Friday, October 26, 2012

Facing Cold Mornings

Sometimes when I wake up in the morning and it's cold and I don't want to get out of my bed or do anything at all, I'll reach over to my bookbag, grab my laptop and queue up this video:

Watching the video, I realize that getting out of bed and facing the frozen, heartless weather is the American thing to do and that cowering away from it is a disgrace to Apollo Creed's memory. It pushes me out of bed and into the cold, hard world for another day.

And it gives me a sweet soundtrack for my morning to boot.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lessons Learned from the Music Listenin' Dude

This afternoon I decided to go sit outside the library while I ate my lunch. It's a lovely, sunny afternoon, and I doubt there will be many more of these that will be warm enough to allow for me to sit outside comfortably in my shirtsleeves. So I took advantage. While out eating my sandwich I sat near this guy:

I realize that isn't a great picture, but allow me to point out a few things. 1) The dude is asleep. 2) He doesn't have any book or anything else in his lap that he was looking at before falling asleep. I realize his backpack is blocking that out, but trust me, no book, no nothing. 3) He has his headphones in. Again, the picture quality is bad, but again trust me. 4) He's barefoot. He didn't get there that way; you can see his removed flip-flop next to him. 5) He's sitting in the shade. The light you see on his shirt is a reflection from a window, not direct light from the sun. 6) Look at the ledge he's leaning against. In fact, here's a better look at its ledgeiness:

Clearly that's not the kind of thing someone leans against who is planning on falling asleep. If he wanted to sleep, he would have found one of the numerous couches on campus and laid out comfortably. 

So now we can draw a few conclusions. He didn't come here to sleep. He didn't come here to study or read. He didn't come to catch some rays. He tried to make himself comfortable (flip flop removal). Finally, and here's the key, he put in his headphones to listen to some tunes before unintentionally falling asleep. From this evidence the conclusion that I draw is this: he came to this spot with the express purpose of listening to his music.

Just think of it. Here you have a college student who, midterm, decided to find time to sit down as comfortably as he could, intent on doing nothing more than listening to music. He didn't feel like he had to fill every waking moment with school work, or on his phone checking his facebook status, or playing with some gadget of some sort. He sat down on the cement, took off his sandals, queued up some sweet tunes, and just let it ride. 

I feel like there's a lesson in this somewhere. Let's see what we come up with.

Usually we only ever listen to music when doing something else or if we're at some kind of live music event of some sort. We listen to it while working, while driving, while exercising, or while doing any number of other activities that take the forefront of our thoughts. Background music, then, has largely become the place of music in our society. But why do we listen to music in these instances? It's because it calms us down. It keeps us focused. It rouses our souls and gives us the energy we need to complete a task. It keeps us awake when needed. We constantly use music as a means of controlling and channeling our attitudes, emotions, and states of mind. Why then, do we relegate it secondhand status?

We hear a lot about stopping to smell the roses, or look at the roses, or prick our fingers on the roses or any number of other things we can do with roses. In this vein I feel like we need to stop using music as a means to an end, but rather promote listening to music as an end all its own.

So here's what I say, we (and when I say "we" I of course mean "I") need to occasionally take some time out of the business of life to just sit down and listen to awesome musics. As to the question of which musics are most awesome, I have no answer. Each must answer that individually. But I feel like no matter what musics we deem awesome, this mindset and this act could prove a benefit for any and all. 

Anyway, these are my procrastinatory thoughts on this the 8th day of October in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career.

all my instincts
they return
and the grand facade
so soon will burn
without a noise
without my pride
I reach out from the inside

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rainy Days and Mondays

A week ago today was one of those mornings. I'm pretty sure that Jim Davis:

 and Karen Carpenter:

were thinking of Mondays like last week's when brainstorming and coming up with ideas for their work.

It actually started off great, interestingly enough. I'd woken up at 6:00 am, as per usual, and realizing that because I was just conferencing with students all day and I didn't need to prepare a lesson, I could sleep in a bit more. Unfortunately I slept in a bit more than "a bit more," eventually waking up at 7:42 am. That doesn't seem too bad except that my first student conference was scheduled for 8. I jumped out of bed and ran into the bathroom to shower. I showered quick as you like, jumped out of the shower, grabbed my towel and took off for my bedroom.

As I was running past the laundry room, I heard a distinctive snap and I stopped running. Considering the mouse problems we'd been dealing with, I knew what had happened. I peeked into the laundry room and there was the mouse we'd seen prancing about the basement like he owned the place. Except he wasn't prancing; he was writhing on the ground, not quite dead but with a clearly broken neck. (I would include a picture here, but seems a bit macabre.) Unfortunately, considering I was already late, I didn't have time to take care of the problem. I left his twitching body and continued the sprint to my room.

I got to my room, dried and dressed in a flash, and bent down to reach into my closet for my shoes. As I did, I saw a largish black spot on my wall. Not having put my glasses on quite yet, I couldn't see it very clearly. I made a conscious effort to focus my eyes, and in doing so saw that the black spot, mere inches from my outstretched hand, was in fact one of the larger black widow spiders I've ever seen. Now I'm not typically one to be scared of spiders, but ever since I was little, black widows have given me the willies. This mostly stems from the time when, as an 8 year old kid, I went down to the basement of our old house to get some dog food for Keesh, and as I stuck my hand into the dog food bag, a black widow came crawling out onto my hand. I'm sure I shrieked like...well like an 8 year old boy, and ever since that time black widows and I have not been on the friendliest of terms.

So not only did I have to deal with the scene of a twitching mouse corpse replaying over in my mind, but now I was facing a childhood bugbear as well. I killed the spider, leaving a large smear of spider guts on my closet wall, and with a racing heart I hurried off to my student conferences.

Arriving to campus later than I'd hoped, I had to park in the law school parking lot and make the 1/2 mile dash (in jeans) to to carrels. I got to my office sweating mildly and just 5 minutes late to meet with my first student ...who hadn't and never did show. I was a little frustrated that I'd run like mad across campus for no reason, but I was also relieved that I could catch my breath before the next student came in. As I was waiting for the next conference, I checked my email. Sitting there was an email from one of my professors. It was the email I'd been waiting for/dreading; he was returning the paper that I just turned in to him last week.

This is the same professor who I describe here. He is one of the more important men in the department, he intimidates me, and I really, really want him to approve of me as a student and a scholar. Unfortunately, the outcome today wasn't equal to the one from the post I just linked to. Rather than saying I'd done fine work, he gave me a few pointed suggestions and didn't give me a grade but rather asked that I revise. I'm very grateful for his suggestions - they helped me to finally see where I was going wrong in my thinking for that paper - but all the same it was hard to see that this professor, whose good favor I consciously seek and whose approval desperately want, wasn't keen on my work.

So to summarize: I got up late, I watched a mouse writhe and twitch as he died, I had to kill a crazy huge spider whose guts splattered all over my closet wall and who had nearly given me a heart attack, my first appointment of the day didn't show up, my professor didn't like my work, and on top of it all, it had been raining all morning.

As you can see, I was in a rotten mood; that is, I was in a rotten mood until my students started coming in to talk through their opinion editorials. My attitude almost immediately shifted.

It was incredible. As I helped my students talk through the ideas they were writing about and find better, more persuasive and more sophisticated ways of expounding their arguments, and as I saw the excitement in their eyes as they talked about these ideas and topics that (most of them) were genuinely interested in and even passionate about, I got happier and happier. With each student that came in to talk to me the memory of the earlier garbage that had made me somewhat grouchy dissipated more and more until I could barely remember it at all.

At the end of the day I had conferenced with 30+ students for 15 minutes each, and I was exhausted. Exhausted but pleased and content. In thinking back to how awful the morning had been, I was grateful that 1) I've chosen the field that I've chosen because teaching writing and rhetoric is so fulfilling and soul-satisfying, and 2) I have the opportunity to actually participate in my field before graduating and officially joining it by teaching general ed writing classes.

While it started out pretty crappy, it totally redeemed itself in the end. And that makes it all worth it.