Tag Archives: education

selections from Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“She’ll come back and be a serious Americanah like Bisi,” Ranyinudo said.

They roared with laughter, at that word “Americanah,” wreathed in glee, the fourth syllable extended, and at the thought of Bisi, a girl in the form below them, who had come back from a short trip to America with odd affectations, pretending she no longer understood Yoruba, adding a slurred r to every English word she spoke. (78) Continue reading

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selections from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

“It’s only possible to betray where loyalty is due,” said Sandy. Continue reading

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selections from The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

WORKINGMEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE! Continue reading

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selections from Plato’s Lysis, Symposium, and Gorgias, translated by W.R.M. Lamb (1925)

PREFACE recension (n.) a revised edition of a text; an act of making a revised edition of a text. The Greek text in this volume is based on the recension of Schanz. (v) ————— ————— GENERAL INTRODUCTION Though [Socrates] seems, … Continue reading

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selections from The San Francisco Poets by David Meltzer

The DNA molecule is the memory. It is the memory of the meat. Four billion years of memory telling you to be a mammal. (274) Continue reading

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a perfect ten

in less than a hundred hours, i’ve watched ten movies.

Yol (Turkish for “The Road” or “The Way”) is a 1982 Yılmaz Güney film that portrays Turkey through the stories of five prisoners given a week’s home leave. probably not coincidentally, Güney himself was in prison in Turkey at the time of the film’s shooting; he somehow escaped (i guess that whole “prisoner on leave” thing don’t work so well) to Switzerland, where he edited the final piece together himself from the film negatives.

phew.

you think that’s a mindful? the film is set in the aftermath of the 1980 Turkish coup d’état, so you can imagine how happy the movie really is. unhappy accidents befall men w nothing, families see themselves disgraced and bloodied, families tear themselves asunder from the inside out… and a horse fucking collapses in a snowy valley to be left for the wolves. he isn’t the only one.

7/10 because it’s good to learn new appreciation for your own free life.

Black Panthers (later renamed Huey) is a 1968 Agnès Varda documentary and short film. It examines the Black Panther Party through the “Free Huey” rallies assembled in Oakland, CA while the party’s co-founder Huey P. Newton was held in court for the fatal shooting of Oakland Police Department officer John Frey.

the narrator (Agnès?) had a cute voice. Huey was charged w voluntary manslaughter. neither point matters much.

7/10 because a French girl only needed 30 minutes to teach me a lot about racial tensions in 60s USA.

The Order of Myths is a 2008 Margaret Brown documentary film examining the Mobile, AL Mardi Gras celebrations—the oldest in this country—through the separate mystic societies established and maintained by black and white groups, acknowledging the complex racial history of a city with a slaveholding past.

the black queen’s family literally came to Mobile on a slave ship owned by an ancestor of the white queen… in a time when the slave trade, though not slavery, was already prohibited! complex as fuck.

7/10 because i value edutainment glazed with a maddening final line.

Lions Love is a 1969 Agnès Varda experimental film and epochal look at America in 1968: a meditation on freedom, fantasy, decadence, and the Summer of Love going sour.

no but really it’s just a bunch of artsy fucks (mainly the three above, who are in a beautiful relationship, or something) speaking “poetry,” singing, dancing, humming and being cool in a fancy house in LA. sounds familiar? maybe it sounds like your life.

here are a few of my favorite quotes from the film:

“i hate all forms of entertainment, including living.”

“a sharp mind is the death of love.”

“let’s stop fucking and have a cosmic climax.”

3/10 because three is the perfect number.

The Pajama Game is a 1957 musical film based on the stage musical of the same name, in turn based on the novel 7½ Cents by Richard Bissell. the principal cast of the Broadway musical repeated their roles for the movie, with the exception of Janis Paige, who was replaced by Doris Day.

Doris Day, or Babe Williams in the film, is super sexy, and all the men in the world (plus probably some women) want to stare at her ass (as shown above). one of the men, the leading dick above, is an especially huge douchebag to her, earning him the right to make out w her and probably squeeze her ass off-camera.

7/10 because if you can get me into a misogynistic musical, then anything is possible.

Phantom Love is a 2007 Nina Menkes surreal drama about a woman trapped inside herself.

when i read “surreal” in the synopsis before pressing play, i didn’t think about the deterioration of the English language. i didn’t think twice that “awesome” and “trippy” and “weird” and “crazy” and “intense” don’t mean anything anymore because everything is awesome, trippy, weird, crazy, and intense. and surreal, i guess. all life is surreal.

8/10 because this film is for real actually fucking surreal. sex scenes like a choo-choo train, ending like a liberation.

The Idle Class is a 1921 American silent film written and directed by Charlie Chaplin. it was my first time w the Tramp.

this movie’s so old it doesn’t have a poster. it’s so silent that there’s music and the occasional screen-printed dialogue so we have some sort of inkling about what the hell is going on. whether you enjoy what’s going on or not, you’ll be laughing.

7/10 because just look at that face.

The Wasp Woman is a 1959 Roger Corman science fiction horror film.

the above image gives nothing and everything away. but really, it has the best plot line ever: “A cosmetics queen develops a youth formula from jelly taken from queen wasps. She fails to anticipate the typical hoary side-effects.” of course. naturally. totally did not rip off The Fly (released in 1958). at all.

5/10 because i liked it.

Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura (Portuguese for Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl) is a 2009 Portuguese film directed by Manoel de Oliveira.

a man falls stupidly in love w a young woman. two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back… this is how he nears her heart, his happiness. in the end, he discovers his stupidity, she is left as above.

7/10 because of well-framed shots, true mystery, and a harpist.

Offret (Swedish for The Sacrifice) is a 1986 film and the final from Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, who died shortly after completing it. here is the synopsis according to the Cannes website:

I wanted to show that one can resume life by restoring the union with oneself and by discovering a spiritual source. And to acquire this kind of moral autonomy, where ones ceases to consider solely the material values, where one escapes from being the subject article of experimentation between the hands of society- a way- among others- is having the capacity to offer oneself in sacrifice.

the shots in the movie, every single one of them a stunning portrait or landscape, are long. really really long. the opening, post-credits shot lasts nine minutes and twenty-six seconds, the longest in all of Tarkovsky’s work. in total, there are 115 shots in the entire film. the entire 149 minute film.

in the first shot, Alexander, the father, “plants” a dead tree by offering it support from rocks, and instructs his boy, throughout the movie referred to as “Little Man,” to water it every single day. a monk did this once, and the tree blossomed. in the final three shots, a beautiful house burns down, the boy begins to water the tree, and Maria, a maid, bicycles her windy way into the distance.

8/10 because, i mean, holy shit. holy fucking shit. Continue reading

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That same music that terrifies the mind, calms the blood

Truth be told, I spent much of my career at Pomona College studying poets who wrote long before anyone rushed for California’s gold, let alone its literature. Milton, Shakespeare, Pope–these names intrigued me far more than any laureates from the 20th or (Jupiter forbid!) 21st centuries, and this preference would have perfectly reflected itself in my English major course plan were it not for my one weakness: state pride.

My final semester at Pomona College, I enrolled in the above listed course. Not because I knew the professor or because I threw a lucky dart at the course catalog, but because if I loved any two things in this world, those things were “California” and “poetry.”

By the end of the semester, it was clear that nobody could have better nurtured that love than Professor Hillary Gravendyk.

Every bit of writing she assigned to us, from the early settlers’ raunchy rants to John Muir’s musings to the Beats’ bullshit to Brenda Hillman and beyond, I read voraciously. Like an insatiable grizzly bear, I paced the den of my dorm room poring over every word, underlining, circling, and starring all the best bits. Often, I’d run to Amazon or the nearest bookstore to buy what we were only given as brief selections in PDFs (bless Professor’s heart for trying to save us money). To this day, I will answer “who is your favorite poet?” with “Kenneth Rexroth” and I will reply to “who the hell is that?” with “the guy who taught Ginsberg and Kerouac everything they knew.”

In class, I spoke up more than I had in any other class prior. Maybe it was partly my being comfortable as a soon-to-be-leaving senior, but I am confident much of it had to do with Gravendyk’s way of carrying the class. Serious while smiling, loving but not sentimental, passionate but not to a fault, our professor consistently steered the class from deadly muted alleys or waterfalls of aimless laughter back to engaging discussion. It was incredible, and I always admired her for it.

Often, Professor Gravendyk would think far in advance to ensure we would not duck down those paths in the first place. Sometimes she would have us free write in the style of the poet we had read. Other days, she would project visuals or photos on the wall to help us understand the literary movement of the week. Once, near the end of the semester, she set up a lunch date for me, another senior, Brenda Hillman (a Pomona-taught American poet), and herself. Truth be told, I wasn’t Hillman’s greatest fan, but I still took advantage of the experience and, as a wee aspiring California poet, I learned as much from her as I could.

One of my most cherished moments of the semester and probably my entire collegiate experience took place on the south-side lawn of Crookshank Hall. Imagine one of those warm, sunny Claremont days (they’ll soon be upon you) and imagine sitting in the basement of an academic building. Who could stomach it? Nobody.

So the class decided it best to bring our books outside on the very day, naturally, that I was to act Professor. We had been studying Lyn Hejinian, one of the language poets, and my seminar was all about taking her essays from The Language of Inquiry and applying it to her canonical prose poetry in My Life. What a ridiculous task! Here was a guy who thought tragedies, blank verse, and heroic couplets the height of literary consciousness… leading a discussion on words written in the decade he was born. Nevertheless, with the near-silent but profound support of Professor Gravendyk, I led what felt like an incredible class. Through tough concepts and passages, I left feeling more energized than ever before.

“As for we who ‘love to be astonished,’” indeed. Every time I get the bug and dream of going for an MFA in Poetry and maybe someday becoming a professor myself, I think to that day on the Crookshank lawn, where I magically mustered energy and excitement from my fellow classmates to talk L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. Always, I have known: I could not have done so well without my professor’s unyielding confidence in me.

Those who have had the chance to read Hillary’s 2012 book of poems, Harm, may recognize the opening line to this letter of evaluation. It’s from the fifth part of “The Seven Sins of Memory,” and it’s one of my favorite lines ever penned by a California poet. I only confess this fact to express how strong my relationship with Hillary continues to this day. I’ve been lucky enough to see her read at local bookstores, and I always look forward to a message from her saying she’ll be in town, no matter how rare.

We are by no means best buds; rather, she’s one of those “weak ties” you find so often amongst your Facebook friends. Weak because we don’t talk often. Weak, in this special case, because her fragile place in this world. But strong, so strong, because she introduced me to the glittering, bold, and golden world of California poetry. Continue reading

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