Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Poetry Affair

I have a history of taking Eddie to places where we might wake up murdered.  Finding LTV Studios at dusk is now part of that history.  Why I thought East Hampton was west of Southampton, I don't know, but I do know that by the time we found the studios in the middle of the woods all the way out east, we were happy to be alive even though our asses were asleep.

One of the poets for whom I did some editing work invited me to read with a gang of East-end poets at A Poetry Affair, a wonderful gala set up in a beautiful TV studio.  We had the opportunity to sell books and meet the audience, and since I have no books to sell, I brought a clipboard for an email list and a bunch of strips of paper with all my avatars (Tumblr, Pinterest, this blog, that blog) listed.  Knowing audiences the way I do, I started the list with two fake names and emails because no one wants to be first.  You know what?  I got two more, though the first one I'm pretty sure was out of pity because the woman next to me was lining up five different books that she's had published and was having a difficult time finding space until I told her I had no books so she could use my space.  Then she asked how I was going to decipher the first two names on the list (which I'd scribbled but she didn't know that), so I said, I'm an English teacher so I can read any handwriting, and that was, apparently, the funniest thing in the world.  Or she was laughing because of all the pity.

Cool signs. In the woods.
The stage was gorgeous, tea lights and green plants.  There was also a massive screen at the back of the stage so when a poet read, the head of the poet was a hundred times larger in the back of the stage.  The organizer told me I looked stunning on the screen.  I told myself it was a good think I'd used self-tanner all week.

Odd things: the people in front of us seemed to have luggage.  However, I realized they were suitcases carrying books, so that wasn't so odd after all.  Someone sang.  Eddie loves it when poets sing poems.  Someone was sleeping.  Someone always falls asleep.  Eddie usually takes a picture of the sleeper, but wasn't able to do so because it was too dark.  I think one of our favorite things is people falling asleep in public when not on transportation.  Public transportation sleeping is perfectly acceptable.  Otherwise?  Public sleeping is almost as funny as people falling, which is the funniest thing in the world as long as no one is hurt.  Anyway.
Luggage.  We are such assholes.

I look like I'm about to beat somebody up...
...and then hiss at them.

I had a really great time reading.  I was prepared to read for nine minutes.  I watched the timer in the back and ending my last poem as it wound down.  I followed the directions.  Other poets?  Not so much.  One went up and talked a lot and ran way over time until the organizer told her the timer was in the back and she was like, Oh! okay! just one last one then.  One poet couldn't believe how much time he had and kept thumbing through pages to fill the time.  In between, there was some really good poetry.  There was some questionable poetry.  Then, of course, there was the audience interaction and singing.  By the time it was over, we were wiped out and realized that we'd still be listening to poetry had the two other poets not canceled.  We were also starving because we hadn't eaten because it took almost two hours to get there and the snacks were not the type of snacks that fill you up.  So I thanked the organizer, gathered my clipboard and papers, and we headed out to Burger King.  In about two hours, we were home, thinking about how to install a large screen somewhere in the house to project our heads onto it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Transitions and Transactions: It's A Conference Thing

I'm slowly making my way into the conference presenter phase of my career. I'm starting with close-by conferences, so when I saw that BMCC was hosting a conference that focuses on pedagogy for community college instructors, I figured I'd get a lot out of it, and it was local enough to not be an astronomical expense. (FYI: I always feel like a tool when I use the word pedagogy). The conference had a lot to offer, perhaps too much. It was three days of about five sessions each, and during each session, like six workshops were running. The crowd was spread thin because of so many choices, but the choices seemed interesting across the board. I went only on Saturday and chose beforehand what to go to for the morning, and figured I'd decide at lunch what to do in the afternoon.

Getting there was easy and not much is going on in the city at 8 AM on a Saturday. BMCC's campus is gorgeous. When I got there, breakfast was ready, and I chatted with a teacher from the Jersey/PA area as we went over the sessions offerings. We were both presenting in the morning hour and still couldn't decide what to do in the afternoon. The keynote right after breakfast was schedule to be Billy Collins; he was going over some papers and chatting with some folks two tables over. I was a bit more excited for the free stuff I'd already scored. I suppose it's not exactly free since the conference was 100 bucks, but since my department's committee approved funding, I'm getting reimbursed, ergo free stuff.

Inside: campus map, program, loose leaf paper, a list of events happening in the city. The pen writes amazingly.
One of the conference coordinators introduced Billy Collins by offering an anecdote about being on a packed subway and reading his poem that hung on the subway car wall courtesy of the MTA's Poetry In Motion campaign.  It was a feel-good story.  My story of the subway that morning is: I was sitting quietly on the subway one stop before I had to get off when the doors didn't open quickly enough for one man who decided to bang on them and scream Fuck multiple times to get them to open.  Also a feel-good story.

Billy Collins's talk was great.  He said a lot of interesting ideas about teaching poetry and the differences between poetry and prose.  He offered some interesting suggestions for reading, and I'd heard some of it before, but it was the good kind of repetition. 

I was paired with an English professor from Oregon who was giving a presentation on a lesson of imitation in the online classroom.  I was giving a presentation on geo-tagging maps for creative composition.  Basically, our presentations had nothing in common other than they had a technological component.  When I arrived at the presentation room, a volunteer student told me to come back later because there was going to be a presentation.  I stated that I was the presenter and she told me that I was early.  I said that I wanted to set up my presentation on the computer and she said, We have no internet. 

Say what?

She repeated it again, and I asked if they could get wi-fi in the room because my cell was using the campus wi-fi.  Apparently, that was not an option, and then a bit later on, someone from the conference came in to apologize that the server was down for the entire campus and no one could use the internet.  At this point, some attendees were filing in and one of them piped up, Well that's why you have to use PowerPoint!  PowerPoint is the back up! Always be prepared!

More on her in a bit.

I had a PowerPoint presentation ready to go, but it also required the internet.   Because geotagging takes place on the internet.  While it has screenshots, my presentation also includes showing people how to get into the sites and navigate them.  Hence, using the internet.

So I was in a classroom with non-functioning technology to give a presentation on how to use technology in the classroom.  This, folks, is what we in the English profession call "irony."

At least the view was pretty.

My co-presenter didn't need any technology.  She began and gave us handouts.  Her lesson was pretty interesting, and I thought about how I could use it in my creative writing course. 

Then came my turn.  I began my PowerPoint (when I first loaded it, my co-presenter said, I already love how you use PowerPoint when the beginning screen came on--I make my PPPresentations pretty!).  I got through the basics and used my skillz of creativity and imagination to describe what maps and geotagging look like and how the process works.  Then when I got to the links page, I said, Lemme just try it. 

It worked!  We all cheered!  I was able to click through a few examples.  Then I tried to sign in and the internet wasn't having it, so I steered away from signing into sites, but was able to still navigate pretty well and again fall back on my description skillz to fill in the blanks.

Then came Q&A.  It was pretty standard and interesting.  And by that I mean that of the six participants and one moderator, everyone except for one got the concept of Q&A.  You can probably guess who was the one who didn't play by the rules of discussion.

Be Prepared With PowerPoint Woman decided to first teach my co-presenter her own lesson on imitation complete with textbook suggestions.  My co-presenter answered with, I'll definitely check into that.  Then BPWPPW asked me if I'd ever heard of such and such and explained that where she works the students make maps all the time and one of them is a walking tour the Brooklyn Bridge official website uses because it's so good and I should have mine make walking tours and have I ever heard of blah dee blah and I should definitely do this, this, and that.  I answered, Wow okay I'll definitely check into that.

Well, that was my professional out-loud answer.  My inside my head answer was: Umm, why would you go to a presentation at a conference if you already know everything about it? 

With my presentation over with, I was looking forward to learning pedagogy (tool alert).  I went to a workshop called self-assessment in the community college class, but I didn't really understand how the title of the workshop matched the content that dealt with whether or not to use the traditional canon.  I enjoyed the content that opened up into a bigger discussion about teaching in general and one of the panelists said something that completely sums up higher ed today: Students have been rewarded for bad behavior.  So true.  So many of them have been rewarded for just showing up that when they get their first C or D because they really can't write, they become shocked and appalled.  Also, during this panel in this very small room, this lady decided to take a nap (or maybe she just fell asleep).
Face is blurred to protect the sleepy
Lunch was next.  This conference did not scrimp on lunch.
Half eaten salmon after a finished salad with fruit on the way
Everyone at my table found out there was going to be a raffle for which none of us had signed up so we made a mass attack on the table outside of the dining room and all came back to throw out raffle tickets in the bucket.  Good thing we did because after a few rounds, I won.
This conference?  Is awesome!

During lunch, the keynote panel was about healing, but I'm not sure if they actually got to the healing part.  It was very depressing, very interesting, and very moving. 

Afterwards, I decided to go to one more panel called Topos and Text: The Importance of Place In Teaching of Literature.  The first presenter read from a paper.  Straight through reading.  Not like bullet points and looking up and talking about them.  Nope. Just reading straight through. I couldn't follow it.  I had no idea what it was about.  I'd also had two cups of tea, so I quietly got up and went to the bathroom.  When I came back, he was still reading, eyes locked on the paper.  I ate a cookie.

The second presenter had a PowerPoint that didn't need internet.  It was fabulous!  She teaches in New Mexico and discussed regionalism and using literature of the region or about the region, incorporating the experience of the Southwest into the course, complete with a field trip!  Afterwards, I told her I wanted to move to New Mexico and talk her class.  She encouraged me to do the same kind of class with my own students (I'd explained earlier that I'd presented on maps in the morning and now felt bad about how I don't do more local literature like Whitman, which is also when Paper Reader asked, Why Whitman? and I didn't really know how to answer that since I'd already explained how I live on Long Island).

There was a book fair and another session planned, but I was all pedagogied out, so I hopped on a subway, read some Poetry In Motion, and came back home (complete with one more tea bag I'd taken because I liked the quotes and wanted another one).

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Family Loves Billy Joel

A family outing -- mom and dad's gift to us for no apparent reason other than my mom and dad wanted to see Billy Joel and Eddie's always wanted to see Billy Joel and my brother and I are our parents other children.  So off we went!

Before getting on the train to the city, I remembered the rule I'd made quite a few years ago that my mom and I cannot go to concerts together.  Why not?  Why are we waiting inside?  Should we go outside now?  The train is coming. It's coming.  We should go outside. Mom, it's cold, and the train has to pull in and stop before we get on it. We should go outside and wait.  This from the woman who has spent half her life on trains and also ran up and down stairs to catch a train from a different station to get to see the Janis musical.   Meanwhile, my dad and Eddie are laughing at us.  Nice.

When we got to Penn, we headed up the escalator and climbed some stairs and then faced the chaos of security for which we all got on separate lines.  From three rows over, I hear my mom shouting my name.  I turn and see not my mom but T and N!  T and I had spoken earlier in the week and found out that we were going to the same show, but there was no plan to meet up.  If there'd been a plan, we wouldn't have met so easily.  Instead, after the security guy accidentally got his wand stuck in my hair (for which he apologized profusely), we all met up inside under the ceiling that Eddie likes so much because it shows hockey games on it.  We split up so my parents could find an elevator and then wound up on the escalators behind T and N anyway. 

Finally, we got to the seats where my brother was waiting and found that the seats had tvs.  Why did the seats have tvs?  We turned them on and watched some sports channels while we were waiting, but why were they there in the first place?  Eddie and my brother thought that maybe it was because the press people sit near there, but they can have their own tvs in the pressbox, so again, why are there tvs?  This was my second trip to the new Garden, and yet again, I was finding surprises left and right. 

After settling in with snacks (I was between Eddie and my dad so I was passing Peanut M&Ms back and forth), 8 PM rolled around, the lights went down a little, and then the crowd went wild!  For Gavin DeGraw!!

Now none of us knew there was an opening act, but when Gavin DeGraw came out, my parents had no clue what was happening.  All they knew was that the man at the piano was NOT Billy Joel.  My brother knows of Gavin DeGraw, but he's not a fan.

Me and Eddie on the other hand?  Well, let me just say what Eddie said to me in that moment: "I've seen Gavin DeGraw in concert more than any other singer I've seen live." And that is so true.  Gavin DeGraw has opened for pretty much any concert we've been to.  And so while the family sat stunned and confused, Eddie and I sang really loud and obnoxiously, swaying and clapping, rooting on our now favorite musician of all time.  I kept saying to them, You might know this song!  They were like, no we don't.  They recognized one song he sang (you know, the one from that awful OTH show, the one everyone knows).

The lights came up, and then the lights went down.  Then there was a man at the piano.  And it was, finally, THE Pianoman. And it was magnificent. We all sang. We all clapped. We all swayed. We cried in different capacities when he sang Goodnight Saigon and had the FDNY on stage. He played "When I'm 64" and some other non-Billy-Joel tunes. He played some songs I've never heard of. Then he played more stuff we knew and we sang some more and then some more again.

It was a long concert that went quickly. We were beat by the end. We said goodbye to my brother and then hopped on the next train home from Penn. It was the longest train in the history of trains. Even my dad said, That train ride was so slow!, and my dad usually doesn't mind anything. Still, a long train ride home is worth every second of a Billy Joel concert. And that's why I have awesome parents.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spring Spirit

Getting into the spirit of Spring has a lot to do with getting into the Easter swing.

So Eddie and I visited a bunny.

Then we built a bunny tower.  It fell quickly.

Then I made a friend, which has nothing to do with Spring or Easter, but it is still nice.

We supported our local fire department by having a gas leak in the basement.  A fine fire fighter wearing a fancy kilt walked around the house with a gas-detector meter.  He said our floor was all clear.

We made eggs with Dad. 

Then we saw this.

Spring has sprung!

A Summary of Free

With loose leaf paper inside!  Free conference stuff always makes me happy.

Speaking of free conference stuff...WON this at a conference RAFFLE!
This was shoved in my screen door.  Free stuff now simply appears at my doorstep.

Buttercrunch matzah! Courtesy of Southpaw Sweets, the best dang remedy for a sweet tooth.

Er, um, okay, I took an extra tea bag from the conference to drink at my leisure. 


More hydration!

I can watch The Vampire Diaries....

and Arrow...for free
I can't find anywhere that sells this but I can get one for free if I find it.