Not ElderGroot

Figure 1. Blend #21. For the others in the Stay-At-Home Pandemic Bestiary, check out

Age unknown. Sitting in a chair and thinking wooden thoughts. This, another in the bestiary, Blend #21.

Thinking, for example, about why should Saturday of Memorial Day weekend include a haggling phone call about writing program textbooks. Writing program thinking.

Thinking about how grieving nearly 100,000 COVID-19 fatalities is a big part of the grief–abstract and weighty–but then too there is the grieving in witnessing unimaginable callousness, an audacious and raging (and fear-driven) defiance of basic human consideration, such that social distancing can transform once-meaningful, once-recognizable designations like “uncle” or “brother” and turn them inside out, unrecognizable in values distortions. Some kind of loss is this. Some kind. What kind thinking.

Thinking chocolate is a fine treat. And spicy chocolate, finer. Chocolate thinking.

Thinking about planting more lavender tomorrow. Only, will it take and will it hold or is the soil not sandy enough, is it too dense and wet, maybe. Reverdier thinking.

Thinking about the message on the Everything Blacksburg Facebook Group, about the warning of embankment crumble near Narrows, Va., and about how US-460, eastbound, essential to the Ypsilanti-to-Blacksburg return route, may be temporarily closed. Erosion thinking. Blocked route thinking.

Thinking about deixis and the sly capacities of “temporarily.” Temporal thinking.

Thinking about how licorice spice tea becomes even more comforting, year by year, somehow. Anise thinking.

Again to imagefigure, thinking “I am not Groot. I am not Groot not at all.” Guardians of the Galaxy counter-thinking.

Thinking what kind of mandala, or is it a coronavirus model, lurks outside the window like that? Thinking, too, about Billy, the neighbor kid who in Parkville, Mo., at that townhouse we rented, used to peek into the basement window where Ph. and I were in a large, empty room, playing sockball soccer, full speed into sideways-tipped laundry basket goals, about how that had to’ve been 1999. Windowpeeper thinking.

Thinking planned and scheduled obsolescence is only getting tiresomer. Hear me, Apple. iPhone update fatigue thinking.

Living Portrait

I suppose The Johnny Cash Project is as close as I will come to a Grammy nomination. Seems the crowdsourced sketch-video put to Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave” has been nominated for Best Short Form Music Video at the 53rd annual Grammy event coming up in February. In case you haven’t heard of it, here’s a bit of background on The Johnny Cash Project, including a recent version of the piecemeal video.

As far as I can tell, the video is continuously redrawn, with new frames entering into circulation and with old frames dropping in rank as participants assign a five-star rating to existing frames. Many months ago I spent a whopping thirteen-plus minutes sketching frame #1271. Whether or not it was my finest (or even a remarkable) artistic moment may take many more years to determine. My efforts have been rewarded with an average rating of two out of five stars (.400 is kicking butt in baseball and in drawing, right?). Anyway, ratings are not what is important here (ignoring momentarily that the Grammys are a contest).

Grammy win or no, the Cash Project has a pedagogical double that I remember each time it turns up again in this or that RSS stream–the class-drawn music video pieced together from snippets of lyrics and whatever drawings they motivate, all spliced flip-book-style into an on the fly music video. The rawness of DIY; the investment of “I did that.” D. has done this a couple of times with first and second graders who illustrated “What A Wonderful World.” Before the Cash Project, I hadn’t given too much earnest thought to a corresponding compositional project worth pursuing in the classes I typically teach. The Cash Project is a far more mature (i.e., serious-seeming) digital monument, and, that being the case, it has pushed me to reconsider possibilities for small-crowdsourced projects, maybe by adapting something like this and incorporating Google Docs-Drawing (with placeholder images and layers).  I like the way these music video projects link (implicitly collaborative) crowdsourcing and gestalt; the summative experience is more forceful than, say, reading a wiki entry, although, ideally, their logics could be linked–with one used to illuminate the other. Maybe.

Undoubtedly, I’ll be too tired to stay up and watch the Grammys. And that’s if I even remember when it is on TV. But I’m hopeful that The Cash Project gets its due. Here’s a glimpse of the competition.