jeweled platypus


thursday, april 26, 2007
Writing about school instead of doing homework, again

a real classroom

Today I had a striking thought that I realized is common knowledge: a class is not a way for me to completely absorb a subject, but a way for me to develop a grasp of it that I can use to learn more and to create things. So initially I’m interested enough to take the class, and my interest deepens as I learn more about the subject, and then I go find ways to learn more (including taking other classes). The element that redeems intellectual entertainment like this is that I’m supposed to use my growing knowledge to create original work.

This is what the creative part of College of Creative Studies means; it’s a mediocre name because “creative” makes people think “fluffy artsy college” instead of “what your tedious college dreams of being”. Why create original work, anyway? The college seems to imply that you do this to get into graduate school and help other people further their own self-justifying spirals of intellectual development. People reviewing my college once recommended adding a goal to the mission statement like “To encourage students to use their original work for the betterment of humanity”, but the administrators ignored it. They trust that they don’t have to tell us to be good people.

My most successful classes so far have been ones in which I:

  1. Completed the class with full credit or a good grade (equivalent measures that depend on the college in which I took the class)
  2. Deepened my interest in the subject and learned more about it for fun
  3. Created work that I’m proud of (we’ll save bettering humanity for later)

Most of my classes have had one or more of those elements, but not enough of them have had all three*. They’re equally important to me, so I need to focus most on whichever one I’ve been lacking, and that’s (1), which is closely related to (3). This is a fancy way of saying again that I need to work harder in my literature classes.

Right. I’m supposed be doing my homework for them right now — including creating a Second Life account. “Wtf?”, you might ask, and you would have a good question, but I think my virtual class session tomorrow morning will be amusing. Class without changing out of pajamas. I like that. Maybe I will blog about it. In pajamas.

* Successful classes: “Beginning letterpress printing”, “Evolutionary medicine”, “Language and linguistics”, “Writing for new media”, “Malaise, melancholy, and the production of art”, “Islam, Arabs, and Arab-American voice in American literature”, and maybe a few others.

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tuesday, april 24, 2007
I think I’m an intellectual lolcat

My “Culture of the Copy” English class intertwines with my “Borges and His Precursors” Literature class, and they’re both branches off the “New Media Reader” book I borrowed from a professor last quarter because her Writing class included some readings that I would have read just for fun (that is, the fun of tearing them apart). I like that many of these related seeds in my brain were planted and cultivated by my network, and that I use my brain to help make better.

This process of learning what I want to learn — synchronizing some of my formal and informal learning — is a little scary because I’m not sure whether I can absorb, process, and contain it all.

a 99 cent store barbie next to the back of a book with salman rushdie

In my creative-writing Literature class, we’re reading and imitating New Yorker profiles. One of the things I’m writing is a short history of my college, which is hard because I took the class on that subject last quarter and my memory of it is already fading (I also took a class about memory that quarter). The other piece I’m working on is about my college’s Computer Science lab, which is much easier and more fun. The professor assigned the subject to me because she knows I spend time there; I like that I may be the only person who both does that and wants to write about it.

I should write about too, especially during this summer, but that’s difficult in the way that writing about relationships is difficult: I couldn’t publish any of it because the people involved could tell me I’d written their secrets down wrong (also, the nitpicky details of non-disclosure agreements and future potential boyfriends shunning me). One solution is to write something now, wait until the people involved don’t care anymore, and then publish whatever it is. But I tried writing like that once, and after a few months I read it again and didn’t care either.

Bookmarking links is usually a way for me to learn things, but writing posts is almost always a way for me to put off doing my homework.

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saturday, april 21, 2007
I like my name

At a family day at the old Getty museum (pre-1997), a person wrote “Britta” in Persian for me:

my name in persian

This name originated as a nickname for Birgitta, a popular Swedish saint. She is also known as Bridgid and Bridget, which are variations of the name of the Irish triple-goddess Brigid (or Brigit/Brighit), meaning exalted one, who was the goddess of poetry, fire, wisdom, etc., equivalent to Minerva and Athena, and the daughter of an all-powerful harpist god. All of this is nice, but I usually forget to celebrate my name day on October 7th.

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thursday, april 12, 2007
Oil wells, containerization, trains, love

When I saw Edward Burtynsky’s pictures of oil fields and containers a couple years ago, I knew that he had taken the pictures I’d been thinking about since I was a little girl staring out the car window at oil wells that looked like dinosaurs. Doug likes odd industrial things too, so we went to UCSB’s screening of Manufactured Landscapes, which turns Burtynsky’s pictures and picture-making process into a quiet and wonderful narrative.

A few days later, we visited the Goleta Depot railroad museum, which has one real exhibit: a neat old caboose. Next door, you can buy reproductions of lemon packing labels, homemade persimmon jam, and little xeroxed pamphlets that explore Santa Barbara County history.

Southern Pacific 4023

Then we wandered around California and looked at oil wells.

a red one, with the shadow of the truck in front

two red ones, with a tank and pipes in the foreground

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tuesday, april 10, 2007
You may draw your own conclusions

I like learning about infographics, but the ones I make don’t live up to my glorious visions. Here’s one that represents my first two years (six quarters; half the planned total) of college education, if I finish all the work for my classes this quarter:

too complex to explain? what lame alt text, i know
Click for legible size.

More explanation: “4 unit” means a complete, regular class and “2 unit” means an incomplete, student-taught, or otherwise less-work-required class (only 4-unit classes count toward requirements). The lines between classes represent a relationship in their subject matter, such as I read a few of the same texts for both these classes, Knowledge from this class was useful in that one, or These classes covered different aspects of the same topic.

This chart is useful for me. It says I haven’t completed enough literature classes, but I collect half-credit computer science classes. My classes have no overarching theme except curiosity about humans and their activities; they’re a little miscellaneous. Most of my classes don’t resemble my vague career plans. I enjoy having this “college” excuse to learn things, and I like playing with Omnigraffle.

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I’m Britta Gustafson.

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