lovely dark and deep

yesterday i showed john-at-the-grill
a (lo-fi text-only pages-don’t-line-up)
zine pulled outta my hip pocket;
he’d asked after my career in
teaching in a what’s-up-with-
-your-classes way… he calls me
professor… i used to go in there
several times a week back around
’92 to ’96 when that title (but not
the attending *style* necessarily)
was indeed mine (after a fashion;
strictly speaking “assistant” not
“full” professor), when i could
*afford* to eat my breakfasts in
a diner most working days.

and, okay. because, if facebook and
twitter and that stuff, is any
kind of guide? everybody wants
to know what everybody else eats?
here it is.

i’d get, back in 90-something, a cheese
omelet with hash browns; sub english muffin;
coffee; and water. i was a lazy veggie in
those days (& would cheerfully violate
my “livestock agriculture is unsustainable”,
“do it for the planet” kosherlaw
quasi-observance just to be polite,
for instance when cooks would
just slip in some ham out of habit);
i’ve despaired of making a difference
with my digestive dollar though now
and get it with the ham.

(hey look: factory farming! aaaahhh!
some days it hardly bothers me at all.)

so we’re back at the diner yesterday
and i show main street john this
*other* zine, but then, okay, hey.
some prototypes of MathEdZine #0.
which’ll also be of the hip-pocket
variety: one o’ those 8-pagers
you make by printing on one side
of a leaf of typing paper and folding
cleverly (see _ten_page_news_ #31).

“lectures without words”.
but not the kind you can see
in the blog for free. oh no.

our medium is handwriting.

i sit down and scribble lecture notes
furiously for several hours a week
like i always did. but instead of
making, say, slides for the overhead
(or, rather, *transparencies* for the
overhead *projector*… it suddenly
occurs to me that my ideal reader
isn’t necessarily current with
obsolete ed-jargon like the crowd
i’m used to hanging around with)…
or just working out exercises right in
the text itself and lecturing off
of that… or what have you…
i make these little displays
that i can imagine putting into the
hands of small groups (all real
math teachers love small groups)
and just… listening.

because… ta-dah!… the words aren’t
there. students seldom want to read
the text anyhow… *all* math teachers
(good bad or indifferent) know this…
and (trade secret) lucky for us too
in the sense of “more work for
somebody that *can* read a mathbook”.

the *important* thing is to get ’em
to *talk*. about equations and the
notations designed for writing ’em.
(then to talk about ’em *better*…)

these zines… #0 will be issued in five
different versions in the spirit of
“mainstream” comics in their “boom”…
are tailor-made to do just that.
i’ve tried it once live with
real teenagers and it kind of
worked.

\Bbb{ N Z Q R C}

so here’s some high theory.
any teacher acquainted with the
subject of one of these minis…
hmm… these “math morsels”…
should be able to lead a pretty good
discussion *using* one of these babies
and *no other graphics at all*.

imagine yourself in, say,
some diner somewhere without
your computer (or handheld
either) or paper & marker.
what’s this? somebody wants
to know what the heck a number
even *is*, anyway…

well, you’re in luck *now* buddy,
because now… did i forget to say?…
you can just whip out these zines
and fan ’em out a deck o’ cards
with a casual “funny you should
ask” and… old salesman’s trick…
“which one of these options
has the most appeal for *you*?”
(skipping right past “waitaminite
who said i found any of ’em
appealing *at all*” altogether).

it’ll be better still if somebody’s
got a pencil. because otherwise
there’ll be a lot of fingertips
waving precise little squiggles
on the air like a very math *major*
and maybe that wouldn’t be
so scary after all at that.

now these are actually concieved
as high-tech artifacts: photocopies.
but they closely simulate the
kinds of objects i’ve been
scattering all over madeline’s
kitchen table: handmade with
paper, pencil, and pen
(and, okay, scissors and
whiteout and stapler).
that’s micro-tech indeed.

handwriting… clumsy handwriting
like mine in particular…
*invites* its reader
to believe “aw, shucks; my kid
(sister) can do *that*!”.
moreover the reader has this
reaction in a fraction of
a second. (here’s some more
high theory for y’all.)

giving somebody somewhere
just maybe if we’re lucky
the extra moment they need
to send the spark to some
mental third-eye-of-symbolism
before the hand on the
rope of the dread curtain
of “i don’t get it;
never *did* like math”
can ring down its doom.

hell it’s worth spitballing.
people just *love* hearin
about some *brains*.
humunculi too.

and if they *do* want to consider
the subject, they’re already on board.
you’ll have to at least *talk*
about the stuff on the page to
use it at all; next thing i know,
any luck, you’re *writing* too.

hey… *i* could do that!

“math isn’t a spectator sport”; right.
you can’t do it in a stadium at all
that i’m aware of. (beaches of rio
are better. archy drew in the sand.)
tear out the bleachers for all i care.
in fact, anybody who insists
on *watching* and never does
any math at all is obviously
some sort of *spy*.

for at least some people…
me and many of my fellow
“zinester”s, for example…
the very look and feel of
a made-on-a-copier *zine*
is like some living symbol
of the very essence of DIY–
the “do it yourself” vibe.

this is reading-and-writing…
it’s even *publishing*…
and in the case of MEdZ,
it’s sure as hell *math*…
but it’s *personal*.

corporate textbooks = stadium rock.
MathEdZine = hardcore.

(or something. actually, i never
was part of any music scene beyond
“open mike” nights, almost entirely
as an acoustic soloist. i know
from a hill of beans about rock
or punk or pop or any of it really.
it was already too loud when i
was a kid if you want the truth;
i loved a lot of records and still
do (a few) but going to shows is mostly
expensive and a lot of trouble.
you can play the record over and over
*again*, see? for, like, *less* money?
right here at *home*?)

meanwhile, i’ve done almost nothing
by way of getting my typesetting
chops back. where’s my guitar.

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  1. I hope you’ll send me your math zines. Sounds way fun.

  2. @sue:
    oh yeah you bet. you get some of the
    no-printer handwritten drafts; i’ve got
    the addy.

    @the whole net if i had my way

    “one o’ those 8-pagers
    you make by printing on one side
    of a leaf of typing paper and folding
    cleverly (see _ten_page_news_ #31).”

    _reinventing_comics_ (mc cloud)
    p. 56 shows how to make a “mini”.
    (this might be somewhat easier
    to find than the TPN version.)

    mad props: matt feazell
    (“father of the minicomic”).




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