Notes from a Backwards Chair: The Life Lessons We Learned and How We Got Real

The following is the text of a lecture I gave on May 13th at North Central College’s Sigma Tau Delta (English Honor Society) induction ceremony.

Thank you for inviting me to speak this afternoon. I hope you don’t regret asking me. I’ve never spoken at an occult ceremony, so this is very special for me.

As many of you know, I’m leaving North Central College and it’s a real honor to be able to speak with you on this day of excellence—I say that sincerely, even though there’s a lot of sarcasm to wade through in the talk I’m about to give. There’s some sincerity here, too. I thank you, my audience, for listening to me. I appreciate and value every minute of my time at North Central, so I thank you for giving me this opportunity.

When I talk to former students after they’ve graduated and moved on with their lives, the first thing they usually tell me is how much, even though they didn’t know it then, they’ve come to value the times in the classroom where we gathered in a circle, flipped our chairs around, and got real. I call these sessions ‘rap sessions’ and during these rap sessions, we put our books away and take a good, hard look at ourselves. All of my current students know what I’m talking about.

“Hey teach,” they tell me, “I didn’t believe you at the time about the life lessons we would learn, but now that I’m living my life, I think about the impact you and your wisdom have on me every day. I hear your voice everywhere. Like you’re following me.” I’m usually not following my former students, but it’s at those moments when I know I’ve done my job.
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The Silent Numbers

“The Silent Numbers” combines audio collage with original text and text appropriated from an e-mail group devoted to recording and transcribing numbers stations. Numbers stations are shortwave radio broadcasts of human and machine-read numbers and letters probably used in espionage to communicate with field agents.

Best viewed using the Chrome browser. The audio for The Silent Numbers was built with GarageBand using audio recordings of numbers stations. The visual portion of the text was built using PHP, Javascript, HTML, and CSS.

View and listen here.