Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Story of Passover...Recap

So last weekend, me and my superjewness threw a superseder! Y'all know how religious I am (hee hee) and yet despite my orthodox followings, I'd forgotten passover was coming up. Oops. While shopping at Trader Joes, I was reminded of this by my gentile friends, when they asked "hey Jew, what are you doing for Passover?" (Ok, so maybe they didn't say "hey Jew"...although it would be a little McCartney-esque right? "Hey Jew...don't make it bad, take a sad song and make it better..." I digress).

So anyhow, upon realizing I had too much grading and dissertation prospectus work to the take the time to do a proper seder, I decided to get a little creative this year with my interpretation of religious traditions. And so, for our seder I created a seder plate of bagels and lox (see photo), realizing after the fact that bagels are about the most leavened bread you could possibly eat! Double Oops. The cup for Elijah this year was provided by E's fabulous gift of smurfy goodness glass! (see photo of sacred cup being held up by religious followers).

We recited the story of passover (as best as I could remember..."why on all other nights do we eat ramen and spaghetti, and on this night we eat bagels and lox?") And we dabbed our plates with wine (see photo), reciting as many of God's plagues as I could remember and adding some new ones to the list: God smote the peeps with vermon, locusts, frogs, slaying of first born, prelims, Republicans, Cheney and Bush, etc..."

For dessert we indulged in Japanese mochi, because let's be honest, what kind of traditional Jewish meal doesn't involve Asian cuisine? And of course to provide the most Jewish of atmospheres we listened to Simon and Garfunkle throughout the evening, and capped our festivities off with Mel Brooks' History of the World Part 1. All in all, a very fun evening. I'm thinking my fellow "chosen people" would be proud. Or horrified. One or the other.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sad Mac...

I got the teaching blues today. It was my last sections for the semester and I was so sad to say goodbye to my students. They were both such great classes. They were so cute at the end too, they each gave me a round of applause. It made my heart smile. One of my favorite students came up to me after class and said it was the best section he's ever been in and that "when students are laughing it means they are learning" so that I should keep up the humor.

While I've definitely felt oooober exhausted this semester from teaching and dissertation anxiety, it's also been a really good semester in reminding me why I came here in the first place. I absolutely love love love teaching. I just am going to have to work on the separation anxiety I seem to get when classes end...such a sad mac.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Inspired by Art and Activism

I went to a gallery showing today put on by University of Michigan's Prison Creative Art Project. One of my former undergraduate superstars is involved in organizing poetry workshops at a woman's prison nearby and I went to hear her and her group give readings last month and was blown away. The exhibit today was another component of the program focused on visual arts and theater. They also released a documentary film on the program that followed the history of the program, started about 12 years ago by a Professor here (I think in English?) who went around to Michigan's many (way too many) prisons teaching guerilla theater.

The film and gallery showing also included a panel of former inmates speaking (and fielding questions) about their artwork and time in prison and also allowed them the chance to walk through the gallery and present to the audience on other artist's work. It was revealing to walk around this gallery and look at the patterns among people's choice of images they painted; lots of statue or liberties (one had a noose around her neck and was titled "Jena Six"), so many images that illustrate how disproportionately prisons are filled with Native American and African American inmates.

The program is amazing, and makes me wonder if others like it exist in other states. It's based on the philosophy that every human being (regardless of past mistakes or crimes) has a right to create art. The organizers noted that among the hundreds and hundreds of prisoners they work with, they never ask why the prisoner is there. They are focused on destigmatizing prisoners and they've also created a program to link outcoming prisoner artists with artist mentors in the community.

This evening I came home and started reading two of Angela Davis' recent books on prisons. I think my dissertation is going to head in the direction of looking at colonial and imperial knowledge producing spaces from schools to prisons to military bases in Hawaii. We'll see...I still have no clue how anyone figures out dissertation ideas.

But art, art, art...far more inspiring than dissertation's another, entitled "Making the Choice" (the one up top was titled "Yet Free")