We went out to see Silver City on Saturday night. This film has received unfairly negative reviews. It’s not John Sayles’ best work, but it’s quite good. Check out Chuck’s review from last week. Afterwards, we went to the Plaza Art Fair which was fun–big crowds, good food, good beer–but not that interesting. When I got home, I stayed up late adding some music to a sound file of Weez reading the first stanza of The Goblin Market. Neither one quite works. Weez IM’d me to say she thought something like a carnival organ grinder on crack would be appropriate. Here’s where I ran into a limitation of GarageBand: it has a paucity of loops and beats for 3/4 time. (You know, 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3) Experimentation will continue as time allows. This creative collaboration is loads of fun and helps keep me sane. If anyone else wants to play along, all you have to do is ask. (Actually, you don’t even need to ask, unless you want the GarageBand files; then I’ll send them or post them.)
Sunday, it was back to work at the office. It’s nice and quiet there on the weekends. Wrestling with the article. Working up towards putting various proposals and applications together. Listening to the cicadas through the open windows. Above is a shot of what my desk looked like right before I left for home. One laptop is mine, and one is the school’s. My notes are displayed on the one in back, and the draft of the article is on the one in front. I love a small laptop, but I have a hard time tracking my way through a big piece of writing by looking at a small slice of it on a 12″ screen, so I’m trying to expand the 2-D space upon which the article is represented: two laptop screens and an entire (real) desktop. It’s easy enough to move the cards around to rearrange chunks of the argument, and I can stand up and get a picture of the whole thing, see what’s missing and what’s there.
As I mentioned in an earlier entry, the cards are lined up like the little bits of data in a GarageBand file. Here, take a look at what “Gimme Gimme (Angry Chicken Remix)” looks like visually (warning, big pdf, 430K). I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so drawn to the GarageBand interface (no firm conclusions, yet) and I’m trying to mimic its form in writing this article. We’ll see.
Blogging enriches my life.
Note, something weird is going on with the links in this entry. I’m not sure why, but Safari did something to them when I was editing… I’ll try to fix later.
Exhibit A: I had a few drinks with some KC Bloggers on Thursday night: M. Toast, Patrick, Joe, Jen, Eric, and two other folks who either don’t blog, or whose blogs aren’t listed on KC Bloggers, so I won’t mention them by name. We talked about music, good books read recently, and computers.
Exhibit B: I ran into my favorite local comic artist, Parrish, at Muddy’s Coffee yesterday morning, and we talked for about ten minutes on the magical creature known as cat. The only way I know Parrish (and Bonnie, who works at Muddy’s) is through his blog (and through his comic “Sparrow’s Fall”). This was the first somewhat extended conversation we’ve ever had, and yet I felt like I already sort of knew him, and had a sense of his personality.
The UMKC September Project events yesterday went very well. Not as many people showed up as I thought were going to, but the conversations that took place were fantastic, probably the most satisfying exchanges I have yet had at this school. Unfortunately, none of the conservative groups or individuals to whom we extended invitations attended. One of my colleagues suggested that this is because the concept of dialogue with a diverse set of opinions is inherent to a liberal ideology but not to a conservative one. I hope this is not true.
Many valuable exchanges took place, but a few have stuck in my head. I’ll start with one and perhaps add more if I have time.
On the subject of freedom, when Zell Miller spoke at the Republican National Convention, he said this:
For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.
As my colleague Steve Dilks pointed out, however, this simple-minded statement ignores completely the work of many people who are not soldiers and who play an active and essential role in articulating, advocating, and preserving freedoms. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and their followers, come to mind. No war was fought to earn women the right to vote in America: suffragettes did the work. Legislators write into law the official recognition of freedoms, and judicial bodies consider the constitutionality of those laws. Someone has to negotiate and put into writing the peace treaties that mark the end of war and that represent the beginning of freedom. Writers and speakers have historically created the framework by which a people decide whether they will believe in and support certain freedoms. Soldiers clearly have sacrificed a great deal, but Miller’s statment is, in a word, ignorant.
At the start and finish of the two events I attended, I reminded everyone that we were taking part in a very large project. A recent email from the national September Project organizers read as follows:
September Project events [took] place on Saturday, September 11 in
all 50 states. In total, there [were] 460 US libraries, schools, colleges,
community colleges, universities, jails, community centers, and parks
With the recent addition of September Project events in Venezuela
and Singapore, there are now 8
countries participating: Australia, Japan, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain,
Switzerland, the US, and Venezuela.
Thousands of people gathered on this day to exchange ideas about important issues, and we owe the original concept to the work of just two people: David Silver and Sarah Washburn.
As part of the KC September Project, Iím looking for thirty volunteers from the Kansas City area to write one blog entry each for a ìKC September Projectî blog, one for each day of the month.
What kind of guidelines should you follow in writing your entry? The September Project site has this to say: “Share and discuss your ideas about democracy, citizenship, and patriotism through public talks, roundtables, and performances” and “The September Project is a collection of people, groups, and organizations working to create a day of engagement, a day of conversation, a day of democracy.” I think readers’ needs would be best served by you sharing your thoughts about, for example, key terms like “democracy,” “citizenship,” and “patriotism.” But there are also other key terms that are at stake in American public discourse right now: “freedom,” “terrorism,” “strength,” “rights,” “courage,” “marriage,” and “leadership,” to name just a few. Take a look at the much-blogged NY Times graphic comparing “The Words Speakers Use” from the two conventions.
Consider the following some very gentle suggestions, rather than hard and fast rules: The best writers have a distinctive voice that comes through in their writing, and I don’t want to suggest anything that would change the nature of that voice in your writing for this project. I would like to see all of us be as persuasive as we can to as wide a range of audience members as we can, and this means avoiding polemic and ranting (and if you’ve read my blog long enough, you know that I’ve done my share of both though I’ve started moving away from that). If our goal is “conversation,” then we must leave room for other voices. When public discourse relies upon vituperation, a large part of the audience just automatically tunes out. Start by attacking gay men and lesbians and you’ve already lost the die-hard liberals; use terms like “radical right” or “wingnut” and there go the conservatives. Your audience becomes smaller and smaller until you’re in the oft-mentioned “echo chamber,” talking only to people who already think like you. And what’s the point in that?
Political candidates have a vested interest in attacking their opponents, not in listening to them and perhaps being persuaded by them. Citizens, however, have a vested interest in being persuaded by the best ideas and proposals. I would argue that these interests are diametrically opposed to each other. I am more interested in creating an environment that fosters conversations among citizens about ideas of substance. I am not interested in creating an environment in which we argue about the candidates or (worse yet) repeat the talking points to each other that are handed down to us from the candidates’ campaign managers.
We are so divided in America right now that I believe it’s time we start to work on finding or establishing common ground. This is not about civility or “pinky-in-the-air” manners; it’s about getting as many people as possible to agree on something, at the very least to listen to each other. (You can see that my reading Deborah Tannen has influenced my thinking about this.)
Please keep these suggestions in mind as you write about whatever it is you write about. I will not reject anything that you send in to me. If a wide range of political positions is represented in a thoughtful way, then I will consider this project a success. I would, however, like you to avoid endorsing or atttacking particular candidates or parties, because I believe that is the quickest route to turning an exchange of ideas into a shouting match. People automatically respond to you in a particular way if they figure out you are for one side or the other. Discuss ideas instead, however, and I believe you have a greater chance at a rewarding conversation.
Please send me your entries via email as soon as possible, and I will post them to the blog day-by-day.
If you know other bloggers who might be interested in participating, please email them directly and forward them the above suggestions.
I also hope that you will be able to make it to some of the events taking place on 9/11.
Thanks again for your involvement in this project, and enjoy your weekend!