Why can’t they all be Gary Gnu?

I’ve removed the political feeds from my inbox and replaced them with poetry from places like Rattle Magazine. Not only does it calm my mind, it keeps it in a creative place.  Instead of encouraging me to yell and scream about things I cannot control, it makes the creation of new poetry likely, even little scratches in the dust like this.

I’ve been thinking a good deal lately about the inevitable nature of creativity and death. It is part of every moment in every string from this balled up humanity.

 

Step One, Hold Hands. Step Two, Don’t Let Go

Time is your partner

in all that you do

When it goes away

so. do. you.

 

Who was Gary Gnu? Thought you Gnew? Fool!

Be True to your Gnu

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Book proves Riverside has plenty to offer

Column from Riverside City College’s Viewpoints from my talk there last week. Loved sharing wonderful new things about the Riverside Arts Movements.

Viewpoints Online

By Anthony Torres

Tovar_Larry Burns RCC faculty member Larry Burns presents his book “100 Things to Do in Riverside Before You Die” on May 17 in the Digital Library Auditorium. Toward the end of his presentation, Burns told the audience he’s working on a similar book dedicated to the Inland Empire. Elizabeth Tovar Llamas | Viewpoints

A Riverside to be proud of. Larry Burns boasts about Riverside in his book, “100 Thing To Do In Riverside, CA Before You Die.”

Larry Burns is a writer and artist living in Riverside, and one of the founding members of the Inlandia Institute, a publisher and promoter of local writers and artists.

He also happens to be a staff member at Riverside City College. Burns held a lecture explaining the unique places, events and community that Riverside has to offer to the world May 17 at RCC.

Having lived in Riverside for over two decades…

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All You do to Me is [TED] Talk, Talk

Not to brag, but I teach at three colleges. It’s a cold hard fact of the college professor lifestyle.  One is a traditional community college where I teach in the classroom.  Another is a non-profit liberal arts college operating mostly online.  My third and longest employer was a publicly traded for profit college that went into the hands of private for-profit investors in 2016.  I teach here in person and online.

I appreciate my varied teaching history for the simple reason that it provides ample evidence and example to test my beliefs as they relate to higher education.  Further, as I believe higher education’s delivery methods and purpose is experiencing rapid change, it may be best to keep many eggs in my basket.  Historically (a good critical thinking lens to employ), I know at least one will falter and one will flourish.  I take the same approach to financial investment – buy what you know but diversify as much as is reasonable.

I’m preparing for a July class at University of Phoenix (UOP), which means it’s time to dust off the syllabus and see what to cut and what to revise.  Certainly, more about spotting fake news is appropriate.

Related to that, I have been reading and re-reading this: the [ill] logic of climate denial and still crafting details to make it a classroom exercise rather than a lecture.  I’ve found the really important thinking parts of the class need to be discussed. I can test terminology knowledge and MLA formatting with little effort.  It’s the big points, mostly that your thinking is at the very least a “shared” phenomenon, I want them to analyze.

Each college schedules under a different philosophy. However, each of those philosophies embrace TED Talks!  UOP holds all undergraduate classes once per week, at night, for four hours, over five consecutive weeks. With twenty hours of class time to fill, my behavior is like a shark’s. I am in constant motion, seeking the signs of new content and relevant activities and useful discussion topics.  I just bought a thesaurus, thanks for asking.

This TED Talk video, linked below, is wonderful on many levels. I find it best to introduce at the end of week one (analysis of the state of our own thinking) or the start of week two (exploring ways of asking questions to uncover knowledge…aka the Socratic method…named for Dave Socrates).

First, it breaks the ice.  Giving people a video demonstrating how silly “other people’s” ideas are generates some laughs.

Second, it aligns with the learning outcomes of the course and the pace of the textbook reading.

Third, it let’s me introduce my personal biography and history with critical thinking.  The section on backward masking transported me to junior high, the early 80’s. I completed 4th-12th grade at an evangelical Christian school. I grew up learning the facts about the Bible and America that are on full display today at the highest levels of our government.  Backward masking was introduced as the means by which secular society influences behavior.  We mostly just found it funny, at times a bit scary.

I learned then that if you want someone to believe like you do, you must teach them. It rarely happens organically.  Yes, I do believe the best higher education is non-organic.  I might someday come to the conclusion that the best higher education is delivered by non-humans. I might even concede that it may be best to circumnavigate the person entirely, and just teach AI inspired devices directly.  But that’s a blog for another day.

Living as a human my entire life, the last decade paddling around in higher education, shaped my belief that teaching via processes like “childhood” and “school” generate behaviors and values we desire most consistently.  The everyday observations by a child regarding adult behavior, and the standardized lesson planning in education shape our beliefs, often to the detriment of other types of critical thinking evidence.

Media often gets the credit.  Media however, is the wall of your echo chamber, bouncing back what you’ve already put into the universe.  When it reaches your ear again, it sounds like confirmation. But it’s not…

It’s like this video I show in my critical thinking class.  When we are told what is “there”, lo and behold, we usually “see” it. And that is where critical thinking begins in earnest!

 

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Channel Tree News

Two trees with a good deal of personal history continue to bring happiness in 2017.  Along Academy, in Canyon Crest this morning, I had a stop and chat with two old friends.  I recently finished a nature writing class through Inlandia Institute, which gave me the inclination to scan the tree tops, newly cleared by Fall, a season that runs from the Veteran’s Day to Thanksgiving around the Inland Empire.

Atop a Eucalyptus dating back to the foundation laying of this ahistorical ‘hood (let’s say the 60’s) lay a 2×2 bundle of sticks…a hawk’s nest…no idea if it’s been abandoned. It is a beautiful thing to see nature treat the urban like anything else it crosses. Another example of nature making beneficial use of the materials at hand. Surely some other creature has or will make use of that bared nest.

Back at ground level, E.M. and I tried out the tree swing that was a daily morning stop along our daily morning walk. A daily walk that started in 2014 with E.M.’s scientifically assisted conception, and ended in 2017 with the politically inspired backyard garden, and the emergence of E.M.’s two-year-old desire to reject her stroller on general principle. The net effect of these realities was an end to walks in the neighborhood.

But, in the waning days of Fall, a third birthday arriving within hours, we returned. Like two vaudevillians entering stage left for an impromptu reunion tour, we checked that tree swing for spiders, climbed aboard, and sang Mr. Golden Sun. A thank you to our neighborly neighbor for keeping the swing in rotation through the years.

Tree News. Real Trees, Real News.

Do you walk your neighborhood? Ever come across a plant or tree that defies description or your limited scientific know how? Not to fear, send it here and get the answers you want: UC Riverside’s Herbarium

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An Interview with a Tree Fairy

Thursday brought some morning clouds, making a trip to Andulka Park (5201 Chicago Avenue, Riverside 92507) for an AM romp a no-brainer.  This marks the first time since the end of Spring I pulled a long sleeve shirt out for E.M. She loved the bright graphics and rough texture of the thermal top – I loved the fact that I could keep the sunscreen in the trunk.  But we hauled the sand toys because this park has some of the largest sand boxes in Riverside.

Now, some may dispute this fact and point to other parks. Others may play word police and claim they are actually volley ball courts. On weekday mornings, when they are crawling with amateur archeologists and future explorers, a functionalist like me says, “If it looks like a [sandbox] and it acts like a [sandbox]…”

And the tree fairy I spoke to would agree. He (yes, they can be guys – Santa may be the most famous fairy alive today) goes by Paul when he is with his granddaughter.  Here is why the parks are wonderful and should always be funded, maintained, and used often.  It’s the connections they create.  And lessons taught.

Before Paul made his true face known, I learned that he worked at Riverside City College (just like me) and he retired in June (just like I want to do!) and he’s not sure he is doing retirement right (I question myself to distraction). He likes Reagan more than I do but we both agreed the mental health issues behind much of the homeless problem in our parks stems from those mental health facility closures that started under his “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” approach to social services.

An old Gen-X and a young Boomer caring for the girls that will grow to save the world we have made for them.  And when we made Andulka Park, we had little more than dirt and space.  The City of Trees was devoid of shade.  The city planted them but the tree fairy made sure they grew tall and strong.

The Tree Fairy traversed the expanse of the park soon after it was finished.  He hand fertilized every single tree. Because he knew they would need the extra support. It was his way of doing his share and supporting a resource vital to the well-being of any city, and every single park in every city.

Now, fairies are odd creatures.  They typically know a good deal about a lot of things, yet they become known for just one or two key traits – few people realize that the Tooth Fairy can get your car started in a snowstorm and the Elf on the Shelf can make a sublime PB&J without a knife.  Which is why I suggest you get out into parks to talk with them. Don’t rely on what a few writers have put into your books.

This famous quote sums it up best:your task in the world rabbi

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Horror & Freedom of Empty Space

If you find yourself in downtown Riverside, be sure to drop by the second floor of Riverside Library’s Main Branch – it’s right next door to The Historic Mission Inn Hotel and Spa.  And since this flash is space and place based, it occupies the future home of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture and Industry – let’s hope a battle does not flare up over the omitted Oxford Comma here…what fun we have with words about space, over time.

Or maybe it does not and will not. A few votes could wreck all that…

A vote (scroll to bottom to see how everyone voted, and where to send your comments) by two Riverside City Council members brought us to this day.  Fresh faced new member Chuck Conder took a gander and then took a “no way” vote.  Recently re-elected Jim Perry followed suite.  When I came across this display while enjoying story time with dozens of other parents and kids, I found the emptiness a suitable image for the state of things.

free your mind exhibit

It begs the question:  Is something empty really empty?  For instance, as the “new home” for the Library waits for one more “yes” vote from the city council, what sits in that empty lot?  What is it about an empty pedestal that sparks a thought?  Who is to say what belongs in the space?  And how much is too much?  What is the correct price tag?  Would your answer be at all contingent upon economic status, race, age, or interest?  Of course it would.  Each of us would probably put something different on that stand.  And we all would have solid reasons for doing so.  And frustration when anything but our vision appears before our eyes.

But that’s the horror of the empty space. While you study it, it studies you back.  Matches you glare for glare, each moment you try to keep the space a void, it’s power over you only grows stronger.  That empty space will follow you everywhere you go.  It will only relent when you replace it with something else.

On Tuesday Oct 3rd, the debate renews at Riverside City Council (links to agenda).  I will be there voicing my support for the $40 million investment in a community service that touches nearly every citizen in the city.  This is one of the few resources that categorically and apolitically support education and learning.  Let’s see if a city of 300,000 can muster the support.  I’m really not sure it can.

 

Some minutia for those who follow Riverside news –

 

For Riversiders -here is where to send messages of support for the new library

https://riversideca.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=563820&GUID=FB317AEC-6E8C-4441-B133-7AA035184589&Search=

council agenda 10-3

Then click “eComment” link near middle of screen. Next, SCROLL TO #31 (MAIN LIBRARY), select “SUPPORT” and add comments.

Here is the link to your own councilperson

http://www.riversideca.gov/council/

And here is what that page looks like. Each one has a link to email and phone.

riverside city council list

Here is how city council voted earlier this month. You can talk to any or all of them, not just “your guy” 😊

 

Mike Gardner – Yes – Mike responds fast. He corrected me on a mistake I made – he talks to people who agree and who disagree with him.

Andy Melendrez – Abstain. Rumor has it his property nearby is over 500 feet away, so he can vote on this if he wants. I tried to confirm this fact with his office. No response. My last four messages to his office went unanswered – two on measure Z and my two on this issue – so good luck. Side note, this is my councilperson and yours if you live in Ward 2.

Mike Soubirous – Yes. Another person who responds, even when you disagree with him.

Chuck Conder – No.  Appears to be a pretty strong no.

Chris MacArthur – Yes.

Jim Perry – No. But, he did respond within minutes of my message to him asking to reconsider. He says he is working on a solution.

Steve Adams – Newly appointed. Was the previous councilmember here as well. Hope he votes yes but I am not confident on that.

 

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What We Could Be

This week, journalist and photographer David Bacon sledgehammers a hole in the wall, revealing the 750,000 farm workers in California hidden from view.  Their labor is performed away from where most of us work; few of us sleep in their conditions, but they are still our neighbors.  Through storytellers like Bacon, it is possible that we, us and them, could be so much more.

Nearly ¼ of those farm workers come from small communities in Mexico; these are native communities with a history and culture predating European discovery and exploitation by 1000 years.  In California fields, a rich linguistic history can be traced and explored; nearly two dozen languages can be heard on any given day – evidence of a rich, diverse culture going nearly unnoticed.  What we see today, in terms of working conditions and divisions between classes of people, are the result of choices made hundreds of years ago to create an unequal system.

trabajamos image

Photo by David Bacon

 

Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves:  Why do we keep this system in place?  Who benefits?  Who continues to suffer?

How about this?  What if these million or so people were welcomed in the world?  How much richer would American society become when these dozens of voices, perspectives, ways of seeing the world, became part of who we are instead of something we hide?  How much longer can these walls stand?

 

 

To see Trabajamos/We Work: In the Fields of the North, get to Riverside Art Museum, before April 11th, www.riversideartmuseum.org

To buy the book, go to www.ucpress.edu/9780520296077 and use source code 16M4197 at checkout to save 30% or buy at the Blue Door Store inside #RiversideArtMuseum

 

 

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