November 30, 2007
Illumination: Sunday Morning (the poem and poam)
Several weeks ago in class, we were asked to take time out of class to go and ask people what poems illuminated them. While myself and several other students were in the process of asking one student this question and describing our assignment, a girl passing by told us that she was with a group that was doing something she thought we would be interested in. So we followed to passerby, and met the cast of Sunday Morning, a production that was put on earlier tonight, and will be performed tomorrow at 1pm and 8pm in the Duderstadt. Sunday Morning is a poem by Wallace Steven's. What the group that we met did was they all read the poem, and then spent several weeks brainstorming what the poem meant to them, and how the best way to act out what the poem meant to them could be accomplished. Then, with the direction of a director, and the help of a writer to record and revise all of their ideas, they made performance of their best interpretation of Sunday Morning, which I attended along with Henry, who had also talked with the group putting on the production.
Before I attended the production tonight, I read the poem several times. The first time reading the poem I didn't have a good sense for what was going on, and what was being described, because the poem is longer than most I am familiar with and has a unique way of describing what is being talked about. After rereading the poem several times, I started to gain an understanding of what was being described. The poem talked of the last days of life of an individual, the things that were observed and then the journey to the afterlife, and the experiences of this person there. Many things are described in detail in the poem, of what I interpreted to be those last days on earth of the individual and the interactions with the things around that person. After just reading the poem, I can't say that I had any specific illumination, because it was hard for me to relate to the poem. The poem to me, seemed general and not specific enough, which has always been a tough concept for me to grasp. But then I attended the show.
The Production (or poam)
I want to first preface what I am going to describe by saying that it is very rare for me to attend a production like Sunday Morning, whether that is due to apathy or ignorance I cannot say, but I am glad that the circumstances fell into place for me to have the opportunity to attend, because the production was wonderful. This was exemplified by the fact that when I read the poem before I attended I couldn't relate or make any connection to it, but after I saw the production I was able to better understand the groups interpretation of it. They made it more personal, it was the story of a certain person moving from life to afterlife, and his experiences before and after he was 'living.' They also added a comedic element to the poem which made it even easier for me to relate to. Seeing the poam as the man's journey and interactions his last days on earth, instead of just an individuals journey had a lot more resonance with me. When I think of the poem Sunday Morning, instead of relating to the words of the poem, I will make a much stronger connection to the poam because it was so visually appealing and took advantage to the fullest the positives of a 3D mapping. Being able to see and hear left much more of a profound impact on something I was already familiar with than the words themselves did.
November 29, 2007
Situation ID Challenge Thoughts
As my group was trying to determine our situations of fork, properties of fork (plural), and property's of fork (possessive), several things came to mind. It seems that for all of the situations of a fork we were able to develop, they all fell into one of three categories: either as a utensil, an accessory (decoration or functional as in a hair tie), or as a tool not used for eating (for digging, perhaps). But even as I write this post, the overlap and need for clarification between all three becomes relevant. Even the classifications of tool and utensil are overlapping, since a utensil is a type of tool. Even so, I found that the best clarification were the 3 that I laid out before. Within each subcategory, there are numerous variations of a 'fork.' Example: For the utensil clarification, there is entire section of the wiki article on forks that gives over 20 examples of different classifications of forks used for eating. In addition to that, the disambiguation page for forks also has other listings of situations of forks, but the overall idea is that they all fall into one of the main categories I laid out before.
The properties of a fork (both plural and possessive) seem to originate from the different situations of a fork.
More to come on this idea after next Monday's class.
November 28, 2007
Illumination: Unspoken Relationships
In my search for illuminations I've had to do a lot of looking back to find things that I have found illuminating because I've had quite a bit of trouble realizing whether things are illuminating or not in the moment. To help you understand this illumination I need to explain my family. I live with my dad and my two younger brothers: Alex who is 17, and Zach who is 12. My dad has been a great influence in my life, and I credit him with helping to mold me into the person I am today, and have told him this numerous times. One of the things that he has always stressed with my brothers and I is how important it is to him for the three of us to be close to one another. Here enters the conflict. Since Zach and I have such a large separation in age, our relationship is more of one where he looks up to me, trusts everything I tell him, and we almost never disagree. My relationship with Alex is, well, different. Since we are a lot closer in age, my dad compares Alex a lot with me, which in all honesty isn't fair to Alex, since he is a different person, but it still happens. Alex is different from me in the fact that he is very hard headed, he doesn't deal well with being told that he's wrong when he thinks he's right, and doesn't do a good job with expressing what he's thinking, which gets passed on to me a lot when my Dad vents his frustrations with Alex and his college search to me. Since I have been away at college, I've tried helping Alex with a lot of the things he's dealing with in high school, since it wasn't long ago that I went through the same thing. Most of the advice I have tried to give has resulted in conflict, with Alex being one of the most frustrating people that I care about to try and deal with on a consistent basis. To summarize: Alex is hard to understand, mostly because he doesn't communicate which makes it frustrating for me because I am in a position where i want to help him as much as possible. So now, on to the illumination.
Several weeks ago, right after the elections in November, I got a phone call from one of the teachers I had in high school who has Alex in his history class right now. After talking about how I was doing, and how my teacher was doing, he congratulated me on having such a great brother, and couldn't stop with the compliments about what a great person my brother was. My initial reaction was, as you can imagine, shock, although I know my brother to be a very personable individual person with anyone that is not his own family, I didn't think someone's personality alone could garner such complimentary remarks. So then my teacher explained it to me. A representative from the Stark County Board of Elections had approached my former teacher trying to find students who would be interested in working at the polls and getting paid, since the county had a shortage of poll workers. He then explained how my brother, in addition to signing up to work, had taken the idea a step further. Alex approached his Speech Team adviser (who also teaches speech class at the High School) about this as a potential fund raising opportunity for the Speech Team. The Speech Adviser told my brother that she thought it was a good idea, but that if he wanted to do it, he would need to organize it. From there, my brother made contact with the director of the Board of Elections, who gave him the okay for the idea. Then, Alex made a presentation to all of the speech classes at the high school about the idea, and got somewhere around 20 people to sign up to work at the polls, and in addition to that got each of those 20 people to donate all of the ~$100 they would make in the day to the speech team.
I didn't know what to say. I still have trouble describing what I feel about it, other than to say that this was an illuminating moment. The fact that my brother had this idea, and saw it through to completion is still amazing to me. To through this one act, that even though he is a much different person than I am, he is still able to be successful was an illumination.
November 27, 2007
University of Michigan Football: A Guide to Illumination
One of the more illuminating phrases (can this be considered a poem? or a poam at least?) that I have come across at my time here at the University is a quote that come from the former football coach Bo Schembechler. The quote is 'Those Who Stay Will Be Champions.'
I didn't know much about this phrase before watching a recent HBO Documentary on the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry. I knew who had said it, and that it was intended for the football team, but didn't know the context in which it was applied. One of the first things that Coach Schembechler did when he was hired as the head football coach was to put up the phrase 'Those Who Stay Will Be Champions' in the locker room. When football practice started, and the workouts were intense players started to quit, he referred to the quote he had put up in the locker room. If you know anymore about Coach Schembechler's first year as head coach, he lead the Michigan team to a huge upset victory over Ohio State, fulfilling the phrase that 'Those Who Stay Will Be Champions.' A nice write up about the phrase with an attached picture can be found here.
So how can something that was introduced 40 years ago to a football team still carry meaning today? Anytime I get on AIM or Facebook, its hard not to find someone from Michigan that has this quote in their profile or on their Facebook page. Although the quote was originally intended for the football team, it carries for so many people here at the school. It is probably the most widely used and recognized quote that I find that students can relate to at the University. For me, it also holds special meaning. When I came to the University, I really didn't know what to expect. I thought I had attended an above average high school, I knew that I was going to have to work and wasn't completely sure what to expect but was pretty sure that nothing was going to beyond my abilities. After my first round of exams, I had one of the rudest awakenings of my life. All the work that I had put into my classes to study hadn't been focused on the right things, or to the depth to which I needed to understand. By the end of the first semester, not much had changed, I had tried to change my study habits with little positive result. At the end of the first semester I was seriously considering transferring schools. When I was able to go home for Christmas break I was able to talk with my parents, with my dad giving me the strongest advice. He reminded me of what I had accomplished in high school, and how I had achieved those things. He helped me to look at the bigger picture, and helped me understand that instead of looking at my first semester as a huge setback, I should look at it as a stepping stone. He gave me his perspective on my situation, but left my decision up to me. I could transfer schools if I wanted, but I was accepted here for a reason. I obviously decided to stay and used that first semester as a challenge to myself, and to what I believed in and am now on the verge of graduating from one of the best Engineering schools in the country, with numerous job opportunities. The phrase 'Those Who Stay Will Be Champions' has certainly held a lot of weight with me, and held true for me as well. I feel like it is something that I will keep with me the rest of my life, and something that I will use to fall back on in times of conflict, whether it be with a job or whatever. This phrase carried me through my time here at school which up to this point, has been one of the biggest challenges that I've had to overcome. This is way I look at this as one of the most influential 'illuminations' for me.
November 26, 2007
I think for myself, the best way to start off with the illumination project (assignment sounded much too obligitory) is to try and define illiumination, what the word means to me, and how I process 'illuminations.' When I first tried thinking of illuminations that I have come across, I was a loss for times when I had experienced such a feeling, which is what let to my having to define it for myself. So I start with my best attempt at explaining what an illumination is to me:
An illumination is: an idea that captivates my mind, something that I never considered before or something I thought wholely impossible.
An illumination is: Something that, given the context of the situation, rises above what would normally be expected
An illumination is: A visual display that not only draws attention, but begs for additional consideration, and sticks in the mind
An illumination is: A moment where a significant realization, good or bad, but best defined by a realization that opens the door for most possibilities in the future to consider things beyond the expected
So, over the past week since the last time I was in class, I started to compile a mental list of things that I found illuminating, and will be sharing them in subsequent posts.
My first illumination that I am choosing to share came on Thanksgiving morning. I was at home in Canton, Oh, where it was a not too toasty 35 F outside, which can be a very hard environment to experience an illumination in, which makes it all the better that I did.
This Thanksgiving morning was the 11th annual Perry Rotary (Perry is the township I live in, and the high school I attended) Turkey Trot. So why would a Turkey Trot, a 5k to be exact, be illuminating? If you've ever been to a cross country race, you might know. In all my experiences of different sporting events, its the only one where everyone is cheered for, there is no negative cheering (against another team), everyone that finishes is congratulated by the spectators, and thus, my illumination.
On the cold Thursday morning, each of the roughly 1200 runners was congratulated by the group of spectators (myself being a spectator, and we were far outnumbered by the participants), from the runners sprinting to a finish after a short 16 minutes, or the slower, yet still determined joggers/walkers that started funneling in after a half hour. Each was greeted the same, with no more congratulations for the winner, and no less for the people struggling, but determined to finish. To be part of and experience such a positive event on such a cold and dreary was truly illuminating. To see a sporting event that so sharply contrasted those which we are used to was illuminating, and for anyone who has not been to a race, I suggest standing at the finish line of one at your next opportunity.
November 19, 2007
Sestina's in Action (Foam!)
When first trying to consider what type of real life example could be a Sestina I first struggled to come up with an example. I had to think hard because it seemed that at first I wasn't aware of anything that fit into this category. Then it hit me. I have a ton of hands-on experience with Sestina's from this past summer. A Sestina is something that is regulated to a fixed form, a specific set of rules that govern the construction of a poam. This summer I worked at Huntsman Polyurethanes. What's a Polyurethane?. But more specifically, polyurethane is foam. What kind of foam? Foam that is used everywhere: the seats in cars; the seats in computer chairs; insulation; and my specialty (or at least what I worked on this summer) footwear. Check out the video below of polyurethane 'foaming.'
Exciting, I know.
So how is this a Sestina? A polyurethane is defined by two polymeric chains, a polyol and an isocyanate, that are connected with a urethane linkage. I see the urethane linkage as the rules that are set for a Sestina, in the same way a polyurethane is only a polyurethane if the two polymeric chains are connected with urethane bonds. But in the same way that a Sestina can apply to different sets of words, polyurethanes are not limited to certain kinds of polymeric chains. This is what differentiates polyurethane foams used in insulation (typically referred to as rigid foams) from polyurethane foams used in seating (typically referred to as flexible foams). Although both foams are made up of urethane linkages, the functional groups on both the polyol and the isocyanate can be varied to create the desired foam.
November 12, 2007
What do I notice about the form of this mapping (Sestina by Elizabeth Bishop)? Well I'll admit, before writing this post I read the Cheat, but I did read the poem before I looked at the cheat, and what I noted down is that many of the words repeated. But I did not make the connection that they words that were repeating where the words that ended the sentences. Looking back on the poem, it makes perfect sense why I felt there was some sort of repeating tone (who couldn't pick this out? I hope it wasn't only me) throughout.
So is this good . . . bad?
At the same time, I both a major advantage and a major disadvantage (from my point of view) to writing a poem in this form. The major advantage being that the poem is focus around one thing, the story that can be told by your same selection of words, they resonate throughout the poem, but can be used in differing ways throughout, depending on your level of creativity. The major disadvantage is directly tired to this: the poem is based around that set of words that you chose. For someone like myself, for which writing poetry can be quite a challenge, any limits or rules for the form in which the poem can appear makes the task increasingly more difficult.
This mapping provides a repetitive platform for a story to be built around a few words. By specifically structuring the way that the words must fit into the poem, a map is created of whatever your desired topic is.
The one major difference for myself between the two poems is that the Fish using many different words to describe one thing, the fish. Whereas Sestina is using the rest of the words in the poem to describe those words that were chosen to repeat throughout. I feel that the mapping (form) of the Fish is a lot more free, and is able to fall together in a larger number of ways than the Sestina. The Sestina though, has the backbone of the poem that is set up before the rest of the poem has come together, providing direction for which the form will take. Both showcase a different way of mapping, using distinct styles.
I chose to specifically look at lines 34-40, of Elizabeth Bishop's poem The Fish, which corresponds to the description of the eyes of the fish. In the original presentation of the poem, it read:
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
When I read and try to analyze this section of the poem, I notice that at least for myself, the emphasis of each line is at the end of the line. The poem is describing the eyes, how they're larger than the writers (mine), shallower and yellowed, with tinfoil, seen through lenses of scratched isinglass. It is interesting to note that when I read it, I don't feel there is an emphasis on the irises, even though this is what is specifically being described in the subsequent lines, because of the location of the word and how I read the poem. What I take away when I read, is that the important part of each line is built around what it is describing at the end of the line.
When I look at the corresponding lines of the poem in the reconfiguration, my understanding of this allness becomes drastically different.
The emphasis on the first line remains the same, since the first line in the reconfiguration remains unchanged. But this is where the similarities end. When I read the next line, 'which were far', more emphasis is placed on far with the spacing creating a sort of, drop off, something of an apprehension of what will come next. 'larger than mine' still carries the same context, but the spacing serves to exaggerate (or possibly more accurately describe?) the size difference, how far larger the fish's eyes are. The same effect is created in the same line with the pauses after shallower and yellower, the spacing serves to specific and distinguish each word and each description. The irises in the reconfiguration stands out, and is related more, in my opinion, to shallower and yellower than to backed and packed, which was the intent with the original poem. The spacing after backed and packed puts more emphasis on the with tarnished tinfoil, better describing what is seen through the lenses. The last line, and its placing is interesting. When I read it, even after several times, its hard to describe the connection it has with the rest of the reconfiguration. It does not start at the beginning of the line, and could also be seen as misplaced. Its presented in such a way that one needs to go back to the previous lines to understand how the line fits in and what it is supposed to be interpreted as.
Overall, the reconfiguration conveys The Fish much differently than the original poem. Its interesting to see the effect that changing the spacing can have on a poem. In the first poem it was written and presented in such a way as to emphasize certain words and objects that were being describe. With the addition of a few tabs and extra spaces, the meaning of certain parts of the poem, like the one I described above, can be completely changed.
November 11, 2007
Mapping: The Inner Life of a Cell
One of the things that I have tried to do with English 240 so far is make connections outside of the class and look to make those connections with what most would consider nontraditional poetry. Being an Engineering student, this opens up many possibilities to try and find the rhythm and poetry in things that might not be looked at from this point of view. One example where I recently found this hidden poetry was in the short animation titled 'The Inner Life of a Cell' produced by Harvard BioVisions, which can be viewed below.
To an average observer, it might just appear to be a short video clip with bridges building, rivers flowing and other organisms crawling around, but of course it is much more complex than that. For myself, the realization came after the initial wow factor wore off. Once I got a chance to think about what was happening as I was watching is when the biggest revelation came, and my engineering background took some of the fun out of watching everything crawl across the screen. The things that were 'crawling' and 'building' were just the result of a series of chemical reactions. When watching the video a first time, things seemed to move about with a mind of their own, each piece thinking by itself and working together to accomplish a goal. But then I was reminded of the title, and what was actually happening. My limited understanding of BioChemistry limits me somewhat, but with that basic understanding, the reason that everything is moving the way it is, and doing the things that they're doing, is all driven from the chemistry behind it.
Yes mapping! The entire video is a map. What the video represents is a rather cinematic interpretation what the chemical reactions going on within a cell look like. The goal of this 3D interpretation was to help people who are not chemists or molecular biologists gain an understanding of what is actually happening inside cells. Still though, the same dilemmas are encountered as when trying to map a more traditional poem, different people have different interpretations. To the average person, the clip will probably just appear to be a video of things moving around inside a cell. But to someone with an understanding of the science behind it, they might feel its accurate to what is happening, try to make the connections to what is going on with each piece, or even have a critique of what isn't realistic and what could be changed to make the clip a better representation.
The clip with an explanation of what is going on at each step can be viewed below.
November 09, 2007
Chemical Engineering 466: Chemical Process Dynamics and Controls
Since part of the focus of our class to this point has been about mapping, I've been trying to look for maps of things that occur in everyday life. Not only looking for maps that have already been created, but of things that are easily mappable, or can be described by a fluid map. A perfect example, that didn't occur to me until just recently is the book that is used for my Chemical Engineering 466: Process Controls class. The book is in the form of a wiki (for those who don't know what a wiki is, check out it out here).
A wiki is a website that is based around being easily understandable to anyone with access to the internet, and being a collected source of information. The code that is usually used to make a website is embedded under the surface so that someone can log on, write what they want in plain text, and publish their contributions to the internet. On the wiki, anyone that is registered can contribute, edit, or add to a discussion about a particular article. The main objective is that after an article about a topic is posted, discussion ensues from people with knowledge of the subject, and a refined version emerges that most effectively conveys the subject of the article to the reader. What kind of website can be more 'fluid' of a map than this? Add in the ability to reference past editions, and the potential for this type of map is endless.
So if its not easy to see yet how this relates to my class, and the direction of this blog hasn't yet shown itself, here it is: We use a wiki as our class text book. Last year our professor first tried out this system, by having the class start writing the book. Most of the students from last year were assigned to be 'Authors' of different articles. The different groups of students would research an article, pulling the relevant information from each source, and presenting it on the wiki. Each article has its own topic, all relating to give an understanding of process controls. Most articles explained the specifics of the topic, several theoretical examples, and how it related to process controls. Since last years class spent most of the time writing articles, there wasn't much time for editing.
This year is when the fluidity came in. Groups from our class still have been given the assignment of 'Authoring' articles, but more importantly, we have the task of 'Stewarding' articles. The job of a steward is to edit an existing article. Suggestions for the editing come from discussion on the website, input from the previous years class after reading the article, and from the groups own discretion as to what makes the article most relevant to the class. The amount of change that can happen to one article is amazing. It is a perfect example of a map, one that can change, and is interactive. Many of the maps we have explored have been visual, which was why at first it was hard for me to make the connection, but once I tried to take an outside look at it all, the use of the wiki as a text book (map) became much more relevant to our class, and all of the mapping we have done.
The controls wiki can be accessed here.
If it is of any interest to anyone, the article that my group authored was Bacterial Chemostat, something which after recently reviewing, has changed quite a bit since we first published our original version. My contribution to the article was the introduction, and created the excel model, which would have little meaning to anyone without an understanding of chemical reaction engineering. My group also edited the Eigenvalues and Eigenvectors article, something we found to be much different than authoring, because we had to come up with ample justification for anything that we felt needed changing.
Response to RULES, "A RETROSPECT" by EZRA POUND, & HIERARCHIES OF NAVIGATION
The three rules that were laid out for contemporary poetry to follow are:
1) Direct treatment of the thing: Explaining exactly what it is that the poem is addressing, dedicating the poam only to that ‘thing’ and not deviating from it
2) To not use any words that do not contribute to the presentation: Being resourceful with the words used, not distracting the reader with unnecessary words, using the words to keep the poam flow
3) The rhythm should be a musical one, not metronomic: A metronome uses a consistent, dull repetitive beat, music flows, to describe it in the simplest sense, so one must use musical phrases instead of counting syllables to fit the poam into a template
the dreamlife of letters is a poam, so the rules apply in different ways than they would for one writing a poem from scratch. Since the author took another piece of work and the poam was a rearrangement and presentation of these words, the author did not have to worry as much about the language aspect. The poam is the presentation of words already used in another piece. The rules it does follow however, are numerous.
This work does not follow any type of metronomic rhythm. The words are strung together in such a way as to be presented in a musical manner. The work also does not flow in such a way that readers get caught up on individual words, but take in the work as a whole. Readers are carried between words through the many forms of transitions between the words, the letter trailing in and trailing out, letters flying in to form words in the middle of the screen. It utilizes a musical flow instead of having words just appear and disappear.
The object of the poam was to present the words in a new way than had been done before, by alphabetizing them and then presenting them in digital form. Since the ‘thing’ that the work is supposed to be addressing is the words them self, the author does not stray off topic, but keeps to the point in the simplest manner possible.
My best description of this poam would be to say that it takes the ‘vers libre’ form to the extreme. The verses, as I see them, are the words that fall under each letter, but there is no discrimination as to how long the word is or what the word sounds like. Each verse is allowed to come together in its own way.
Arts and the Brain
On November 1st, I was able to skip out of part of another class and experience about the first hour and a half of Arts and the Brain. I hope that many people from our class were able to attend, because never before have I seen a more accurate display of a 'fluid' map. Watching the interactions unfold was amazing.
Imagine the visual studio, set up with mirrors in the middle creating pathways for people to pass through, projection screens on each wall, displaying both preselected imagines and a current map of what was going on taken from above, and music playing in the background. The people interacting and moving among the mirrors were all wearing white caps, so when looking at the projection screen with the video being taken from above, the identity of the individuals was hard to distinguish. What did differentiate people though, was the reaction to the environment that they were placed in. People reacted differently to the music, some chose to dance, some let it dictate they pace that they moved among the mirrors, and still others seemed to not be affected by the music at all. It was also extremely interesting to see how the people reacted to one another. Some people let the others in front of them control the pace that they walked at, while other chose to walk at their own pace through the 'map' and walk around and amongst people that were taking in their surrounding environment at their own pace.
Watching this amazing visual display sparked a flurry of thoughts about how this related to both poetry and the mapping of all different types of poams. My immediate reaction was that this was probably the best 'map' that I had seen that addressed the problems of differing interpretations of a poam depending on the individual. Since the people who were interacting were part of the map, their reactions to their environment was captured and could visually be seen. The thing that I realized and discussed about my map of The Lightning is a yellow Fork was that my map meant something to me, and had quite a bit of meaning, but could have held no significance to anyone else. This is what made Arts and the Brain so interesting, that the participants reactions to their changing environment was the thing that was captured as the map. The idea was for the map to be fluid, and constantly changing, which it was.
The handout from the demonstration also aimed toward the same purpose, from my perspective. The map was initially small, but when opened, folded out to show the different parts of the diagram. It aimed toward distinguishing the different parts of the presentation, while tying them all together through the 'Arts and the Brain' topic. I wish that I had been able to view more of the presentation, because I was only able to see one part of the whole.