PechaKucha Enrichment Challenge

This week I went to an event in North Quad’s “Exposure Series,” which takes place one night a month. Each event takes the form of something called a PechaKucha Night, where people give presentations consisting of 20 slides, shown for 20 seconds each. The presentation format was originally designed for architects as a way to keep presentations short. At the one I went to, all presenters were University students and staff. The theme was International Night (there’s a different theme each month).

It was definitely a unique event. The format was one I had never seen before, and all the presenters took very different perspectives on the same topic. One of the presentations that stuck out to me was from a grad student who talked about time she spent traveling abroad. I could tell she was very passionate about her experiences and had a lot to say – but was limited to only 20 seconds per slide/travel story. Her presentation was mostly visual, with many pictures of her and her friends, and much of the speaking time was spent explaining the photos, why they are significant, and how they represent her travels.

This reminded me of my remediation project, which is very image-based. It has been difficult to construct an entirely visual argument, because I am used to using images only as additions to a text-based argument. I like the possible solution that came out of attending this event: using visuals to tell my story and adding words only for context and analysis.

Overall, this was a fun event that I would definitely recommend to you all!

ALSO: Check out the official PechaKucha website to learn more about the format, and watch a lot of awesome videos. I liked this one on the myth of productivity

David Foster Wallace

It’s incredible, last year in English 325, my professor had given us many pieces by David Foster Wallace. They were filled with a twisting plot, almost of a turmoiled mind. The type of writing was so unique, so individual, that we had a hard time wrapping our minds around it, but at the same time we were shown such a different style of literary production that we were ourselves encouraged to try something out of the norm.

I walked into this reading in Angel Hall on Thursday and they’re reading David Foster Wallace. It was his biography, in fact, and for an hour we listened to his fight with alcoholism and his fight with depression, the room was packed. The reader was also phenomenal, sometimes a story really comes alive with how it’s read. He kept the atmosphere light, breaking up the reading every so often with his own thoughts, inputs, or jokes on his own interpretations. He also had the luck to meet some of the characters in the piece, and as he’s describing his encounters, it’s like he’s reading from a book in his mind. I almost remember the reader more than what he read, he had a way of speaking that sounded like something out of an exhaustively written novel. How can you just pull out a sentence like, “The man was like muscle drained through a filter so that it settled heavy on his entire frame?” How can you see the world, and then communicate it like you’re telling a story, so effortlessly?

As the speaker opened it up to questions at the end, I realized I was way out of my league. Many in the audience had studied the life and works of David Foster Wallace and I was just glad to recognize the name. But more than anything, this session has really hit home something I’ve been meaning to do more–read. Sometimes it’s so easy to say I’m too busy, too tired, but I’ve realized that I really do miss a good book. First book to start with? The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

My Case for Enrichment

I’m not totally sure if this counts as enrichment; however I’m prepared to plead my case as to why I believe it should.

As I’ve stated so many times before, I work for the Center for Campus Involvement and we host… well it doesn’t really matter at this point. The point of the whole intro is that there was an event tonight in honor of Native American Heritage Month hosted in part by CCI and so I was working. Basically I swiped MCards and then got to hear the lecture and get paid, which is a pretty sweet set up; I know.

Winona LaDuke
Image from http://voices.cla.umn.edu

Here we go:

So reason number 1: The speaker is an author.

Winona LaDuke was the guest speaker and thus is reason number 1 as to why tonight’s event should be recognized as enrichment. To elaborate, Winona LaDuke is an author (see that, she writes… it counts) who primarily focuses her attention on sustainability and the environment as well as how these issues pertain to Native American tribes today.

Reason #2: I learned a lot about this Earth and it’s resources (it’s dwindling resources at that) that I had previously little knowledge on. Sounds a lot like enrichment to me…

She talked first about her tribe and her experiences as a Native American environmentalist. She then went on to talk about the issues surrounding sustainability and the environment today. She started with the obvious issue of climate change and how it’s affecting crops and animals and the life this Earth sustains. It was all stuff I’d heard of, but never really cared too much about. Then she went on to talk about fracking and how this country is being torn up and burnt down to piles of sand and oil and toxic waste that is ruining our land and our water. Lastly, she discussed food supply and genetic engineering. She talked about how much of the food industry is about business, not really about nutrients at all. That’s actually pretty hard to argue against nowadays.

Finally, reason #3: I learned a new way to think about sustainability and how to spread the word about it.

She concluded with an interesting take on these issues. She basically made the claim that this climate change because of the way we are living today is inevitably going to happen; however, what you do about that change is up to you. I was expecting her to say, “Save the Earth!” or something very dramatic. But I was shocked when she started to talk about how the change is coming and learning to adapt is crucial to survival. One of her examples was corn and how there are hundreds, or possibly it was thousands, of types of corn that can be grown according to what type of soil you are using. Her whole point was that eventually, the country and the world would need to adapt to generating food and energy that is local and is sustainable simply because there won’t be an option for outsourcing once the oil is gone. Which by the way is fairly soon. Like very soon. I saw the graph so just trust me.

 

There’s that. Enrichment. Lots of new knowledge from a Native American activist, environmentalist, writer, former vice presidential candidate for the Green Party, and the list goes on and on. She’s a really inspiring and down to Earth person. You should all look her up now.

Thank you.

How I Write, with Lorna Goodison

Last Tuesday I went to Lorna Goodison’s book reading, as part of Sweetland’s How I Write series. She read several poems from her latest collection, Supplying Salt and Light.

I really enjoyed the event! It is always interesting to hear directly from an author, both to gain insight into the author’s inspiration and to listen to a piece as the author intends it to be heard or read.

What fascinated me most about Ms. Goodison’s work was the way she chose to write about her experiences. Many of the poems she read were about a trip she took to Spain and Portugal. However, instead of transcribing the trip as it happened, which is what I would have done, Ms. Goodison created beautiful stories that truly seemed to capture the feeling of the place she was in.

A few poems that stuck out to me were about African immigrants, such as the individuals who sell goods and souvenirs in public plazas. Rather than writing about these experiences as she observed them, Ms. Goodison added her own interpretations, creating stories about the people she saw and how they may have ended up there. Her poems, overall, were a very pleasant mix of real life experiences and the author’s imagination.

I usually am not very interested in poems, but hearing Ms. Goodison’s reading definitely made me want to read more of her work.

Lorna Goodison- How I Write

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Sweetland Center for Writing’s How I Write serious featuring Lorna Goodison. The audience was treated to the author’s reading of her own poetry from her most recent book and answering of some questions from the audience.

Lorna is Jamaican, which caused for an interesting reading as her accent added flavor to her poems spoken aloud. On the same note, she talked about many different places and cultures across the world. The entire reading felt like an exotic experience, not only inspiring me to write about the places I go, but making me feel as if I had been the places she talked about.

It seemed that she wrote about many things that simply interested her, mostly items that came from her heritage. She wrote about Africans or Christopher Columbus, as a kind of homage for what her history has done for her now.

This reading was a great experience and I’d be interested to see how other authors come off in the same context

Macbeth at the Michigan Theater

This weekend I went to see macbeth live for the first time and this performance with Kenneth Branagh was entirely unique to the many productions of Shakespeare I’ve seen in the past. It was set in the appropriate time period, but what was different about this piece was the fact that it was set “within the walls of an intimate deconsecrated Manchester church.” The audience is seated in the pews on either side of the stage where the players stand on a bed of mud. This gritty, organic feeling does not add, but rather fits perfectly into the natural sense of the text.

It was such an enriching experience to be able to go to an event like this, that are happening all over campus each day. Not to be preachy, but I really hope that more people will attend events like these, especially students. I feel like most of us as students get so wrapped up in our schoolwork and the stress of making it through the days, that there are better ways to blow off steam than getting completely wasted on the weekend. Many people on challenge campuses suffer from alcoholism, but not too many students are addicted to art. Maybe we should choose the healthier alternative; just a thought = )

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it’s time to slam

So I went to the poetry slam this past Friday and the first announcer did that “ayyy repeat after me!” thing to get the crowd excited. He went “POETRY” and we went “SLAM” and he said “U” and we said “M” and it had the exact crowd-exciting effect he intended, except then for the rest of the night I somehow got the Space Jam theme stuck in my head, substituted with poetry slam-related lyrics. If you missed out on the 1996 classic starring Michael Jordan/Bugs Bunny, or just want a refresher (you do), here’s what went through my head on Friday night (replace “jam” with “slam” where applicable).

The actual performers, though, did an amazing job relieving me of the whole song-stuck-in-your-head-itis (though not gonna lie, I’m not sure how much I trust those who dislike that song). I went with my two housemates and none of the three of us had any preconceptions of the night – we knew there might be snaps involved but that was about it. The poets ranged from adults who perform weekly as part of the Ann Arbor Poetry Slam club to students during the open mic, who were competing for a spot on the UM team, to the final guest performer, T. Miller. We haven’t discussed poetry much in my gateway class, I guess just out of the nature of our projects, but I’d definitely like to learn more about the technical side of the style –  there must be so many rhetorical methods behind the scenes used to turn strings of words into some of the affecting, creative pieces I heard on Friday. Then again, I get the sense that out of all forms of writing, poetry seems to be one of the least formulaic in terms of recognizing when it’s most powerful. I mean, you just know.

Advice for future Margot and anyone who feels a little uninspired: if you want to remember why you like writing and the power words have over pretty much anything, go to a poetry slam and/or listen to T. Miller. She’s ranked third in the country or something equally ridiculous and it’s pretty obvious why after hearing her perform. Not only were her words incredibly powerful but hearing someone’s writing delivered with exactly the tone they intend to convey, with no possibility of misinterpreting the reading, adds a whole other dimension I hadn’t thought about before. Hearing poetry delivered with such vulnerability and honesty reminded me how important it is we keep listening to each other’s stories and tell our own, not necessarily via poetry slams or even in writing, but just in daily life. I definitely wasn’t expecting to enjoy myself as much as I did on Friday (and my housemates said the same afterwards) and I believe there’s another slam on Nov. 14 🙂

National Writing Day Fun

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Last friday was National Writing Day! What a fun day for the Sweetland Center. After years of writing on my own and trying to make writing more prevalent in my English Major, I was very ecstatic to be a part of a community that was all about writing, and celebrating it!

I came to the diag and saw a few people I knew working the booth with chalk and free food, as well as my Gateway teacher Naomi Silver. After talking about how amazing the minor in writing was for about 30 minutes I decided it was time to write.

The diag was covered with “Go Blue”s and “Michigan Wolverine”s that I decided I’d stick to a classic quote by Ernest Hemingway. No significance to the words, I just thought it was a fun quote to put down in chalk. I had a great time expressing myself and celebrating with fellow writing enthusiasts! I’m excited to get even more involved in the program.

In Case You Missed It.

I know we all know this, but last Friday was the Write-A-Thon for the National Day on Writing. Yay writing! I volunteered from 12-1 and so I was there for the very beginning which was pretty interesting.

Here’s a list of fascinating things that I encountered just within one hour:

#1 – Nobody knows what the National Day on Writing is. Seriously. Not one person knew what we were talking about. Every time I said it was  the National Day on Writing people looked at me like I was nuts and I had made it up.

#2 – People are really afraid of the Diag. Everybody walking by quickly diverted their eyes and avoided me like the plague. All I wanted was to give them a piece of chalk. . . I didn’t think I was that scary.

#3 – Once they realized I wasn’t going to make them sign up for something, pay any money, or give me their first born child, people really got into it. People stuck around for 10 or 15 minutes writing things or drawing pictures and told their friend’s passing by to stop.

Just 20 minutes into the event, the Diag was quickly being filled with chalk and inspiration.
Just 20 minutes into the event, the Diag was quickly being filled with chalk and inspiration.

So I’m not really sure what it is about publicity on the Diag, but I find that people are extremely resistant to figure out what’s going on. If they finally stop to hear what you’re doing though, the impact can be really awesome. I think a lot of people who wrote something were having a great time and at the very least got a little stress-relief in.

Write-A-Thon

So of course, the ONE day that I have to actually sleep in past 7am and relax a bit, I get called in to work at 8am.  What’s even worse is that I was already scheduled to work from 2-6m, but my manager thought “Hey, let’s just call in Alyssa and have her work a lovely 9 hour shift!”  (Well okay, that’s not exactly what she said, but that’s what I imagine her thinking…)  Anyways, this kind of put a damper on my being able to attend the Write-a-thon on the Diag last Friday, which I was very bummed about!  I like creative events like that where people can just drop in and write something (I went to one last year and thought it was so awesome!), and of course, I loved the pins we got in class (pins are my weakness).

Chalk Writing on the Diag
A work of art found on the Diag!

I ended up getting out of work early at about 4:30, but by the time that I made it down to Central Campus there was nothing left but a whole bunch of chalk writing all over the Diag.  It was actually really cool to read.  I walked around all of the families in town for Parent’s Weekend reading what people had wrote.  The picture above is something I took on my phone, it made me smile after an incredibly long day of work.  It’s just a testament to how awesome writing is.  It can make a difference in the lives of others who are reading it — and you never know who you’ll be reaching out to!  🙂