Monday, January 19, 2015

Art - Life and Death

Art - Life and Death

A little beautiful two sentence story that I came across a week ago.  And I haven't really stopped thinking about.  It's by Constructionpaperandtears.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Writing - Only Martyrs Teach in America

Writing - Only Martyrs Teach in America

A piece of writing by PaterTemporalis

Your environment will be the least of your worries if you are considering studying to be a teacher right now. When it comes to students and environments, not only do you get to love the kids in most places and EARN respect if you're actually a decent teacher, if you really don't fit in a place, you can find another job; this is not the "good ol days" where teachers never moved; right-to-work idiocy has contributed heavily to the kind of teaching where you never really get tenured or established in one place unless you really, really want to.

What you SHOULD be worrying about is the absolute annihilation of the professional nature of teaching at all, especially if it's going to be five or more years until you begin. In 2014, I ended a ten-year teaching career, and I advised my students strongly against entering the field. It was hard for my generation, yes, with the whole NCLB issue (which was ratified while I was in college) and the massive restructuring of all educational funding around quantitative data. That was our burden to carry, but the burden your generation of teachers will carry? It's almost too much to ask anyone to deal with. You will be required to become very proficient in your field, spend exorbitant amounts of money on education and training, and then, with new nationalized curricula and districts and principals desperate for money, you will be given no academic freedom to implement what you know, unless what you studied was statistics. Students are no longer individuals with individual needs; they are an aggregate of data that determine whether a school will receive operating funds or not. The past few decades have stripped away every vestige of professionalism from teaching. Your work will far more closely resemble that of a number-crunching accountant or a Wal-Mart associate working from a script than that of a Masters-degree holding professional allowed to create a unique learning environment suited to your students based on your analysis.

Moreover, the educational bubble is going to blow soon. I worked successfully for 10 years, have never bought a new car, or owned a home, but the $35,000 salaries I never exceeded were simply not enough to pay off the $40,000 of college debt I incurred. I will default on them this year. This nation has made a deliberate attempt to defund primary and secondary education over the past few decades and the business of education can be summed up as such: you're expected to be a professional, but given neither the freedom nor the compensation or authority to justify such a position; you, your school, and your district will be so desperate for money and resources that you'll feel like you're living in the third world, and the division of parents between those who have truly given up on education and those who will helicopter the shit out of their brats out of entitlement and desperation has become complete. There is no happy middle that I have seen.

Man, there are no upsides to being a teacher unless you are a St. Sebastian kind of martyr, and things are going to get WAY worse very soon before they get better. Your question is a common starting question. I have worked everywhere from the inner-city, metal-detector school in northern PA to the podunk, 300-person middle school in rural Florida. Forget your superficial concerns, the whole discipline you're considering is on fire, collapsing and destroying the lives of a huge number of people involved in it. Pay and respect have never been lower, and the sheer amount of sidework has never been higher.

Only martyrs teach now in America.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wrap Up - 2014

Wrap Up - 2014

2014.  You were not all you could have been.  You were a year that was filled with struggles.  A year where for three months, we had our noses to the grindstone, where we worked 16-18 hours a day.  Where we created, and we were uncertain, where we worried and worked and struggled.  2014.  Graduated another program, made a bunch of artistic works.  Floundered.

Got sick.  Really sick.  Saw the insides of more hospitals than I wanted to.  For myself and for those around me.  A depressing reminder of our own mortality.  Of new problems, of old aches.  Of needles, and taking blood, of medication and forms and talking to experts.  Of broken bones and drifting through the darkness.  Of taking time off.

I hate taking time off 2014. But I took two months off.  Two months away from art, away from work.  Two months spent reading, and thinking, and contemplating the mysteries of the universe.

Got back to it.  Made a game, and another, and another. Made things that were important to me. Close to my own heart, for no one else.  Things I'd never release, but demanded outlet.

Got hired, worked for a while on games. Met people, started again.

It was a year for dungeons and dragons. Got a commendation from Wizards as a Dungeon Master. Got recognized by other dungeon masters, other gamers, other players.  My work was put on the spotlight, new designs, new ideas and bridging interesting gaps.

It was a year for getting back into Magic.  Throwing cards down, building decks and finally organizing myself.  For getting my competitive edge back, and learning new formats, interesting formats, and new friends to play with and against.

It was a year of finding time for online friends.  Reconnecting, tweeting, engaging.  A year of letting go of the people who don't care, and finding communities who do.

You were a year of hardships for everyone.  A year of darkness.  A year that was filled with people dying, of sadness, of going quietly in the night.  You were a year of ugliness.  A year where a bleak parts of humans became unveiled.  Where communities we are close with showed an ugly side.  You were a year of misogyny, and hate, and viscera.  You should not be proud of that as your legacy.  The legacy of having divided communities where we worked hard to be inclusive, to be better, to be futurists and to be welcoming.  But now we are working hard to cut away the bad parts you have revealed.

You were a year where 114 children were gunned down at a school.

That's not a good thing.

But there were bright points as well. However few and far between.  A year where I reconnected with people, and close friends. A year of messages, and skype, and late night chats.  Of hugs. Of holding hands into the night. Of sitting close and laughing, telling jokes and sharing laughter.  They are bright moments that we remember, cast against the darkness that we might see luminescence.

Courage.  It was a year of finding courage.

2014. We are glad to be saying good night to you tonight.  You were not a great year.  You will hopefully be remembered as being relatively unremarkable, but we shall recall the truth.  You were a dark time. And we hope that in bidding you and your darkness goodbye, that the future might be a better one.

2015.  There's a different world out there.  We're still sorting it out. There's a lot of crazy things happening, where we're all still coming into ourselves because we don't know a lot of things.  But we're figuring it out.

2015. I for one am ready. I'm getting back to work. I took some time off last year, and it became clear that the rest of the world wasn't interested in waiting. So it's time to lace up these boots and get on with it.  There's a lot to be done, and no sense giving it to anyone else to do. Let's get on with it and fix the world.

It needs fixing. In case you didn't notice.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Poetry - Silence

"There are some qualities, some incorporate things,
That have a double life, which thus is made
A type of twin entity which springs
From matter and light, evinced in solid and shade."

-Edgar Allan Poe, "Silence"

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Politician - Nenshi on Bill 10

Politician - Nenshi on Bill 10

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi had the following, oustanding piece of oratory to say on the much derided Bill 10 of late:

“I pitch this city across Canada, and when I make that pitch, it may surprise you to know, I always get the same question. And I bet that question is going to surprise you, because you live here and you wouldn’t think this is a question.

“And the question I always get is: ‘Is Calgary welcoming? Is it homophobic? Is it racist? Is it diverse? Will not only I be accepted, but will my friends be accepted?’

“And, of course, I always say: ‘Look at me. I’m the mayor. We’re very welcoming, and for the vast majority of us, this place – our home – is the absolute epitome of meritocracy, of multiculturalism, of pluralism, of support, and of success.’

“But, I’ve got to tell you, the last couple of weeks in the provincial legislature have not made my job any easier.

“This damaging and hateful debate that we’ve been having in the provincial legislature around Bill 202 and Bill 10 does nothing but reinforce negative stereotypes.

“Two weeks ago, a member of the legislative assembly got up and proposed a bill that said any kid in school can set up a club and suddenly our provincial legislators – in a time when the price of oil is dropping, in a time when our infrastructure needs are extraordinary, in a time when we have urban and regional issues that we’ve got to get more done on – spent two weeks talking about what club a kid in school can join or not.
“How ridiculous is that?

“How additionally ridiculous is it that we know that these clubs help kids stay safe?
“We know that these clubs prevent suicide, among a group where one third of the kids attempt suicide, and we have the gall to say: ‘We have to balance off your rights.’ That your rights don’t include the right to be safe? To have support to prevent you from attempting suicide?

“What kind of a world do we live in here?

“So thank you very much to the premier – who is a good guy – for putting the brakes on this thing, and putting this thing on pause, because what was happening was dangerous. By saying not all rights are absolute, the government seemed to be saying that our children don’t have the right to be safe. That’s not right. That’s not fair.

“I could go on. OK, I will.

“If we say that we live in a city where we were thinking it would be OK for a 15-year-old to appear before a judge to ask the judge if the 15-year-old can start a club in his school that no one would be forced to belong to, well folks, that would the Scopes Monkey Trial of Alberta.

“We would end up having international attention toward what kinds of hillbillies we are. None of us need that.

“Today is the day for us to say, straight out, that we are indeed welcoming, that we are indeed working hard to make sure that every single person can succeed here, because that is the core of our strength.

“And I’m going to say something else to you, and I’m going to get political for a second, and I rarely get political, as you know. And, by the way, I hate it when the province talks about municipal issues, and so I’ve been holding my tongue on this for a while, but in the end we have to talk about humanity, and we have to talk about human-rights issues and what makes our place successful.

“We often hear people talk about why they vote, and sometimes we vote because we don’t believe or we do believe in a certain tax. Sometimes we vote to protect our narrow self-interests.

“But this conversation that we’ve had over the last couple of weeks gives us a very interesting reason to vote, because sometimes, we’ve got to vote just for what’s right. We’ve got to vote for the kind of community we want. We’ve got to vote for our dreams.

“And this would be a wonderful opportunity for you to let your MLAs know that your vote is available, that your vote is available for people who are committed to making Calgary and Alberta welcoming to everyone, to make sure that everyone – no matter what they look like, no matter where they come from, no matter whom they worship, no matter how they love – has the opportunity to live a great life right here.

“And that we will vote for that community. And that we will vote for that community that we want. And tell your MLA to do the right thing by these kids.”

Sunday, December 7, 2014

For Better or For Worse - The Writer

For Better or For Worse - The Writer

How wild your imagination becomes if someone you love is late coming home. You’re sure they’re safe, but…what if? What if your family is one of those about whom the headlines are written? After all, it’s the luck of the draw. Nobody is absolutely secure. Bad things can happen to any of us. In your mind, you go from imagining fatal accidents to acts of violence to kidnapping — all the stuff you see in the movies. Perhaps what we do is prepare ourselves for the worst. Maybe this is a good exercise, but it’s often far too stressful and far too frightening.

When folks ask how writers come up with so many weird ideas, I use the "missing at night" scenario to explain: Give yourself a situation in which you have no control, something that could go in any direction — this is when your writer’s hat goes on. You want to resolve the situation now; you want to be able to handle whatever happens, and so you let your imagination loose. The next thing you know, you are in the mind of a writer. One small idea bubbles into another. Could there have been an accident?

You visualize this awful possibility: the car, the people inside. Are they on a roadside? In the water? Soon, you’re bringing in sirens — an ambulance and police to the scene. You go from imagining the accident to living through the aftermath: the hospital, the anguish, the lives on the line. You argue with nurses, you fight for the right to know. You call relatives and tell them the news. You wait for the recovery, or you plan for the wake. This is how a writer works; even though you’re telling a story, you feel as though it’s real.

For a writer, imagination is a gift. For someone who is waiting and wondering, it’s a nuisance. The good thing is, by the time you reach the most agonizing chapter in your imaginary scenario, your missing person shows up and you have nothing to show for your night of woe but relief. And…isn’t that a great way for this all to end?

-Lynn Johnston