferred an actual class. What would you add to any of this?

Axé.

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On Class

ONE: The Emeritus Professor used to say you had to be from the upper classes to be an academic. I would laugh, as we are not ourselves from the upper classes, and also because whereas the Emeritus Professor worked at an institution where one could have research expenses paid, I do not; to function I need a salary, not an honorarium.  However, I have recently been listening to two people I know well and who are very successful academics talk about their internal struggles with academia, and I realized that the issue was in part class.

Even after all these time, neither feels he belongs; both are always seeking models and instructions — not just checking on examples and rules, but seeking instructions. A third person of their stature, whose family was too poor to have furniture when he was a child, does not have the same problem — but then she is white and is living in her region, and is studying a subject that has made her a heroine.

Both of these first two professors invite me places on occasion and then stare at me. How can I work at an institution like mine and respect it? How can I say we have very good people here? How can I feel I have any authority to speak when I am only me? I do not know what I could do to instill more confidence in them, or more democratic feeling, or less adoration for certain dubious authorities at their own institutions. I do not know what I could do to get them to believe anything I might say could have value, given that I have not attained their official stature. Therefore I am not in a position to impart peacefulness to them.

TWO: I had to have one of those dinners academics have to have (and I had to pay for it, which is another reason I need a salary and not an honorarium). Since it was one of those dinners, the Blackguard had to come. I invited my youngest brother, partly because one is supposed to have family members at these dinners, partly because I thought he would actually like to meet some of the assistant professors who are his age, and partly on the general principle that I should invite him to more things and this was a thing.

So he came and made an interesting friend, and I took the opportunity later to ask him what he thought of the Blackguard. He said: “Why does this Blackguard smell and talk like a truck driver?” I thought: “He doesn’t, because an actual truck driver would not smell or talk like that at a dinner such as the one I gave.” Which means our man either truly does not know how to behave, or is behaving poorly on purpose. I believe the latter theory, but can anyone make an argument for the former one?

Axé.

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On Our Way to Glory

These songs of freedom.

Axé.

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Erich Fromm on Human Needs

Apparently these are:

1. Relatedness
2. Creativity
3. Rootedness
4. A sense of identity
5. A frame of reference

It seems that items 1-3 are inalienable to me, but items 4-5 can be stolen. The reason for this is not actually bad — it is that cultural flexibility that enables me to adapt, it is that empathic insight, it is that shamanic wound (if you will).

These are actually my main characteristics so it should not be surprising that they are the ones which can be kidnapped. That would be the case even if they were not characteristics which are themselves vulnerable to kidnapping.

If I named what I lost in Reeducation on this scale, it would be items 4 and 5. The source of these items is in the part of my life Reeducation deemed invalid.

In The Amulet, the children travel into the past to find what was misplaced there. In this story too, the lost items are not hidden horrors but keys and crowns and rings.

Axé.

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An Undiscovered Whiteman

Z: This group is rather odd. I do not know that I can relate.
Whiteman: You are not better than anyone else here, and we all have the same problem.
Z: I never said I was better than anyone here, nor that we did not all have the same problem. I said it was a rather odd group, and that I did not know that I could relate.
Whiteman: We are all equal!
Z: But not exactly alike.
Whiteman: I, too, once wanted my disease to be unique.
Z: I have always wanted my diseases to be known diseases, ideally with standard cures.
Whiteman: How arrogant! You expect a cure! We are all equal, I told you!
Z (off): Perhaps you and your group do have an incurable disease….and not one I know….

Axé.

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El canto del pueblo

Here is a rare interview of Víctor Jara by Nicomedes Santa Cruz, done just a few months before Jara was killed. They are both important people, and if you do not know about them it is easy to find out.

I never saw Jara in person and it is not easy now to find a recording that is clear in both sight and sound. But the remnants always show a life so different in tenor from that of his death. Here you see pictures mainly of Santa Cruz, but you also hear Jara’s gentle voice.

Santa Cruz’ “Canto del pueblo” begins:

El canto es como un pañuelo [Song is like a handkerchief]
que enjuga el llanto a la vida [that dries life's tears]
cuando esta es paloma herida [when it is a wounded dove]
que no puede alzar el vuelo. [that cannot take wing and fly.]
Puede el canto ser consuelo [Song can be a consolation]
que mitigue la aflicción, [that assuages affliction]
mas nunca resignación [but it is never resignation]
para el pueblo que lo escucha, [for the people who listen]
puesto canto que impide lucha [since a song which impedes struggle]
no es verdadera canción. [is not a real song.]

Axé.

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The Open Source Fallacy

In the past three weeks I have accomplished too little in terms of visible production. What have I been doing in this hot village? For it is so hot that I find it difficult even to watch whole films, read whole books, or listen to whole albums. I have been reading very short texts. In between these, I reflect.

ONE

First, I dealt with my reassimilation to Maringouin. I rarely spend time anywhere where it is all right to be who I am, or where access to the contexts I need to be who I am and am also expected to be is not such a struggle.

I feel completely different away from Maringouin, and I must conserve that feeling here if I am ever to work my way out. I decided this is a legitimate question of temperament and needs, and not a character defect or a self-indulgent attitude.

TWO

Next, I continued to deal with Reeducation. Now, when I speak of Reeducation I refer in part to the highly coercive and misleading introductions to academia I experienced after graduate school. At a more important level I refer to the experience of psychotherapy with an ACOA based individual in New Orleans. I did not realize that this person was ACOA based and I would not have known what that meant, so I did not understand the worldview I was having imposed upon me. It took some listening and sleuthing to figure it out.

We had strange conversations because I did not have all the reactions to life I was expected to have, and had not had. Trying to understand where this person was coming from took a great deal of effort. The time, energy, and brain twisting that effort required was very destructive, and I have been trying to recover from this experience and its concrete effects ever since.

THREE

The present weblog is an invention I designed to take myself back from Reeducation. Now I have discovered that someone else had a related idea, and created an entire website where people piece themselves back together after run-ins with the Twelve Step movement. I am amazed to find that so many different people, from different countries and with different orientations, have had my exact same problems with this movement and especially with its claims to universality.

The method is “universal,” it is claimed, although it only “works” if you do not question any part of it; but when you show its exponents why it cannot be universal, they say you have not understood it correctly. Or you have not reinterpreted it sufficiently, or it is simply “not for you” — which means, in the end, that you do not seek improvement.

They think this self-justifying sleight of hand is clever; I think it is mentally retarded; since not all of them are mentally retarded, I can only conclude that they are deluded, when not also self serving and even abusive.

FOUR

I have learned quite a lot from this new website. Indeed, it is not clear to me how I used to get through the days, before I had all this information. Evidently, not having it was what made the days so difficult — in addition, of course, to the oil culture and the white folks and the heat.

China is considering the possible abolition of Reeducation, and so should we.

FIVE

The new website linked to an essay around which it was alleged that the Twelve Steps were “open source,” meaning that you do them however you want. That defense is weak and incomplete for reasons already suggested here. But the comparison to open source code is also based on a complete misconception of that. What if the Twelve Steps resemble, say, an urban legend more than they do open source code?

Indeed, the editors of Wired appear to have forgotten that a great many things in life are not proprietary. By their loose analogy one can call almost anything that is not an industrial secret “open source” including the English language, which we are using right now in a way uniform enough to communicate, but individualized enough so that each interlocutor has a distinct voice.

To give another kind of example, the complete writings of thinkers like Marx, Freud, and Einstein, among many others, is there to be read, and multiple teams are at this moment rereading, reinterpreting, adding to, and using these bodies of work. In these communities, dissent and disagreement are permitted; are they thus not more “open” than the Twelve Step movement? Finally, the editors of Wired seem to forget that a principal characteristic of open source code is that it is no secret how it works.

Verily, in their odd mixture of rigidity and nebulousness the Twelve Steps are anything but a solid program which you can then individualize to your own needs. As many others have pointed out, if it is a spiritual, not a scientific program, then it cannot be considered a modern approach to a physiological disease; if it is a psychological or religious program aimed at a psychological or spiritual problem, there are many more solid and more truly flexible ones.

There is much more to say, and which has been said on these matters, including that in the movement, the phrase “take what you need and leave the rest” is used to tout flexibility and individualization to newcomers, while the allegation that members “did not work the whole program” is used to batter those the program has failed. This is not mere hypocrisy; it is manipulation.

These, then, are some elements in what I am calling The Open Source Fallacy.

Note 1

If you’ve ever been to any kind of Twelve Step meeting, you will have heard the phrase, “It works if you work it!” Someone on the thread I linked to above made a joke, “It jerks if you jerk it!” I wish I‘d come up with that.

Note 2

If any Believers read this post they will surely write in to ask why I am Angry and do not Let It Go and Move On. I and others have a fair amount to say about the misguidedness of the assumptions which inform that retort.

SIX

The commenters in the new site make some useful points about Twelve Step hegemony in the addiction and recovery industries. For instance:

(a) people who have not had reason to come into contact with addiction and recovery will not have had the opportunity to discover any problems;

(b) practitioners prefer not to deal directly with substance abuse and are just as happy to slough the question off onto an organization which claims it has discovered the only way to solve this problem and that, furthermore, it can do so all on its own;

(c) many participants in this scheme have private doubts but know that if they voice these, the aspects of the “program” they find helpful may be withdrawn; given, then, that it is “the only game in town” they participate in a highly individualized fashion (i.e. they do NOT “work the whole program”).

(d) if you have experienced abuse anywhere or from any zealots of such a place, or exhortations to be tolerant or to try just one more time in a new key, do not blame yourself, doubt yourself, or wonder what it is you have not understood. Put it in the place it has in fact worked so hard to earn with you, and walk away.

That last point is in fact great advice for healing, but I find that one must often also understand what it is one is walking away from in order to actually walk. I also think that this sort of movement is different from, say, a car one didn’t like although others might, or a personal relationship that didn’t work out; I shall expand slightly upon this point in section SEVEN, below.

In addition, there are apparently many people who actually have the sorts of problems the Twelve Steps are purported to address, but might benefit much more from another approach, and are not aware of any. Statements like “if you don’t like it, just leave” are disingenuous because the entire model of the self, and of “addiction” that the Twelve Step movement promotes and has installed in mainstream culture really limits accessibility to and comprehension of alternative approaches.

SEVEN

Still more important from the point of view of my life, since I am powered mainly by caffeine and vegetables, is the way in which the Twelve Step “wisdom” has seeped into the culture at large. I mean, there is an entire self help industry based on this. Many “therapists” and “counselors” are informed by that industry and not by the more serious work that would (and does) call the Twelve Step ideology anti-therapeutic. Widely read purveyors of common sense like Ann Landers were AA members, and the list goes on.

My point is that it is precisely true what the Twelve Steppers say, that it is not just (or not even mainly) a method to stop abusing substances; it is an interpretation of life and a methodology for living it. Some critics point to the “cult-like” characteristics of the Twelve Step movement. I see their point, particularly with regard to the way in which refugees from the movement appear to require healing in the ways former cult members, or prisoners (or torture victims) do. Yet I note that the concepts this movement wields seem to be even more widespread and therefore more powerful than are those of most mere cults.

Its core ideas and methodologies in fact fit with those of too many other movements, including but hardly limited to those of the Tea Party. Its customs seem to be part of a whole cultural trend. People quote Twelve Step slogans as eternal wisdom without being aware of their source. These “make sense” because they speak to and reinforce other repressive traditions which float in our cultural air. Thus does this falsely “therapeutic” ideology become one of the main ways in which we are taught to think of ourselves and conceive of our relation to the world. That is why I think we should all be interested.

SONG

It having been the weekend, we must sing. I sing that I ain’t a-gonna be treated this a-way.

Y’heah dat, y’all?

“I’m blowing down that old dusty road. They say I’m a Dust Bowl refugee, but I ain’t a-gonna be treated this a-way. Your two dollar shoe hurts my feet. It takes a ten dollar shoe to fit my feet, and I ain’t a-gonna be treated this a-way.”

And, to continue the Guthrie fest for a moment, please note that all [them] Fascists bound to lose.

Axé.

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1910 (Intermedio)

Aquellos ojos míos de mil novecientos diez
no vieron enterrar a los muertos,
ni la feria de ceniza del que llora por la madrugada,
ni el corazón que tiembla arrinconado como un caballito de mar.

Aquellos ojos míos de mil novecientos diez
vieron la blanca pared donde orinaban las niñas,
el hocico del toro, la seta venenosa
y una luna incomprensible que iluminaba por los rincones
los pedazos de limón seco bajo el negro duro de las botellas.

Aquellos ojos míos en el cuello de la jaca,
en el seno traspasado de Santa Rosa dormida,
en los tejados del amor, con gemidos y frescas manos,
en un jardín donde los gatos se comían a las ranas.

Desván donde el polvo viejo congrega estatuas y musgos,
cajas que guardan silencio de cangrejos devorados
en el sitio donde el sueño tropezaba con su realidad.
Allí mis pequeños ojos.

No preguntarme nada. He visto que las cosas
cuando buscan su curso encuentran su vacío.
Hay un dolor de huecos por el aire sin gente
y en mis ojos criaturas vestidas ¡sin desnudo!

– F.G.L., New York, agosto 1929

Axé.

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Grupos de palomas

A la Sra. Lupe Medina de Ortega

1
Los grupos de palomas,
notas, claves, silencios, alteraciones,
modifican el ritmo de la loma.
La que se sabe tornasol afina
las ruedas luminosas de su cuello
con mirar hacia atrás a su vecina.
Le da al sol la mirada
y escurre en una sola pincelada
plan de vuelos a nubes campesinas.

2
La gris es una joven extranjera
cuyas ropas de viaje
dan aire de sorpresas al paisaje
sin compradoras y sin primaveras.

3
Hay una casi negra
que bebe astillas de agua en una piedra.
Después se pule el pico,
mira sus uñas, ve las de las otras,
abre un ala y la cierra, tira un brinco
y se para debajo de las rosas.
El fotógrafo dice:
para el jueves, señora.
Un palomo amontona sus erres cabeceadas,
y ella busca alfileres
en el suelo que brilla por nada.
Los grupos de palomas
-notas, claves, silencios, alteraciones-
modifican lugares de la loma.

4
La inevitablemente blanca
sabe su perfección. Bebe en la fuente
y se bebe a sí misma y se adelgaza
cual un poco de brisa en una lente
que recoge el paisaje.
Es una simpleza
cerca del agua. Inclina la cabeza
con tal dulzura,
que la escritura desfallece
en una serie de sílabas maduras.

5
Corre un automóvil y las palomas vuelan.
En la aritmética del vuelo,
los «ochos» árabes desdóblanse
y la suma es impar. Se mueve el cielo
y la casa se vuelve redonda.
Un viraje profundo.
Regresan las palomas.
notas. claves. Silencios. Alteraciones.
El lápiz se descubre; se inclinan las lomas
y por 20 centavos se cantan las canciones.

–Carlos Pellicer

Axé.

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