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da future!

froggies315's picture

First, an apology:

At the end of class today, Anne asked us: “What is science?”  Truthfully, I find this question (and all the other definition questions like it) incredibly irksome because I feel that it assumes 2 things:

1. That I haven’t thought about what science is (I have)

2. That I care about reaching a common definition (I don’t)


1. Anne was probably not making these assumptions when she asked us this question.
2. Maybe others in the class do care about reaching a common definition, which means it is an important question to explore.  
3. Even though I think I’ve reached my final conclusions about my thoughts on science, I probably haven’t.

So, I’m sorry if my frustration with this question manifested in rolling eyes or an obnoxious comment.  This is exactly the kind of thing that I said I wanted to work on too...change is slow, I suppose.  

Now, my suggestions for the rest of the semester:

1. I think we should do the first exercise of the semester (where we shared three words that describe us) two more times.  Once when we get back from SB, and then at the very, very end.  I think it will provide us with an interesting way to reflect on how we’ve changed over the semester.

2. I don’t think we should have 2 required blog postings per week.  Most weeks, I have posted two blog posts, but I wouldn’t want this to be a requirement.  It would feel forced to me, and that might eventually lead me to resent serendip (no good!)

3. I think before we jump into reading more stories, we should spend some learning and reflecting about how we read/listen to/experience/accept stories.  Here are some things that have made me think about how I receive stories:

1. This podcast is called “Listening Beyond Life and Choice.”  It is beautiful and has pushed me to approach stories/people that I feel viscerally opposed to with an open heart/mind.  I think it could be especially helpful to listen to if we are plunging into a genre that we feel unsure about.

2. This podcast is called “Memory and Forgetting.”  I listened to it last year, so I might not remember (hah) correctly, but I believe that it made me think about how stories change when we re-tell them/put them in a different medium.  

3. This is my favorite hour of radio. Ever.  It bridges one of the gaps that I sometimes feel is the most dividing in my life: the divide between camp people and non camp people.  Seriously though, I believe that these stories will make us think about how we share our stories and access others’ stories.  What are the barriers? Should there be barriers sometimes?  More fundamentally, how do we communicate with people who have vastly different life experiences than us?

At first glance, it may seem like these proposals are not that connected to what we talked about in class today, and maybe they’re not....This topic is the one that I’ve been thinking about in response to our conversations, so I think it might be fun to talk about it with all of you, but it might take our class off on an unwanted tangent.  I think they’re most related to our questions about the genre of people.  

4. On that note, if we decide to explore the LGBTQ genre, maybe we can read this book: I read it four or five years ago thinking that it was non-fiction (it’s not).  Also, I remember that it was a fairly quick read...I bet we would only need to spend a week on it.  Here’s a description, taken from Amazon.

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license...records my first name simply as Cal."

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

5. I mentioned these books when we spoke about memoirs

 Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.


The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence. Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years.

The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.

 6. Finally, I would not be opposed to reading some science fiction, but I don’t really know any.  Also, I think it would be important to link whatever science fiction we choose to whatever memoir choose.

Some people mentioned Octavia Butler in class today.  I haven’t read any of her books, but the theater my step-mother works at sponsored this event, last fall:  Here is some of the dance footage: if we decide to read one of Butler’s books, I can ask my step-mother for the rest of the footage from the performance, so that we can experience Butler’s stories re-invented for multi-sensory intake. (no promises that such footage actually exists/how long it will take to get it if it does exist)

That is all!