Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Zooming in Plague-time

Zooming Plática In Plague-time
Michael Sedano

La Bloga friend Jesus Treviño has launched a plática series at Latinopia (link). Treviño invited Melinda Palacio, Christine Granados, and me to join him in a Zoom plática on three issues, how has the plague affected your writing, what’s a book you recommend for reading in plague-time, share a message relating to maintaining one’s general well-being.

For some odd reason, Latinopia is embargoed on the Face right now. “Against community standards” the system replies when La Bloga posts links of any sort to Latinopia.com on the Face’s property. It’s not like I’m scratching Chuy’s placa on their damn raster or forcing them to think about la cultura chicana, Latinopia.com’s métier. La Bloga was outlawed for most of a year, being granted absolution and a GOP-quality apology. Latinopia.com will exist once again, on the Face.

Take some time—you have lots of time, que no?—to browse through Latinopia’s blog and video menu. Treviño’s been documenting la cultura since forever, including the earliest vestiges of movimiento, and ongoing literary and cultural developments as recently as the Zoom pláticas on raza in plague-time.

Each Latinopia segment runs a few minutes, allowing generous exploration across subjects, and delving deeply into the musica, or consume all of Diane Hernandez’ cooking videos.

Here's a direct link to the video above, if your technology is being mean like Facebook.

Reading Your Stuff Aloud
Notes on Zooming For Useful Effect

Poetry readings and book release parties take place in cities large and small, they're one important sign of a healthy civilization. We're anything but healthy right now. Our paisanx lack patience and show in droves where they're going to make people sick. Pendeji.

The rest of us do what's possible in plague-time, like staying out of crowded spaces. Enter the Zoom and teleconference. Computer meeting rooms have no attendance limits, recording liberates gente from time and place limits. But like traditional culture readings, Zoom meetings want readers and speakers to (1) not waste their time; (2) speak clearly and meaningfully; (3) delivery that entertains while informing.

Before I went into the Army, I was a debate coach. One event was "television speaking." I'll have to dig out those lesson plans from my voluminous ephemera. Here are a few notes on public speaking on the Zoom medium.

(1) results from being unprepared for the discussion. Preparation begins a day in advance, or more. All have an outline to follow. The free version of Zoom gives 20 minutes or some period that flies by when you're having a dickens of a time getting your message out. Practice.
(2) hardware makes a major impact. I use a Macintosh machine with a built-in lens and adjustable screen. The microphone picks up sounds spoken directly toward the screen. My light source is behind the computer, the space behind has the lights off. I've seen a green screen used to great effect. Take a screen shot of your face and examine the background for oddities, like lamps growing out of an ear.
(3) public speaking face-to-face or interposed through Zoom uses a more limited body space than when you have a platform to move around on. Zoom seated. Remember regular eye contact to the lens, you'll be talking to the screen most of the time, but the audience is in the lens. Practice using your hands and arms within the frame of your computer's eye. Keep gestures within your shoulder span and your gestures will be in frame. Keep hand gestures even with your face and that avoids distorted visuals. Rapid gestures will blur. Lean forward in your seat to provide good eye contact. Lean back when you gesture to enlarge the compass of your body.

Zoom software allows users to share graphics from the user's computer with all the Zoomers. That's like a powerpoint without the speaker turning one's back to the audience! Multimedia made easy, once a user gets control over the technology. Or so it seems. I've practiced a couple times and done one live. It's useful technology, not just now when we're all isolating ourselves.

Writers, get good at Zooming. Now you're not limited to seven p.m. at the local bookseller's shop. In a live event, you'll sell fifteen or twenty copies for cold hard cash. On the computer the best you can do is have a strong presentation and make buying easy. Note: if someone pays you money for product, ship the product the next day or return the money.

Plague-time Pastime: Watching the World Go Past

Back in 2002, Barbara co-chaired the 50th Reunion Committee of Glendale’s Holy Family High School. She made paper souvenirs like name lists and cute name tags at sign-in. My treat to her was a foto booth. After lunch at Tam O’Shanter, each of the alumnae got her souvenir portraits, along with a CD I made for them.

The Holy Family Reunion CD featured number one tunes from Top 40 radio, from their Senior Year of 1962. While I sat at my computer burning disks, I enjoyed thoughts of a 70-year old matron cruising home in her Cadillac, the CD taking her back to seventeen years old her in Senior Year. The first notes starts her toes tapping and a big smile as she remembers a lover’s false promises back when “yes, I will,” was the right answer.

Maybellne, Chuck Berry
Transfusion, Nervous Norvus
What'd I say Pt 1 & Pt 2, Ray Charles
Whittier Blvd, Thee Midniters
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, The Shirelles
Yakety Yak, The Coasters
Beep Beep, The Play Mates

2002 happened ages ago, a lifetime for our household, now that we live with Alzheimer’s Dementia. Ironically, this attack upon Barbara’s memory “progressed” now to where nothing immediate in her world holds longer than the length of the sound of a period.

My wife of, going on 52 years, likes to sit in the room with me watching the world pass by in plague-time. She notices the flow, that not many are passing without remarking on individuals. She’s indifferent to masks. She knows there’s a virus out there. She reads the paper aloud, re-discovering the tragedy when she reads the same article repeatedly, wonders how and why? Finally, she sets down the Times and notices her surroundings.

She observes on the wind moving the towering palm trees, asks if we own this house? I tell her about her determination to own this house, making the purchase while I was out of town, and how she turned it into her hospitality center to share it with all our friends. Yes, we own it. “It’s a nice house,” she speaks with wonder.

“How old am I?” she asks, marveling at the answer. I joke about the number of trombones in her parade. It’s 76, she knows the words.

I play her Holy Families Oldies CD. She sings along, word for word. She won’t sing aloud, in a crowd when she threw a Christmas Caroling Party, she sang. Claims she doesn’t have a listenable voice, but there she sits, listening, laughing and into the sounds. She started back doing the songs she used to do, in 1962.

The songs bring back the experiencing of memory that’s absent in Barbara’s daily world. So we sit and sing, do chair dances, and I quiz her about the songs. She knows the answers and still can make up explanations and analyze characters with the practiced dispassion of a high school English teacher. Her sense of humor springs back when she talks about the plots. Not a whole lot, but it’s still there. The old Barbara was funny. I love oldies.

We play a game, I make up questions or situations where Barbara knows the answers, or she finds material to analyze. Sometimes she connects a song to events in her career or totally fanciful. Writers call this Oldies game “Prompts,” I call them exercises in Barbara’s still here.

The Oldies Game.
Find the titles on the internet and if you know how, make a playlist. Listen. Answer each question with a line from the song.

Will Maybelline ever be true? What were the things she started back doing?
His red corpuscles are in mass confusion and he needs this Type blood.
What State will you be sent back to, if you don’t do right?
Forget low and slow, let’s travel this way when we take that trip.
This is the one you put out when you bring in the other.
Does she want the truth, or an answer?
What was beep-beep’s problem?

He doesn’t know why Maybelline started stealing Cadillacs again. Then again, what if Maybelline is riding in Beep Beep’s Cadillac?
“Hey, Daddy-O, make that Type O.”
“Tell your ma tell your pa, I’m gonna send you back to Arkansas.”
“Let’s take a trip down Whittier Boulevard. ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba!”
“And when you finish doing that, put out the cat and bring in the dog.”
“Tell me now and I won’t ask again, will you still love me, tomorrow?”
“”Hey buddy how do I get this car, out of second gear?”

Oldies abound beyond 1962, don’t they? Now and again, the playlist happens upon some super bonus questions:
Your brujo compañero gives you a spell to cast to give her heart to you. Chant it but cross your fingers unless you mean it.
“Meet me on the mountain,” she whispered. Tom did. Then what?
Where have all the flowers gone?

Here’s an Oldie from más antes.
“One fine day, we’ll see a plume of smoke rising from the horizon…”


Concepcion said...

Gracias, Jesus and Michael, for the zoom platicas featured in today's La Bloga. I'm happy to state that the Stanford Raza Book Club of SoCal has enjoyed books authored by several of these writers. Congrats, everyone, y, Adelante!

Chuck said...

Thank you for this. I cry a lot thinking of what might’ve been for you guys this time of life. But then I remember what you keep saying-“it is what it is.” And you make the best of it better than anyone I know. Thank you & much love