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Showing posts from June, 2015

A Fiesta of Giovanni's Tender Buttons, Revisited

In January 2015, I taught a class in Paris which took as its source texts the writings of the American expatriate writers of the early to mid-twentieth century. In chronological order, they were:

Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, In Our Time, & A Moveable Feast (written and published towards the end of his life, but the events take place in the 1920s).
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Babylon Revisited
James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room
David Sedaris, various essays about his Parisian experiences.

In preparing for the class, I read Stein and Baldwin for the first time, though of the two, I have to say I am only ashamed that I left it so long to get acquainted with Baldwin's writing. My experience of reading and talking about Stein is as someone who recognizes her as an important literary landmark for her experiments with language, but who leaves me cold in terms of an emotional response. In class, by the way, I am completely professional and leave my…

Blogging about Teaching Blogging

Nine days ago I taught two classes about the mechanics and craft of blogging to twelve adults at the Interlochen College of Creative Arts. The first class, which I've taught several times before, was a day long session exploring the ins and outs of creating a blog, playing with the layout and template, establishing a preliminary design, using Google's Blogger app. The second class was a new one called Crafting Great Content, in which I took my years of blogging and put them together with the creative writing and process classes that I have taught at Columbia College and elsewhere. I hope the result was satisfying to the participants. I think that the combination of direct advice and the sort of generative, in-class writing that I've learned to use at Columbia led them to explore some new ways of writing in a blog. I will be very interested in getting feedback from their evaluations, so that I can tweak the class format if necessary.

One person wrote a hilarious anecdote t…

Short movie from Interlochen

While teaching a monoprint class for adults at Interlochen a few days ago, I wandered around the studio room taking short videos on my S5 of participants as they worked. Then I used a feature of the camera and cloud photo storage app in the latest version of Android to knock out this little movie. Total time from filming until playing it back on YouTube: 15 minutes.


Printing like a painter at Interlochen

Today was my third day of teaching in the adult summer classes at Interlochen, and the first day of my monoprinting class. It's the second or third time I've taught this class here, and as usual it doesn't take long for the beauty and simplicity of monoprinting to take hold of the participants and lead to some very fine results.


We started the day with a talk about the history of monoprint, illustrated by projecting images from my laptop. Then we got into contact monoprints, which this class liked so much that it took us up to 2 pm until we changed techniques.

For the rest of the session, I helped the students make prints by painting with the inks using brushes on the monoprint plates, with thick and thin ink, then taking prints from the plate with dry paper and damp paper, using hand pressure and using the printing press. Everyone got at least one fine looking print out of the day:





It's hard work, printmaking. Not like working in a factory, of course, but still, you s…

John Ruskin in the Movies

John Ruskin wrote the book Praeterita, from which I took the title for this blog when I started it at the end of 2009. Ruskin was one of the pre-eminent writers in England in the second half of the nineteenth century, equivalent to ... well, it's hard to think of an equivalent in today's culture. It would have to be someone of extreme erudition and massive, uncompromising intellectuality, such as one only finds perhaps in the narrow world of academia now. It would also have to be equally someone who was as famous as, say, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey. Those worlds diverged some time in the last century, so it's inconceivable that such a person could exist nowadays who combined fame and elitism to that extent. But you have to imagine that sort of combination to get a feeling of how Ruskin was regarded in his time.

And how times have changed. He is so little read now, that it's almost comical to imagine him being even a minor subject of a movie. And yet, when I wa…