Saturday, February 24, 2007

Babel's Grandeur

Since I got a head start on Babel (see my last post), I was able to finish it up last night. The film overwhelmed me with its attention to simple cultural artifact and its bursting grandiose vision of what film can do.

The cultural and geographic displacement of the characters, and more importantly, the American audience is a work of art: the exuberant celebration of Mexican marriage, the throbbing American dance tunes in a Japanese club seen through the eyes of a deaf-mute girl, the Moroccan family fingering their food from the same bowl. As the images of culturally situated joy dispense, the raw human emotion comes on full force: the mighty Brad Pitt, blood drenched, helping the urine soaked Kate Blanchett onto a make-shift bed pan, the Mexican caretaker with torn festive dress and mascara blurred eyes tromping through the desert in high heels, the Moroccan herdsboy bravely proclaiming before armed men his guilt in a plea for his brother's life.

Displaced from cultural and emotional bearing, Babel is beautiful in its attempt at grandeur, making, as Slate critique Dana Stevens concludes, the award winning "Crash, another recent film with converging stories and a multicultural cast, look like an undergraduate term paper on race relations."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Why I love to work from home on Fridays

1. I can get a headstart on a Netflix movie over lunch (I started Babel today)
2. I get to be home to greet my kids on their early out day
3. Potential for romantic interlude as kids are all at school (w/ my wife of course!)
4. I can take my son and his friend on a hike in the snow (I did that last week--they thought it was an "adventure" as we hiked over snow covered rocks and then all yelled and screamed from a ridge into an echo inducing canyon).
5. I can feel better that my piss poor pay as a teacher is counter-balanced, in part, with the *idea* that I don't have to work on Fridays.
6. I can spend much of the day (if needed, which is often) finishing the book for bkclub (we meet on one Friday a month) and then work on Saturday
7. I can have a cup of tea while grading papers
8. In the summer I can step out onto our porch and into the sun every hour or so
9. In the summer I can take a break by picking fresh tomaoes and yellow bean
10. Rather than getting stuck in snowstorms on the freeway (two snowstorms today), I can get stuck as I hike in the mountains:

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Top of Adam's Canyon

I have only a few words, mostly mere compulsion to document the top half of Adam's Canyon. It seems appropriate to return to this canyon as it was here that I received my winter inspiration (see my earlier post ), my raison d'etre during these frigid months. During my earlier hike I didn't quite make it to the top falls; too much time caressing the trees and all. This time I made it and wow, wow, wow...

Huge layers of ice bursting out from the original falls. I even shimmied on my belly to the edge of the built up (several feet off the ground) ice shelf in front of the fall. I just had to get a few close ups of this behemoth:
And that's just about it for the major winter hiking trails in Davis County. I have, admittedly, left out one biggie, Mueller Park, but I didn't get out there during the freeze and there's not much water to speak of--maybe next year. I was feeling kind of sad about the melted ice, but then it snowed again today. Of course the veneer of snow and ice will be gone in a matter of weeks. It's time to move on I suppose.
Next winter I think I will chronicle the small canyons and rivers, maybe even a few without trails. It's been quite winter; I sure hope to remember at least a bit of what I've come to see right here mintues from my home. Still, I know it will be much harder as cycling season is now starting: competition, drive, details...all pulling me away from mere observation and reflection.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Burnt post failure

Because my own words and images (see my previous post) did not elicit much response, I will cite the words of someone else. These words are about teaching:

"I believe that the best teachers are always deeply involved in the making of new knowledge. Here is where teaching and learning are so closely intertwined: the province of knowledge-making is the province of learning. Ultimately, the role of teacher and learner become ontologically less and less distinct."

This reminded me that in order to achieve this kind of teaching we must see ourselves as learners, we must "remember" in our guts and bones what it's like to try something new, to write beyond our skill, to question our abilities. My guess is, even though it causes me some anxiety, we can't be transformative teachers unless we are ourselves continually being transformed intellectually and spiritually.

While my earlier post may seem like merely one of several winter hiking surveys, it was meant to be more than that. The experience with the burnt trees was surprisingly vivid and lingeringly insightful: it demanded the earnest "poetic" tone. I'm unsure I captured any of that now. Worse, and I hate to admit it, after writing the post I kept checking my email hoping for a response, a connection, anything. Simply put it's good for me to more clearly remember how difficult it is to share your writing with peers, something I nonchantly ask students to do on a weekly basis.

"Teaching is an act of discovery, a continual transformation of itself—when it’s good. The worst kind of teaching, the kind I dread, particularly when I find myself doing it, is teaching things doggedly, the same again and again. Teaching is work, but it is not the work of factories."

Teaching things doggedly--doesn't that just about say it all? Pushing through, not responding but reentrenching. Much more difficult to be dogged when humbled. Be warned: I will attempt earnest poetic tone again.

The full teaching philosophy is found here.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

In reverence with fire

In August or maybe September the smoke swirls off the mountain ridge, sometimes so much it clogs our view. Fires are curious; we chase and gawk at them as if they were rock stars but then we run, kick and scream in fear of their rage, their utter destructive potential.
It goes for miles, the blackened trees like so many arrows, porcupined earth.
The bark cracked, exposed white flesh, still a leader to the burnt saplings: "We gather here today knowing our fate, but we will hold our ground to the bitter end."
But eventually these once flourishing trees will give up the ghost, torrents of water ravaging the land.
Life just down the hill, it barely escaped, now just out of reach.
"Civilized" life down far below, still visibly thriving from this blackened place.
And even here there's a similitude of what is now gone.
Even with mere similitude, my experience in the blackened woods feels as wild and alive as any forest experience: stark black against white; harsh natural forms. But then, a small trunk too straight and smooth, the mark of man, a desperate stand against the flames.
I'm brought back from my dark reverie; I've sat long enough to see the lack of inhabitants, few traces of animal scat or prints, but our marks on the land are ever-present: we burn back nature from our home, afraid of wildfires, only to burn down a mountain and then fight it with a shovel when it dares to return.

Me and son on the castle trail

Last week youngest son and I escaped the smog and in the process documented one more Davis County hike. This trail starts by the "Castle," a house which, as you might guess, looks like a castle. I'm told it actually only has one or two bedrooms, not your family style type house.

It's a strange gothic looking house, gargoyle type creatures strewn throughout the yard. In reality the trail starts out at the Fernwood picnic area but we just call it the Castle trail. There are several trails which start from here. We take the main trail which runs behind the castle up along Kays Creek and then eventually connects with the Great Western Trail.
Here son is eating snow. What a trooper--it was about 20 degrees but I heard nary a complaint. Amazing how little it takes to please a 5-year old. His favorite amusement, as always, was the variety of sticks which he then dragged along in the snow.
The bent over trees maintain moss throughout the winter from the with melting snow. Son had to touch the moss and then we were on our way (three sticks in tow at this point).
Bridges over snow covered rivers and water holes in which to throw rocks and "crash" the ice by stomping, cracking and distorting the ice hole.

Son was hell bent on returning the next day in order to show his brother, sister, and mommy the damage he'd done.
Now on to the south facing muddy slop where we found amazing little patches of green grass; we could hardly believe it.
We climbed up the south face and then turned along the spine of the ridge heading west (off the trail which connects to the GWT) and higher, deeper and deeper snow. We looked back; son couldn't believe it was the same bridge.
Our toes were getting colder in the higher elevation snow...
...but we had indeed escaped the smog; we were free of it all for a moment,

the dark gunk a sharp contrast to the blue sky; it stuck down in the gut of the valley where it hung in our hair, in our lungs, but we had conquered it for now.

The castle in sight we were almost back, a respid for our frozen toes only minutes away.
We'd stomped and tromped in the snow for much longer than I'd thought we would. A stellar little 5-year old as proud as can be, "We were on the moutains, daddy."