Monday, January 25, 2010

Here's my new course proposal. I was already sent back to the drawing board once:

This course introduces students to documentary work (film, print, photography, audio) in which landscape figures as central character. Most of this work probes the particular question: how does a landscape shape the character and fate of its inhabitants, and how—conversely—do people manipulate their landscapes to serve as towering monuments of the future and/or revisionist records of the past? As city-dwellers, we will work to define “landscape,” both natural and manmade, beginning with the site of our classroom—expanding outward toward the building, the campus, and the city. Our theoretical readings will explore the way we navigate and remember space and architecture. Using the work of Susan Stewart, Elyssa East, Matthew Buckingham, and Barbara Kopple, to name a few, we will look at landscape-as-launching-pad for nonfiction narratives that are mysteries, elegies, or social commentary/exposé. Through study and practice, students will work toward constructing longer-form narratives about their chosen sites, due at semester’s end.

Beyond readings and screenings, fieldwork and production will comprise a substantial portion of the semester. Students will integrate the technical and theoretical components of the course at a site of their choice. We will play special attention to the difficulty of documenting all that is absent as well as that which is readily apparent.

Students will work with audio and video equipment in-class, but students are encouraged to approach their fieldwork exercises with writing, photography, audio, or video. This course is appropriate for those interested in a technical and theoretical introduction to documentary fieldwork and is also appropriate for students of multimedia journalism and/or narrative nonfiction.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

He worked at a media company on Broadway, back when CD-roms were going to take over the world, and we were going to walk into the future by reading hypertext novels. That’s what we were told. I had already invested in this vision dearly, writing my college thesis on a hypertext, feminist revision of Frankenstein. A.’s boss wore linen suits and yellow lowtops, which satisfied our latent dreams of New York (as first cast in the suburbs)--a place where people would be bodypainted silver at parties and there would always be a silver person running around naked and metallic. It wasn’t rational but it was real to us. And important. (Eerily, the silver man figured in many friends,’ daydreams in other states on other coasts, though none of us knows to this day where he comes from). We’d take the boss in lowtops while waiting for our nude in silver.

As receptionist, A. arrived on time each morning, immediately unplugged his phone, and watched CD-roms for the rest of the day. He wore headphones and seductively winked at people walking past him, making like an Italian movie star. If challenged, he was prepared to explain that his father was dying of advanced colon cancer. This was true.


Mediocre sex held a special appeal, though he couldn’t have known this. Sex could be ordinary and life was specific: wanting was no longer vague and pertaining to all. It pertained specifically to a man with spoons and--as I saw later--a large net above a loft bed, strung across his ceiling. All his possessions fit in one 5’ x 5’ saggy ceiling-hammock. A. was a wide empty net, himself, a man without ornaments. I was a small tree encumbered by bells and shiny glass balls. Christmas is over! I scolded myself. It was time to be a sleek black seal. It was time to lean forward under the wind for advantage. Time to peel the second swimsuit off.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

from Homeschooler:
She's moody and sulky; filled with hormones--long lines of dirt under her fingernails. She says the English language isn't logical, though she’s a native speaker and age 13. She makes a cross with her hands before bowing to her muffin to make a soft crater in bread as big as a fist. She drinks black coffee from large styrofoam cups. She watches TV all day long. She thinks the "last" discovery of America was the most important. After all, we discovered the world is round.

“’Is’ or ‘was’?” she asks. I sneak into the bathroom and marvel at the acne creams, lotions, and rinses--homeopathic and nuclear.

“Is. The world IS round,” I answer. It's possible her family told her otherwise. I take nothing for granted.

From the toilet, I stare at asthma contraptions--inhalers hooked into something like a shower cap. One of them is all grimy and bears a foreboding warning, "DO NOT WASH THIS BAG." It looks like someone should definitely wash the bag.

She calls her father for science help because "My dad knows everything." He can build a motor with styrofoam and screws.

another hot upstate night with coal miner's daughter and a rabbit.

Friday, January 15, 2010

To an outsider, he was a ticket-taker with a cash box, a shy man near the door who, at 34, was still-padded in a thin suit of babyfat with the pink cheeks of an innocent and watery blue eyes. Though C. was serious about undoing his sin, he did not look like the past nor did he help anyone remember it. He sat with his back to history, facing the door, instead. The past is for historians and the future is for believers.

There is nothing wrong with my real cameras, but I keep using my phone this week. I'm learning to kickbox--maybe this has something to do with it. I can barely lift my arms. Vacation is over in about 11 days, and my to-do list is still long.

in my defense...i can't help it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling
-from TS Eliot's "East Coker"