Another blog post reflecting some of my thoughts as I run for State Representative, and try to be a good dad at the same time.
It's been a tough week. I'm trying to get a couple projects off the ground and as potential partners in these projects have interviewed me, they've questioned whether I am up for the project and have made me feel inadequate. I know that these are projects that will be significant challenges for me, but I believe I can do them, and that the criticisms were unwarranted. Nonetheless, I ended up feeling a bit invalidated a couple times this week.
I suspect others often run into this, especially if they are seeking to grow and expand their boundaries. As I tried to process my feelings, I remembered a great YouTube video, Validation:
I'm here to get validated.
You! You are awesome!
It made me think about what is going on in education in America. Our system has become so focused on standardized testing that education seems to be more about invalidation than about validation. You hear education wonks making comments about 'acceptable yearly progress', and not about how awesome our students are.
All of this came to mind as I visited Arts Week at Beecher Road School. The art on the walls, celebrating the creativity of the Beecher Road Students is truly awesome and I was glad to visit the reception with my daughter Fiona.
She is busy campaigning for me, and if I get elected as State Representative, some of the credit will have to go to her. One parent she introduced me to wanted to hear my thoughts about education. We talked about the problems with teaching to the test and having very myopic views of how to measure the success of teachers and administrators. We talked about school districts cutting sports and arts, two of the great ways that students can be validated.
Perhaps most importantly, we talked about that great factor in students' success, parental and community involvement. There were a lot of parents at the reception. There were lots of students being told they are awesome, and I suspect this is one of the things that has greatly contributed to the success of Beecher Road School.
I talked about how my campaign is not against the Republican Incumbent, it is against apathy. It is about getting people more involved in the electoral process, in their community. It is about improving educational outcomes by getting more parents involved in the schools their children attend.
To all of you that are getting more involved, by attending events like the Arts Week reception, by reading this and other blogs about what is happening in the community, and by joining discussions, "You! You are awesome!"
Every day at work, I scan Twitter, RSS feeds, Google Alerts and other sources for articles that I believe would be of interest to my coworkers. Sometimes it might be ideas for our radio show. Often, there are stories about the evolving health care policy in our country, or recent articles about health outcomes from peer reviewed journals. I keep my eyes open for articles about social media and technologies' role in health care, and try to find something unique from time to time.
Recently, I came across, The Power Of Flower Photos. The article starts, "I can't remember exactly when I received the first flower email, but I do remember it was sometime in 2005." It goes on to explain the backstory, related to a man dying of a rare disease, and ends off with"Just a quiet meditation from the dawn or the dusk — an homage to the power of friendship and the beauty it inspires."
The article struck me, as it did some of my co-workers. So, I've started adding a picture of a flow at the end of my Articles of Interest email each day. So far, these have been photographs that I've taken, modified and shared via Instagram. I have been cross posting these photographs to Twitter and Tumblr, and in turn, they get cross posted to Flickr and Facebook.
Yesterday at lunch time, I took a walk down to the river, keeping my eyes open for flowers to photograph. I saw many more flowers than I had seen other days on my walks. It reminded me of an aesthetics class I took in college where the professor bewailed those who quickly move through museums, as if they are checking off items on the bucket list; need to see Mona Lisa before I die. He spoke of these people as museum runners and reflected about how many people are museum runners in daily life.
Besides the newly discovered flowers on my lunch time walks, I've been fortunate with a few developments in my life. We've recently bought a new house and friends have been bringing us flowers as house warming gifts. At work, we are opening a new building and there have been many beautiful flowers in the new building. As I look through the photographs of my friends on Instagram, I find a lot of photographs of flowers.
It is interesting to think how dying one man's request of photographs of flowers has rippled through emails, through a story on NPR, and into my life, my blog and my social media channels.
Maybe, its time for more of us to stop and share the roses.
Recently, I stumbled across the article, What if Interactivity is the New Passivity? by Jonathan Sterne at McGill University. It is the sort of media theory stuff that I suspect many of my friends looking at how to monetize their social media activity tend not to read. It builds on the criticism of people passively consuming broadcast media, and asks if the interactions that we have now, liking pages, following friends, maybe even retweeting, or playing a game in Facebook, is really all that different than people watching television a generation ago.
It is an interesting question, and my thoughts quickly drifted to 1984, “If there was hope, it must lie in the proles”, or at least with those who are engaged in social media. Yes, I feel the ghost of Marshall McLuhan standing over my shoulder, whispering in my ear, “the medium is the message”.
Yet, perhaps, McLuhan isn’t all that far off. Perhaps what Sterne is saying is that interactivity, at least in terms of Slacktivists signing online petitions, isn’t really that much warmer of a medium than people a generation ago cursing at the news on the television.
Perhaps, the new, passive interactivity, reflects an even older idea; Henry David Thoreau’s “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. That paragraph, goes on to say, “A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.”
So, how do we transcend this desperate slacktivists passive interactivity? Sterne’s article starts off by talking about Malcolm Bull’s essay, “Where Is the Anti-Nietzsche?” Perhaps there is more of a relationship between these questions than the analogy that Sterne suggests. However, that should probably stand as a blog post on its own.
It has been a long frustrating day, lengthened by too much work and a vendor providing substandard service. It was a day of record breaking heat, which for mid April wasn't unbearable. To decompress, I walked down beside the Connecticut River at lunch time. There were plenty of people to say hello to, and soon, I was back at my office, ready to face the second part of the day.
The commute home was mostly uneventful. I left the office late and there was little traffic. However, as I approached Wallingford, smoke covered the road and traffic slowed to a crawl. Off in the distance you could see firetrucks gathered to fight a brush fire. It has been hot and dry and there have been more fires than usual.
On my way home, I stopped at the Sam Ash music store in New Haven. Sometime ago, I had dropped my old clarinet off to have it fixed up. Some of the cork was coming off and a few pads were loose. I had gone to pick it up on Saturday, but found it wasn't completely repaired, so I left it, and they finished the job today.
After my frustration with a vendor earlier in the day, I was pleasantly surprised at the good customer service Sam Ash provided.
Kim was working late this evening and Fiona was staying with her grandparents, so I was home alone. I did ate, did some chores and checked out a few things online. Yet I was restless. So, I took out the old clarinet and gave it a test drive. It has been years since I played the clarinet and I never was all that good at it. My embouchure is all out of shape, and I barely remembered the fingering. But, I played a few scales, and picked out a tune by ear. Soon, my mouth was sore, and I knew better than to push things. So, I put away the old clarinet, contented to have reconnected with an old friend.
Rebecca stood in front of an old brick wall covered by paintings made by animals from the Beardsley Zoo. She quietly plucked a few notes on the strings her banjo, as if trying to remember a long forgotten tune. Facing her were a couple dozen fans of the band Harpeth Rising who had come to The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, CT to hear them perform. They leaned forward waiting for the tune to emerge.
The melody emerged. It was then picked up by Maria on the cello. Chris added the rhythm and Jordana took up the melody as others moved to the counterpoint. It was almost as if Bach wrote bluegrass for the banjo.
The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival has interpreters signing the lyrics of songs in American Sign Language and I've often wondered what it is like for hearing impaired to experience the performance of musicians. The lyrics are but a part of the performance. Yet, with Harpeth Rising, I could see a beauty in the performance that those just listening often miss. It was as if Maria was dancing with her cello as she leaned into her music and her arm and bow moved perpendicular to the strings. The dance was mirrored by Jordana, Rebecca and Chris. The four of them, with their musical instrument partners were performing an intricate dance, something between a quadrille and a square dance, with the only caller being the smiles and glances they exchanged amongst themselves, as one followed another's lead.
I thought back to Falcon Ridge. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the weekend is Friday afternoon when the emerging artists perform on the Mainstage. Each performer is given ten minutes and those who get the most votes from the audience are invited back as part of the 'most wanted' for the following year.
This year, it seemed like many of the performers sounded the same; young female singer songwriters, who I noted in the bulletin as GFV, generic female vocalist. Perhaps that was unfair, because each of them had their strengths and weaknesses. Each of them had their idiosyncrasies which made them interesting and stand out.
Harpeth Rising launched into one of the songs written by Jordana's father, with tight vocal harmonies. I don't have a category that I can easily lump them into, but the way their voices worked together made me think of Red Molly, an "Americana/Roots Female Trio" that formed at Falcon Ridge that also has tight vocal harmonies.
Other than going to Falcon Ridge, and a few local venues, we rarely make it out to hear live music, but Harpeth Rising, like Red Molly, are two bands that are well worth the trip and we try to hear whenever they are in the area.