Rethink Homelessness (Weekend Inspiration)


A while back, I came across this video that really stuck with me. It shows homeless people holding signs, but, rather than begging for money, the signs share something about the sign-holder’s life.

Looking a little deeper, this was a project put together by Rethink Homelessness in Orlando, FL. The photographers asked the people to write a sentence that describes themselves. The results buck stereotypes and give a voice to people who are largely silenced by society.

What I find interesting about this project is how it contrasts with other projects that collect homeless people’s signs. Whereas the former attempts (imperfectly) to capture the actual voice of a human behind the sign, the latter co-opts the symbol of the homelessness.

The project itself raises a lot of questions that are pertinent to this course: What sort of stories did the subjects of the photographs want to share? Why do you think they chose these particular stories? How are they trying to write themselves? What do they want us to know about their lives? Does this give them a voice? Is it an effective memoir?

What do you think about this project? Share your thoughts in the comments! 


WTF with Marc Maron (Weekend Inspiration)

WTF_with_Marc_MaronDo you like comedy? Well, this is the place to go to listen to wonderfully interesting interviews of comedians by a comedian!

Marc Maron, a self-depreciating and clever comedian and podcaster, brings funny people into his garage and has a chat with them on WTF with Marc Maron. The result: an entertaining and insightful way to spend an hour.

A few highlights for me:

  1. Last year, he had the opportunity to interview Barack Obama. Not only is the interview funny, it is also very informative on policy, American politics, and the self-identity of one of the most important people in the world right now. In addition, Maron discusses how he prepared for the interview and how he had to physically prepare for receiving the president.
  2.  Early on in the show, Maron got the opportunity to talk with Robin Williams. Looking back on this interview, I am impressed by how Maron cut through Williams’s “funnyman” personality and captured a little bit of Williams’s inner self. That was so rare and, having lost Williams, so special.
  3. When Maron set out to interview Louis CK, he ended up revealing more about himself than he meant to… and it is a beautiful meditation on life, humor, and friendship. I consider this episode my “gateway” drug to Marc Maron.

[Note: the interviews with Robin Williams and Louis CK are behind paywalls. You can access them through iTunes for free or Google them.]

Listening in on these conversations, I am struck by how much people want to share with Maron and the world about there lives. In addition, Maron makes all of these great, funny people seem simultaneously more compelling, special, and human.

Why do we need good interviewers in order to get a glimpse at reality? Why do you think people resist showing themselves so much? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

[Image from Wikipedia and, I believe, qualifies as Fair Use.]

The Moth (Weekend Inspiration)


The Moth, an effort by George Dawes Green, which is supported by NPR, to reinvigorate the art of storytelling, is part performance, part autobiography, and part stories-for-stories-sake. Since it debuted in 1997, thousands of people have told their stories in front of live audiences all around the United States.

Participants can tell whatever story they want within the universal parameters–each storyteller must present her/his story:

  1. In front of a live audience.
  2. Without notes.

From The Moth’s website: “Moth shows are renowned for the great range of human experience they showcase. Each show starts with a theme, and the storytellers explore it, often in unexpected ways. Since each story is true and every voice authentic, the shows dance between documentary and theater, creating a unique, intimate, and often enlightening experience for the audience. Moth stories dissolve socio-economic barriers, expose vulnerabilities, and quietly suggest ways to overcome challenges and see with new eyes.”

This is not only the goal of The Moth, but it is also the mission statement behind this course. By thinking about how we write our own lives, we should get to questions about human existence, life, God, society, and on and on.

You’ve already watched/listened to Dan Savage’s story, but there are thousands of other stories out there. They might be helpful examples for your Remembered Event paper, but they are definitely helpful examples for living an examined life.

Do you have a favorite storyteller in your life? Someone who always has an interesting tale to tell? Tell us about her or him in the comments!

“How Jaques Pepin Saved My Life” (Weekend Inspiration)


One of the most interesting components of your Remembered Event papers is that sometimes the most important things happen in the most mundane ways or on any normal day.

Here is an excellent example of a Remembered Event paper: Brett Martin’s “How Jaques Pepin Saved My Life.” I came across it earlier this week, and I cannot get it out of my head. It is well written and perfect for this course.

Has anyone had this sort of impact on your life? Someone who just showed up the moment you needed them to? To give you advice? Or just listen? Leave a comment, because I would love to hear about them!