12.1.17

The other day, one of the teenagers I know was talking about one of her teachers and how on certain days he plays music from one of his favorite albums during part of class. She said “He plays it in every class he hosts that day.”

When she’d finished telling the story I asked her about her choice of verb, because of course “host” isn’t what you’d expect in this context, but it hadn’t seemed like an accident. She said “Yeah, I’m not sure why I said it that way, but it seemed like what I meant.”

We had other things to talk about so I didn’t dwell on it. I just wanted to know if she’d chosen the word more or less on purpose. From the sound of it, in that particular teacher’s class, this student feels more like a guest than a… subject, the way many do in many classes.

A small thing, except not at all.

writing and drawing

I’m working my way through all of Dan Roam’s books about how simple drawings, alongside a few words, can bring ideas to life. I’ve finished  The Back of the Napkin and Blah Blah Blah, and now I’m reading Unfolding the Napkin.

Dan points out that in school we are trained to communicate almost exclusively in words – drawing is relegated to art or free time.  Yet pictures are much closer relatives to experience than words, and as young children are attempting to make sense of and assimilate what’s happening and what they’re being told, their first impulse is often to draw.  We’ll grant them that, but not for long before we want them to focus their attention on reading and writing, shoving the drawing to the periphery (at best).  I’ve been wondering what would happen if we let them draw as much as and for as long as they are compelled to.  How would it influence their development?  What effect would it have on how they communicate?  Would some processes speed up and some slow down?

It’s been interesting, in the course of my exploration of Dan’s visual thinking work, for me to try to train myself to expand the way I think about communicating, to try to incorporate images into the way I share something I’m trying to say.  It feels very difficult, but also as though if I figure it out, it’ll be a relief not to be quite so dependent on one mode.

11.3.15

In a recent New Yorker I read about how New York City is replacing all of its sodium-vapor streetlights with LEDs.  Feelings are mixed about the move.  The old lights glow hazy orange; the new ones blaze blue.  I’ve read that, among other things, the old encouraged crime, and the new are causing anxiety with their brightness.

It’s clear that the LEDs will literally cast the city in a new light; they will alter its character.  This is no small thing, in my opinion.  The appearances of things are not static, and light has so much to do with it.

I’m always happy to have an excuse to remember one of my favorite poems of all time, Lisel Mueller’s Monet Refuses the Operation, in which the purpose of distinguishing the edges of things is brought into question:

…I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent…