Friday, February 28, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 02/27/14: Photography Project, Time to Reflect, More Documentary Shorts and BONUS: Yakking with Elliot

1.  Honestly.  I wish the entire WR 115 course could be one series of photography projects, of me taking portraits of my students, being out and about on campus, talking a bit with them, figuring out what kind of picture they might like, and then, with printed pictures in hand, they write about those portraits.  I loved trying to help my students to see how pictures have a surface life and then have a life that's beyond the surface, how they tell stories, how each of their pictures is telling a story that only each of them knows about.  That's what they'll write.  Actually, this is my approach to taking pictures, I think.  I am lousy at thinking about technical things when I look at a picture either I or someone else has taken, but I love the way pictures make me feel and that's what I experience when I look at pictures and those feelings are always wrapped up in a story the picture is telling, whether I know the story is true or not.

2.  Another thing about teaching WR 115.  I want my students to have more time to reflect, time not to be in class, but time to think.  Not talk.  Not listen.  Not necessarily write.  But think.  Reflect.  I can't make my students do this, but I give them time to do it.  Using class time (or as administrators inelegantly call it, "seat time") to do stuff is not always crucial to me.  Using class time to appear to do nothing is, to me, crucial.  Have some time that's quiet: no job, no kids, no errands, no drama, no phone, nothing to do, but reflect.  I hope today some of my students reflected upon the pictures I took of them and thought about their hopes and dreams or thought about what their story might be, what brought them to this point in time where one student is pictured in front of the Performing Arts Building or another wants a picture of taken of her hands with rings on them she values or another wears a sleeveless shirt to show his many tattoos while having his picture taken between shelves of books in the library.  It's the meaning of their lives and a person needs some time, not to talk, not to have me talk, not to "be on task", but time to reflect.  I make such time available to my students with no idea how my students use it.  I'll probably never know.

3.  The Bijou Metro showed the five short documentaries nominated for Oscars in two programs.  I went to Program A on Sunday and to Program B today.  Two movies comprised Program B:  The CaveDigger and Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall.  The first told the story of Ra Paulette who uses hand tools to dig and carve remarkable cathedrals in the sandstone cliffs of New Mexico.   This was my least favorite of the short documentaries, even though it was amazing to see Ra Paulette's creations.  I found Ra Paulette tedious and didn't enjoy listening to him talking about his art, nor did I enjoy listening to others talk about him. (Just for the record, I think many of my friends would have the opposite experience and I can think of several to whom I would recommend the movie.)  For me, he was unlikeable.  I didn't want that to be true. I wanted to like him.  On the other hand, my insides were cut up and I wept watching Prison Terminal, as it showed us Jack Hall's last months of being alive and explored the Hospice care he received from other prisoners, Hospice volunteers, who, like Jack Hall, were serving life sentences for committing murder.  The movie took place in the Iowa State Penitentiary.  

After the movies ended, outside the auditorium, I met the two women I had been seated next to.  One of them asked me which of the documentaries I would vote for as the Best Short Documentary Film.

I answered, "I wouldn't vote."  I could not set any of the four of these short documentaries that moved me above or below the others.

BONUS:  On Thursdays at 3, Don and Cliff and Dick and others meet at 16 Tons to drink beer and shoot the breeze and I like to join in.  I didn't arrive at 16 Tons today until after 4:30 after seeing the movies, but Cliff and Don and Elliot stuck around after I arrived, and we gabbed, and then it was just Elliot and me and we had a grand time talking about all sorts of things and I enjoyed getting to know him better. 

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