Friday, October 16, 2015

Welcome First Class

"Good afternoon" I said sounding attentive by not mumbling. But hustling in. Still staring past everyone out the window. Temporarily skipping the face greeting ritual. Distractedly satisfied by my hour or so twelve mile commute. Where ideas would be ground down by my pedaling churning the mind's equally strategic day launching calisthenics. Coffee for a good deal of us and why others energize hooked up to stationary machines. While outside, once discovered, and even in inclement weather, a destinational rhythm unbinds the speculative intellect. Or not. Like a good walk.

Spending this long on my own bearings is not the best start so I plopped on my desk dangling my legs for the class. Too comfortably close. Yet inspired by the pressure to establish a familiarity since the course wasn't a lecture. And, intentionally, the physical activity loosened me up. As if the exertion itself caused my recalling our professors' examples. How ensconced behind their office desks, utilized by students, or not, the job was specifically about being there for them. Office hours. Which even sounds way too easy since teaching's just sharing what your credentials allow. Less difficult than true entertainment of any extended length of time? Like say the mesmerizing pleasure of a video game or intensely gratifying film or committee crafted spontaneous Ted Talk. 

Needing to speak up and avoid the ridiculous clich├ęs my head swam in, I said, "Really." Then began with an embellishment. An exaggeration? "Any class is the responsibility of a president. An audience of any kind a big deal. But Academia is a special royalty of its own. School is society's serious side. Perfection. Except there's the popular notion every-day normal people are separated from intellectuals by an ivory tower. A convenient political excuse for all intents and purposes shading imagery. Universities are where lives are watched after and theorized on whether students' paths are too cluttered to understand a word of what's repeated in class. I" grinned and "am personally surprised by the attention and comforted by eyes rolled in disbelief."

I laughed too. Nervously. Leadership. Till now all complaint. I sighed. Wondered if anyone even read The Journey Writing The Hammer and Cycle, in Quail Bell Magazine, for theories why my sarcastic experience with repetitive sloganeering is worth consulting. Peeling apart language's distorted disengagement of each new modern era from history's far-from-complete, but nadir reaching, over, evolution. Corrupting the contemporary soul. I tried again calmly staring into the light from the windows. Then took to the floor pacing and confessed. 

"Rejecting the parking lots of Academia thirty-four years ago. Riding here for the first time today, this morning. I was greeted by the same immobile silence as when I drifted away. Daring myself to be a novelist whose rigorous demands precluded an academic's ardent pursuit. Plus the fact is I'm just too shy to have seen myself speaking before groups on any basis. Standing here would be a miracle. So please bear with my getting over the shock. Because ever since Al Gore discovered global warming, I'd had to recognize the world's parking lots are just the best use of our short-term commercial abilities to which even universities are not immune. But cars are great. Delivering us from physical drudgery. And the pervasiveness of the Mobile Throne is not the Chariot's fault. Luxury is intoxicating. But I'd miss a car more if, in my opinion, the bicycle weren't really the absolute right thing to do." Pause. "And the safety issue breaks my heart. 

"So. Transportation nut's out of the way. The idea for this class happened while connecting the dots. Speculating where The Hammer and Cycle went, I'd always remembered the special kick I got when our Russian and Soviet History professor, Dr. Evans, advised monitoring current culture since 'everything's history.' Even morning entertainment news. He watched GOOD MORNING AMERICA on ABC while I was devoted to THE TODAY SHOW's Jane Pauley on NBC. Thirty-seven years later the culture's evolved some. But the puzzle doesn't feel richer from the public figuring out anything in particular. Other than we're sold on excitement and nothing beats provocatively giddy news. As if intelligence is our ability to stabilize confusion for the paltry price of publicity. There wouldn't be ethics boards if everyone could afford ethics. So society's inherent corruptions haven't matured is why touching events to their precedents glimpses tomorrow yesterday today." Goodness, if that sentence sinks in.  

I blinked. "Pivotal to my imagining the world of the hammer and cycle was reading Voltaire's Candide at nineteen. The simple character and theme of searching for 'the best of all possible worlds' was literally worth replicating. A literary nugget expressing what's nuts isn't utopia but all the crap in the way. While paradise for a lot of us is scared to death of ourselves." And didn't mumble, "New York City Police Commissioner Bratton recently said criminals will always be with us. Hopefully no longer the result of the Criminal Enterprise System at least. And I'm editorializing. What's expected from ya'll," I winked. 

Then paused at my desk's short-podium, and turned to the enormous blank wall-screen behind me to avoid eyeballing any individuals. But smiling, said, "Originally the idea for this course is each student slices up three minutes of current events exposing precedents learned in your other history courses. For whole class discussion. Also don't allow this class to compete with your others. It's not debate club where someone wins. This is a grade-less elective for seeing what happens. If lucky while drying out the rhetoric, intriguing questions will pose as answers. And surely something contemporary straight out of medieval history haunts us today. Right? Such as the Holy Bible's gay bias and slavery for instance. And that 'vanquish the enemy' illusion as well.

"Absorb your history classes. This one's for hearing the reactions your ideas cause. Why novelists say off-the-wall things to watch what something sounds like to others. And probably the premise behind Woody Allen's intellectually wacky films. Anyway. History's worth approaching. It's people with their finger on it that's the scary part." 

Then pop. The Wall Screen instantly lights up four rows of boxes down and across corresponding to their desks tiered for unblocked sight-lines. Why the state-of-the-art media center room was reserved.

Grinning I said, "Your desk's control panel has a Present button. When certain that's your desk, enter your name and push Present and your box will disappear and that'll be your assigned desk. Push Present every Friday.

"For an assigned book, in this case, it might be best it's mine. Not necessarily required, but may be of use. Assigning books contradicts this class not competing with your other studies. But for a nudge, I'm recorded reading close to two hours on You Tube: 


"Class has been e-mailed the Contemporary History website password. But. But even to be humorous do not tamper with anyone else's post. Assume embarrassments are available to the public. The class is under no instruction to adopt any style or format. Surprise yourselves."

Man I'd talked a long time so their first meetings could be either private or presentations. This wasn't a goof. There was something else students needed told about my perspective. I clicked my doohickey saying,

"2015 is the 60th Anniversary of Solar Panels"

"From Wikipedia: April 25, 1954, Bell Labs announced the invention of the first practical silicon solar cell. The cells had about 6% efficiency and The New York Times forecasted solar cells will eventually lead to a source of 'limitless energy of the sun.'

"So our economic culture wasn't prepared and didn't have time to accommodate more practical ways of using the environment because of easier methods to commercially exploit money." Sure found this tangent.

I thought about windows again trodding on. Lamenting "The Chinese made solar panels so cheap they're not expensive enough to make real dough. The vaunted hard won nickel made it so an ecological transition is still not quite happening. Poor excuse when you consider how creative we're supposed to be. How many awards we hand each other on a seemingly daily basis. And, to lay the irony thick, September 22nd the Associated Press announced climate change deniers are now doubters. What bloody difference does it make when we've made such a mess anyway? This is the land of confusion. Next the oil industry might prod telephone call centers into badgering the public to buy solar so everyone can hate being bothered by the details even more. Whole states prop up coal because they can't make money any other way. Consumers live there so it's really our economic perspective that needs broadening. I believe the current Bush in the news pressing that welfare button is being cute once again. Because really. Who's been given more than the Bushes? 

"Oops. Oh well. Kicked out my first day? Let's pretend my annoying speech wasn't what I meant. Okay?" They weren't but I laughed, nervously. "Kids keep quiet? Denial sounds just like a politician, right? Look at me sticking my neck out exploiting their family name recognition. At least I'm not claiming God told me it was okay to play Armageddon in the Middle East when everything, about all of it, is pure jingoism. Utter nonsense. We're tragically not that creative despite all our discoveries. Wallowing in successful success. Building walls refining the art of a privileged elite passively aggressively tolerant of led, bled belligerently ungrateful dopes." I smiled. "No, not socialist. Utilitarian, registered Republican.

"As stagnantly played out the conservative vs. liberal political model is not much more than a game of ping-pong. Defining either's political view as a narrow warped sense of righteousness. Intellectually lazy and not at all what the public could understand but what's simple to sell. Get used to it. Capitalism was always a form of socialism while socialism's capitalist too. What's happening is confusing power's gloss over history with what's supposedly a frivolously smudged cultural landscape. Producing blind obedience as the hallmark of a patriotically loyal lapdog public unwilling to face their own ruthlessness." 

Now I wished I'd written something or rehearsed more not to express myself so fully, out loud. "Imagine," I went ahead, "any late night show host, sauntering out from behind their curtains, and standing before their applause pronouncing, 'Nothing will be funny tonight.' Which they'd all probably done somehow or other since sarcasm's humor's path. But what if one or all said they'd decided not to prop themselves up with staff jokes and deal with that bargaining mechanism all-day. Losing touch with their survival's dependence on laughter, they'd wonder aloud why they weren't communicating. And lose it realizing why anyone cares is our devout devotion to amusement. Tainting even news. Because success is pizzazz. Amazing?"

Pacing, I turned back at the door, lowering the dimmer switch. Adding, "Control is the scariest thing others have over us. No one in their exact right mind chooses crime's loss of freedom. Embraces deceit as an opportunity. As predatory as we supposedly were, it's all the more tragic at this polished time. Complainers. Office politics, not a fan. No one should get to rule history." Cryptic For Everybody!

"So. Before trailing off further. To conclude on two notes. Leonard Cohen sang, 'Stuff it up the hole in your culture.' And, till next week, political watchdog Izzy Stone admonished, 'Have fun.'" 

Then, sealing a reasonable start, the first out the door said, "Doesn't he even want to hear what we think?"

Course Proposal: Contemporary History

Roundtable Comparisons of Historical Precedent 
in Current Event Culture. Moderated by 
Cold War parodist, Charles M. Fraser

ISBN: 978-0-9850454-4-9

Professor's Proof Edition Digitally Archived 
06 Aug 2013 12:00 by the National Library of Australia.

Contemporary History meets Friday afternoons for hour-and-a-half discussions of students' video clip collages citing precedents learned in their other history courses. Or, everyone interprets an event. The intent is a prism through which students exercise honing their cultural observations with a credible satirist of the Cold War.
2nd Class
  So, if you can class, watch this film. The Battle of the Bike Ban in The Great Hall of Cooper Union. It was a goal of mine to appear there. 
  ... Staring, transfixed, as the podium's taken hold off and handled, as if lifted like a prop. Public performance, the tool. We're being schooled now as to what controlling one's domain really means. 

They were looking at me think, and I at them, stunned and such. The students presentations were all we had to get to and I couldn't begin by using the first word. With all the hoopla how this was a time of change, the signs spelled this step would come. The great regression. Idealizing hard-a___s enforcement to, in some sense, mirror morality pursuing an endless cycle of misrepresented circumstance. Are decayed theories endorsing the relentless grinding of our inner souls to not be such sycophantic jerks to survive.

At least I wasn't thinking out loud where'd I'd have to explain what I meant by saying that.

The bright guy who woke me at home to make sure his assignment was in before the deadline, though clocked at a half hour late, said, "So, what's the deal?" 

"Well," I said, languidly beginning to express some sentiments. After all, the big deal from the election was that it wasn't predicted, expected, or warranted, understood, and especially not seen. When this was as much an upset as Reagan's winning was. Because Carter took the fall for the American shenanigans that led to the tragic American hostages crisis in Iran. 

"The first film will be Ms. Darrow's. She's ..." 

And I trailed off and stated thinking again . as if a story was growing in my head, nostalgically titled, "To The 20th Century."

Those were the the days and the lyrically were written to a song lamenting past decades. and already close on what's happened. become a century away. The leap's been accomplished.

A student's asking something. "What?"

Bike Shops are the backbone of bicycling's heritage. My father, Malcolm C. Fraser mechanicked a year as the 19th developed into the 20th Century. Inspiring a deep feeling for the shameful nuanced carving of public opinion as if it just took soap?