Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Thought this might be an interesting "from the Trenches" post, especially in light of the fact that, at music conservatories, everyone loses their minds in April (deadlines, recitals, defenses, etc). I post analogous "Further to today's class" after EVERY meeting of every class.
This is *why* we all lose our minds:
Mostly good work today.
Note "The Gap" [e.g., between those doing excellent work, and those not]. And if you're on the wrong side of it, what do you need to do to address that problem?
Background paper is due on April 7. DO NOT FAIL to follow the templates; if you do, you will lose points.
Final paper will be due April 25 (Friday). NOTE that this is a full 4 days later than the syllabus calls for--so make best use of that time!
We will attempt (but cannot guarantee) to have them graded and ready to return to you by April 28. If your paper is on-time, complete, and receives a passing grade, you will have the option of either accepting that grade, or revising for CONSIDERATION OF re-grading. Late, incomplete, or non-passing papers do not receive this option.
I propose Exam #2 for April 16--two weeks from today. Will distribute Review Sheet 1 week in advance.
Slideshow is up. Contains added slides, and links. Pay particular attention to the linked videos--remember that they are fair game for testing.
Ms X [TA] will release LQ#3 grades this afternoon. Likelihood is that LQ#4 will occur Wed Apr 23. Playlists for Chap 32ff being populated now.
Hang in there. Do good work.
Posted by Christopher Smith at 11:27 AM
Sunday, March 02, 2014
As a middle-aged, middle-class, relatively privileged (white, educated, male, heterosexual, tenured) college professor, engaged in teaching music, cultural history, and critical thinking, in a late-stage Empire whose particular addictions--specifically to leisure, material possessions, and the cheap energy which fossil fuels make possible--is rapidly destroying both subaltern societies and the planet's own ecosystem, I sometimes imagine I know what it must have felt like to be a lector or ludus literatus in one of the frontier provinces of late-stage Rome: Valentia (Wales and NW England), say, or Brittaniae (Cornwall). In such a biography, you're a very long way from the centers of power, you can feel and observe (as someone trained and teaching historical consciousness and a degree of cultural analysis) the way in which the larger society, the vast superstructure of privilege, is creaking, groaning, and breaking down. And you can observe, and experience considerable frustration regarding, the psychotic short-term greed and lust for power which leads those at the top of the economic ladder to enact ever more radical, repressive, and short-sighted activities to try to maintain control and keep the addiction fed: clear-cutting Britain to build ships, hiring barbarian mercenaries to protect the homeland, steadily hollowing-out the middle class in order to enrich the oligarchs behind the politicians, creating Praetorian guards of private contractors to guard them, squirreling away their wealth in private troves or in vast estates remote from the centers of conflict.
In a late-stage Empire, there is no middle class, there is no democracy, there is no historical vision, there is no investment in future generations or future resources--human, natural, financial. There is only the ever-accelerating drive to maintain the status quo of the wealthy, and to hold at bay, just under the surface of consciousness, the panic they feel in the very clear, but repressed realization that all the wealth, power, privilege, impunity are going to go away even so.
In such a world, what would you, as a humble teacher, civil servant, carpenter, farmer, do, knowing that the powerful have no ears and no interest for any understandings except their own? What would you tell your kids, as you look at the disintegrating world you are bequeathing to them? What would you tell your students, as you try to impart the modest skills and insight you've spent a lifetime developing to hold back the tide of collapse? It's an enterprise doomed to failure, after all: the oligarchs will behave more and more flagrantly, greedily, and destructively; the subaltern communities will more and more be goaded to attack one another; the middle class will continue to disappear; the poor servant class will expand geometrically even as their standard of living plunges; the planet will continue to degrade. And there is nothing, nothing, (or almost) nothing you can do about it.
What would you do? Well, in your small distant corner of the world, very far from the centers of power, with nearly no voice and absolutely no influence in the public discourse of the day, you might just keep doing what you do: trying to directly impact those around you in positive ways; imparting the skills of critical reading, writing, listening, speaking, and thinking that help young people learn how to cope with changing, unknown, fluid, challenging problems requiring new and unique solutions; laying down in safekeeping, like bottles of wine in a cellar, the stocks of wisdom, history, literature, art, music, science, healing, that might otherwise be destroyed like the Library of Alexandria, and you might try to look forward, past peak oil or wealth, past societal breakdown and the fall of the oligarchs, past the destruction of the imperial Cities and their way of life, past the ensuing Dark Ages...
...to a time when, possibly from the far distant provinces which were least touched by the Empire and soonest abandoned, a few peregrini, a few wandering travelers and scholars, might return toward the center, and begin to rebuild. The new society upon the ruins of the old.
Because what else is there to do? Despair may be inevitable--but it is also irrelevant.
Posted by Christopher Smith at 10:01 AM
Saturday, February 08, 2014
Posted by Christopher Smith at 5:10 PM
Monday, November 25, 2013
Posted by Christopher Smith at 5:44 PM
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Quite some time back, maybe when I first en-'twittered, I got into the habit of using hashtag sparingly and specifically, and seldom/never the hashtags that were "trending" ("yes, please, let me tag along on the daisy chain of lemming-like shiny media objects!"). More often, I used them a little more like keywords or tags--that is, as ways of identifying particular items as addressing one or another topic I knew I'd revisit and which I inferred others might possibly treat similarly. The first of that series, I think, was the #NuminousMoment hashtag--just a way for me to record and remind myself of certain mindfulness realizations, as or nearly when they occurred. A lot of time they are realizations about the natural world, weather, animals, and other close-to-the-senses moments--the sort of things that can be the kernel of poems.
But the "#<>Wisdom" hashtag is a little different. In my life, as I suspect in those of many others, certain professions--certain jobs--have taught me certain skills and provided certain insights: maybe even "rules for living." So #CarpentersWisdom, #ProfessorsWisdom, #BandleadersWisdom, #ITMWisdom ("Irish Traditional Music Wisdom"), #CooksWisdom are insights that come out of my having held those jobs: e.g., "Pay Attention" might be good practical safety advice under the heading of #CarpentersWisdom or #CooksWisdom, but it's probably also sound, if more metaphorical, when you're dealing with the moment-by-moment improvisation of the bandstand or the classroom.
At the same time, the "#<>Wisdom" hashtags do not only connote "here's the magisterial advice upon which, from my position of vastly greater and meaningful life experience, I will pontificate" (though sometimes such vanity slips through). It connotes, at least as commonly, the self-directed advice "hey, dummy, remember when you learned through painful error not to take your eye off the Skil-Saw blade? You wanna remember that accident the next time you find your attention slipping, please?"
In other words, the #<>Wisdom hashtags can connote: "here's something I learned in the trades, and which either you or I might do well to remember." But it can also connote "hey, dummy, your profession is particularly prone to this or that stupid unnecessary error" (more commonly that's the "Professors" or "Bandleaders" tag) "and maybe you oughta avoid it, huh?"
So if, in my social media stream, you see a #<>Wisdom hashtag, you can figure that it means either "hey, here's something I learned sometime that's worth remembering," e.g., "Professor's Wisdom" for others, but equally likely "here's something you yourself, Coyote, ought to know well enough to remember."
It's a not-bad way to cultivate a record of some minimal degree of mindfulness. As much as one can.
Posted by Christopher Smith at 8:19 AM
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Posted by Christopher Smith at 6:41 AM