Day 182, September 14, 2020

Every Day

Today's Soundtrack: A special video performance Simon made of Beethoven's Op. 110 for my birthday!

How does one define beauty? One definition has to be watching your son play Beethoven's Op. 110. It creates such a welling up of emotion in me. I am such a lucky father. It is amazing that I get to witness my son do such amazing things. The performance was only half of my birthday present, the other half was a personal lecture on Op. 110 talking about its context historically in Beethoven's life and some of the music theory that underlies the piece.

Birthday pie is also awesome!

All of my children are amazing... I mean, I also got a bunch of wheels of Wisconsin cheese, and a great chicken themed Zoom shirt for my birthday. What could be more amazing than that?

I'm afraid I was somewhat disappointing as a son. My attempts at beauty were always somewhat noisy and a bit sloppy. I think writing was the closest I got to performing an Op. 110. I think I wrote some decent stories, and a few poems of note... but I was distracted too easily and have not had the sustained attention that might have enabled something special to happen. All of my friends who have found success in their creative endeavors had a clear conceptual vision for what they wanted to accomplish. Even if the end result differed from what they set out to create, that dedication to a conceptual idea propelled them with a dedication to a project that managed to resist the feeble distractions of our humanity.

The first thing I think about with conceptual vision is a kind of discipline. I remember talking with the writer Tayari Jones (she once stayed in my house in Camila's room), and she talked about how she has a minimum page count for every day. She will write at least one page a day, which means, at the end of a year she will have at least 365 pages... and of course most days more than one page will emerge. And out of 365 pages, something can form... much easier than trying to form something out of 0 pages. The poet, Dara Wier, gave the same advice. I ran into her in a bookstore in Amherst and admitted being in a slump where I was not writing anything. She looked at me in surprise and said simply, I write every day. And like a stern master disciplining a wayward disciple, she repeated, "Every day."

It seems like such a simple thing, but they both hold a clear key to creative success. You have to produce something to create something. If you produce nothing, there is nothing to shape, nothing to refine, nothing. On the other hand, even if six days our of seven, the only thing that emerges is rubbish, if something special appears on the seventh day, then there is a whole year's worth of seventh days to work with.

I admire, and aspire to such discipline. I practice a more dilettante version of discipline. I do my pushups on weekdays only, and give myself the weekend off. I write poems, similarly, every weekday morning. And this blog, I dedicate myself to writing each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then I give myself a long weekend off.

I think I am practicing, for something bigger. My grand project. The thing I will dedicate myself to. I always admired Steinbeck, who, while writing the 612 pages of East of Eden wrote another 196 epistolary pages, later published as Journal of a Novel. It amazed me that he could spend a day writing, if I remember correctly, he wrote all in long hand and would sometimes produce twenty or thirty pages in a day, and then he would continue by writing a letter to his friend. My more refined writer friends would sometimes smirk at my admiration of Steinbeck, but he introduced me to my first Asian character in literature, Lee in East of Eden and by cross-pollination, introduced me to Woody Guthrie... so I owe a lot of my formative high school discoveries to long days engrossed in his books from Cannery Row, to Travels with Charlie

Similarly, my son, has a dedicated discipline that allows him to play an instrument as if it is an extension of his mind. It is so interesting that a piano is such a mechanical thing, and yet, the human that plays the keys can evoke such emotion, feeling, and beauty. It is the antithesis of ones and zeroes, it is both perfect and imperfect. It is a conduit for the divine, for what else is such production other than evidence that there is something greater that exists in this world for all of us?

Tomorrow, I'll continue with this thread and meditate on the vision part of conceptual vision.

Take care, be well, and do something beautiful,


A wheel of birthday cheese.

From Our Friends:

From Steve Alves and Food for Change:

Three Free Films

To celebrate your food co-op during National Co-op Month, here's a free streaming link to Food For Change, good until the end of the year. You can post the link on your website, newsletters, Facebook page, and however else you reach your members. There are many co-op members who have not yet seenFood For Change and others who might like to see the latest version and share it. If you do decide to share it with your members, add your name to themap or let us know and we'll put your co-op on the map.

Next is a hilarious short cartoon, entitled Ballad 45. It's a get-out-the-vote video, a song I wrote & sing with accompaniment from Jim Henry and animation by Jamie Elkin.

Related to the short video is a link to the timely Brave New Films documentary, Suppressed 2020: The Fight to Vote, about the tactics used to suppress voter turnout in Georgia's last gubernatorial election, tactics that need to be stopped if we are  to protect what John Lewis calls our "most powerful non-violent change agent."

From the AAG:

The AAG has recently updated and redesigned its Careers in Geography website, adding a range of new content to help students and job seekers better understand career paths in geography. The updated site emphasizes applied career opportunities for geographers in business, government, and nonprofit organizations and features profiles and video interviews with dozens of professional geographers, along with lists of hundreds of employers that have hired geography graduates curated from a comprehensive review of over 60 geography department alumni websites.

From Middlesex Community College:

STEM, Robotics, and Artificial Intelligence Expert - Dr. Ayanna Howard: Live Webinar


Date:              Wednesday, September 16th


Time:              12-1pm


Please join us as MCC welcomes the renowned educator, researcher and innovator in the cutting-edge fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, Dr. Ayanna Howard.  Dr. Howard the pioneering developer of robotic technology for pediatric health care, founder and CTO of Zyrobotics and professor at Georgia Institute of Technology will present on how students can best prepare to pursue careers in the technologies of the future in the AI economy and discuss how AI will change the landscape of work and the social justice impacts that AI could have.

From the Campus Compact:

"Nothing About Us, Without Us": Students and Communities of Color in the Electoral Process
Presented by JoAnn Fields, Asian Pacific Islander Initiative; Pedro Lira, Jolt Action; Tiveeda Stovall, Campus Compact for Virginia; and Jaime Turner, NAACP Youth & College Initiatives 

A little Mary Oliver.

Today's Online Teaching Tips:

From the UD Human Rights Center:

Ferguson Voices Curriculum
Adapted from the first installation of the Moral Courage Project, this high school curriculum equips teachers to introduce conversations on racial justice, identity, and bias into their classroom. Each lesson is optimized for virtual classrooms.
  • Instructional Guide >>
  • Building a High School Curriculum >>

From Academic Impressions:

Strategies to Create More Engaging Online Courses
September 15, 2020 | Virtual Training
Learn how you can immediately create more engagement in your online instruction, virtual learning communities, and course materials.


September 18 | October 5

Participants in this two-part workshop innovate and design solutions and recreate learning experiences by using a proven learning technique grounded in the principles of human-centered design. Learn more!

October 2 | October 9 | October 16

This series of three interactive Teachin’ It! modules offers practical strategies for delivering high-quality online instruction that disrupts larger systemic inequities at the classroom level. Learn more!


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