Thursday, January 26, 2012

Storylab Chicago: Keeping Us Human through Storytelling

Last week at the prompting of a performer-of-many-trades friend, I had the delight of attending Storylab Chicago. The Black Rock Pub & Kitchen hosted the event and apparently welcomes Storylab every third Wednesday of the month.

Six storytellers provided fuel for laughs, reflections to ponder and even some sighs of sadness. The night provided a great opportunity for them to get up in front of the crowd to either have fun performing or challenging themselves with something new. At least one of the story tellers got up there because she challenged herself to do something new everyday in the year before her thirtieth birthday. Another story teller got up there as yet another avenue for creative expression.

I have the feeling my friend did it for a variety of reasons. She wanted to challenge herself. She wanted to share in the experience after spending time in the audience. She wanted to share with friends and strangers. She wanted to practice what she had learned in a class.

They have an egalitarian and populist method to get people signed up for performance at future Storylab events. I would have thought someone would have to take the Storylab Chicago's Storytelling for Everyone class, know someone who organizes Storylab or have some kind of reputation as a storyteller to get up there. After all, the place was packed and there is only so much time.

Anyone can get up there and tell their story. Well, there is a process to get up there, but essentially anyone can. You just sign up for the mailing list and put a star by your name. They probably won't let you get up there right away or at the next storytelling event. As I said, the place was packed and there's only so much time. Indicate you want to get up there and tell a story, though, and the organizers will get you scheduled to get up there at one of the future events. Bunch of people I was with wanted to try reserving a night just for their stories.

I like seeing the organizers of Storylab keeping up an oral tradition that we could see fall by the wayside otherwise. We all spend a lot of time on the Internet, doing the whole social networking thing. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Four Square, name your poison. We can easily spend hour on top of hours on these social network sites, sharing our stories, quips and opinions. A lot of our storytelling has transferred onto the Internet.

Suffice to say, Social Networking and the Internet provides an opportunity for people who don't have access to other people. It even provides an avenue of expression for people who may not care for verbal communication. We have seen great advances in society, science, the arts and a number of things because of the Internet and Social Networking. It has helped the human race evolve faster and more robustly than before. A lot of good has come out of the Internet and Social Networking.

But we can become dependent on these tools and maybe even addicted to them. Just look at people who REALLY get into World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs. Others love to spend tons of time on Facebook and other social networking sites. I can easily spend my time doing research, reading the news, following the stock market.

Heck, I'll admit it, I'd rather communicate through e-mail or chat than talk on the phone. I have no idea why other than I spend too much time on the phone at work already. For many of us, we find a lot of enjoyment while using the Internet and sometimes just plain prefer it over the material world.

I have no grand argument as to why keeping up this kind of oral tradition strikes me as so important. Maybe I will one day. I just think keeping up this type of tradition, even if it has to be done intentionally rather than organically, helps us to hold onto an aspect of what makes us human on a live basis. We share in real time, sometimes without as much of a conscious thought, we're present and we come closer to feeling like there's some sense in the world, even if just for a few hours or even a couple minutes. It's an important feeling and activity.

It's something that makes us, I believe, more human.

QUOTES OF NOTE: Storylab Chicago, The Black Rock Pub & Kitchen, Storytelling for Everyone, storytelling, oral tradition, World of Warcraft

Monday, January 16, 2012

Good Short Literature at Your Fingertips: The Chicago Reader Presents 2012 Pure Fiction

Every year the Chicago Reader, the local independent culture and politics newspaper puts out the Pure Fiction issue. They released the 2012 Pure Fiction Issue this past Thursday.

I probably wouldn't have picked it up from the side-of-the-road box if I had my phone or some other reading material. Being an election year also contributed to my inspiration. I've got plenty of benefits industry magazines to read for staying "ahead of the game" and for decluttering the home that I don't normally read the indepth newspapers. But hey,a fiction issue makes for a good gateway back into reading a newspaper.

The first story alone, Sky Boys: Lunch is served 69 stories above Manhattan by Steve Trumpeter, has easily made up for the cost of a little more clutter. A piece of "ancillary" historical fiction dramatizing Charles C Ebbets' photograph Lunchtime Atop a Skyscraper, it provides a work up to the photograph while also giving the reader perspective on the life and times of someone who had the career of putting together a skyscraper at the 69th story.

I've seen this photo in passing plenty of times. It always just sat in the background without grabbing my attention, though. This story transported me into the photograph. I imagined myself on top of those girders. Actually, more like I felt the fear of someone standing all the way up there. I could feel the paralysis that would overtake me if I looked down. The urge to grab onto a vertical pillar overtook me. Then there was the feeling of falling backwards to my doom after relaxing and trying to eat my sandwich. Pretty scary but a lot more fun to happen in my imagination than to experience it in real life.

The story spans about six or seven magazine-sized pages, and if I didn't have to sit in front of a computer to work or do work stuff at home, I would've flown through the story in about a half hour, enjoying every moment of it.

I've only read that story so far. Hopefully the other ones match it's muster or better. The other stories are:

LINKS OF INTEREST: Chicago Reader, 2012 Pure Fiction Issue, Charles C Ebbets', Lunchtime Atop a Skyscraper

Friday, January 13, 2012

Finding Out I was Trying to Re-Invent the Wheel with My Research

Last night I bought a book for my bachelors project. Nothing too exciting in that statement. In many ways, though, this new book acts as a continuation on a book I bought and read more than ten years ago.

The authors of the new book don't say as much. They say that they're exploring territory that the first book and other books in the field didn't look at. The general field I'm trying to use, the sociology of knowledge, has something to do with my project.

The main thrust of the first book doesn't go in the direction that I need or my project, though. I think the direction of the second book will go where I need to go. Just from the preface, I feel like I'm going to learn the language and vocabulary that I need to talk about my project.

Researching without an instructor or having proficiency in research techniques causes this type of problem. Without either of these types of guidance, learning or coming up with a theory almost turns into re-inventing the wheel. Adult working has taught me that this approach wastes valuable time.

A Java programming book I read introduced the concept to me, but I was too naive at the time to understand. Apparently programmers like to share templates for menial subroutines. Much faster to copy and paste a simple template then move onto doing something more creative and higher level. It's out there. Why waste time re-inventing the wheel?

I have yet to start reading the main body of this new book. I just read the Introduction and Preface. It has gotten me excited so far. My situation frustrates me a little, not having been introduced ten years to this book written in the 1966. It is what it is, though. Life always has lessons for us.

Who's really to say that I have a lesson to learn here, though? I found the book while brainstorming how to articulate some thoughts in my mind by using Wikipedia. Maybe I hadn't found this book more than ten years ago because the technology, Wikipedia, wasn't there for me to explore my thoughts.

I couldn't even intelligently talk about my thoughts or the particular books given to me to read more than ten years ago. Maybe I didn't have the technology available to explore my thoughts in relation to the world of ideas without having to explain and justify myself.

Who knows? I didn't even really know what I was doing with this project more than ten years ago. I just wanted to write a dystopian novel to graduate college. I had primordial ideas. I originally wanted to write a thriller based on angst and boredom than some kind of heady meditation on social justice.

I appreciated what I have learned, though. The process has taught me how to learn. I've had some interesting experiences going through library and historical society archives. I've seen how the growth of the Internet helps researchers engage in more efficient research from their own den or kitchen table rather than having to travel everywhere. I've also learned how to prospect for sources through book references, journal article references and, heck, on Wikipedia!

All in all, I've come out well enough in the deal. And, who knows? Maybe if I hadn't been taking this long to make this progress on my project, maybe I wouldn't have kept up with online research processes as well as I have.

LINKS OF INTEREST: sociology of knowledge, Wikipedia

Friday, January 06, 2012

Tonight There Will Be Adventure that Hopefully Stimulates Me

Tonight I will be Ezekiel, the Elf Avenger, in a home brewed world that I don't know the name of. Ezekiel along with his companions has started a quest to bring the 5 desert sieges together to combine forces against some oncoming Doom (details unknown as of now).

Tonight will be session three of this campaign. Two sessions ago, we proved our mettle against the number 2 ranked gladiator team, negotiated with the leader of our siege and joined a caravan. Last session we fought off scavenger bird men out of their territory that attacked us.

I'm interested in seeing where we'll go tonight. The caravan has crossed the line of no return. We either have to reach the next siege, or we die in the desert. Can we do it?

Hopefully tonight's session will also revive the joy in playing D&D 4th Edition. Nothing to do with my fellow players, I'm feeling a little burnt out by the game. Not totally sure what it is. Could real life outside of the game effect the joy I'm getting out of the game? Is the game getting too repetitive? Is D&D 4th Edition really too combat oriented?

Does the game no longer stimulate me as much because I haven't participated in "real life" so much. I work a lot. I don't really go out so I can save money and pay off credit cards. I haven't read anything all that much for recreation. I frankly haven't done much for recreational activities (doing a lot of reproductive economic work at home like washing dishes, laundry and trying to remove clutter). I haven't worked on my bachelors project consistently for awhile (some amount of procrastination & the reproductive economic work just getting in the way).

Our current economy, personal finances and retirement accounts have sucked in tons of my attention, too. Feels like I'm not giving it enough attention, either. Feels like I should be reading more and keeping up on financial news, so I can make sure to buy and sell at the right times to maximize profit and minimize loss.

Heck, I hardly have the patience to read anything, anymore. Maybe trying to read with a bad cold and sinus allergies doesn't provide the optimum time to read. I remember loving to read at some point in my life.

I could probably go on and on about my time management woes. All I want, though, is to have a stimulating time playing a fantasy role playing game tonight. Hopefully I can get it.