Tag Archives: Minnesota

Does Where You Live Determine Your Education?

22 Feb

Doesn’t it seem sometimes like life imitates art? That the same issues that were being written about — class, education, nationality — in the books of previous centuries can still be written about today?
Does where you grow up determine your education? Does it depend on coming from the “right” type of family who signed you up for extracurricular coursework? Or, is education self-determined? Can you embrace the autodidact tendencies of Massachusetts-raised Jack Kerouac, who skipped school to read voraciously in library?
Education was paramount in my family. My father especially believed that getting a good education was my job. It was his job to have a job, to have a career in which he could earn money to provide for his family. This would allow him to put me through the best and most expensive college so that one day I could have a reputable, well-paying job. Consequently, as a teenager, I could babysit occasionally, but I was not allowed to hold a regular after-school job when instead I should be studying. From what I observed growing up, that was common among the class of immigrant families in my hometown. Parents who had pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps worked tirelessly so that they could provide their children with a good education that would enable us to live better, easier, more fruitful lives.
Yahoo Real Estate recently came out with its annual list of most educated states in America. It didn’t surprise me at all to see my home states of New Jersey and New York on the list. I attended a Blue Ribbon high school in Bergen County, New Jersey, and my classmates and I went on to attend some of the highest-ranked colleges in the country. Not only that, almost every single friend from my childhood that I’ve kept in touch with went on to grad school as well—and that includes people that were in honors and AP classes and people who were never really into academics.
I mention friends first because I didn’t grow up with extended family nearby. My cousins—those from my father’s side, first generation; those from my mother’s side, here just a few generations longer—were in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these states as well were all in the top ten most educated states in America!
That’s not to claim that my family is the most well-educated or that we use our education to further traditional, high-paying careers. Some of us have master’s degrees, others of us just graduated high school. Some of us have careers, others of us are homemakers. Some of us read for pleasure, some of us play video games. Still, we have the foundations and the options to choose what we want to do. I’m reminded of the eighteenth-century British novels I read about women of a certain class, who were well educated even though they were never going to use their education outside the home. They would surely study French and Latin and learn to play the piano and paint frescos because it made them more interesting, more desirable, more well-rounded. They enjoyed learning for the sake of learning.
I think there’s something to be said for living in a state that values education. Even if one prefers to work with her hands or to be a stay-at-home father, both of which are noble, being well educated provides options and allows one to enjoy a rich interior life. One of my friends lived in a state that did not value education. Rather, when her daughter raised her hand to answer questions in class, her classmates mocked her for being interested in school. The girl began to shut down, to stop raising her hand, to stop caring about school. Fortunately, my friend recognized what was going on and was able to get her out of that situation. Now her daughter reads and writes even outside the classroom.
I go through phases where I get lazy and watch a lot of Netflix. Right now, though, I’ve been reading and writing a lot again—and it feels so good! I can’t believe I ever got so distracted and lazy to stop doing what I love. Suddenly my life feels richer. I feel like I’m doing what I’m called to do. And part of me has been thinking about furthering my education again. I’ve been missing the structure and challenge of academia. I’ve been wanting to be exposed to new ideas, to be challenged by books I’d never think to read on my own. I wonder if it’s worth it to get my PhD. University costs are so outrageously expensive, and when you work in the arts, where little money is the norm, it’s hard to justify going into debt. That’s why I’m glad I live in New York. New York is a university unto itself. There are so many great readings, lectures, and panels I can attend—and often for free. I can go to the library and check out books at random or I can do a little digging and find recommended reading lists like Allen Ginsberg’s Celestial Homework.
In descending order, the most educated states in America are:
  1. Minnesota
  2. New York
  3. Vermont
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Virginia
  6. New Jersey
  7. Connecticut
  8. Maryland
  9. Colorado
  10. Massachusetts
No matter where you’re from in America, though, you can educate yourself by seeking out mentors and reading good books. Even if one is illiterate, a lot of libraries and churches offer volunteers who can help.
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Remembering Gregory Nunzio Corso

17 Jan

corso_mindfield_new

I have a special place in my heart for Gregory Corso. I’ve always appreciated his Romantic notions and the levity he brought to the so-called Beat Generation canon.

Unlike a lot of the other people he associated with, who were brought up in middle-class families and took an interest in the seedy underbelly of New York City as adults, Corso was abandoned by his mother at a Catholic charity and his father had him put in the foster care system. At thirteen, he landed in jail, where he discovered poetry. It was only many years later, after he became famous, that filmmaker Gustave Reininger found Corso’s mother and reunited them in what turned out to be a happy ending. His mother actually outlived him, though, as he soon found out he had cancer. During that time, his daughter Sheri Langerman, a nurse, took care of him.

Corso passed away in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, on January 17, 2001. His ashes were buried at the Protestant Cemetery, Cimitero acattolico, in Rome, across from the poet that inspired him, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Jeff Bridges Interviews Garrett Hedlund, Who Plays Dean Moriarty in “On the Road”

13 Dec

I’ve been connected with so many people these days who are interested in the different writers associated with the Beat Generation. Katie, who is researching Joan Burroughs, turned me on to Interview Magazine‘s feature on Garrett Hedlund, who plays the Dean Moriarty character in the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

What initially caught my eye was photographer Robbie Fimmano‘s moody portraits of Hedlund. The black-and-white photographs are stunning. I wish I could post them here, but I don’t want to impose on his or the magazine’s copyright, so instead you can check out the online gallery here. He’s looking a bit like Johnny Depp in some of the photographs.

Actor Jeff Bridges, who apparently played his father in Tron (I say apparently because do you really think I watched Tron?), interviewed Hedlund for the magazine, and it starts off kind of cute and silly because they’re calling each other “Dad” and “Son.” Hedlund is from Minnesota and is Swedish, just like my mother, and he talks a little bit about coming from Minnesota in the interview. He also reveals that even though he played Dean Moriarty, the character based on Neal Cassady, in On the Road, he relates more to Sal Paradise. You can read the full interview here.

The film is finally opening in the States on December 21.

Clip: Coffee and Portraiture and the Associations We Make

27 Dec

Associations are revealing.  This morning, as I was drinking a cup of horrid office coffee, my brain leapt from the specific brand and flavor of coffee my mom drank when I was growing up to a seemingly unrelated bit of biographical information about a photographer I’d researched while working on a blog post on his efforts to Save the Whales.  The photographer is Louie Psihoyos, the film director of The Cove, the Oscar Award-winning feature documentary that uncovers the horrifying mass slaughter of dolphins.  Psihoyos is from the Midwest, as is my mom (he was born in Iowa, my mom in Minnesota), and his immigrant parent came from the Peloponnesus, the same region of Greece my dad grew up in and where both of my parents now live.  That wasn’t the association I made this morning, though.  Instead, I was recalling that I myself had recently taken a photograph of my coffeemaker and a bag of hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee, while photographing some other food in my kitchen, and that I always associate hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee with my mom.  From there, I remembered I’d recently read about a photographer who’d photographed people with their possessions.  At first I didn’t even remember that the photographer was Psihoyos.  As I started to write the blog post about how I associate coffee with my mom, I kept thinking about the significance of Psihoyos photographing people with their possessions and what the objects we’re associated with impart about our identity.

Read the rest of the article on Burnside Writers Collective.