Posted by: codecalla | October 23, 2016

2016 a Great Year?

I thought that the year 2016 would be great.  Aesthetically pleasing to the eye and even.  Reality is more balanced.  My eldest kitty, Boo, a voiciferous Chocolate Point Siamese, passed away at the beginning of the year.  He was 16/17 years old.  I received sad news about kidney disease on my other, now eldest, kitty, Dickens, a tabby/Maine Coon mix, and he now is starting a slow decline of health at the age of 15/16.  We’ve lost notable musicians, actors, athletes throughout the year.  Now, four years after my closest cousin passed away, her father has also passed in the same month of October.  My uncle was a second father to me, and I’m still processing the loss.

It’s fall, a season of losing the green to make way for winter’s hibernation.  Life is an endless parade of seasons–each one marking a new loss.

What has been gained?  Ephemeral moments that are difficult to recollect because the grind of life continues through work, bills, travel.  New friends, old friends, acquaintances, students, and colleagues.  Life changes as each person finds a new course for their direction.  A series of meetings and partings.  Loss and moments of connection.

My closest aunt was seriously ill and hospitalized, and she’s a second mother to me.  Although her illness was frightening, it allowed us to reconnect.  Not that I thought the connection frayed.  Connections persist long after words fade and meetings end.  At least for me.

How can I connect my words to the void of emotion or sadness?  Words cannot be enough.  Words have power to illustrate devastation and loneliness, to injure and to heal.  But sometimes…sometimes…silence is a gift.  Listening and contemplating.  Connecting to the Muse, clinging to hope, because politics, death, and religion seem to drive people apart, when they should do the opposite.

Why do the deaths of celebrities, artists, musicians, actors, writers matter?   Because they reach out to connect and remind us that we are human.

Posted by: codecalla | January 5, 2016

The Moon

Reading the Tarot is a hobby of mine, but more than that, an exercise of mind and spirit.  The many sets of Tarot cards that I have gathered have beautiful artwork and stories to tell.  Sometimes they can soothe, at others they can force one to take a close look at their lives.  For a mindful life, how can we live in such a way that each day creates meaning?

Is it too exhausting to continue to seek meaning and live fully each day?  Perhaps if we don’t allow ourselves to recharge and find balance.

Reach into the wellspring and find the source.  The source is around and within and it will sustain you throughout the travails you may encounter.

Be thankful for the opportunity and the time you have.

Posted by: codecalla | December 31, 2015

Outlines

I usually create a rough sketch of what I want to have happen in the story, but then write with the moment.  I keep track of all the changes in plot on notes and try to organize around what feels right.

I recently read a book about Outlining Your Novel:  Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland.  One of the more memorable quotes was about asking questions.  An outline is the “skeleton” and “what-if questions” are the flesh.  I think that is an interesting and creative method to create outlines.

The joy of writing is the details.  Why did I convince myself that it was a bother?  I love this kind of stuff.

Remembering what compels me to write and why I love it.

I geek out over boring mundane tasks because of the rewards and process and knowledge gained…like archaeology or science.  It’s a painstaking effort of many smaller tasks.

Write on…

Posted by: codecalla | December 23, 2015

Keeping it Simple

I collect writing books like memories.  They congeal in my overwrought and overworked brain and offer some semblance of a structure.  The ideas offer my poor writing secretary [in my brain] a chance to organize the information and file it away.

Then again, my physical self has been writing more internally.  In other words, the hands are not at the keyboard, so the “faucet” or “font of writing” is untapped.  Tapping at the keyboards to tap the ideas within.

Tapping reminds me of Magic The Gathering when cards are tapped or untapped and when the power doubles and grows so that you can power a cataclysmic spell upon your enemies.

Tapping reminds me of Ben Vereen and Dulé Hill.

And all of this cross referencing makes me forget to keep typing and tapping at the keyboard.

Words should dance across the page according to intent.  Words need choreography, structure, rhythm, and purpose.

Writing should be kept simple.  Start typing.  That’s it.

Posted by: codecalla | December 19, 2015

Geeking Out–Leia Unchained

There is a certain amount of pride associated with various fandoms, and I am no different.  I have many books, films, and television shows that I heartily adore.   Even if someone cannot understand the particular compelling aspect of a particular work, it matters not.  The story has touched someone in a way that is memorable.

Star Wars awaits.

Princess Leia was one of the first very strong female characters I remembered watching in a film.  She wasn’t just pretty.  She was smart, capable, and empathetic to the plight of her people.  She stood up to Darth Vader when she was horrifically outnumbered and likely set to die.  She did not waver in her convictions.

The infamous gold bikini, which is incredibly aesthetic and appealing, showed how all of her marvelous qualities as a leader and amazing person were overlooked.  Jabba dared to chain her until she fought back.

I feel as if Leia truly embodied the strength of a person determined to keep fighting for what she believed was right and who she loved.  The gold bikini, as beautiful as it was, epitomized the control of corrupt and short-sighted villains.  Leia was truly more than that.

Unfortunately, the gold bikini catapulted her into a sexual fantasy, which is fine, as long as she remains unchained.  Leia is strong, beautiful, and wise.  She deserves respect as well as appreciation.  They do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Leia challenges us to write better parts for all women, who want to fight and have strong convictions.  She is a role model.

I wonder how many compelling characters are written today for women, especially when it is easy to fall into the trap of writing to stereotype.

Is she a maiden, a fallen woman, a mother?  A spinster?

Stereotypes do a disservice to the idea of humanity.  Women and men are more than their genders or ideas about their genders.  I hope that we can find stories that challenge us and help us grow in our understanding of what it means to be human.

As for me, I’d like to be a bit more like Leia, gold bikini or traditional Senate robes.

 

Posted by: codecalla | November 14, 2015

Je t’aime Paris

When terrible things happen or when life doesn’t go the way we expect, how do we respond?  Do we shut down and continue to torture ourselves with the thoughts of “How horrible!” or keep re-running those images, thoughts, words constantly in an effort to really feel as down as we should?

How do we react to a crisis?  Calmly, rationally, compassionately?

Do we scream, throw tantrums, shake our fists?

I think a calm response can be more effective, even if our hearts are injured, grieving, and longing for relief.

If we continue to focus on all of the terrible events, we miss the beauty of people.

Paris is beautiful.  A handful of people committed an atrocious act, hurting many more, but Paris responded with open arms to those who are frightened, confused, and stranded.

Let us be kind to each other and remember our humanity.

Posted by: codecalla | October 18, 2015

Trust in the Universe

Recently many events have transpired to cause doubt, confusion, anger, and loss of hope.  How often do we tie our personal identity to the nature of the groups we belong?  When suddenly one of those groups collapses, what can we learn from the experience?

The phrase “Trust in the Universe” came from a standard shared meme, but it was also a phrase for consolation.  Despite the difficulties of the moment, of the age, or beyond, what can we learn from the experience or how can we grow and move beyond it?

How can we empower ourselves to reach out into the vast emptiness and find sustenance?  Many things are beyond our control, but we can learn and grow as people from them.  We still have free will in our responses and choices to grow, rather than stagnate in the deepest darkest sorrows.  I am not speaking of depression, anxiety, or any multitude of illnesses that need treatment, therapy, and you can’t just “choose” to get out of it, but how can we manage the every day perspective or person that we try to be?

Writing allows us to explore, create, and destroy universes at will.  Trust in the Universe.

Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Posted by: codecalla | August 21, 2015

I Adopted a Grandmother

I adopted a grandmother.  She would sit on her porch with a stray cat she adopted, and let the cat sleep inside her house at night, even though she liked dogs better.  I adopted a grandmother.  She would tell stories about the neighborhood back in the day, and the next door neighbor Bob that used to live next door and took great care of his house.  I adopted a grandmother.  She would sweetly suggest to the new male neighbor that his new female neighbors were pretty cute.  I adopted a grandmother.  She would listen when I would venture over to her porch for a brief conversation between classes or training.  I adopted a grandmother.  And she disappeared this week.

I didn’t know her very well, but I had adopted her as part of my daily routine, enjoying our brief conversations and her spritely gossip about neighborhood news.  She was tricked into an elder care facility by someone who said she was going in for tests and would return after a few days.  While she thought she was getting tested, they took her car, moved her stuff out of the house she has lived in all her life, and even took away the stray cat.

I adopted a grandmother that someone threw away.  We’re hoping to get a lawyer involved on her behalf.  She is in full control of her faculties and this is criminal.  I hope that we can fight for her.  I hope she’s not too scared in that foreign place, and I pray that she can return home before they sell it.

There are real life villains.

Posted by: codecalla | June 14, 2015

Andragogy and Technology

Adult learning is the focus of my current studies.  One of the most useful insights I’ve learned is that adults tend to learn more socially.  I think that group assignments can be more effective with older students.  Another aspect of adult learning that I’ve learned is that transformational learning occurs at the pace of the student, not the instructor and that students need to adapt their frames of reference to the learning materials.

The use of technology can be inspiring for students and facilitators alike.  The irony is that technology is used in the place of real, long lasting learning.  Technology should not be a replacement, it should be a tool.  When students tend to rely too much on technology it can create problems.  Technology can ease the collaboration efforts of students, but it can create problems when assignments are not submitted properly due to technical errors.  Technology can also create new assignments that challenge imaginations and incorporate new ideas.  Creating new assignments such as web sites, wikis, and short films can be useful expressions of knowledge.

Posted by: codecalla | May 31, 2015

Film and Literature

One of the coolest things about teaching is that you can try new things. For this fall’s literature course, I’m going to implement a new assignment that relates to the works they read for the course. The academic requirements need to be met are fulfilled through the course readings, quizzes, and two papers, but I want to create a creative assignment that will explore their interpretations of the works.

I would love to have them create a fiction work based on the literature, but some students may struggle. I think I will give an option for a thematic work that is based on the literature or related to the themes in the literature for the subject of their assignment. I will give the assignment at the beginning of the semester, so that they can work on it throughout the semester.

They can create a research “documentary” short film, or create an original work.

My goal is for students to find their voices in ancient literature and feel the human connection, even if it is thousands of years ago.

The technology will be whatever the students have available, including Windows Movie Maker or some other editing software. They could use iMovie or other applications from their phones. We’ll have to discuss copyright, copyright infringement, and the difficulties in keeping the material relevant to their vision of their work. The cameras could be smartphones, video cameras, digital cameras, photo stills, and other visuals, if they want to create art.

Some of the ethical concerns, other than copyright, would be avoiding plagiarism, clear assignment guidelines, and rubrics. The tone of the message may alter with the creator, so freedom of speech and political correctness will have to be discussed. Time constraints and the commitment to the course should be considered in relation to their workloads. I may have to adjust some reading schedules or reevaluate how the course will progress through the sixteen week semester. The goal is creative engagement with students.

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