Artists vs. Zombies

This is a repost of a post I originally wrote on June 23, 2011 for Sandra’s “Old-Post Resurrection Hop” at A Writer Weave’s A Tale. Since I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of the arts, and the power of the arts to challenge ideas, I thought I would revisit this post. Enjoy!

“Feed me brains!”

Zombie Sam from terror4fun.com

The Zombie Leader lumbers towards an unsuspecting group of people who blithely go about their business reading, writing and creating. The Zombie Leaders intent to devour their energy and independent wills does not seem to faze them, until he makes his way to each one devouring brains and creating more zombies.

The Zombie leader does not discriminate when it comes to brains, but he especially enjoys feasting on young minds because of their potential to absorb energy and ideas at an overwhelming rate. Catch them young, he thinks, and they will never learn, grow, or threaten my Zombie Kingdom. Of course, he doesn’t really think this with as much insight as that. Really, his thought process is limited to “Brains!” but inside he knows that destroying a thinking, creative populace is what has made him strong and will make him more powerful.

Caught by this creature’s never-ending lust for domination and power, the young people turn into zombies quickly because they have yet to learn how to defend themselves from his overwhelming control.  As his army of brainless drudges grows, the Zombie King gains power over event those who have the skills to protect themselves and others from him. Why? Because these creative people often get so absorbed in their individual projects that they don’t sense his putrid, decaying presence until it is too late.

The more creative energy one zombie can devour, the higher in the ranks of the zombie world he/she rises. And with that strength comes more power and control over the ever-growing army of mindless drones and crucial elements of society which would help the diminishing group of rebels continue to fight the good fight.

But here’s the secret that they don’t understand (if they understood anything, which is a challenge when your brains are in someone else’s stomach):

Zombies cannot exist without artists!

Yes folks. Artists created zombies . We drew them, designed them, wrote stories about them. And while we focused on creating them, they grew stronger and more powerful. They grew to resent us, and their thoughts began to focus on our destruction. They exist because we gave them life,which suggests that we have the power to destroy them.

But I don’t think destruction is the answer. No! As artists our power comes from creation, not destruction. So, if we want to defeat the zombies and protect the creative minds of young and old alike, we must use of the power of our art itself. We must wield our pens, brandish our paint brushes, strengthen our words, mix our colors, build our connections, sing our songs, pronounce our monologues, grow or gardens, dance our dances, create our puppets, share our knowledge, and dream our dreams.

The zombies will try every trick they can–including destroying the foundations of equality and justice. They will attempt to suck the brains out of anyone, especially a leader, who leans towards valuing something other than power and money.

But in the end they will lose because artists never die–we live behind our words, our pictures, our songs, our sculptures, our ideas, and the power of our dreams. We are even capable of turning zombies back into fully functioning humans, or, at the very least rainbows. All it takes is a sprinkle of fairy dust and a lot of hard work.

Artists can rule the world!

This is a Blog Hop! Join in!

“It’s Not My Fault” (100 Word Challenge)

This week, Julia gave the same challenge to both children and adults. She has a magnificent program going where schools all over England (and the world) have students posting 100 Word Challenges, and people can read and respond. By giving us both the same challenge, she is hoping to get more adults responding and have some young people come over to look at ours.  So, I decided to take this weeks challenge phrase “it’s not my fault” from a young perspective. Enjoy! Then take a peak at other entries, by young and old alike.

 

“It’s not my fault,” I heard Johnny say
“Mom won’t let me come out to play.
I didn’t do anything wrong, I swear!
I didn’t mean to destroy Sarah’s teddy bear.
Can I help it if my rooms a mess?
I have better things to do with my time I guess.
Mom’s so mean! She’s  no fun!
She forgets what it feels like to run
as quickly as you can and slide across the floor . . .
Is it my fault I broke the door?
It’s all her fault, I cannot play
she won’t let me out today. ”

 

Artists vs. Zombies

 

“Feed me brains!”

Zombie Sam from terror4fun.com

The Zombie Leader lumbers towards an unsuspecting group of people who blithely go about their business reading, writing and creating. The Zombie Leaders intent to devour their energy and independent wills does not seem to faze them, until he makes his way to each one devouring brains and creating more zombies.

The Zombie leader does not discriminate when it comes to brains, but he especially enjoys feasting on young minds because of their potential to absorb energy and ideas at an overwhelming rate. Catch them young, he thinks, and they will never learn, grow, or threaten my Zombie Kingdom. Of course, he doesn’t really think this with as much insight as that. Really, his thought process is limited to “Brains!” but inside he knows that destroying a thinking, creative populace is what has made him strong and will make him more powerful.

Caught by this creature’s never-ending lust for domination and power, the young people turn into zombies quickly because they have yet to learn how to defend themselves from his overwhelming control.  As his army of brainless drudges grows, the Zombie King gains power over event those who have the skills to protect themselves and others from him. Why? Because these creative people often get so absorbed in their individual projects that they don’t sense his putrid, decaying presence until it is too late.

The more creative energy one zombie can devour, the higher in the ranks of the zombie world he/she rises. And with that strength comes more power and control over the ever-growing army of mindless drones and crucial elements of society which would help the diminishing group of rebels continue to fight the good fight.

But here’s the secret that they don’t understand (if they understood anything, which is a challenge when your brains are in someone else’s stomach):

Zombies cannot exist without artists!

Yes folks. Artists created zombies . We drew them, designed them, wrote stories about them. And while we focused on creating them, they grew stronger and more powerful. They grew to resent us, and their thoughts began to focus on our destruction. They exist because we gave them life,which suggests that we have the power to destroy them.

But I don’t think destruction is the answer. No! As artists our power comes from creation, not destruction. So, if we want to defeat the zombies and protect the creative minds of young and old alike, we must use of the power of our art itself. We must wield our pens, brandish our paint brushes, strengthen our words, mix our colors, build our connections, sing our songs, pronounce our monologues, grow or gardens, dance our dances, create our puppets, share our knowledge, and dream our dreams.

The zombies will try every trick they can–including destroying the foundations of equality and justice. They will attempt to suck the brains out of anyone, especially a leader, who leans towards valuing something other than power and money.

But in the end they will lose because artists never die–we live behind our words, our pictures, our songs, our sculptures, our ideas, and the power of our dreams. We are even capable of turning zombies back into fully functioning humans, or, at the very least rainbows. All it takes is a sprinkle of fairy dust and a lot of hard work.

Artists can rule the world!

Bullying . . . It’s Not Just for Kids

Bullying on IRFE in March 5, 2007, the first c...

Image via Wikipedia

We live in a land of Bullies.

No, I’m not just talking about the bullying of the school years that has become such a prominent story in the news. That bullying, I believe, is a result of the world we live in. The bullying of the teen years becomes more horrific because of the additional challenges of a changing body. It is amazing anyone survives.

But, that bullying or the feelings that come from it don’t disappear in adulthood. It’s not like we achieve a miracle age where nothing can bother us anymore. Think about it. Have you ever looked in the mirror (both literal and figurative) and disliked what you saw? Perhaps you see fat, or age, or gray hair. Perhaps you see insecurity, unhappiness, failure. Perhaps you see loneliness or defeat.

Whatever you see, you are not looking through the eyes of reality. No, you are looking through eyes of insecurity–of all the fears, doubts, and discouragement you have witnessed throughout the years.

Those are the feelings that come from bullying.

I still carry in me the shy, insecure girl of my youth. I still carry within me the lonely girl who felt on the fringe of all groups, and never really felt like she had friends. I still carry the girl who never felt like she was quite good enough.

Of course, I recognize my accomplishments. I know that I have had successes in my life. But all it takes is one snub, or one feeling that I’m not invited to sit at the cool kids table, and that little girl comes out again.

But remember, those snubs are from adults, not children.

I just spent the last half hour watching anti-bullying videos created by high school students of a friend of mine. Students created these videos for an anti-bullying campaign/contest. If you would like to view them and/or vote here’s the link to the Facebook Page. And it is those videos that made me realize that we never grow out of bullying or feeling bullied. We just learn to internalize it, and hope that the behavior remains inside.

But it doesn’t.

So what can we do? We can work on being kinder to each other and setting a good example. We can remember how it felt when we were younger, and use those memories to create a better world. We can tune out the voices of the bullies and embrace who we are faults and all.

We can look in the mirror and accept ourselves.

Bullying is not just for kids, but neither is prevention.

Here’s another thought about bullying that everyone should read from The Life of Jamie.

ItGetsBetterBroadway’s Channel: We Need More Voices

 

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

Image via Wikipedia

 

I needed to hear this song today.  YouTube – ItGetsBetterBroadway’s Channel.

I know it is for GLBT youths, but isn’t the message really for everyone? I believe that a lot of the hate, the bullying, the abuse, etc. comes from fear. Fear that somehow, if that person is different than “I” can’t be happy. People put others down because they are insecure in their own lives.

Yes, some of it comes from ignorance, but mostly it comes from fear. So this song is about everyone. If you live and trust in yourself and life, it gets better.

It is too bad that more people can’t see that.

While I appreciate these artists for doing this, and those who step up to give their own testimonials, I see a problem. Theater is always perceived as gay. I am in theater, I love theater, but here is a reality about theater: people who don’t get it, or don’t really understand it assume that anyone who participates is either promiscuous or gay. We all know that is a stereotype, but it is a well-known one.

So, kudos to these artists for doing this, but now let’s get some athletes, action/adventure stars, or more politicians to stand up proudly and share their stories that say “It Get Better!”

Until there is no reason to hide anymore, how can we honestly tell young people it gets better?

The Culture of Bullying

 

Bullying on IRFE as of March 5, 2007 (the firs...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Bullying!

The word echoes through the air these days.  Every day you hear a new story or of a new death. For me, recently, each day brings a new awareness about the  pervasiveness of this issue.

I want to do something about it.

This week I conducted a workshop at a nearby high school on Performance Art. While Performance Art is not exactly my favorite type of theater, I think it is an interesting thing to introduce to high school students as it provides them an outlet to explore issues using art, theater, music, and other things to express themselves. I introduce the techniques by using a piece of literature or poetry (for this workshop I used “Ozymandias”). I also brought an extra poem to help out, this time one on bullying that I found on a WordPress blog http://bullypoems.wordpress.com/ (thank you to that blog writer).

The students were then given an assignment to create their own piece of performance art, with the only restrictions being that they respect each other and respect school rules. The results were interesting, with topics ranging from family relationships to feeling stressed about choices they needed to make in life. The majority of them, however, were about bullying.

Now, maybe that was a reaction to the poem I read them, but I think it goes deeper than that. In our discussions afterwards most of the students acknowledged that there is bullying at their school. Some of them hesitantly acknowledged to being victims.

More disturbing to me, however, were the number of people who acknowledged being witnesses to bullying, but who simply walked away.

Coincidentally, last night I was asked to adjudicate a performance at another area high school. The play they put on was Bang Bang Your Dead! by William Mastrosimone which explores the issue of bullying from the perspective of a boy who shoots 7 people (5 students and his parents). Not a light evening of theater, that’s for sure. There were two talk-backs after the performance, one for the audience and one between the adjudicators and the cast. Both were revealing.

The first showed that the parents and community are aware of the problem but feeling at a loss as to what can be done.

The second revealed what the kids had learned from this process. Many of them researched and became aware of the amount of bullying that exists in the world, and in their more immediate world. BUT, and this is a disturbing but, their understanding and new knowledge did not promote action. They shared a story that, after a school viewing of the show, some freshman started teasing and throwing food at the lead (the person who played the killer). Rather than saying something, he walked away!

How do we fix this? I know it is scary to confront bullies. I recognize that sometimes it is easier to hide our eyes and pretend we don’t see what is in front of us. But that way lies Columbine. That way lies 9/11. That way lies the Holocaust.

Now, I’m sure somebody will object to me connecting bullying with 9/11 or with the Holocaust, but what is bullying if not a form of intolerance? It is about someone showing power over weakness, or trying to pretend to have power by making others feel weak. In a way, bullying is human nature, in the sense of survival of the fittest. The strong win and the weak are destroyed. Bullying is not something that occurs just between children in school, it is just that in some ways adult bullying is more subtle. That doesn’t make it any less dangerous however.

If bullying is human nature, does that mean there is no hope of change? It has become crucial for us, as a society, to break free of this negative quality of human nature. We need to learn to respect and value diversity, otherwise there will never be an end to violence, hatred, death (by violence) and bullying.

I hope we can do it.

With more people like this hero, Joel Burns tells gay teens \”it gets better\”, we can.

Another important link about this: http://newsroom.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/15/it-will-get-better/

And in a few short words, this person hits the nail on the head http://broadsideblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/they-taped-their-roommate-and-outed-him-on-the-internet-now-hes-dead/

Making Connections with Words A Powerful Tool in Education

My Alma Mater, Brockton High School, has been in the news recently.

In a time when the news about school is usually depressing (murder, suicide, school shootings, bullying, failure, etc) this was good news: with a lot of hard work and commitment the school was able to turn around from being the lowest testers in the state to the top 90%.

Many people suggest that this is somewhat miraculous because the school does not represent the so-called ideal that people argue for today. It is not a small school. It’s huge! When I went there, there were around 6000 students. Numbers have dropped, now they have only 4300, but that is still larger than my college.

So what did they do that was so drastic? It is simple really (in its logic, not in the amount of work). They added reading and writing to EVERY SUBJECT!! Yes folks, a radical change, encouraging people to read and write actually helps them learn.

This story has really been resonating with me since I heard it. Not just because it is my school, or because the principal Susan Szachowicz was one of my favorite teachers in high school, but because of my own experiences in the classroom. For the past 5 years, I had been teaching Freshman Composition classes at a small Liberal Arts College. I enjoyed it, except for the fact that so many of my students were not good writers (even though I wasn’t teaching the lowest level classes). Even more of them were not good readers. They could read, but they had no interest in it, and found it difficult to understand or find meaning. Some of them did not know basic grammar.

Now, this is not an attack on the public school teachers. I know that they work hard under trying circumstances. Rather, I think this was a symptom of something greater–the idea that we as a culture are not making young people understand the value of learning or the connections between what they learn and real life.

I usually began those classes asking if anyone thought writing was unimportant. It never failed; I had several students who would argue that they would never use it, because they were accounting majors. or business majors, or science majors, or physical therapy majors or whatever. My goal was always to prove them wrong. We would talk about how reading and writing would play a role in almost any job or just in life in general. Of course, someone would always come up with a couple of examples where they could function without writing–like a porn star.

When possible, I tried to have at least one assignment where the students could choose a topic that interested them to research, read, and write about.  Usually that was pretty successful. One of my accounting students chose to explore how research and writing might fit into accounting. She was very surprised at her results, when she discovered that writing does play a role in accounting.

Back to Brockton High School. By incorporating writing into every subject I believe they are doing several things: 1) encouraging reading and writing, a valuable skill;  2) showing even the most reluctant students that communication is important; 3) making subjects interconnected in a way that they truly function in the so-called real world. You need math as well as words to function in our society.

I believe that when you connect the material to the interests of the students, and show how everything is interconnected you create an education program of true value. Our world functions on the connections we make between what we know and what we don’t know.

John Dewey said “Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” By allowing the students to see how language plays a role in sports, in math, in science BHS has allowed them to become thinkers and to grow as learners. They may not all succeed, but they are being given the tools to succeed.

The lesson to be learned from this is not that big schools are better or all schools must do this program to succeed. The lesson to be learned is that, through hard work and focusing on the true needs of the students, education can succeed. Kudos to Dr. Szach and BHS for understanding that low test scores does not give educators the right to give up, but rather creates the mandate to try something new.

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