Category Archives: Seminar

Hand Crack

I think it was Dr. Lynch who first introduced me to the concept of hand crack, but it came up again in conversation. It’s the addiction to cell phones, and it’s not unintentional on the part of phone manufacturers.

Think about it. Phones are designed to feel good in our hands. In fact, some of the weight in your phone is superfluous. The parts that make your phone work aren’t actually that heavy or large. Part of this is because a small phone would make simple tasks like calling someone and not so simple tasks like writing a blog post harder. But another element behind the construction of the phone is that we subconsciously associate the lightweight with the cheap. If the manufacturer’s price of a phone is going to be $800, then the phone better have some heft to it. But not too much, of course, because then a phone becomes a burden. If isn’t already…

All of this, of course, is a very poetic way of introducing a simple fact. My laptop died Friday.

This has caused more than a few headaches for me. For one, I am in the midst of writing a thesis. I also have a job that primarily functions on my laptop. You can’t really work in social media without an internet connection. The saving grace this weekend has been a little luck, and my smartphone.

That’s the thing, though, isn’t it? It’s not the phone we’re addicted to. We’re addicted to the opportunities that having an internet connection brings. It’s so much easier to make a friend on Facebook than it is in real life. Or a connection. An endorsement. A circle. A fan.

I think my favorite word for this is “follower.” I have followers. No longer do you need to be a sage or a celebrity to have people listening to you. You can have followers with just a quick click of a few buttons.

I also like followers because it suggests the distance that is the undercurrent of separation. Social media, for all its benefits and ability to forge connections, also creates a transparent barrier. I am the novelist, the narrator, and the protagonist of the story I create on my social media platforms. Increasingly, as social media becomes more public and less private, this barrier thickens. What would a potential employer think of this picture? How would my mother react to this status? How do I show my ex boyfriend I’m better off without him without posting Taylor Swift or Kelly Clarkson lyrics?

As much as I like to study social media, I recognize that it can be a weight you can’t shake. That I can’t shake. That, most importantly, I don’t want to shake.

None of these ideas are particularly new or original. But they didn’t mean much to me until I lost half of my connection to this virtual world. I have a new sense of, dare I say it, awareness of this phenomenon. And I think that’s the most important part. Being conscious of our consumption, not simply going through the motions because everyone had a Facebook, don’t you know? When we sit down and think about the hand crack, we can admit to ourselves that there is a limitation. And maybe, just maybe, we can turn it off. For a little while, at least.

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World Building and Memory

Humanity is the only species, as far as I know, that creates universes on a regular basis. Whether with words, computer code, or our minds, we are obsessed with processing the world in front of us and making it mean more. We are human because we seek to form narratives. We turn a series of disconnected images into scenes, and those scenes into a story about our own lives.

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Handmaid’s Tale, first thoughts

The night after I read The Handmaid’s Tale, I had several nightmares. There’s something that is deeply unsettling about a nightmare, and Atwood’s book tapped into that fear for me. I don’t mean to dismiss the book. Quite the opposite. I stayed up far too long to finish it. It was five in the morning when I could finally put it down. But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t unsettled.

 I’ll save more thoughts for when we’re further along in the book, but I’ll leave this post with  a quote:

“What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed up against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, crisscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.” 

Being Kind to Yourself

The idea of being kind to yourself got stuck in my brain today while I wasn’t paying attention, but it came back up as I sat down to write this post. It resonated with me in a very personal way I know but don’t want not write about right now. I do want to say, though, that there are plenty of ways to not do it, and that, while sometimes, there’s a clear line, it can easily be crossed.

I like to believe that intention is important. And it is. But something that we must always keep in mind is whether the action is serving that intent. We are our own worst critics, and it can be hard to break that cycle.

So it is important to be kind to ourselves.

On Movement

One of the methods that my directors have always fallen back upon to teach rhythm to notoriously-rhythmically-challenged vocalists is called eurhythmics. I don’t mean the fun 80s pop kind, but rather the method of linking music to movement. The idea is pretty simple. You move on the beats that you feel in the measure, whether that be the bigger ones or in smaller subdivision. By engaging your whole body, hypothetically you are feeling the music better, and therefore singing better. (Of course, if you’re me, you’re also two seconds away from falling, you lose some of the grace the movement was intended to provide.)

Which is why the following passages about walking meditation in Guarantana struck me:

We walk slowly not only so that we can observe the details of the movements but also so that we can watch what is going on in our minds…

When we are mindful of walking as it actually is, it is also easier to understand that it is not a self or soul that does the walking. All of this activity has not been made possible by some permanent being inside us. It arises interdependently because of causes and conditions, which we can train ourselves to notice.

It’s amazing, the power of the mind-body connection, even in something as simple and straightforward as walking. For me, it truly brings home the idea of the body as an instrument, and the mind as an extension of the body.

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Terms of Service

“I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the web.

Terms of Service; Didn’t Read

Terms of Service; Didn’t Read is a clever little project that reveals a very scary truth. We entrust our content far too quickly to different platforms. Do you know if you can delete a WordPress account, if you wanted? Can they change the ToS on you without notice? If the government asks for your information, will they tell you that? What kind of copyright and licenses do they have on the material that you post?*

I highly recommend it if you’re worried about privacy issues. Just saying.

*You can’t delete an account, and they can change the ToS without telling you. They will tell you if the government asks for info, though, and they only have permission to distribute your information for the purpose of promoting your blog.

King Lear’s Perception

And my poor fool is hang’d! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir.
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there!

In the last scene of King Lear by Shakespeare, the director and the actor have a choice. Lear is mourning over Cordelia’s body, and, seconds before he dies, he believes he sees her breathe. This is clear from the lines. However, it is the actor’s choice if Lear dies believing what he says, that Cordelia is alive, or if he is saying it with a kind of false hope. Does Lear really think Cordelia is alive? Is it his last moment of madness? Or does the reality kill him? Does Lear finally, after a play’s worth of delusions, see the truth?

I could argue that the emotional impact of this scene is somewhat lost on modern audiences. We come into the play knowing that Cordelia dies, most likely. But for Shakespeare’s sources, Cordelia lived. The original audience might have believed that the attempted rescue of Cordelia was going to work. The scene may have had a sense of urgency that a modern production cannot quite recapture. We lose tragedy, in some sense. We are braced for it in a way that is not perhaps intended. We become dulled to the pain. I think this is the great strength and weakness of theater. No two performances will ever be the same, and that is not entirely the company’s or the author’s fault. A key facet of theater is that no two audiences will ever be the same, and the challenge of the modern director and actor is to make you care anyway.