Wednesday, May 28, 2014

MORE RECENT ACTIVITY at Being & Learning 2.0 Blog

29 Sunset Drive blog is on hiatus this year as I focus my attention on the blog designed to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the writing experiment that happened between Feb 2004-2005.  I'll return to 29 Sunset Drive in Feb 2015.  For now, please check out

Friday, March 9, 2012

Happy 82nd Birthday Ornette!!!!!!!!

Happy 82nd Birthday Ornette Coleman! 

About a month or so ago, it was probably longer than that but lately time is doing its ole tempus fugit thang --- that always happens come March, when before you know it, the third month of the year has arrived, the weather in this part of the world starts getting warmer, spring begins to put out that special energy, colors return to the ground and tree limbs, and bird songs are heard that haven’t been heard in months…and, as always, I get swept up in all that energy and, look out, I’m getting manic!   Ornette Coleman, the soulful, sometime lonely, sometimes silly, always genius sax voice, of COURSE you were born in early March!!!!

Big highlight for me was seeing/hearing Ornette with the Grateful Dead in December of 1993 at the LA Sports Arena.

Totally unexpected, unbelievably cool, the arena reverberating like I’ve never heard before.   Although it can never capture the exeperience of being there in the moment when it’s happening, here’s a link to the show.   This weekend’s Dead Zone, which is limited to an hour, features a short but sweet birthday celebration for Ornette.

I recorded the show this morning, so that means now academic writing for me today, but straight into the studio.  I’ve made it a daily exercise/practice to write for an hour every morning when I get into my office.   The recent acquisition of an old school sand hour glass, which deserves its own blog post, has been an inspirational prop that is motivating me to work within the boundaries of an hour.  The sand falls for about 62mins, which seems like a productive way of counting an hour….whatever that means.  So, anyway, I went straight into the studio this morning and recorded the Dead Zone.   I’ve grown accustomed to pre-recording the show, as I think I noted in one of my earlier blogs.  It’s cool to listen to the show at home, and the move from Tuesdays to Sundays more or less guaranteed that I wouldn’t be coming up to campus to do the show.  So I pre-record, which creates some interesting challenges in terms of the temporality of the show.  Afterall, the Dead Zone is based on live performances, and the improvisation happening therein.  I go for that when I pre-record, as I did this morning when I decided to stream WKCR’s birthday broadcast, which is happening today (all 24 hrs of this 9th day of March).

WKCR is famous for marathon birthday broadcasts, and it was during their two week Coltrane celebration back in 2004 that I was catapulted into the time and space that would carry me through the year of writing Being and Learning.  When they do these broadcasts I try to listen to as much as possible, allowing the marathon tribute to engulf my day(s), so that I become enframed by the music.   I feel connected to Columbia, because I go up that way once a month, and have taught a few classes there, and because of WKCR Columbia feels like the ‘cool’ university in our area.  Urbane U! 

I acknowledge WKCR in my Dead Zone broadcast, and as the stream is playing I overlay it with Ornette and the Dead from the aforementioned ’93 show.  So it’s not entirely….what?  I’m not sure what to call the simulcasting of a show….probably not something FCsquared would appreciate, not to mention WKCR or even the homies at RHU…oh well, it’s not the first and it’s certainly not the last minor transgression that Prof Iguana will make.   Anyway,  I like to think I am doing something in the spirit of Ornette’s experimental and free jazz, which I think is a cool way to honor the genius of his music and his art.  Doesn’t experimentation involve a bit of transgression?  One would think freedom does.  And though I haven’t heard an interview with him, and it’s been awhile since I read Nat Henthoff’s book on jazz, I would be really surprised if Ornette didn’t consider himself a bit transgressive.  Is it a cliché to say that art is in some ways always transgressive?   I better stop before I start to sound like I’m claiming myself to be an artist!  I heard someone…a slightly delusional colleague of mine…once say that being a producer and host of a radio show on an independent station like WRHU was the equivalent of being an artist.  I was embarrassed for him.   I have no such minor delusions, nor pretentions about the production of the Dead Zone:  it’s mostly documentary work, a kind of ethnomusicology, and, yes, entertainment.

Happy birthday Ornette!!      

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Banning Freire part 2: Organizing a 'Read In'

Next Tuesday we are holding a ‘read in’ of Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, as a way of responding to the events unfolding in Tucson, AZ.  In the announcement I wrote for the ‘read in,’ which I took the lead in organizing (as a way of jumpstarting a project that received grant support from the Provost Diversity Initiative), I write:

In response to recent events in the Tucson, AZ public school district: a  reading and discussion of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  This book has been singled out by Arizona state superintendent John Huppenthal as the pedagogical foundation for the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson he disbanded on June 15, 2011….The 'read in’ aims to raise awareness about the challenges facing teachers and students after the passage of the controversial law A.R.S. §15-112. In the spirit of Freire’s life long commitment to democratic education, the aim of the 'read in' is to create the space for an open, free, and critical dialogue where any and all perspectives can be expressed, heard and discussed.

Using Freire's text as a mediating device for the dialogue, the ‘read in’ of Pedagogy of the Oppressed will be a demonstration of solidarity with the students and teachers  in the now disbanded program.   In this sense, the ‘read in’ is what philosopher Jacques Ranciere describes as ‘politics’: “The essence of politics is dissensus, a demonstration of a gap in the distribution of the sensible, in the partition of the sensible….Political demonstration makes visible that which had no reason to be seen – it places one world in another.” (Ten Theses On Politics)

Participants who attend the ‘read in’ are asked to do some preparatory work by reading  all or some of Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and also to take up some of the primary texts associated with this debate.  Below are links to the TUSD MAS program, A.R.S. §15-112 as well as articles, and radio interviews with state superintendent Huppenthal. Attached with this email is a copy of Arizona Administrative Law Judge Kowal’s decision in response to the hearing that was held to review Huppenthal’s June 15, 2011 determination that TUSD MAS was in violation of A.R.S. §15-112 Also attached is  copy of the Provost Diversity Initiative proposal  A Chance for a New Human Togetherness.

The aim of the 'read-in’  is to raise awareness about the events in Tucson by engaging in a Freireanesque dialogue that will take up some of the fundamental questions arising from Tucscon.    As Hofstra Professor Monica Byrne-Jimenez, one of the  ‘read in’ organizers puts it:  “There are two – related - issues at play in Tucson. The first is the belief that the Mexican American Studies Program studies is ‘unconstitutional’ and that any study of the non-dominant discourse creates ‘racial resentment.’ This belief undermines ethnic studies in general and ignores the role of ethnic studies as an important and necessary part of the educational process. The second issue is the subsequent banning of books that were in the MASP curriculum. This is just plain dangerous.  It is impossible to ignore the current political context in AZ. From SB 1070 to Sheriff Arpaio to the disbanding of ethnic studies, it is clear that AZ has anti-immigrant, anti-Latino thing going on. While this context may not be quite applicable to the NY metropolitan area, several racially-motivated crimes over the past two years make it clear that there are dangerous currents under the surface. I don’t think we can ignore this either.”

Putting this together has totally energized me, or, rather, has been yet another way in which my energy is being channeled in a focused way.   As I told my colleague Megan Laverty the other day, “I feel like my work has traction.”  

Preparing for the ‘read in’ has enabled me to take up texts I don’t normally have the opportunity to study:  interviews,  legal decisions, newspaper articles.  As I struggle to work on new forms of writing philosophy, I realize it is equally important to look at different sources for philosophy.   Foucault pointed to this in so many different ways, but so few of us take up these ways, spending, perhaps, too much time and energy reading his work, and not enough being inspired by it, and, in turn, trying to take it up for ourselves.  I realize most of his work was ‘historical’ and the research happened in archives.  But as I prepare for the ‘read in’ and go through these documents, I can’t help but feel a bit inspired by Foucault.  In fact, so far this year, 2012, it seems like that inspiration is guiding me in many areas of my work, especially my teaching where, as I’ve written in a previous blog, I’m asking students to “occupy the standards”.   Just this week I’m asking my students to do this,  taking Foucault as their starting point as they embark on a critical study of these standards and how the might move in and beyond them.  Here’s part of the quotation from Foucault, from his essay, “What is Enlightenment?,” that I am using as the prompt for their essays:

“The critical ontology of ourselves has to be considered not, certainly, as a theory, a doctrine, nor even as a permanent body of knowledge that is accumulating; it has to be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them.”

If I were asked to chose a quotation, an aphorism, a fragment, or something piece of a work that best captures what I’m up to these days it would be this bit from Foucault!   First, it’s the ‘critical ontology of ourselves’ that I wonder about.  What might this be?  And I’m put at ease, because I’m made anxious by the expectations of producing a systemic piece of work, that Foucault emphasizes this is  an attitude, an ethos, which means it’s both something we take up, and also something (not sure what this ‘thing’ is? Zeitgeist?) that takes us up.   It’s an event between ‘us’ and ‘it’ (History? Culture?  What and where is this ‘it’?).   Second, I’m drawn in because it is called a critique, and I have an almost aesthetic experience with the word “critique.”  I’m not always sure what it means, because there are so many different forms of it, but, for sure, when we engage in critique, we perceive something acutely, and from a distance, and in that perception we are moved somewhere.   The “something” we perceive in critique is in some ways a part of the world that presents us with a challenge, and thus it seems as if when we engage in a ‘critical ontology of ourselves’ we are attempting to perceive ‘ourselves’ (so there has to be something collective or communal about this work?) from a distance, and, in doing so, move ‘beyond’ ourselves.  Something like a communal experience of ‘self-overcoming’ that Nietzsche talks about.  Third, when we look at ‘us’ we are situation ourselves in a particular place, as defined by a specific set of norms, rules, regulations, laws even [I hesitate to write ‘law’ because I’ve just finished reading a paper on Agamben  and Derrida on ‘the law’ and my head is spinning, as I consider the possibilities of the project unfolding from the Tucson events…before and beyond the law!!!!]   The “historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us” are precisely the boundaries to be identified when we locate “us”.  In the case of my students and I, the “us” is the community of educators.  The openness of this exercise, or experiment [which is the most inspiring word in Foucault’s fragment!], is the fact that there are so many possible boundaries for us to take up.   This may sound counter-intuitive.   How can the ubiquity of boundaries offer up the ground of openness for the experiment in critique?   Because the more boundaries we identify, the more we are able to ‘know’ who we are, and, overcome that very being.   The law is the point at which our freedom begins insofar as we move beyond it.   Freedom is always the moment after the door of the law is closed…[I seem to be taking up that project that will involve reading Kafka, whose parables I’ve taught so many times before, completely unaware that they are being taken up by so many important voices in philosophy!]

So, we can and will identify the indictment of Freire’s work (his writing and his practice), and the indictment, by direct and explicit implication, of those who “teach” Freire, by the State of Arizona, as inclusive of “us”.  That, anyway, will be our experiment next Tuesday!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Banning Freire

02.10.12   Banning Books

It’s almost impossible to believe that books are being banned in the US, that librarians and public school officials are literally removing books from shelves, placing them in boxes and carting them away.   There’s something surreal about that, something totally bizarre, and yet, at the same time, it seems completely in synch with the ongoing culture wars that have waging in the good ole USA since the 60’s.  Conservative backlash….that’s what the latest intellectual counter-insurgency has been all about….belated conservative backlash.  Really, isn’t it about time that neocons stopped with the lashing back and invested in finding a constructive alternative path?   Wasn’t that the ‘promise’ of W’s compassionate conservativism?  What about those “Christians” and their mega gatherings?  They seem to have a ‘positive’ alternative that doesn’t involve banning, nor lashing.  I’m all about gathering in the alternative you’d like to see in the world, the old Ghandian principle.  Unfortunately that’s not what’s happening in Tuscon, Arizona these days, where “Public school officials in Tucson, Arizona, have released a list of seven books that can no longer be used in classrooms following their suspension of the district’s acclaimed Mexican American Studies program.” (Democracy Now, Jan 18, 2012) 

The book ban in Tucson was brought to my attention at last Friday’s full faculty meeting that I was chairing, when my colleague announced  this most recent implementation of State of Arizona  House of Representatives Bill 2281.   HB 2281 which was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer in May, 2010,
and less than two years later, the Tuscon school district has taken steps to ‘enforce’ this laws.  For excellent coverage of this story go to Democracy Now! 

I have taught Paulo Freire every year since I began teaching college in 1993.  I have presented and published a number of scholarly articles on Freire, and have a poster of him on my office door. It’s bizarre to imagine that a few thousand miles to the West, the teaching of Freire is illegal.  Yet, there’s something inspiring about the criminalization of Freire’s work.   It’s a call to action, for sure, and I can’t wait to get back to my grad course next week, where students will be presenting papers that are, in part, responding to Freire’s work.  I have so much energy running through my mind, body and soul at this moment that I can hardly type.   All this news, these links, images, sounds, words are producing a crazy adrenaline rush!  So I’ll just share a few links as a way of initiating some context for some follow-up posts in this blog

The significant lines of HB 2281 are the following: 

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:

2 Section 1.  Title 15, chapter 1, article 1, Arizona Revised Statutes,

3 is amended by adding sections 15-111 and 15-112, to read:

4 15-111.  Declaration of policy




8 15-112.  Prohibited courses and classes; enforcement









Here's a link to the actual text of the law:


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Occupy the Standards! or, On my conversion to distance learning

This morning on our way to campus I was telling Kelly about my plans to begin recording lectures for the latest of my courses that I am converting into the distance learning format.   I’ve had a bit of conversion towards the distance learning wave in the past two years since the idea was first offered to me.  Actually, it was less an offering than a mandate, of sorts:  we need your philosophy of education course to be part of the new online only master’s in higher education.  In fact, we also need your course on multiculturalism too.  And, if you have any other courses you’d like to offer as distance learning course, well, why not bring those online too!  Oh, and there’s some compensation.  Not a lot, but enough to make it worth the time and energy you’ll be expending.  And so I was drafted, and then, after I got into the studio and started recording the lectures, I became a convert to distance learning, or what my esteemed colleague Nick Burbules calls ‘ubiquitous learning.’   (I’m wondering if I’m just an example of the so-called Stockholm Syndrome?  But, I dare say, I’m not being held captive by this mandate.  Truth be told, one of my colleagues who was recruited to be part of the distance learning program jumped ship at the 11th hour.  Coincidentally, he’s now in a dire situation with regard to making his load, which, for any non-academics reading this blog, means that he doesn’t have enough courses to fulfill his contractual obligation at the university.  Translation:  he shot himself in the foot when he turned up his nose to online teaching.  Maybe he’ll change his mind and listen to that old aphorism:  necessity is the mother of invention!)  

My conversion to the distance learning format happened as soon as I got into the studio where I record The Dead Zone.  That happened way back in the summer of 2010, when my goal was to nail down a set of 20 min lectures (short by most standards) that would complement the assigned readings.   After I’d recorded the third of the ten lectures I realized that I’d stumbled upon a ‘missing link’ in my teaching: a mooring for the ideas that formed the basis of my teaching.  It might seem odd that I would only discover this in year 17 of my teaching.   Didn’t I use the same lecture notes semester after semester, especially since I was teaching the same courses year after year?  No, I wasn’t.  In fact, over the decade and a half of teaching I’d collected a large pile of notes, both typed and hand written.  Each semester produced a new set of notes, even if I were using the same readings.   I couldn’t imagine working from the same material.  I still don’t.  It doesn’t’ feel natural.   But there is a certain kind of discomfort associated with this itinerant approach to teaching.  It’s unsettling because it’s so unsettled.  Of course, its counter-intuitive to ‘settle’ in one’s teaching.   Or that’s how I’ve been thinking oh these many years, until I discovered a satisfaction in the recording of lectures.   Sure, part of it is the pleasure of the performance, of putting on the head phones and standing behind the board, speaking into the mic.  But once I’d completed the set of lectures, I found that there was something reassuring about having documented my thoughts on the set of readings we were studying. 

So today, when I went into the study to record the first of my lectures for my ethics class, I was beginning the production of my third distance learning  course.  The multiculturalism course, which I redesigned as a study in the philosophy of difference, was a huge success.   I recorded a set of 7 lectures that average about an hour in length, and was so pleased with them that I had a grad asst transcribe them.   But for all that, I was nervous when I entered the studio this morning, in part because it had been almost a year since I’d recorded my last set of lectures, and sometimes past success can be more of an impediment than an inspiration.   Can I tap into the source that produced the philosophy of difference lectures?

The real inspiration for the work remains the energy behind the questions being explored.  I’m energized in a new way with the question I’m exploring in this ethics class, which are philosophical in way that’s a bit different for me.  Indeed, at the moment, philosophical understanding is a matter of what Aristotle called phronesis, which we might roughly translate as ‘practical understanding.’   We can understand things conceptually, abstractly, and this kind of understanding is what we usually call ‘theory.’   I’m a dyed-in-the-wool theorist, and most of my work for the past 8 years or longer has been what I like to call ‘formalist.’  That is, I’ve mostly been concerned with exploring new forms of writing.  This is the project of ‘originary/original philosophy’ that I’ve mentioned in this blog, and which will, in time, be given some attention.   So for me, phronesis is new path to take up.   And this is partly where the energy behind the decision to go into the studio is coming from.   Another source of the energy is the realization that this sociopolitical event of ‘standardization’ in education isn’t a trend, or fad, but, something that is taking root, or, at the very least, is going to be with us for some time.  Hence, the decision to occupy the standards!  This, anyway, was the way I phrased the agenda of my ethics course when I was sharing with Kelly what I was up to, and why I was going into the studio.

Occupy the standards!   This is the experiment for this semester, in the work I doing with my students.   Own the language that is being dictated to us from the State, and from the national accreditation organizations.  

Begin with a serious, careful study of these standards, of these ‘Quality Principles’.  Then,  occupy them:  take them up, fill them with your meaning, reside in them, dwell in them, perhaps even overrun and subjugate them.  

Here’s how I expressed it in a recent email:

Just wanted to share with you all an experiment/project I'm undertaking this year, which will be an attempt work against the creeping cynicism vis-a-vis the increasing standardization and outcome based assessment of teaching and learning.

My experiment/project is happening in my ethics course  The thesis is the following:  if, in our courses, we make a study of the principles underlying TEAC, we will increasingly 'own' the language that is being 'dictated' to us and our students.   In the case of TEAC, I'll be using it, first, as the basis of my Ethics class, where we will study the language of TEAC Quality Principles, specifically, the principle of 'care'.  In turn, I have a working paper/pamphlet that I've proposed to write for a three day summer institute at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.   That piece will be a theoretical study that I intend to write in the wake of teaching this spring.  In turn, the fleshing out of my piece will be based on the work I undertake with my students, and, as a result, will be an authentic and organic reflection work happening in the course.   My plan is to circulate my piece next year to the faculty as a 'working paper,' with the hope that it will initiate a conversation about the TEAC principles, which, today, remain a set of abstract and empty concepts that are ostensibly guiding our work in teacher ed.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Si se puede! (part 2)

Si se puede….that’s how I ended my last post and so how I begin this one, which, I had intended to write before wrote the previous post.  How’s that?  Well, I’d just finished watching Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s philosophical tantrum, which had been sent to me by my colleague Rashid, and wanted to respond, immediately to the brilliant piece. But when I started writing my post, in which I wanted to respond to what he said about ‘hope,’ I flashed back to Ilan, and felt compelled to go back to his last lecture.   As I continued writing it became clear the post would be written in two parts. And at that moment it appeared to me; that is,  the first of the boundaries that I wondered about in my very first post.  Two posts a week seems to be a healthy amount of  blog writing.  A goal, an aim, a boundary.

Gomez-Pena’s ‘Philosophical Tantrum’ spoke to me on multiple levels, and was, quite simply, inspiring.  To be able to write a piece like that!!  Again, my increasingly focused interest on form and now, especially after watching Gomez-Pena, on per-form-ance.  I wonder how he wrote that piece: did he write it by hand, all at one sitting?  Did he type it?  What kind of computer does use?  Does he, perhaps, compose it orally, recording it, and then transcribing it?  That would make sense to me.  Last spring when I was teaching a grad course, I was talking with a student whose family is rooted in Jamaica.  He told me he could really connect with my style of teaching. It reminded him of conversations he has with family, with cousins and uncles when he’s back in Jamaica.  As we were talking I wondered aloud if perhaps my style of teaching was an expression of my own Caribbean roots, and at tat moment I realized I was indeed part of an oral tradition of teaching and learning.    Now, how to translate that into my writing, into my work?  This is the question I’m taking up.

 Below, in the post I wrote a few days ago, I said I was now more than ever interested in ‘the performative character of the self, especially of those involved in educational practice, the performance of the teacher and learner.’ (how does one cite oneself in a blog?!  I’m now fully enmeshed in the latest technology of the self we might call “cyber-solipsism”!  I’ll resist, for the moment, to google this term, and allow myself, for the moment, to believe, because it’s the first time I’ve written it that it must be my own poetic invention.  Indeed, if we’ve never read or heard a category prior to our thinking it, does it count as an ‘original idea’?)   The last moment of my parenthetical digression brings me back to Gomez-Pena’s ‘Philosophical Rant,’ which is so much about the question of authenticity.   He wonders if he is still asking the right questions:

I'm a 55 year old rebel  so I wonder constantly if I'm I still asking the right questions or if I'm just repeating myself?   I'm I pushing hard enough?
Where should I go? Deeper into the Universal Psyche and become a Chicano Buddhist?”

I'm not 55, but I can relate to the preoccupation about being original and/or authentic.   Gomez-Pena is an artist, so his concern for originality is more pressing than my own.  The project of ‘original/originary philosophy’ which will, in its proper moment, receive a post, is definitely responding to the question of originality, but is doing so in a way that doesn't assume originality to be a necessity in the context in which the question is being raised.  On the contrary, the question is struggling for recognition, for legitimacy.   The group who is taken up this question as a collaborative project is also mapping the question in terms of time, and so originality is linked to an original moment, a moving present that gives rise to something new.   And this is the context from which I hear Gomez-Pena's question:
 “In this time and place what does it mean to be transgressive?”   
‘This time and place’does not necessarily correspond to the present historical situation.  And it is not a matter of transcendence, but of immanence.  Not a leaping ‘outside’ the epoch, but a matter of attending to the gaps or breaks in the epoch, the openings that allow for something different to occur.  These gaps, spaces, clearings, openings, portals are immanent  or ‘remaining within’ (Latin meaning of ‘immanent’: ‘in’ ‘manere'.)

But the struggle to gain momentum with the project is motivated by the same kinds of questions that Gomez-Pena is asking, when he says:“Who can artists shock, challenge, enlighten?  Who is listening?”

Of course, philosophers aren't members of any avant garde movement.  Certainly not the ones that meet in my professional spaces.   So no interest in ‘shocking.’  Challenge,  enlighten…we like to believe this is what we do.  Indeed, “who is listening?”  Besides us, that is, and, if truth be told (and what philosopher would claim to be doing anything but telling the truth?!), I'm not so sure we are even listening to one another.  

When I was regularly hosting and producing  the Dead Zone as a live broadcast, I would wonder every now and then if anyone were listening.  Anyone, that is, besides the two or three regulars who would call the station each week.   But, for whatever reason, the question never really preoccupied me, and, I suppose it if were asked to give a reason it would have something to do with the satisfaction I experienced from producing the show, and the lack of desire I had for recognition.  As if producing and hosting the show were an end in and for itself.   I still feel that way about the show, and this is probably why I pre-record it most weeks, and listen to it at home.   The question, Who is listening?, isn't one I'm preoccupied with.  And so too with my writing, the scholarly stuff, the blog, etc.  I wonder if that shows a lack of desire, or even a lack of courage?

I'll have to continue this response to Gomez-Pena….still much to respond to, but I've exceeded yet another boundary that has emerged on the horizon: a temporal boundary that compels me to step back after a certain time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Love? Si, se puede! (part 1)

Towards the end of his last lecture, my close friend, comrade and colleague, the late Ilan Gur Ze’ev, said:

“I claim that we must educate our young and ourselves
to transgress borders
to live in the fissures
in transition.

This is impossible without the existence of Eros.

Every worthy human encounter must be infused with the love of life, with love. Of course it is possible to direct the love of life in endless directions. After all, fascism, too, spoke of love.

But, I am speaking about love of life with responsibility for others,
with responsibility for strengthening one another,
and as a partner neither to self-reproduction nor as acceptance  of the existing order;
rather as an understanding that the existing order and oneself, as I am,
are the starting points for realization of love.“

I begin by noting the form of the lecture, the way it has been transcribed for us.  Did Ilan use this ‘poetic’ form, this verse style when he composed the lecture?  Did he compose it,  or did he speak straight into the microphone from his heart?  Of course, this is an empirical question which I could ask Ariel Kizel, Ilan’s Haifa University colleague who shared the lecture with me, which is posted on his blog that I have linked here, as well as in my first post in memory of Ilan, below.  But I doubt I will ask such an empirical question, not during this period of mourning, perhaps never.   Anyway, for those of us who knew Ilan, he spoke, always, poetically, straight from the heart.   Whether or not such words must appear on the page in verse form is besides the point. 

Or is it?  Of course, it isn’t, and that’s why I am stressing this issue, because I have become so attentive to form, to the way things appear in the world, and in writing this very sentence I am flashing to Arendt and Heidegger, who have taught me so much about phenomenology, about the importance of appearance, and of remaining attentive to the way things appear, both to us, and on their own. I have, mostly through Arendt, and then, perhaps through Foucault and his work on cura sui (care of the self), also been focusing on the performative character of the self, especially of those involved in educational practice, the performance of the teacher and learner.   It’s not just as a result of thinking about this whole business of ‘performativity,’ which is one of the terms that is bandied about in the theory world, the kind of word that takes on a life of Its own, and, as with this word, becomes a pejorative.  That is, it’s  not just because I want to engage in an Arendtian reversal of a trope, and reclaim ‘performance’ from ‘performativity,’ which has become one of those clichés that Arendt warned us about, the ones that take shape when communication has become idle chatter, as Heidegger might say, and thoughtlessness rises from domains ostensibly organized around deep thinking, scholarship and research.   I do want to reclaim ‘performance’ from ‘performativity’ and focus my interest in form on the way that we appear to one another in the educational domains, in the learning sphere.   I’m inclined to practice the kind of performance that is jazz like, that is improvisational, like the music of Coltrane, or Coleman (see link below to his ‘Free Jazz’), and in writing this I recall being in Madrid and seeing an interview of Jacque Derrida on Spanish tv, where he recalled being called on stage by Coleman to perform….what did Derrida call it?  He didn’t find the words for it…this was the fascinating thing about his recollection of his performance.   He was caught off guard, and, recalled that he had no words, at first.   I wonder if there is a recording of that moment some where?   Derrida coming on stage during an Ornette Coleman show!!   Let’s find that and study it, and think about what’s happening in that moment.  What does that performance reveal to us?  What does it show us when we think about it in terms of a ‘teaching’ moment?   I’m most interested in the ‘moment,’ the temporality that has opened up during that performance.  That is, I’m assuming that a special kind of time, an instance of kairos, is occurring when that performance is happening.  Indeed, this kind of time, this special moment, that breaks the flow of ‘everyday life,’ the chronological, allows for this performance to happen.

Where does this time arrive from?  How do we locate kairos, how do we anticipate its appearance, and how do we welcome its arrival?   Straight from the heart?  With love?   I believe this is a plausible way to approach these questions.

Ilan speaks of a ‘realization of love.”  He tells us that the ‘existing order and oneself’ are starting points for this realization.  I take him, perhaps, to be saying that love appears with the manner in which we attend to what appears to us.   The ‘things of the world’ (you, me, everyone and everything), are the starting point.  The questions is:  how does one respond to these ‘things’ that appear to us?  It’s all about response-ability, our ability to respond, and, then, the quality and character of our response.   Love appears from these responses, from the care, the attentiveness we show towards that which reveals itself.   Does it begin with cura sui, with care for self, and does it unfold in self-overcoming, as Nietzsche insisted, in overcoming the ‘self’ and moving towards the other, towards you, everyone and everything?   Yes, I believe, for now, I’ll conjecture that like the practicing that one takes up in one’s one time, doing the rudiments, the scales, repeating over and over the rhythms and melodies that will form the basis of the improvisation.   Cura sui, thinking, dwelling with oneself, is the preparatory practice that prepares one to move into the time of possibility, to jam with others in kairos.  And this can happen, with others, too, during rehearsals.  But, even then, the coming together with others presumes a prior practicing and preparation, an anticipation of the event of this coming together.  

The first borders we must transgress are those that we perceive in our ‘homes,’ in those spaces where find the most ‘comfort,’ not to destroy, or disrupt this space, but to challenge ourselves, first and foremost, in those spaces, to perceive the novel, the new.   Perhaps ‘transgress’ is too strong a word, here, to describe the small ways we ‘practice’ and ‘rehearse’ (re-hear?) in our homes, in our studios, in our hearts.  Yes, it’s too strong a word, and, I’ll need to return to this in my next post, where I want to reflect on my encounter this week, for the first, time, with the performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Pena. 

Ilan tells us he is speaking of ‘love of life with responsibility for others,’ and I’m reminded of the saying of ‘Yes!’, the declaration of affirmation that always precedes the acting of creating, making, building.  And I end, where I intend to begin in my next post:  si, se peude!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

“We then imperceptibly enter another logic, another culture.”

About a year ago when I was preparing to teach my January intersession course, which is a semester's worth of graduate work condensed into two weeks,  I took up the hospitality piece by Derrida.  (I was reading Derrida and others at Saints Café in State College, Pennsylvania, when I took the photo that I use in the banner for this blog.)  It seemed to work well in the redesign of the course I was teaching, which I decided should focus on ‘thinking difference.’   I'd been working may way towards this focus through  some writing I’d done on Arendt and Heidegger, as well as reading and teaching Irigaray.   It was Irigaray who inspired me to take seriously the possibility that it might be possible and necessary to ‘invent a new logic,’ as she puts it, that would be hospitable to human plurality.   In the past year I've been trying to understand what this ‘logic’ might be, and how we might ‘invent’ it.   The students who have been working with me on that question have done well to imagine that this new ‘logic’ is grounded, first, in a cura sui, a care for self, which, as Foucault has documented in detail, has a tradition that stretches back in Western philosophy to the beginning with Socrates.   In some sense, the tradition of philosophy is the tradition of cura sui.   Irigaray talks about ‘dwelling,’ and here she is borrowing from Heidegger, it seems, in emphasizing a kind of meditative or contemplative openness to others and that allows them ‘to be’ beyond our projections and categorizations.   With such dwelling, the self is also, in a sense, ‘protected’ insofar it remains ‘apart.’  In writing this I’m reminded of the essay my daughter, who is a sophomore in HS, wrote last night  on Emerson.   In reading her piece, which we were mutually proud of because it flowed so well and appeared without any of the typical writer’s angst,  I couldn’t help but see a connection between Emerson's vision of the ‘self’ and Irigaray's .   And both seemed to be channeling the Stoics, and as I read Emerson’s words I was struck at how similar they seemed to Marcus Aurelius, whose meditations were part of last fall’s curriculum in Honors College.  

So what of this ‘new’ logic, and how can we go about inventing it when so much of what we are ‘thinking,’ or at least envisioning, perceiving, imagining, appears to be linked so clearly to the past?   Of course, this question is mostly rhetorical, because it’s a set up for musings on the project of originary philosophy, which will be taken up with some focus tomorrow, when the Radical Rhilosophy of Education Recherché Group reconvenes tomorrow at Teachers College.   It seems as if the two months since we’ve last met correspond to a drop in my focus on the project which was building momentum in the fall.   The energy I was devoting to the originary philosophy project culminated in the second half of a review essay I completed in late December, which I'd like to post on this blog, but I haven't yet figured out how to do that.  Another piece I wrote last fall for a conference was the turning point in the push to ‘realize’ (make real) the experiment of inventing a new ‘logic,’ which I’m now speculating has to be mediated by alternative forms of composition, or writing that extends beyond the confines of conventional academic styles.  

‘Form follows function’ is the maxim of modern architecture and industrial design, and so it seems to be the case for any attempt to build something new.   What ‘function’ (“an activity or purpose natural to or intended for a person,” Apple Dictionary) does philosophical writing take when tasked with inventing a new ‘logic’?   “The problem for us, as Westerners,” Irigaray writes, “is that it is no longer a question of mastery, but one in which we have now to let be done as well as to do, to let be as well as to be.  We then imperceptibly enter another logic, another culture.”

I started by recalling the time when I was studying Derrida’s lecture on hospitality, as I intended to share how it was that, when returning to Prof. Schurmann's book on Heidegger, I had a moment where everything was leading back to one of the main character’s in Plato’s Sophist, namely, the xenos, the stranger, whose words I first encountered in Derrida, and then, through Schurmann, in Heidegger, for whom the words of this character represent the motto for his most important work.  At the time, a month or so after sitting in Saints Cafe, I tried to write something in response to that epiphanic wave that hit me, and I'll share that too, because it shows where I started to wonder about how moving forward and out, or entering another logic, another culture, may require moving back, first.    

To be continued….(indeed, as I wrote in my entry after writing this post: "I intended to respond to something I read the other night in Heidegger's “Plato's Sophist”.   I didn't quite get to the quotation, but that's ok, because blogging is going to be an intermediary writing space for me.  The blog is a place where I share works in process: musings, drafts, streams of consciousness, which I want to share in its unedited form.  It seems that building up the strength to write and submit pieces that are ‘unconventional’ requires that I put my thoughts on the matter out into the public domain." 1.19.12 diary entry, The Daily Writing Club, Post Structural Theory online group

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On Free Writing

The online writing group that I’m part of has recently been discussing ‘free writing,’ so I decided to go for something like a free write.   For some reason I’ve decided to write in sme kind of real time sequence as Ornette Coleman’s ‘Free Jazz part 1’ is streaming.  Hence, I’ve included a link to this music.   I’m very much inspired by imrpvoisitonal music, especially jazz and the Grateful Dead.  (note:  I’m making small typos as I wrtite this and trying my best to resist the temptation to correct them as I go along.  From what I understand doing a free write means just that, to write freely without concern for grammar, spelling, etc.  but I’ve become to accustomed to back spacing when I make mistakes, that it’s hard to resitst thetemptamtion to correct myself).   So I decided to write along with the Ornette Coleman et al’s jam, thinking that ten mins is a decent amount of time to do a free write.   [do pauses count?  How would one record a pause?  Is free writing a non-stop process?   The jam seems to be continuous, although it’s not clear to me that aside from the drummer, and probably the bass player, that everyone is playing all the time.  In fact at this point in the jam (6:15) is just trumpet with bass and drums.   So about a minute ago I paused…..but the pause it’s not inscribed in the writing?   Should I symbolically represent that with something like……………….?   One of my students in my online class does that, althought I’m not sure if it’s met to represent pauses in her thinking?  I have asked her?   I saw that free writing is supposed to be a stream of consciousness, which I take to be a non-rational flow of ideas.  By non-rational I mean something like it hasn’t been planned out in advance.   So I’m just writing whatever is……emerging..I wanted to say just a moment ago that I’m going to blog at some point about my distance learning classes, because they are unbelievable productive learning spaces, and I have a sense that my students are getting more out of these courses than the students who take face to face……(AND THAT’S ALL I WAS ABLE TO COMPLETE IN TEN MINUTES)

Hmmmmmm…..I’m not sure how I feel about free writing? ……….I’m still in the modality, despite the ten minute experiment….kind of how it feels after a day at the beach, when you’ve spent lots of time in the ocean, bobbin with the waves, and later you feel the waves still moving you.  I’m still in the modality of the free write, where….I lost my train of thought….oh yeah, I’m not sure how I feel about this process?   It’s definiltely a bit more radical than the way I usually write when I am in the modality of writing a paper or lecture or something for the academic community.   I try, initially, anyway, to be a bit uninhibited so as not to produce boring writing.   And that’s because I have become increasingly …..[STOPPING TO STREAM ANOTHER PIECE OF MUSIC…..FOUND THIS LINK from ’72….which seems to be in synch with the Dead Zone’s revisiting of Europe 72, only this is from August 72…details, details]

 Ok, so I musing about this larger concern/project that I’ve really thrown myself into, which is an attempt to push back against the stultifying forms of academic writing.  Some friends/colleagues who are reading this blog are familiar with this effort, and have been very supportive.   The book that’s scheduled to come out this year is an example of my attempt to push back, and it was initiated out of a kind of exasperation with the confines of academic writing.   I won’t go into the details of Being and Learning, and only bring it up here to make a contrast between the daily writing experiment that produced it and what I’ve just experienced in the ‘free write’.   That is, when doing the daily (min one hour, one page of text) experiment for a calendar year, my main goal each day was to tune into the speculative space where I’d left off the day before….and, over time, that speculate space seemed to be some kind of topos, a particular kind of time and place where I would ‘go’.   I suppose folks call it the ‘zone’ and others the ‘flow’.  Whatever term you want to use to describe it, that place became, more or less, the content of the book itself because I was, essentially, doing a kind of phenomenology of the speculation zone.    Listening to the Dead jamming, and I suppose I was trying to do with philosophical writing what they and others do when then get into what I recently heard described on the radio (by Mike Gordon of Phish) as the Dead’s ‘zen-like place’.    So, yeah, the goal each day was to try and locate that space, and doing that required a lot of energy, a lot of focus, concentration.  The free write seems to be working in another kind of way. [JAM ENDED….NO MORE MUSIC]   It seems less concerned about locating a zone.   My sense from the discussion the online writer’s group has been having on the topic is that the free write is a kind of exercise to stimulate the process, and, in some cases, as a way to unblock a writer who is struggling.   I noticed when I was looking up ‘free write’ on Wikipedia that the process has been used with elementary school kids.  I might try it with my undergrads this semester.  

Final thoughts……the free write seems to place one in a vulnerable place, because there’s little or no editing, and who wants to put something out there that seems to be so raw?     But therein is one of the challenges of blogging as opposed to writing for professional publication; that is, in my case, I understand this blog as a kind of complement to my academic work, and, at times, it has to work as a space for an alter(native) ego….or a place where I can put out drafts, proposals, rough cuts, unedited work.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Dead Zone: Synchronicty

(Friday, January 13th) The Dead Zone:  Coincidences, Synchronicity, or Random?

For about five or six years it was popular to say ‘That's random.’   We passed through that discursive phase, as I rarely if ever hear on campus any students saying “That’s random.”  The passing of a popular saying doesn't, however, constitute the fading of a phenomenon.  “The gods have flown away," said Heidegger, but I've always felt their presence nonetheless.   So too with the experience of randomness, a term that, I think, was/is intended to describe what Jung called ‘synchronicity,’ or what most folks call‘coincidence’.  

I once spoke to a psychotherapist and mentioned to her that I often experienced synchronicity, and wondered if I might have just have noticed  strange coincidences a bit more often than most folks because, well, I just did, or, perhaps, it had become a habit to notice them?   She gave me her take on Jung and synchronicity, which, as she understood it, was a description of a universal ordering principle that functioned as an alternative, and complementary  force to the more dominant law of cause and effect.   The causal force was more dominant, she said, because in the West, anyway, we had, since the age of Reason (or Rationalism) and Science, become trained ('educated') to perceive the universe determined by the logic of cause and effect.   This explanation reminded me of Foucault, and the way he documented practices throughout history, the way, for example, the ‘self’ has been constituted.   Might we say the same for perception?  Could human perception be a historically and culturally ‘produced’ experience?  

I have a colleague at Hofstra who is an excellent philosopher.  She also happens to be a hard core determinist, and has won over more students than any other colleague I know.   I became aware of this in Spring 2011 when I was teaching a seminar on Existentialism in the Honors College.   A few students in the class were having difficulty with the Sartrean foundation of the course of study, the assumption of human freedom.  At first I couldn't begin to argue for or defend ‘freedom,’ because I didn't understand the determinist way of perceiving the universe.   As the semester unfolded we arrived at some common ground when we read Arendt, who talks about humans being ‘conditioned’ in a way that Kant talks about the a priori categories that shape human experience.   Arendt also famously emphasizes that each and every human being has the capacity to initiate something new.  We are beginners, she says in a riff on St. Augustine, because we can begin.   And, for Arendt, there's no question we experience freedom, and she doesn't think this is a historical phenomenon, despite explaining that the ancient Greeks and Romans set up very unique opportunities for the experiences of freedom.    

In what sense are we ‘conditioned’ to perceive experiences and events through the lens of cause and effect?   And why is it that we only sometimes experience strange coincidences, and synchronicity? 

When I record the Dead Zone I often times experience synchronicity, and I wonder if it's the orbit of planet Grateful Dead that lends itself to such experiences.   For sure, planet Grateful Dead has its own kind of gravity, atmosphere, as well as unique temporal and spatial dimensions.   The most recent example occurred last Saturday morning when I was recording The Dead Zone for Jan 8th.   This year on the show we are exploring the Dead's performances in Europe, thereby commemorating the 40th anniversary of the famous Europe 72 tour.  We'll focus on the tours from 1970, 74, 81, and 90, i.e., performances that are not as well known as those from April and May of 1972.   We started this documentation this past Sunday with my favorite Europe show, March 28, 1981, from the Grugahalle, Essen, West Germany.   (It's cool to write ‘West Germany.' I think I miss that distinction. Not sure if the Germans do.)   So as I was recording the Dead Zone last Saturday morning, my wife Kelly called to tell me she'd started a new novel, The Summer We Read Gatsby.   She started by saying, “Hey, you know how in those Perrotta novels we encountered all those references to the Dead?  Yeah, well, check out what I just read in the beginning of this novel.  The narrator in the novel is named after the Dead tune ‘Stella Blue,’ because her parents are Deadheads, and the night she was born they played “Stella Blue.”  And then narrator says, 'I became a Deadhead myself when my mother took me to see them in Germany. I was ten years old.'      Funny, right?”  Kelly added.   I paused for a moment, smiled and replied, “Yeah, that's funny, really funny, in fact its weird, because the show I am playing as we speak, and that will be on The Dead Zone tomorrow night is from Germany!” Another moment of synchronicity, or what I often call Grateful Dead moments.

I wonder if it's possible to be ‘educated’ in the perception of synchronicity?  I've done a  lot of thinking on that question, and even written a few papers on improvisational teaching and learning.  A would conjecture that synchronicity is experienced intensely by great improvisational musicians and the groups of musicians who accompany them (e.g., Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead,  John Coltrane and the 'Classic Quartet' of McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones.)  Can the same experience happen with teaching?   I noticed in doing some reading on Jung that he more or less left the research on synchronicity as a project for the future.  Perhaps this is a field of study in education and philosophy that can and should be taken up?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Dead Zone: an Epic Journey

(01.11.12) Soon after starting this blog, which I promised to do as a 2012 New Year's resolution I wrote a short account of the launching in my writing diary, a logbook which I keep as a member of the Daily Writing Club, (an online support group for academic writers, sponsored by the Poststructural Theory site created by Clare O'Farrell
   After launching 29 Sunset Drive I recorded the following in my daily diary:  "Feeling nervous about this project, because it feels boundless.  I'm not sure what I will do with this blog?!  I have some ideas about it being a kind of flaneur repository….where I will store all my reflections, observations, etc., as well as links to my radio show.  So no general organizing theme as of yet." 

We didn't cross the borders, the borders crossed us!

Of the lessons I've learned from my studies, one of the most profound is the one taught to me by Herodotus, when he warned his readers to beware of ignoring boundaries!  But can we be guilty of ignoring boundaries if we don't know where they are?  Isn't that part of the fateful flaw of human beings?  Yes, at times we cross them, transgressing the conventions of our villages, and, like gamblers take the risk and embracing the outcomes, whatever they may be.  At other times, we unwittingly cross some boundary or another.   And at still other times we set out on a new journey without any sense of where we are going.  This is what I've seen called the 'Epic Journey':  pursuit of the rare experience.   

So, for the moment, unclear of the boundaries of this blog, I'm sharing links to my weekly radio show, which I have posted on the internet archive. The Dead Zone is an expression of my love of music, radio, and, of course, the Grateful Dead.  It's also part of my take on being a professor, which for me demands some experimentation, innovation, and, above all, using all of the available resources at the university!  Here's a link to one of my favorite shows, which I produced for New Year 2008:

In Memory of Ilan

(01.11.12) On January 5th, my dear friend and colleague, Ilan Gur Ze'ev passed away.  I did not know Ilan was ill, and news of his death came as a shock to me.  I met Ilan in 1997 in Vancouver, at the Philosophy of Education Society annual meeting.  We were riding the elevator down after hearing a mediocre paper on Jurgen Habermas.  After a moment of silence, I sighed and said, "I wonder what happened to the Frankfurt School Habermas?  Did you hear any critical theory in that paper?"  Ilan smiled, shook his head, and said, "That was not critical theory.  No, no, no. But, shall we have a coffee and discuss critical theory?"   And so began a friendship that was formed over a mutual desire to think critically, to challenge ourselves and others to take up difficult ideas, to write honestly, to be tireless in our engagement with truth, justice, beauty.   Ilan was an inspiration, because he was so brilliant, and, yet, humble and supportive of others.  He brought many of us together over the years, organizing meetings in Oxford, Oslo, Madrid, Miami, and wherever our professional organizations would gather.   The fruits of those gatherings were published in several volumes that Ilan edited.   Here's a link to the first of those volumes:

I saw him for the last time last year, in Manhattan, where we shared a long dinner at the Monkey Bar, one of the coolest old places in NYC (  I'm so glad to have that memory of sharing that evening with Ilan.

I will miss Ilan, but will never forget him.  And to this end, I will remember him by posting and responding to his work throughout the year.   I begin by sharing a link to Dr. Arie Kizel's blog, where Ilan's last lecture is posted.