Of funnels and ladders

Last night in class, I drew a funnel and a ladder on a blackboard. You remember blackboards, don’t you? Most have been replaced by cheaper whiteboards, but they’re a poor substitute.

The gritty drag of a chalk stick against smooth slate — the sound of writing with its taps and scratches — those are the sense memories of learning. A wet marker sliding on an dry erase plastic surface lacks the tactile quality that chalk and board possess.

When I walked into the classroom and saw that dark expanse of slate, I decided to draw part of my lesson. Below the chalkboard, a metal ledge with a narrow lip held white sticks at fat as my fingers, some stubby, others long, all lying in a bed of chalk dust.

For centuries, to read meant viewing black type on white paper, to write meant scratching graphite or ink onto a white page. The blackboard stands in diametrical opposition, the contrast of white against black a reversal of the printed page. Another delightful contrast: those fat velvety felt erasers. Gliding across the hard surface, they soften sharp mistakes into indistinct smudges. So iconic, those blackboard erasers.

By all rights, the Urban Dictionary definition of  “old school” should include blackboard, chalk, and eraser. Continue reading

Lessons from behind the mic

In my other life, I ask questions. And I find people to answer those questions.

Part of my job involves interviewing people. After doing this for over 15 years, I realize:

  • Enthusiasm can trump education when it comes to describing what you know.
  • You can tell how well (or poorly) the interview will go in the first 15 seconds.
  • If the interviewee is reluctant to talk, don’t push to make it happen. It won’t be good.

What I learned about talking to people can be applied to a writing practice. Let’s take it step by step. Continue reading

A promise made…

Inside jokes are typically shared between friends.

But inside quotes (as I like to think of them) are words of wisdom, usually imparted by parents or older relatives, that take root in childhood and stay with you throughout life.

Usually they’re sayings uttered by lesser-known writers, poets, essayists, which possess the kind of homespun philosophy that you don’t hear much nowadays.

I have several which have guided me through life. Stick around long enough and I’ll probably tell you most of them. But the one pertinent to today’s post is this: Continue reading