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Are creative writing programs a ponzi scam?

Show or Tell: A Critic at Large: The New Yorker

Creative-writing programs are designed on the theory that students who have never published a poem can teach other students who have never published a poem how to write a publishable poem. The fruit of the theory is the writing workshop, a combination of ritual scarring and twelve-on-one group therapy where aspiring writers offer their views of the efforts of other aspiring writers. People who take creative-writing workshops get course credit and can, ultimately, receive an academic degree in the subject; but a workshop is not a course in the normal sense—a scene of instruction in which some body of knowledge is transmitted by means of a curricular script. The workshop is a process, an unscripted performance space, a regime for forcing people to do two things that are fundamentally contrary to human nature: actually write stuff (as opposed to planning to write stuff very, very soon), and then sit there while strangers tear it apart. There is one person in the room, the instructor, who has (usually) published a poem. But workshop protocol requires the instructor to shepherd the discussion, not to lead it, and in any case the instructor is either a product of the same process—a person with an academic degree in creative writing—or a successful writer who has had no training as a teacher of anything, and who is probably grimly or jovially skeptical of the premise on which the whole enterprise is based: that creative writing is something that can be taught.

This skepticism is widely shared, and one way for creative-writing programs to handle it is simply to concede the point. The University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop is the most renowned creative-writing program in the world. Sixteen Pulitzer Prize winners and three recent Poet Laureates are graduates of the program. But the school’s official position is that the school had nothing to do with it. “The fact that the Workshop can claim as alumni nationally and internationally prominent poets, novelists, and short story writers is, we believe, more the result of what they brought here than of what they gained from us,” the Iowa Web site explains. Iowa merely admits people who are really good at writing; it puts them up for two years; and then, like the Wizard of Oz, it gives them a diploma. “We continue to look for the most promising talent in the country,” the school says, “in our conviction that writing cannot be taught but that writers can be encouraged.” . . .

June 10, 2009

Police Brutality in Passaic, NJ

Passaic Police Officer Beating

That is a whole lot of cops to deal with one homeless guy. See if you can count how many times the cops hit him in the face.

Musings on the Tiller family's crisis

My friend Naomi is launching into a new sideline as a crisis counselor. This is from her new blog: Monday Morning Crisis Quarterback
One might argue that it wasn't unexpected. After all, Dr. Tiller had been shot once before. He had bodyguards and security systems. He knew there were people who wanted him dead. But knowing it's coming can only inoculate people from the trauma a certain amount. It doesn't make it easy. What makes this situation even more complicated, however, is the circumstances and motive surrounding it. Unlike most traumatic deaths, this one is actually causing people, sometimes in so many words, to publicly, openly and constantly discuss whether the victim "deserved" it. Now, most people aren't using that word, nor should they. But the constant discussion of the work that Dr. Tiller did and whether or not it was justified in some sense has that effect. ... Then we add on the fact that the alleged perpetrator is doing media interviews. In an interview with CNN yesterday, the accused gunman expressed joy that Dr. Tiller's clinic was going to close, and while he did not confess to the killing he made it clear that he was not sorry Tiller was dead. One of the things that relatives of traumatic death victims tell us is that they experience guilt that it wasn't them who died and anger that it wasn't somebody other than their loved one. In this instance, the interviews have to be compounding that sense of anger -- George Tiller is dead and his alleged Killer is basically dancing on his grave.

San Francisco rolling out toughest recycling law in America

S.F. OKs toughest recycling law in U.S.

I am excited about this. This is probably the *only* way my landlady will let us compost.

Throwing orange peels, coffee grounds and grease-stained pizza boxes in the trash will be against the law in San Francisco, and could even lead to a fine.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 Tuesday to approve Mayor Gavin Newsom's proposal for the most comprehensive mandatory composting and recycling law in the country. It's an aggressive push to cut greenhouse gas emissions and have the city sending nothing to landfills or incinerators by 2020.

"San Francisco has the best recycling and composting programs in the nation," Newsom said, praising the board's vote on a plan that some residents had decried as heavy-handed and impractical. "We can build on our success."