Archive for June, 2011

Welcome to the Course, Whoever You Are, Part 1

June 28, 2011

No one knows who’s in or who’s out, but the die is cast. Registration is closed and the assigning algorithm is whirring away.

While that part of the great equation is being solved, I am slaving over a hot laptop all day trying to put this thing together. As I read Willie Morris’s wonderful North From Home this afternoon it struck me that you all don’t get an organized chance to evaluate the course until mid-October, and thought it would be great if only I could get some feedback now. Well, maybe I can…here goes.

This post is the first of five in which I tell you what I’m up to and ask you to be, in effect, co-leaders, and let me know what you think I should be up to. I’ve already had a couple of emails and a phone call from prospective group members asking about books and suggesting articles. I am absolutely thrilled by this and am hereby soliciting more.

This week is kind of a generic cry for help: what I’d like to know is, simply, what you’d like to get from this course and how you think I can best help you accomplish that. The best way for you to do that is to leave a comment on the blog (just click the appropriate link at the bottom of the post). Second best is to email me (no one reads those but me, so you’re missing the biggest part of your audience), third best to call (I’m not so good with phone messages). Let me know what you want to read, hear or see in class. Let me know if you have any special knowledge, skill or interest that might have an impact on how we set things up.

It’s a whole lot easier for me to adjust now than it would be if I found things out in October, right?

The next four posts of this series (planned at weekly intervals) will cover the films, readings, music and syllabus for the course, in that order. In those posts I’ll ask more specifically for suggestions and let you know exactly what’s on my list, what’s not, and why. I’m hoping this will be helpful to you, but I know it will help me organize my thoughts and get a better handle on where I’m headed.

I am very excited about leading this group – as always, I’m learning a lot as I go, and as always, understand that most of what I learn will come from you. Why wait until September for that process to begin?

Today’s video is of Mamie Smith, whose 1920 recording of Crazy Blues sold over a million copies. Here she’s performing the Harlem Blues, from the 1939 film, Paradise in Harlem. The card-playing quartet is the Alphabetical Four, who strayed from their usual gospel repertoire for the occasion. Please enjoy.