Archive of ‘Listening’ category

Nerdy Thursday: The Crochet Coral Reef Project

My whole life, I have been an “English person” (language, writing, the arts). In my world, being classified as such was an explanation–an excuse, even–for my lack of understanding and poor grades in math and science. “English person,” “math person”–is there validity to these distinctions? It is certainly pervading language in our culture. We categorize people in ways that isolate them from other possibilities.

In Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Crochet Coral Reef project, I see a collision of two margaret_wertheim_clip_image003worlds I long thought resided in separate galaxies: Science and art. These women are educated, pioneering, thoughtful, and seem to have a wonderful sense of humor about this crazy, beautiful project which “resides at the intersection of mathematics, marine biology, handicraft and community art practice, and also responds to the environmental crisis of global warming and the escalating problem of oceanic plastic trash” (find the full definition here).

I love the following descriptive piece from their website, which offers a glimpse of the sheer love, joy, and creative chaos that goes into this project:

margaret_wertheim_clip_image001“The two sisters curate the project together from their home in Highland Park, Los Angeles, where they dreamed up the Reef while watching episodes of Battlestar Gallactica and other television fantasies. Much of the Reef has been crocheted during long sessions of serial TV-addictions, including Battlestar, Zena Warrior Princess, Ugly Betty, Sex and the City, and Lost.The project has also been fueled by a continual diet of cinematic feminine energy from Claudia Cardinale‘s transcendent performance in Once Upon a Time in the West, to the ecstatic bad-girl frenzy of Denise Richards and Neve Campbell in Wild Things and Milla Jovovich‘s leavening grace in the Resident Evil series. Sometimes favorite films end up in the Reef itself when a videotape is crocheted into a coral form.”

The Crochet Coral Reef project is fascinating on so many levels. Perhaps one of the most simple is its intersection of science, math, and art. It gives hope to this science-fiction-loving, knitting, math-challenged, English nerd–that I can be more than one thing, and that curiosity might be reason enough to venture past the borders of “I can’t do that.” It reminds me that everything in our world–tangible and intangible–is constantly intersecting in a wild, gorgeous dance that defies categorization. It gives me courage to step out of stereotype.

Southwest_School_exhibition_homepageI first learned about this project by listening to the On Being conversation between Margaret Wertheim and Krista Tippett. Also, check out Wertheim’s TED Talk about the Crochet Coral Reef!

Nerdy Thursday: Invisibilia

thI had no idea what to expect from this NPR podcast when my sister recommended it to me. It’s such a unique blend of storytelling, psychology, history, and science that in some ways, it defies description. Hosts Elix Spiegel and Lulu Miller take a crack at it this way: Invisibilia (Latin for “all the invisible things”) explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas,
beliefs, assumptions and emotions.”

Once I started listening to Invisibilia,
I could quite literally not stop.Invisibilia_1color_SPOT199C I invented reasons to go driving or to clean (my designated podcast-listening times). My house is now spotless.

It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’ve already lost count of the times I’ve brought into a conversation some story or insight I learned from one of these episodes. I carrying them with me, and see their influence on my life in ways I did not anticipate. Conjuring courage in a scary situation, recognizing the power of my thoughts, being conscious of my expectations of others: I often find a connection between these things and the stories I have heard through Invisibilia.

That is this podcast’s source of power: stories. True, visceral, honest, personal, human stories. Human behavior may be the mind of each episode, but the people sharing their real life experiences are the program’s pulsating heart.

Spiegel and Miller are fantastic hosts. They are enthusiastic, full of life, and unabashedly curious. After crafting thoughtful environments for each episode, they have the humility (and the great sense) to get out of the story’s way.





Review: XENOCIDE & CHILDREN OF THE MIND, by Orson Scott Card

86489780765304742-lIf it seems unfair to review two books at the same time–then I do apologize. I don’t mean to offend, but I feel so similarly about them, and I read them so close together (via audiobook), that what I have to say about one, I have to say about the other.

I have to begin with this: I respect Card as an author. Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow have been in the top echelon of my favorites since the day my teenage self read them.

In both Xenocide and Children of the Mind, Card does something that feels quite different from these two favorites of mine, and also from Speaker for the Dead (book 2 of the Ender series, which I thoroughly enjoyed): instead of the moral or philosophical theme being the undercurrent of the story, Card uses these novels to directly deal with an array of philosophical ideas, one of which is this tiny, uncomplicated query: “what makes a person a person?”

Sheesh. Talk about light reading.

Honestly–Card poses some fascinating questions and presents inventive, well-thought responses to them. The ongoing plot of these two books–which include a continuing cast and situation–is intricate and complex. It juggles the personal growth and interpersonal relationships of about 15-20 people while handling huge moral quandaries. There are merits to these books, I assure you.

But I did not enjoy them very much, and certainly not as much as I enjoyed the first two of the series (Ender’s Game, Speaker). I think Xenoicde and Children could be absolutely riveting to a great many readers, but for my part: I found myself drifting, almost bored, through the long, scientific and philosophical conversations the characters exchange the majority of the novel. We are a party to the intellectual and moral struggling of almost every character, and although I can appreciate (to a degree) being allowed into the process, I found many of these long stretches of dialogue to be unnecessary and self-indulgent.

What kept me interested in the story were the characters I had come to know and love over the course of the series, and the relationships they formed. These connections felt overshadowed, and so diminished, by long philosophical discussions and scientific explanations. Perhaps it comes down to this: these novels had me so much in my head that when I wanted to feel with the characters, I found it difficult to emotionally connect.

I feel a deep emotional attachment to Ender Wiggin, the title character of the series, and so I know that Card can pull that kind of characterization off. I greatly missed the opportunity to form similar bonds with the characters from these novels, who were nonetheless intriguing.

I would recommend this series as a whole, but Xenocide and Children of the Mind were difficult for me to get through.

Nerdy Thursday: Neil Gaiman, 2012 Commencement Speech

This is Neil Gaiman being witty and honest and inspiring. Also, his voice is magic. If you think you need more than that to entice you, then you’re….well, you’re just wrong.

This month I’m locked in the struggle to believe that Making the art I love can be enough. The battle is hard, and this is the Braveheart-esque speech I need right now to bolster me.

Listen to the whole thing. Don’t be cheap with yourself.

Nerdy Thursday: “Sanctus Dominus” by Margaret Rizza


Pictured: Chester Cathedral in Chester, Cheshire England, UK. Image retrieved from here.

I heard “Sanctus Dominus” by Margaret Rizza through the Pray as You Go podcast that I often listen to as a morning mediation. I was doing my dishes with headphones in when the Friday, November 21st episode began. A few seconds into the “Sanctus,” I had to physically stop what I was doing. I took my coffee over to the glass door overlooking my deck, paused, and listened. And then listened again. And again. I have listened to it almost every day since then.

I shared it with a friend of mine who described her experience as being “transported,” and likened the song to a sunrise. That is the perfect analogy: The song begins as a quiet, steady hum. Progressing, it crescendos while adding layers of complexity–the way colors begin to ripen as the sun climbs higher in the sky. By the end of the piece, it reaches its own kind of zenith: emotionally, spiritually, physically, causing the listener to “look up.”

If you want to hear it in its entirety, follow the link provided to the Pray as You Go episode for November 21st. It plays from 1.36-4.43.