The recursive movements of afterthought are themselves, I believe, the result of what Walter Benjamin claims is the collector’s deepest desire - to renew the old world - a desire that can be achieved by taking something from one context and adding it to another, such as the story of the devil in the cane fields of western Columbia, added by me to what i take to be capitalist commonsense in advanced economies where assumptions about the market suddenly seem strange when held up to the mirror of supernatural ideas involving the Prince of Darkness.
However, it is not only that the old world - my world before i got to the cane fields of western Colombia - has become renewed but that it has become seen by me and therefore, I hope, by my readers in a fundamentally new and enthralling way. That of course can amount to a renewal because this new way of seeing is the beginning of a new way of understanding ones understanding. This strikes me as something more powerful than a new or different idea. It communicates from “the other side.” It is a gift to the “old world,” medicine for rethinking reality, more than an idea because it tears away at the edifice of thought and assumptions that allowed me to navigate my world until then. It has this wonderfully enlivening destructive quality. It is not - most definitely not - accumulation or part of one of those endearing upward “learning curves” I first heard about in the U.S.A. Nor is it part of “learning from one’s mistakes.” Rather it is to begin the labour of cosmogenesis all over again from a different starting point.
The quality of new thought differs in other ways as well. It is highly physical, and theatrical. It is something that happened and continues to happen in your language and memories involving real people talking about other people in situ in the heat of the fields, the waving of the hands, the confidential tone, the clanging of pots and pans, the mystery and the banality and the dust and the deftness.
And as I said, it is not so much a fact as a story, and not only a story but a gift to the “old world” that, like all gifts, demands a return. The devil story is actually a story told to capitalism, which initiated the conditions of it’s telling, awaiting the outsider in the shape of myself, a young, ignorant, bighearted galumph, to hand it over to a wider audience.
There is another gift-giving as well, working in the opposite direction, as with the account of local history focused on the immediate postslavery period after 1851 that Anna Rubbo and I published in 1975 in Spanish in Colombia for an audience largely of landless laborers and peasants in the area of fieldwork. Based on oral history as well as luck in the state archive in Popayan, then under the directorship of don Diego Castrillon de Arboleda - descendant of one of the largest slave owning families - the second half of the 19th century was excavated, that being the time when free, prosperous, and rambunctious ex-slave peasantry existed along the rivers, free of state and landlord control, so very different to the appalling situation developing apace in 1975.
Gift meets gift. A circle. The insiders tell the outsider of the devil in the cane fields, and the outsider sees capitalist reality differently from then on. Then the outsider tells the insiders the stirring tale of the nineteenth century. Thus in both directions, moving out and moving in, a process of renewal was set in motion.
This certainly speaks to what (some) anthropologists do, because the “field,” as in “fieldwork,” is actually a meeting place of worlds, an interzone consisting of fieldworker and field creating therein a collage or intertext. The anthropologist is not presenting a picture of another reality so much as inhabiting a switchback by which one reality is pictured in terms of the other, which in turn, provides a picture of that which pictures it!
- Michael Taussig, I Swear I Saw This (via elmerseason)
(via Hugo nomination baby!)
You know that article about Margaret Cavendish I mentioned earlier? The one I wrote about her writing the first science fiction novel? And that it got published in Speculative Fiction 2012?
Well, SpecFic 2012 has been nominated for the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Related Work.
:D :D :D
I AM SO EXCITE.
Thanks to anyone who was lovely enough to nominate us. I can’t really say it’s my nomination, but I am super stoked to have my writing published in a book that has been nominated. Like, there is a lonely little geek girl inside me who is FLIPPING OUT.
It doesn’t even have to win, I’m stoked enough that it got nominated.
There are dangers for an artist in any academic environment. Academia rewards people who know their own minds and have developed an ironclad confidence in speaking them. That kind of assurance is death for an artist.
Junot Díaz & Peter Sagal: Immigrants, Masculinity, Nerds, & Art [x]
We also have a popular culture which acts as a megaphone for the larger American tendencies towards anti-intellectualism.
Thanks to a generation of massive amounts of standardized testing, our students conceive education primarily as a tool for determining a ranking. The Obama administration’s policy is even called Race to the Top. We have the most read columnist in the country telling us how important it is to raise “standards” so our students don’t fall behind.
For our students’ entire lives we have communicated that the reason to learn things is not to fulfill curiosities, but to see where you stack up relative to others. Grades are no longer a proxy for learning, but a lap time determining how well they’re doing at achieving a secure financial future. Under this system, a “B” is genuine cause for distress. A “C” is a disaster that points towards a ruined life.
At the same time, we have made it increasingly difficult to pay for a genuine education. The burden of loans threatens to strangle adult lives before they really begin. It is now impossible to work your way through college. Concerns over even paying for college are also at an all-time high. We communicate that a college degree is more important than ever and then make it more difficult to achieve.
Students look at the larger culture and see not a ladder of opportunity, but a treadmill of obligation. No wonder they’re distressed.
Several months ago, I was at a school event where a very young black girl was standing shyly off to the side as I was chatting with some 6th grade students after my presentation. She gave me her notebook and asked me to sign it, which I was glad to do. It was a book of her own poetry and short stories. I smiled and said “I’m so glad to meet a young writer!” She beamed at me and said “I love writing and I want to be a writer but I didn’t think I could because I’m not white.” I was surprised and asked her if she’d read any books by Walter Dean Myers, Angela Johnson, or Linda Sue Park. She nodded and shrugged her shoulder and said, “But I’ve never seen them in person.” To this young teen, an author of color was a mythical creature, not to be believed, until she’d seen one in person. She couldn’t believe in her dream to become a writer until she saw for herself that a real life POC had done it. This is why we must continue to fight for diversity in children’s literature. For all of our children, so that they can see that we exist and that they can believe that their dreams of becoming whatever they want, can come true.
This story reminds me, too, of something I always talk about which was that I never met an author until I was like 25. Until then, I didn’t think I could be one because I thought being an author was for special rich people who lived far away, probably in New York, and had some secret access to that whole world. (This was before the internet.) So I can totally imagine how a non-white kid who only ever met white authors would think the way the girl in this story does.
Adults are models of possibility. We need to model all sorts of possibility for all sorts of kids, and can’t ever assume that they just “know” about things existing that they don’t get to see and experience for themselves.
Especially when you’re a poor kid or otherwise not privileged in some way or come from an addicted family, you tend to have people around you that have those same limited and limiting beliefs. I never had goals or ambitions modeled for me by the adults in my immediate family. No one ever said I could and should try things that I wanted to do and have dreams and take risks. I learned survival and getting by, and making do with what you have and staying safe. I was a poor kid, and got that. When I multiply my own experience by a factor of also not-white, I can start to catch a tiny glimpse of what the girl in Ellen’s story and kids like her are up against.
I can stand in front of kids and talk about my background of poverty, and the dysfunction I grew up in, and I do do that, to share my own struggle to achieve a goal. But when I’m talking to a roomful of not-white kids (and I’ve been to plenty of schools like that) I know it’s not the same as if they could see someone who looks like them telling that story. Thanks, Ellen, for sharing this.
I didn’t believe that I could be a writer until I learned that SE Hinton was 1. a woman and 2. from Oklahoma just like me. I was born and raised on a farm. I went to a small school in a very rural area. Like a lot of people, I thought writers were mystical creatures (and dead Europeans). Learning THE OUTSIDERS was written by someone more similar to me than different changed the course of my life.
It is SO important for young people with dreams to know that people who resemble them (in all ways…race, gender, socioeconomic status—everything!) have achieved the same dreams.
So dream. Share. Repeat.
The greatest predictor of intellectual success is the emotional stability of the home - not the presence of toys or devices built to improve infant cognitive development.
A recent Pew Research analysis found that 21.6 million America’s young people—that’s 36 percent of Millennials (loosely categorized as those between the ages of 18 to 31)—live with their parents at home. With the highest percentage in at least four decades, the study attributed the rise to three major factors: declining employment, rising college enrollment, and declines in marriage rate. Click above to see how the changing trends in our society and economy are changing opportunities for Millennials.
See mom, it’s a national trend!
Even luckier, your mom decides to stay home during your formative cognitive years so she can read you storybooks on the sofa, and help you play alphabet building blocks on the carpet. Except, in that case, she hasn’t been able to earn anything in the free-enterprise system enabling her to put aside for your college tuition, and so—even though you really excelled in public school and are all excited about going on to university—there’s no money to buy the tuition with, in which case you become a customer of one of the more lucrative operations in the American free-enterprise system (the student loan business) and borrow the dollars for your college tuition, which means that when you finally graduate and get that good first job and start earning, a substantial portion of what you earn will have to go towards paying off your $29,000 student debt instead of buying the things for your good life. If you happen to marry someone in the same boat, your young, starting out family now has a combined debt of nearly $60,000—and you haven’t even bought anything yet! Which you won’t be doing anytime soon, either, because not only do you have pay back the $60,000 (plus interest and penalties) you have to start saving immediately for the day care expenses for your future toddlers (what else did you get married for?) which you’ll be forced to incur because staying home to read them storybooks is not an option since it’s going to take all of two incomes to pay off your college debt while at the same time saving for your kid’s future college tuition.
In many instances the situation is worse. But this is a fair representation of a systemic trap in which many are caught.
Steve Matteson has designed some of the most ubiquitous typefaces in the world, and engineered versions of Times New Roman, Arial, and Courier for Microsoft. Here, he reveals why every letter you see looks the way it does.
William Gibson, novelist
I first saw La Jetée in a film history course at the University of British Columbia, in the early 1970s. I imagine that I would have read about it earlier, in passing, in works about science fiction cinema, but I doubt I had much sense of what it might be. And indeed, nothing I had read or seen had prepared me for it. Or perhaps everything had, which is essentially the same thing.
I can’t remember another single work of art ever having had that immediate and powerful an impact, which of course makes the experience quite impossible to describe. As I experienced it, I think, it drove me, as RD Laing had it, out of my wretched mind. I left the lecture hall where it had been screened in an altered state, profoundly alone. I do know that I knew immediately that my sense of what science fiction could be had been permanently altered.
Part of what I find remarkable about this memory today was the temporally hermetic nature of the experience. I saw it, yet was effectively unable to see it again. It would be over a decade before I would happen to see it again, on television, its screening a rare event. Seeing a short foreign film, then, could be the equivalent of seeing a UFO, the experience surviving only as memory. The world of cultural artefacts was only atemporal in theory then, not yet literally and instantly atemporal. Carrying the memory of that screening’s intensity for a decade after has become a touchstone for me. What would have happened had I been able to rewind? Had been able to rent or otherwise access a copy? It was as though I had witnessed a Mystery, and I could only remember that when something finally moved – and I realised that I had been breathlessly watching a sequence of still images – I very nearly screamed. (via 'Thrilling and prophetic': why film-maker Chris Marker's radical images influenced so many artists | Art and design | The Guardian)
No Maps For These Territories, a documentary of William Gibson.
The question is…why AREN’T you reading Samuel R. Delany?