Arts

The Arts section of Orient Lodge

Random Thoughts about my Christmas Reading List

Recently, I wrote about some books I got for Christmas, including Colin Cremin’s book Exploring Videogames with Deleuze and Guattari: Towards an Affective Theory of Form, Upstream by Mary Oliver, and Parker J. Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. They are all, perhaps, interconnected in unexpected ways. To illustrate this, here are some quotes from these books, woven together in to a fragment of a found poem. Can you tell which quotes are from which books?

“We have a strange conceit in our culture
that simply because we have said something,
we understand what it means”
“untidy approximations
of what they are about.”

“It is an invitation to take flight
that also extends to the reader,
to explore different worlds
and create new ones".

“Now I become myself”
“No, not a place: a becoming.
A becoming that exceeds image, analogy and metaphor.”
“Attention is the being of devotion.”
“The mind acts like a filter
to retrain only
sensations useful to it.”

“Sometimes the desire to be lost again,
as long ago,
comes over me
like a vapor”
“adaptive to the task of liberating desire –
desire being a generative force.”

As I’ve thought about this, I wrote another poetic fragment, this one is my own musings on what I’ve been reading, and isn’t “found”.

We are the characters in a cosmic video game.
We find our meaning
and purpose
in doing
what we were designed to do.

We live and move and have our being
seeking the Designer
not knowing the moves,
the rules,
or the way
and only finding them
by exploration
and experimentation.

One final thought for today. As I read about Deleuze, Guattari, and video games, I am struck by the discussions about realism. Many of the most complex video games are the highly realistic first person shooter games. Often, it seems, realism is something people aim for in video games. Yet other games, especially casual games, tend more towards abstraction without being visually compelling or complex. What might an abstract visually compelling complex video game be like? What might it be like as a multi-player game, an abstract community art video game?

The Redemption of Donald Trump

Last night, the Churches Making Movies Christian Film Festival showed a preview of the movie, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. Generally, I’m not a fan of movies that have a blatant message. I prefer movies that tell us about God’s grace in a more nuanced way, like Babette's Feast. Yet “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” stars one of my teen daughter’s favorite actors, Brett Dalton, best known for his role as Grant Ward in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so we seriously considered whether or not to try to make it to the preview.

IMDB describes the movie this way:

Gavin Stone, a washed-up former child star, is forced to do community service at a local megachurch and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of his life is far from Hollywood.

This came to mind as I read about ”Donald Trump’s Apology That Wasn’t” this morning for lewd comments he made back in 2005. As a Christian, I feel called to pray for my enemies, to pray for those I strongly disagree with, to pray for the leaders of our nation, including those seeking political office. I have been praying for Donald Trump. I have been praying for his supporters, and I believe that we may be approaching an important moment of redemption.

Last year, CNN and others ran stories about when Trump talked about his faith. Trump believes in God, but hasn't sought forgiveness. Conservative evangelical writers have struggled with how to approach Trump because they recognize that crucial, and I’m using that word in its full meaning, to their belief is the need to acknowledge our faults and ask forgiveness.

Last night, Donald Trump asked forgiveness. He acknowledged that despite his dislike of ‘political correctness’ and what might be acceptable banter by the boys on the bus, treating women as objects to be used to satisfy physical desires really isn’t socially acceptable. In my mind, this is huge. While I hope all of us know this, deep down in our hearts, it is contrary to the messages of a consumer culture and the rape culture that it enables.

In the New York Times article, Trump goes on to say, “I’ve traveled the country talking about change for America, but my travels have also changed me.” This is also an important challenge to the dominant political narratives. We look for candidates that present themselves as perfect, as immutable. A candidate who flip-flops is not viewed as desirable. I believe we need leaders that can change, that can evolve on important issues.

I am in the middle of my third campaign for State Representative in Connecticut. This cycle I’m running a very low key campaign, but I know how grueling campaigns can be. I’m also seeking ordination as a priest in the Episcopal Church. I am learning a lot about the importance of personal growth in every stage of our journeys.

I would not have voted for Donald Trump before this current news cycle, and the events of the past day have done nothing to change that. However, I think there is a very important message to all of us in what has happened: The epitome of callous men has admitted that treating women as objects for personal satisfaction is not right. He has admitted that beneath all the bluster, even he recognizes and admits his own short comings. So, I continue to pray for him. I continue to pray for people that follow him, that this message may sink in and may help bring about the redemption of Donald Trump and his supporters.

To return to Gavin Stone, I pray that the narrative of Trump’s campaign may become something greater, something like:

Donald Trump, a washed-up former reality TV star, seeks political office and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of President of the United States, only to discover that the most important role of his life is far from Washington.

#MakeItHappen #WhatIMake and Why: A Post Modern Secular Online Video Gospel

This summer, students and teachers at Amity High School in Woodbridge, CT read the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. The Facebook Cliff Notes version of this says:

A Malawian teenage, William Kamkwamba, taught himself how to build a windmill out of junk and bring power to his village. He then went on to build a second, larger windmill to power irrigation pumps. He did this all from books he read in the library.

A slightly longer version can be found in this Ted Talk.

This could be a great starting point for a discussion of colonial and post-colonial literature, perhaps starting with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, followed by Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. This could then be followed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun”. Those looking for other forms of accessing some of this might want to watch the movie, “Half of a Yellow Sun”, or Adichie’s TED talk, The danger of a single story . Yes, I realize that Conrad’s Congo, Achebe and Adichie’s Nigeria and Kamkwamba’s Malawi are very different places, but I’m guessing some important things could be discovered.

Perhaps part of that lesson is that what we make matters, and how we make it happens matters. The bigger question is why. Perhaps it could lead to discussions of business ethics, or even deeper into existential questions.

I might start with Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

To me, this is what it all boils down to. The problem is, that in our post-modern secular world, if you start talking about the Bible, God, Prophets, and commandments, you are likely to lose a lot of people. What might this be like in today’s post-modern secular world?

If you were to choose a few videos that grappled with these bigger questions, that go to the core of your existence, what would they be? What would you want people to watch? Would it be some of these TED talks? Talks about creativity?

There are a couple that I would suggest. I might start off with the abridged version of David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, This is Water. This challenges us to think about who are neighbor really is. Yes, it starts off with the privileged white college graduate as a neighbor and doesn’t get to issues of racism and post colonialism, but it is an important start.

Once you have started thinking about having a little more empathy for those around you, the next video I would watch might be Validation. We need to find out how the people around us need validation and start there.

With these as a solid base, then we can start looking at things like education with Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms and Taylor Mali on "What Teachers Make"

We can move on to talk about the role of gaming, with Jane McGonigal’s Gaming can make a better world and The game that can give you 10 extra years of life.

We can learn from Brene Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to shame.

Without really thinking about those around us, about loving God and neighbor, we may end up just building bankrupt casinos ruining the lives of customers and vendors as we try to make American great again.

What videos would you recommend? What do you make? How do you make it happen? Why?

Vacation, #CLMOOC, #PokemonGo, #TinyHouses and more...

When I get busy, I typically leave windows open on my computer; webpages I want to bookmark or write about, documents I haven’t finished and will save later. Ongoing conversations in instant messenger programs, and so on. Eventually, it gets to the point where I just have to close out everything I’m working. Sometimes it is because things stop working. Sometimes it is simply because I need to tie things up. Today, it was a little bit of both.

I am starting vacation and I want to have as clean a slate as possible. There was a lot to close out, because it has been a particularly challenging week, mostly because of #CLMOOC starting and because of Pokemon Go.

I’ve saved all kinds of thoughts and links in various documents, and some of this needs to come together into a blog post. First #CLMOOC

The starting point for CLMOOC is this page. It isn’t too late to join in. One way of joining in is to simply jump in. CLMOOC is divided into Make Cycles. The first Make Cycle is around getting to know one another. Make Cycle #1: Make with Me: Who Are We?

An important part of CLMooc is the connections, reusing and mashing up content. Some of the posts that jumped out at me, not in any particular order, included Ronald Rudolf’s variation on Jennifer’s Poem, RON LEUNISSEN’s reuse of art-cards, Jeffrey Keefer mind map in Who Am I? A CLMOOC UnIntroduction (which inspired some of my writing this past week), Sarah Honeychurch’s Who am I this month? and Deanna Mascle’s<./a> Notable Notes: Exploring Identity with/in #CLMOOC. For those exploring mapping, Deanna’s post points to one of Jeffrey Keefer’s post, one of my posts, and several others. I also want to highlight Kevin Hodgson’s poem about vocal harmony in a world of so much disharmony in the world around us.

Deanna’s comments about my post hit on another big topic for me this week, Pokemon. She provided a link to two great articles, 14 reasons #PokemonGO has a future in education; or, Why #PokemonGO deserves the thoughtful, creative, attention of schools and teachers and Pokémon Go Has Created a New Kind of Flâneur

Another really important article, I thought, was Ezra Klein’s Pokémon Go isn’t a fad. It’s a beginning.

Meanwhile, at work, we’ve been talking a lot about Pokemon. In a blog post, Pokémon Go: In, Near, and Around the Health Center, in Mark Masselli’s LinkedIn post, Pokémon Go and Community Health, in a Facebook Album, Pokemon GO at CHC, and in various news articles: PokeMon at CHC New Britain and
Pokemon Go gaming craze has players getting outside to find Pikachu
.

So now, I’m heading off to vacation. I’ll see what is available for Pokemon on Cape Cod. I’ll stop at the 2nd BIG Tiny House Festival in Concord, MA on the way, and hopefully, I will get time to read, relax, and maybe even get more writing done.

A Pre-Modern Brotherhood of Post Structuralists

The latest class in the Poetry in America series has started, Modernism, and the first poem being explored is In a Station of the Metro.

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

The discussion forum starts off with

“his first attempt to write the poem resulted in a thirty-line draft; his second, six months later, was half that length; the next year, Pound produce the haiku-sized final draft.”

We are then asked, “How does Pound's poem accomplish so much with so few words?”

Pound’s poem’s power comes from compressed comparison. The comparison is implied and a verb isn’t even needed.

Pound kept whittling away at the poem until he was down to just fourteen words (not counting the title). Why stop there? Why not keep going until you get down to just two words to compare and contrast, “Faces : Petals”? Down to one word, “Apparition”? Or no words, like John Cage’s 4’33?

What is it that makes poetry poetry? Especially if we abandon the subject, structure, and sonance of earlier poetry? Are we reduced to just comparison?

It makes me think of Billy Collins’ poem, “The Trouble with Poetry: A Poem of Explanation”

In Collin’ poem, we find:

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

As we think about what it is that makes poetry poetry, I think about my own writing. Why do I write like I do? How does this relate to modernity, capitalism, and the industrial revolution? Is it time for the next phase in poetry? Post Modern? Post Structural? Or, perhaps like our Pre-Raphaelite predecessors, a return to some of the beauty of previous art, perhaps a Pre-Modern Brotherhood of Post Structuralists?

Subsequent thoughts: As I go through the comments in the course, one person writes:

the poem first invoked memories of Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

I respond:

I like comparing the Pound's crowd to Whitman's crowd. The apparition of these faces in the crowd; how curious you are to me!

Many of the other comments focus on apparition, particularly the ghostly aspect, and it makes me think of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem Wraith

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