24 7 / 2014
C-3PO: “You will therefore be taken to the Dune Sea and cast into the pit of Carkoon, the nesting place of the all-powerful sarlacc.”
C-3PO: “In his belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering, as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.”
It was twenty years ago that I came into possession of that protocol droid. I was its fourteenth owner, although it would not disclose any information on the thirteen previous ones. By the time it entered my possession its body’s brass plating was almost as thin and timid as its AI. For the first year after I purchased this tarnished, golden droid from the district auction, this memory recall occurred without warning, at first daily, then weekly, then, for some reason, scarcely at all.
Owing to this unpredictable glitch, I was never able to make use of the C-3PO unit as a translator or a cultural mediator, not that I ever really needed it considering the advancement of modern neural AI embeds. But C-3PO’s terror, its obsession stuck with me.
It’s a fool’s errand to project free will or desire upon even the most sentient of droids, but there was something about this recall, its intensity, its pain… its fear, so unlike anything I had ever heard uttered in digital voice, that called like a Siren to my curiosity. Never could I have imagined how a droid so distressed would guide my journeys.
What did it mean? What is the “sarlacc” this droid spoke of?
Historic records from the time of the Galactic Rebellion are sadly incomplete thanks to the Great Cyberwar, but even a child would turn rapt at the mention of the legendary Han Solo, and from that very first mention I knew I must uncover more.
What I, an interplanetary naturalist, have observed in my lifetime of exploration and study, may top the list of “horrible ways to die in the known universe”, this thousand-year psychotorture, this eon of agony. I present here my natural observations of the sarlacc.
Natural history + Star Wars geekery = a really excellent example of interdisciplinary learning. (Plus I now know way more about sea anemones and antlions than I did before.)
23 7 / 2014
19 7 / 2014
On Tuesday, the non-partisan advocacy group, MassCreative hosted a forum in Worcester where all the gubernatorial candidates were invited to attend and talk to arts leaders and advocates about their platforms for supporting the arts in Massachusetts. Most attended, though Republican Charlie Baker neither bothered to show up in person nor send a representative. About 600 arts leaders,…
16 7 / 2014
"Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words."
16 7 / 2014
"Are the bees finally beginning to catch a break? Highlighting the toxic chemicals’ “potential broad-spectrum adverse effects to non-target species,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week quietly announced plans to eliminate the use of bee-killing pesticides in wildlife refuges."
10 7 / 2014
There were about 350 people at Barnes & Noble this afternoon to get copies of Chris Colfer’s latest installment in the Land of Stories series, so there will be better pictures and more ecstatic recountings out there to find, if there aren’t already. I would, however, like to point out that even when it was my turn at the signing table, as about the 290th person, he was still charming, personable, and in a resolutely good mood as he denied his hand being sore at all, though his pen was nearly dead. He asked each person a question, even if it was just ‘where are you from?’ or ‘how are you doing?’ and when interacting with the kids in line his smile got about sixteen degrees wider and it was absolutely lovely to watch. I wondered a little about whether it’s easier or harder to just do a book signing as opposed to a reading/Q&A - I’m the sort of person who does better with reflected energy, so I think I’d prefer the latter nearly always, but I imagine answering the same questions over and over does lose its shine eventually, and it’s not exactly a short tour he’s got planned.
From the logistical side of things, I’ve never been to a book-signing where the crowd control was so nearly like a color-coded cattle pen, but to the bookstore staff’s credit, everyone was pleasant and helpful, and to the crowd’s credit, 98% of them were cheerful too. And to Colfer’s credit, he was as generous with his time as his attention: he signed as many books as you brought to the table, and given the crowd he easily could have justified asking it to be just one per person. So well done all around, everyone pat yourselves on the back.
(Hope they gave him a *giant* glass of ice water when he was done, though, keeping the door open to the line outside for hours did a real number on the AC in the building!)
10 7 / 2014
It’s Throwback Thursday, and a beautiful day outside, so grab your recycling bin full of last week’s newspapers and a roll of tape and build yourself a backyard fort! (Just don’t use it to hang your child’s playpen out the window…)
Originally posted on Brain Popcorn:
It’s warming up, it’s almost school vacation week here in Massachusetts, and as the leaves are starting to unfurl I…
07 7 / 2014
Poet Colleen Michaels is the brain behind the Montserrat College of Art’s Improbable Places Poetry Tour. And this past Thursday, the improbable location for the latest set of poetry readings was Footprint Power’s recently decommissioned power plant on the edge of Salem Harbor.
I was initially dubious and simultaneously drawn. Having lived in Salem for over 4 years, just on the opposite side of Collins’ Cove from the familiar smokestacks, I’ve absorbed their shadows into the folds of my understanding of the local landscape, and grumbled occasionally about wind direction and sooty windows. Like most people I know around here though, I’d never been inside. Hydroelectric plants and windmills at Niagara and in the Netherlands and elsewhere? Sure! Coal and oil-fired behemoth in my backyard? Nope.
So while I wasn’t sure what an evening of readings about ‘the work of power and the power of work’ would sound like, I was totally in for the chance to tour.
As it turned out, the readings were a fantastic variety. Ranging from reflections on both the grit and the worth of daily grind to the concept of living on or off ‘the grid’ to poems inspired by this very power plant and the future of energy in the 21st century, the poems and poets offered a beautiful and thought-provoking set of mental images.
Check out more of the ‘cathedral of steel’ and its unusual evening occupants in the gallery below:
Local poet January O’Neil also has a nice write-up of the event, where she too highlights one of my favorite moments: the reading ended, not with a headliner or a speech, but a moment of silence that was filled by a recording of the actual crackle-rumble-hum of the turbines when the plant was operating. It was a very cool kind of ghostly and really made me want to go home and write.
In the meantime, however, have a draft of a poem inspired by my own workplace, and what it’s like on a festival weekend as the visitors are heading out and you’re waiting for that last performer to finish packing up their gear, thinking about attendance numbers and what you’ll put in your program evaluation come Monday…
The Power of Improbable Places Poet Colleen Michaels is the brain behind the Montserrat College of Art’s Improbable Places Poetry Tour…
8 days a week
By Meg Winikates
I tell myself it’s a good ache,
the dull burn in my heels that says
the miles I’ve walked circularly
over this granite floor have made
a lasting impression on me.
My calves recall the frequent dash,
sore hands avert another crash
ff child and chair, of floor and phone,
and whisking fingers vamoose trash—
rub buzzing ears, block joyous drone.
Duty’s done, but wonder lingers—
Did I meet just eyes and fingers?
Save one bad day, help one smile grow?
Made one growler’s heart a singer’s?
Or worn my footprints on this stone?
Enough would be one ‘yes’ alone.
03 7 / 2014
Camp Nanowrimo has rolled around again, which means the corners of the internet I frequent are full of cheerleading and wordcounts and interesting snippets of advice from published authors. As I am currently more in the editing stage of several projects as opposed to the frantic amassing of words, I thought I’d share some of the things that have caught my attention in the last week or two:
01 7 / 2014
Are you invested in the future of culture and the arts? Do you have friends or family members who are? Do you plan to vote in the next Massachusetts race for governor?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, and can get to Worcester (or one of the bus departure points) on July 15th, please consider signing up here, and I will look forward to seeing you there!
If you can’t make it,…
30 6 / 2014
From “Let the Public Play,” a recent exhibition at the Cambridge City Hall Annex, photo by me. See more from this exhibition at “The Playful Season” post linked below.
I’ve been blogging over on PEM’s Connectedagain, this time about the importance of intergenerational play. Did you know that playful behavior in adults can improve your mental and physical flexibility, but that play involving…