[obrienatrix talking to herself]

on the liberal arts

[NOTES] (more…)



Becoming and being

& liberal arts education, lifelong learning, being a “liber” free person

Vs. consumerist / consumed horror

Bibliophilia and pretty libraries

See also: otium & self-definition & self-determination

Happy Labour Day for tomorrow, and happy beginning of the academic year to many people …

of bovines and ovines




This excellent essay [quote some excerpts]

Via Karl Steel at In The Middle

Via paper at the Medieval Workshop.

Image of environmentally-destructive agriculture: beyond the land-scarring ploughing excess (Daniel Helbert’s paper, amongst others on the subject); here add slash-and-burn. Rape and pillage, usually applied to humans and objects (and lumped together as one phrase via the human objects of the former being treated and considered as objects; and all objects as things to be possessed, by cela va sans dire, en soi, a man). Dudonomics.

Add in “dragonomics” via Richard Fahey on wyrmhordes, greed for gold + hoarding.

Changing perspective plus technology for intermediation / as prosthesis: Laurie on the fly: can walk and fly, can fly in any way she wills, can also walk up walls and upside-down. Surely, a superior creature and closer to the angels and other Higher Beings?

In part to illustrate the relative weakness of mere land-lubbing bipedalism, the talk featured one of my favourite paintings, (school of) Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s “Fall of Icarus.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landscape_with_the_Fall_of_Icarus

I love this painting. I grew up with it: in Belgium, frequent visits to museums (I was an easy child to amuse, being the geeky type who likes museums, and at that time the Art ancient and co. were all free for kids); physically grew up, first saw in the pram, then push-chair, toddling, held up by a parent, looking up, then Icarus was at nose-level, and so on. Great paintings, like any other great art, they change every time you look at them and there’s always something new to see as well as something renewed. There is more to this painting than the simple “where’s Waldo” joke of spotting Icarus. Anyone who thinks they “know” this painting, have exhausted it, can move on, and don’t need to look at it again except for cursory recognition: they don’t get it. Anyone who thinks the next stage of appreciating this painting is to point out Icarus to other people, smugly, and to do so fast so as to be first to do so, just in case anyone else gets in first: they don’t get it. OK, unless they’ve given others around them time, and treat it as a fun game, and an opportunity to share in the surprise and delight: then they get it. Our keynote Got It. It was a lovely moment, to watch her: clearly sharing in a communal delight, part of it.

That moment of getting it is palpable. To quote a recurring commentative pun at the Workshop: it’s “digging it” in the same way that an audience “digs” live jazz. It’s an interactive knowledge experience, and the happy fuzzies are for all (sensible, sentient, sensitive souls), regardless of their previous state of knowledge on the issue. Because it’s not about what you did or didn’t already know: it’s about doing something different with it with other people; and it’s about what you know being something alive, mutable, that changes and that changes you every time. As with the fly in relation to man, it’s not about you, it’s about that other thing and it’s about the context of interaction, the live-ness and togetherness, the environment and ecosystem as a whole.

This is what good learning is about. Whether it’s a bunch of medievalist experts or beginner language students. It’s a shared knowledge-adventure, it’s about “getting and digging it” together. It’s live performance, with improvisation, with gaps and moments of unscripted space where anything can happen. Those are the moments when magic happens.

When it does, it is not a stereotypically masculine moment of upwards progression culminating in a grand moment of conquest. The Having And Getting described elsewhere on this here blog. To be followed by the possession of Got, and feeding a consumerist throwaway culture of Had, On To The Next One Now. No. That moment (when it works) is, if you will forgive me the continuing sexual stereotypes, a longer moment or a series of interconnected moments. A series of waves. Lappings, ripples, crashings, foamy intermediate moments, the glistening of damp sand as water sinks down. Something remains each time, and still the waves continue. Another analogy–often what happens in this moment anyway–is laughter, a rich laughter that includes lots of giggly bits. Dalai Llama laughter, and education and life pulled and mixed together in “mindfulness.” Montaigne: and he made an appearance in Laurie’s talk too. Rabelaisian laughter and, through his exemplary Pantagruelian works, geeking out as a way of life.

MOOCs do get some things right. Good learning should involve the concepts of “blending” and “flipping.” There’s nothing wrong and everything right about turning things upside down, the wrong way round, inside out, zooming far out or far in and looking–carefully, attentively, openly, mindfully–from a different perspective. No course should ever be taught, no area of knowledge ever educated at/onto people, in the way of Not Getting “The Fall of Icarus.”

Puns are good and great and important, one way being in shifts of perspective and twists in ambiguity, opening meaning up. Related, and perhaps the laughter too, to what happened at the keynote:
I bough some “ready to eat” apricots. They say you are what you eat. Well, I was ready to eat apricots.

Time to quote the marvellous Occitan poem of The Other answering back, with equal status:

on Balzac, Borges, Breaking Bad, and libraries (2)

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 3.49.39 PM

This is the second part of a longer piece about reading, series and cycles, narrative and knowledge, and libraries. It started out as two things: a first post about libraries, and a second post about cyclical narrrative. Then when I saw that the two were connected, I stuck allthenotestogether. The result was a giant hairy indigestible horror, or maybe a horrid giant hairball, so it’s now been split into at least two.

Part the First looked at libraries.

Part the Second looks at cyclical narrative and its connection to libraries, in an attempt to show why burying books in storage silos is a terrible thing to do. There is a way in which it might not be a terrible thing, but this is a way which not yet, I think, been contemplated or created. Consider that post a contribution to my institution’s desire for us to help them with Innovation and Ideas. (more…)

on short stories and books


Analogous to articles vs. books. Though books they are a-changing, and publishing. I hope for the better. Longtime hunch: online writing is already enriching literary forms and styles–from the infinite variety of the blog-post to the epigrammatic pith of the tweet.  (more…)