Thursday, July 9, 2009

DVR Addiction

For months K. bugged me to get DVR for our television. The most common complaint was that her favorite shows aired at either 9 or 10 pm EST, causing her to lose precious hours of sleep each week.

So while I was at the Lesley residency, we made an appointment to have DVR installed. Instantly I became addicted to it, of course, and this has only worsened since.

As of yesterday, the DVR was 52% full, with all of the programming being mine, and the majority of it being either History channel specials or movies that I have never seen but suspected I should see.

Take Contact for instance. Why have I never seen this movie? I couldn't tell you, but with the assistance of DVR I watched it in less than 45 minutes--skipping over the trite parts, commercials, etc. And what an amazing movie it is too--visually stunning in parts and amazingly suggestive and exploratory. Jarhead, too, I thought was an incredibly moving film. Having read the memoir, I thought the movie sorely lacked in the hilarity and cleverness presented by the deadpan and dry underlying humor of the book, but I did feel like the movie was much more suspenseful than the book. I thought several of the scenes were extremely moving too. It is amazing to think that there can be such carnage and such ennui simultaneously. A "jarhead" really does need to have an "all or nothing" mentality to survive.

I wonder if other people have these same DVR addictions. I know a few friends who experience DVR anxiety when it either becomes too full and their DVR begins deleting programming, or when they don't have enough time to watch their scheduled programming. I think I'm beginning to feel this way about the DVR, but it is also proving to be a great catalyst.

While emptying the DVR of programming yesterday and today, I've managed to cut out nearly 55 hours of programming in only a few measly hours and I've managed to get material for at least 6-10 new poems and have written three (drafts) during this time.

Tomorrow K. and I are off for a surprise 'party' for a friend of ours, which I will blog more about during an appropriate time as they might be a regular reader here and I don't want to give anything away. I also may be taking a pilot test tomorrow morning for the MTELs (see previous post about the MTEL tests...), which is basically a quick test that I take and then rate on a questionnaire. It should take around 1 1/2 hours to take and rate the test and the 'reward' for doing it is a $30 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble--well worth it in my opinion.

Blogging again soon.

Start of Summer

So far this summer has been spent doing two activities: playing four square and reading/writing poetry.

I began a job last week as a counselor at the B&G Club daycamp and now spend my mornings and afternoons playing soccer, supervising kids in the pool, playing with gimp and brainstorming ideas for poems. I spend my evenings and weekends reading and writing as much poetry as possible, trying to use what remains of my energy and channel it into profound ideas and radical leaps and surprises in my writing. My success rate for this is so far debatable, at best.

I have come up with a handful of great ideas during the camp day and have dutifully found the first piece of scrap paper I could find to scribble them down to ensure I'd never forget them. I've read two or three books of poetry so far since the residency, and am in the process of reading the book for my 'group' annotation, which will be an annotation that I complete along with the other students also studying with my faculty mentor. The goal of this group annotation is to see what each of us might have missed, to get a better idea of what we each look for and "see" when we read a poem (and therefore what we might write when we feel inspired, and what we'll take away), and as impetus to get all of us into a continued discussion about the book and about our work during the semester.

I'm also reading (here and there though) a bunch of short stories and longer works in anticipation of teaching in the fall. I was also given the great news when I went to see my classroom two weeks ago, that my suggested book for summer reading Rats Saw God has been given the green light as a possible summer reading book for students and I have at least six students signed up for it right now! That's impressive, especially since they probably saw my name and said "who the heck is that?!", but trusted the book cover and description enough to go out on a limb and decide to read it.

When I was in high school I think I considered Rats Saw God to be the next Catcher in the Rye. It was so radically transformative that I think it made me reconsider friendships, appreciate others more, and realize there was a vast world beyond the small town where I grew up. I think before that book I considered I would live and die in that town, would probably marry someone from nearby or from even in the town and would see little of the world. For some reason that desire to strike out and explore, to try new things, to go to college (!), and to really experience life never really brewed within me. I felt lethargic and apathetic to a lot of stuff and never considered I'd be very good at anything--probably because I felt like I was already locked into a schedule and lifestyle that I would never be able to shake away. I think the book ignited something that had laid dormant for a while, and since then I've rediscovered more and more books that continue to excite and thrill me. Now I read, write and create at a breathless pace (compared to what I did years ago), and I consider myself to be a teacher and writer and I'd like to say a lot of the inspiration for 'living' came from the books I read, which really opened up my mind to the promise and impulse of creativity.

I hope this year goes very well. As a new teacher I of course have a ton of ideas about what I'd like to teach, some unique lessons I'd like to incorporate, and some radical assignments I'd like to implement--such as a blog, a webpage, a video for YouTube, some poster board projects, etc. Here's hoping it all turns out amazing and that the students are generally responsive. I think I have skin thick enough to know that many students will be apathetic to the work, many will be uninspired even though others may thrive in the environment, and there are some students that I have that, no matter how diligently I try, will never be receptive to my ideas and will never consider me one of their favorite teachers. My hope though, is that they do learn something in my class and take away perhaps some new vocabulary, ways to extrapolate themes from texts, methods for writing and creating, and a better eye and ear for grammatically correct sentences.

There's nothing more important in this world than education and inspiration.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

Since today is our nation's birthday, I suppose it's an important date for me to begin my next blog post.

Today marks the anniversary of the day that our founding fathers decided, hey, let's have an annual celebration to celebrate July 2. Of course, they decided this on July 3, so they planned it for the next evening. The official date was July 2, but not we accept July 4 as the official day of our Independence. In reality, it took much longer and did not occur on a single day, but if we were to pare it down to a single day: July 2 would be the most historically accurate.

Both former President John Adams and former President Thomas Jefferson (bitter rivals as well as the best of friends during their lives) died on the same fourth of July--quite a creepy fact.

I'll be spending it at K.'s sister's place with many family and friends, and will be eating (hopefully!) copious amounts of excellent food. I'll also be delaying finishing reading my poetry books, revising, and writing, as I should be every free moment for the next 6 months.

Hope everyone has a great holiday.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

End of the residency

I took a strong liking to the end of the residency, but not because I was sick of it, I was just too exhausted to continue going for even another day or two--it really did end at the perfect time.

Now I'm not exhausted with poetry or overwhelmed with the work and the daunting task of writing, creating and reading that is stacking higher and higher everyday, I was more exhausted from the commuting and the immediate life-shift that happened to me when I arrived there. No more was I "Jeff the sad unemployed freelance writer and future teacher," I was "Jeff the optimistic and rearin'-to-go prospective poet."

I tried to give as much astute insight as I could there, and felt for a while that my comments were some of the most valuable and most crucial for the success of my peers' work, but there were a lot of BIG things that I missed. Needless to say, I felt less than intelligent after some of these comments and recommendations, and I came away feeling that my own work needed, well, a lot of work.

While the comments that I got last semester I largely disagreed with (from all that I've read in magazines/journals, in poetry books, and in what I have received as criticism from my other readers), I have to admit the level of criticism rose this current semester and became a lot more intricate.

I will write more, and in more detail, perhaps tonight, but for now, it's off to the shower and to camp, which has become a fabulous summertime experience. The pace is fast (it keeps the kids entertained a lot better than the other camp that I previously worked at), and the weather has been so-so (it's currently raining and 73 today.)