Symphony of Science

There are things that just seem to go together.  You know, the word packages like ‘bouncing baby boy’ or ‘fire engine red’.  They may be cliched, but they fit.  So do peanut butter and chocolate, Batman and Robin, and snow days and sledding.

There are however things that are so odd you can’t help but pause, back step, stare, and then be forced to move along. Or sometimes you just ignore them, such as seeing your professor shopping at Meijer. Or your friend’s boyfriend wearing a French maid costume.  There are the more mundane things too, like witnessing a guy baking or an athlete wearing a shirt proclaiming his love of the 80’s version of Transformers.  Some things just don’t fit.

And yet, they still get forced together.  Example A: CatDog.  

There is so much information, both personal and other that suggest these two creatures, hyperactive poochies and chillaxing kitties, just don’t belong together.  And yet in this cartoon they do.  Not perfectly mind you, but it is a meshing of opposites that works.

Another thing you don’t often see is a combination of art and science.

The two come from completely opposite ends of the spectrum.  Science is logical, structured.  It has to follow rules and procedures. Art? Not so much.  It is about emotions, free thinking, and a lack of restraints.  The two even use different parts our brains!

And yet there is a definite link between the two.  It has been shown that art programs in school results in better grades in the sciences and art is commonly used as a teaching tool.  Learning your ABCs would have been much harder without the song to accompany it. And would you really have reached your current reading level if there had been a lack of pictures to keep you entertained when you first got introduced to books?

Make way for the Frizz!

And don’t forget shows like the Magic School Bus!  I never would have been interested in science if not for Ms. Frizzle and the rest of the class.  Art was used to make science exciting, made children want to learn, and learn they did!  Who doesn’t remember the songs (or at least the choruses) of School House Rock?

But now that we’re older, art isn’t used as a teaching tool.  Well aside from those Screen Arts and Culture classes where you analyze culture concerns through movies. (All those vampire movies in the 80’s, fear of AIDS. Now? Wanting what is out of our reach.  Hey! Avatar was about that too!) Seriously, power point lectures are boring.  You’re lucky if you get to see an old sketch of some old dude.  And very few even do that.  Remember when you learned power point? The words effects and cool backgrounds was where it was at.

But maybe that’s not the case.  Maybe, somewhere out there in the vast network of computers and people that is called the [insert booming voice] The Internet [/voice] someone, somewhere had come with with another way to tech us through art.  I bring you, the Symphony of Science.

Wait no! Don’t run away with images of Yo-Yo Ma lecturing about sound vibration with a harp being plucked gently in the background in your head!  This is modern stuff completely lacking in violins, harps, trumpets, or conductors.  Instead consider John Boswell as a director.

Symphony of Science is an effort to deliver scientific knowledge in musical form.  There are four songs, each with downloads and lyrics available on the website as well as the music videos.  Each song is composed of the remixed quotes of scientists, from Carl Sagan, Jane Goodwell, and Bill Nye the Science Guy, put to the tune of electronic music.  And each explores different subjects: astronomy, evolution, humanity, creation.

They also get stuck in your head, just like the songs you hear on the radio.

But more than that, they actually teach.  Using images and phrases that wow you, make you pause and think.  And the best part is that each song is understandable.  There is no large amount of jargon to confuse you, only simple, eloquent thoughts that explain so much and also put you in your place.

But don’t just listen to me.  Listen to Boswell’s songs yourself.

Interested in more? Click here.

Your (recently converted) Carl Sagan junkie blogger,


On rituals and writing

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at quarter before one in the stretch of early afternoon, I would push open the side-doors of the Union, a peppermint dissolving languidly on my tongue, and stop by Panera to fill my thermos with coffee in anticipation for two and a half hours of lecture.

Late every evening, at whatever obscene hour I decide it’s time to call it a night — to exalt my pillow in my dreams — I pull on my soft, black sweatpants, wash my face, pouch up the cushions into a more lively, dynamic and agreeable arrangement, and clamber into my bottom bunk with a book to fall asleep to.

And every day, before I sit down to begin a writing endeavor, a lunch-date, breakfast-date, midnight-rendezvous with words, if you will, I clear my desk, and turn on the relevant lighting appliances while I boil two cups of water to steep tea in the one, singular mug I own.

Rituals – mundane as they are, my life is guarded by them, as I assume yours is too to some degree. And this was what my fiction-writing professor inquired of his class. Searching into the small coterie of students, apprentices to his own craft, he posed the following queries. “Do you have a writing schedule? A particular fetish-object? Do you believe in the chisel or the muse?” And as the class, seated conveniently in a somewhat elliptical circle, proceeded to give in fine detail of the elaborate rituals they undertook in order for the words to surface and break into the realm of the consciousness, like swimmers gasping for air, I realized the eccentricity of the writer-personality. Twirling, tapping, and balancing pens and pencils, we all took turns to embrace the spotlight with some small tale of our lives. Some spoke of their joy of burning the midnight oil, driven by the ineffable comfort of the dark and the pin-point stars fastened to the sky; some, the pressing deadline chasing at their coattails. So far, nothing too shocking considering that we were, after all, a class of undergraduates; we were, on average, nocturnal. Others somewhat deviated from the “norm” a bit in either direction, with their best work penned on retractable airplane desks soaring 500 miles an hour over the steel blue Atlantic and thus, the mind and the corporeal body were equally engulfed in coils of wispy clouds. The rest of us, more earth-bound, alternatively would look up towards these tresses of blue sky for inspiration during the peak of the day, when the sun shone squarely on our pages, and while the wind could playfully nudge our curiosities. One classmate only used a typewriter for composition, to “feel the tactile sensation” of pressing a thought to paper, one discrete letter at a time. Meaning, would in effect, be knit together by these quick little physical displacements made by the synchrony of interphalangeal joints. Also suggested were stress balls. There were ski-masks. Apple jacks. Nothing was too bizarre or inconceivable for our group.

As I packed up my belongings and thoughts at the end of the class, I began to wonder at how some of the most renowned writers, those that were or would be commended generously generation after generation throughout the continuum of time, have organized their days and their habits around their passion for writing. I discovered, (to a slight dismay) that often, it was the other way around. Kafka who worked an office job during the day, allegedly started writing at 11 at night, and wrote “depending on my strength, inclination, and luck, until one, two, or three o’clock, once even till six in the morning.” Flaubert was “unable to work well on a full stomach, he ate lightly, or what passed for such in the Flaubert household, meaning that his first meal consisted of eggs, vegetables, cheese or fruit, and a cup of cold chocolate.” Toni Morrison found her frame of mind for ingenious, sharply brilliant composition through coffee and watching the sun’s rays break the air of the cold horizon. “I realized that I was clearer-headed, more confident and generally more intelligent in the morning.” Writing before dawn began as a necessity for Morrison, who found time only in the tiny hours of the morning before her children awoke, to lay down sentences from the fountain of her pen. Other fascinating rituals for writers (and artists) can be found here.

As for myself, I don’t think I’ve permanently fallen into one tradition or another that I must follow before I write. At least, nothing that extends beyond testing the buoyancy of a tea-bag (earl grey) in a mug adjacent to my notebook. Noon, midnight… my habits are eclectic and uncertain as I stand on the threshold of adulthood. More or less for now, I adopt Eliot’s approach to writing. “The poet’s mind is a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images, which remain there until the particles which can unite to form a new compound are present together.” Whenever the right moment arrives, when that tremendous electrical storm shatters the attic upstairs after days of deliberate observation, you’ll find me furiously, ecstatically scrawling on any portable surface, never mind if it’s the backside of a half-destroyed menu or one of those programs they hand out before a concert or play. Some days, when the receptacle is empty, I try to schedule time to write and I stand convinced that the tea helps.

Now, I turn the inquiry over to you: What are some of your own idiosyncratic writing rituals, if any?

Sue majors in Neuroscience & English and tends to lurk in bookstores.

Art and Economic Climate

I am sure a lot of us out there in the arts profession are groveling about our future plans after this liminal space we like to call college.  As funding for the arts continues to decrease, so do positions in our desired fields.

While this economic crisis is new to our generation, it is familiar to older generations who have battled with budgets and recessions on various occasions.  Reflecting and delving into the stories of art related professions provide insight for the next emerging class into how we are going to take on this economic climate, and win.

The theme for this week’s blog stemmed from a visit to my past employer, SPACES Gallery, over Winter break.  SPACES is a contemporary art gallery in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.  Yes, I know boo Ohio!  Well before you start the diss the state we love to hate, listen first to a message of one of SPACES’ exhibits titled Art Work.

I entered the gallery and was impressed by the audio and visual additions to the exhibits.  I wandered from wall to wall attempting to soak in all the information the gallery exhibits were striving to illuminate.  I sat and watched a video about nature for a few moments, but even with the visual aid, my attention span was short and I found myself wandering again.

After fifteen minutes or so of gallivanting around the corners wondering what would surprise me next, I finally came across my subject for today’s discussion.  It didn’t literally speak to me like the other audio videos or try to entertain me like some of the other exhibits; it was simply a compilation of 40 pages of newspaper articles adhered to the wall, waiting to be read.  Seeing two large walls lined with articles was daunting, but I was intrigued by what the words had to say so I started reading, one by one.

For those of you out there who don’t ‘understand’ art, I am strongly convinced you will understand this exhibit’s message.  For instead of looking and interpreting your own opinion for this work of art, this display of words literally provides one for you.  All you need to do is take the time to read!

Below the heading, Art Work, follows the bi-line, “A National Conversation About ART, LABOR, and ECONOMICS.”


The articles consist of personal statements, historical knowledge discussing events as far back as the 1930’s up until the present.  If you read through the entire exhibit you begin to understand art movements dating as far back as the 1930’s in relation to the economic climate.  Another interesting aspect I found helpful was delving into what the exhibit titles, “Personal Economy,” which outlines anonymous personal accounts of creative arts people telling their story of working in the art profession.  Its always nice to see how people similar to you have made a living.  It reminds you it’s possible and that you are truly not crazy.

To read more about the exhibit and SPACES click:here

Have a good week!


Sara majors in Art History and enjoys long walks

Thanks For The Memories

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Though during his lifetime capturing images usually required an easel and a paintbrush rather than a digital camera, images of all mediums provide a gateway into a specific moment in time. Paintings, photographs, drawings etc. serve as a form of social commentary. They can be a rather specific (and sometimes spontaneous) narrative of the times in which we live in.

Yearbooks, I think, are the most fascinating presentation of visual art. My interest in these personal photographic exhibitions started innocently enough. I began flipping through a stack of yearbooks in my dorm with the hopes of finding my football and personal idol Tom Brady (yes, I AM a Patriots fan and yes, I refuse to acknowledge that the Ravens beat them yesterday). As I flipped through the glossy pages of the leather bounded book I was struck by the images of carefree students lounging on the Diag with captions such as “squirrels mingled with students as they rested in between classes or during a lunch break.” These colorful pictures painted a simple and uncluttered commentary and description of the college experience. This sentiment was even more apparent as I began looking at older yearbooks. Yearbooks that dated back to the beginning of the last century showed a more unified university life. They participated in traditions such the pushball contest (which entails exactly what you think it entails… pushing a large rubber ball) and spring contests.

Though certain yearbooks touched on the unfortunate events of the day (i.e World War I/II, Vietnam War, etc.), what was really astonishing about these books was the transformation between generations of Michigan students. As I “traveled” from the early 1900s to the 60s and through to the present day, I was intrigued by how complex our lives have seemingly become. The simple pleasures of field days and dances have for better or worse given way to beer pong and frat parties. Though I whole-heartedly support the progression of society’s ideals and standards, I found myself longing to be one of those students standing in a long line on registration day, rather than anxiously waiting in front of a computer screen in my room. Maybe it’s just me, but I would rather be hanging out at Swift’s in a poodle skirt and cardigan set, than at Starbuck’s in skinny jeans and a North face jacket.

Take a look for yourself and see- flipping through yearbooks is a great way to enjoy a study break! Don’t forget to leave your comments below and enjoy your first full week of classes (as hard as that may be 🙂 )!

Student Productions

There are a lot of good things about living in Ann Arbor; the Arb, lots of sushi places, a wonderful public library, and a variety of venues for concerts and plays. There is something going on practically every day, campus sponsored or not, and that makes it really hard for me to go home for the holidays. My town has only three stop lights and only own business street. With no McDonald’s on it, which will really be a pain because I’ve gotten myself addicted to their eggnog shakes.

But the 24/7 MickeyD’s on Washtenaw is not my favorite part of Ann Arbor. I’m an art junkie; I love anything to do with all mediums from the rich sounds produced by a piano to the broad stokes of charcoal stick. And having not just an art program, but also music, dance, and theater programs at the University means the best thing of all.

Free art programs.

Come the end of the semester, Fall or Winter, many students have to perform and while some plays and dance recitals do require tickets there a good deal that do not. On Wednesday, the Michigan Mobile Phone Ensemble performed a concert using mobile phones as instruments and this past weekend also contained several showings of the play O Lovely Glowworm as a senior directing thesis. Saturday and Sunday were filled with student recitals, ranging from voice to piano to percussion.

Many of these events have already transpired, but there are still more coming up this week. Click here to see the schedule. On Monday, two students are giving a concert and the University Philharmonia Orchestra is playing in Hill Auditorium. And Thursday is also playing host to a couple of musical events.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wished that I had the money to see many of the programs that University sponsors. Now I don’t have an excuse to not go, and truthfully many of you don’t either. Everyone needs a study break.  Plus who knows, that student violist you go to see might being the next classical music star. You should go to get their autograph, it’ll be worth something in seven years.

Your free event loving blogger,

O Lovely Glowworm!

Directed for a senior thesis, the 3 hour long play, O Lovely Glowworm, was probably one of the highlights of my week.  It’s quite a strange play.  Firstly, it is narrated by a stuffed goat.  Secondly, a jumble of events take place that leads the viewer a bit confuzzled and confundled but ultimately very happy at the simultaneous humorous and insightful endings.  It wasn’t the typical play that one would imagine– a cast of 6, performed in a small studio theater in the Walgreen Drama Center, it began with a soliloquy by a stuffed goat with an Irish accent who does not know it is a stuffed goat.  For the next few hours, we partake on a journey unraveling the true identity of this suffering creature, who bespeaks of a pain so deeply felt yet unrecognizable.

I have a friend performing in the play and to see him perform was quite an interesting experience.  I have previously seen a lot of my friends in theatrical productions, playing this part or that, and every time, it takes some getting used to.  As good as they are in their roles, it is still difficult to separate the person that I know from the person that I am watching.  In the first moments of this play, I encountered that same difficulty.  When he was the character, sleeping, I had to stifle a giggle, seeing as he sprawled out on the set, acting the part of a humorous, lounging soldier.  But as the play went on, my vision of my friend as the person I know was replaced by the performance of the character I did not know.  And with that, I became a lot more entrenched in the many facets, rivets, and turns of the production.

The play’s plot in itself is hard to convey– as previously mentioned, it centers on a stuffed goat’s imaginative thought process in reaching the solution to his true identity as a stuffed goat.  He placed himself in various roles– a mother, a dog, a grandfather, etc– and along the way recounts the tales of those whose lives are unknowingly intertwined and all of whom suffer through some kind of unspeakable tragedy within themselves.  Of course, this explanation makes the play sound like some Grecian tragedy where everyone dies in the end, but no, it’s not.  It is extremely hilarious and witty and viewers can’t stop laughing, even in the saddest of moments.

O Lovely Glowworm is play, however, that yet again teaches something so subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) to humanity, inviting the audience to endure and persevere in their own lives, to suffer and live through the worst moments in their lifetimes to reach the happiness that could be at the end.  To live for those things other than oneself, to have faith in that which is not visibly apparent nor scientifically evident, to be at peace with what and whom one is instead of always striving to be something or someone that one is not and perhaps shall never be.  In a season where Christmas quickly approaches and Winter sets its snow in ice, O Lovely Glowworm was a wonderfully befitting story reminding us that to be human is to love and be strong.