Thursday, June 30, 2005

What is writing?

This still isn't really what I thought I would post since I still want to post something that responds more to the many many good thoughts circulating out there on Jeff's, Jenny's, Derek's, Collin's, Robert's, Clancy's (et. al?) , but for now, just this slightly more fleshed out version of #1 below.

Which is this: Why do books designed to introduce new composition teachers to composition (like the two Fulkerson compares) actually deal very little with writing itself? With, I might say, rhetoric? This connects up, I think, with Robert's point about Fulkerson's somewhat dismissiveness about Covino's rhetoric chapter in the Tate et al. collection. But, really, every time I've taught the course for new teaching assistants, I've asked myself this question. I get information about rhetorical thinking in where I can, but the anxiety always seems to be on how more than on what. Or is it an anxiety created by ourselves (ie, by our discipline)? How to teach writing divorced from what are we teaching. Of course it's also all connected up with labor issues (why do we ask people without knowledge of writing qua writing to teach writing anyway?). But it makes for a curious discipline, no? A discipline in which the question, pace Fulkerson, is "what is good writing," as if we all already had decided what writing is.

And this connects, I think, with the technology question, too (see Jeff and Collin, esp.). Whether technology is seen as techne, as invention, or whether technology is seen as just another way of saying paper and pen.

(I'll add links in a moment or in the morning; sorry to all those I've referred to without linking. Update: Done!)

A reasonable pedagogy and why I don't want one

So this isn't really the post I plan/ned to write later today, it's just something I want to say because I was bizarrely inspired by cbd's comment on Derek's blog about Bluto-in-the-cafeteria pedagogy. Which is: Fulkerson (and other taxonimists like Berlin) seem to believe we can and should lay out a nice grid to explain the rational cause and effect of why we do what we do when we teach writing. Now, I'm all for having reasons, but I don't really think we can count on reasonableness/rationality. Right? We are affective creatures. We can't rationally map what we do. We're Bluto in the cafeteria. Let's see if we can map some motives instead of gridding the reasons.

More, really, later.

More carnivalesque thoughts coming soon . . .

Later today, most likely.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Jumping in on the carnival

Jeff says yes to Collin and Clancy's call for a new carnival, this one in response to Fulkerson's piece in the new CCC, "Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century." I'm always up for a reading party, so here's my stab at some first thoughts:

(1) Fulkerson is very careful to say that his taxonomy isn't exact, that there are overlaps, things left out, etc., etc. So this isn't meant to be a criticism of him but of the field in general: why is it that a "philosophy of composition" has no ontology? As in, what is writing? As in, what kinds of subjects are called into being through x model of writing or pedagogy?

(2) What is it exactly that Fulkerson worries is a "dangerous situation" in his last paragraph? That the divergence of approaches means we don't like each other? That the divergence of approaches is itself worrisome? I've become so disenchanted with the effort to be pedagogically correct, by which I mean the effort to find one grand theory of composition, the one that's right, the one that really works, the one that's really politically savvy, etc. Maybe we shouldn't think of "planning a composition course . . . like ording from a menu" (679), but couldn't we think of pedagogies in the way that Deleuze thinks of theories--as a toolkit? How does this pedagogy work? How does this kind of writing work? What does it/they do?

Hot jazz

And I don't mean the kind Django played. No, I mean hot, as in 95F even before we add on a heat index. (Cause it gets mighty humid here in Missouri.) So when the Dave Douglas Quintet started playing at 4:30 on Saturday, the audience was embarrassingly sparce. C and I were downing bottle after bottle of water, plus some ice cream, in our effort to stay cool. And all the while my favorite musician in the whole world is up on stage playing beautiful, cerebral music. It's hard to concentrate when your brain just wants to sleep, sleep in the heavy air, and the other half of your brain is embarrassed that the St. Louis area could draw only about 30 or 40 people to hear this brilliant musician. But it *was* hot. Lord, it was hot. When they finished playing, I was embarrassed again to see no one standing up, so I tried to get to my feet, only to trip over the edge of the little beach chair I was in and fall to my knees. So maybe I looked like I was having a religious experience. Whatever it looked like, it didn't prompt my fellow audience members to give the standing ovation the Quintet so richly deserved. I mean, sure, they were under a tent and all, but they were hot, too. And still they played with immense physicality and creativity. (I love live jazz if for nothing else to see the amazing workout musicians put themselves through.)

So, to make up for what I thought was an embarrassing showing on our part as an audience, I determined to get Dave Douglas's autograph over at the Borders tent afterwards. I haven't sought anyone's autograph (other than administrators' on contracts and checks) in years, years, years, but felt the least I could do was to show him that he had a fan or two in Missouri (where, he said, he's never been before--and I would guess would be unlikely to return). So I did go, and still addled from the heat, announced to him that he is "my favorite person in the whole world," and, dumb-founded by such a declaration, he responded, "You're so nice." So, there you have it. My intelligent conversation with my favorite musician, Dave Douglas. (Actually, we did go on to chat a bit about his new CD and about his new record company, through which he will now sell all future recordings online. Check it out:

C. and I stayed around afterwards to hear Jane Monheit (I'm sorry--but truly boring, predictable music, which *did*, to my chagrin, receive a standing ovation. Puh-leeze.) But the real pleasure was Roy Hargrove's RH Factor, the closing act which started as the sun was setting and temperatures were dropping into a more comfortable zone. I have to admit that I haven't paid much attention to this latest phase in Hargrove's music (since often the electronic turn in jazz can be disappointing--a sad copy of Miles's later years), but am now converted. He's doing a really wonderful and complex fusion of funk, hip-hop, soul, and jazz and is clearly having the time of his life. Good, good fun. (And, hey, Roy Hargrove was born in, can you believe it, WACO!)

So that, my friends, is my belated blog on the St. Louis Jazz Festival.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Liu on knowledge work

I'm finding Alan Liu's The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information to be slow going: it is itself glutted with information and references that tend to divert my attention and cause me to lose the argument or main thread. Not that I'm one to complain. It's just that I can't read much of it in one setting. (Last night I found myself turning to Elizabeth Grosz's The Nick of Time to get a little more textual joissance.)

Even so, I found much to think over and to join up to my own interests, including this passage, which is reminiscent of R. Miller's argument about all academics being bureaucrats, but with a bit more of a realization of the complexity of that positioning:
Scholars are themselves knowledge workers in a complete sense: they are intellectuals, but they are also middle managers responsible for an endless series of programs, committees, performance reports, and so on. (21)
My point precisely about comp specialists. And, sure, scholars in general inhabit this dual role, but what's unique about being a comp scholar is the emphasis on the latter, something that gets obscured when managing is redefined as intellectual work (yes, it involves mental labor, but of a more techno-instrumental sort than critical intellectual work).

But what I've so far found most interesting (because it most speaks to a chapter in my book that I need to rewrite) was the analysis of "teamwork" in Chapter 1. Liu argues that "the team" has replaced political and economic groups: "by definition a team is not an identity group, and it is assuredly not a class formation" (47). Identity groups and class formations require attention to history, something that Liu argues "is an imaginary third world," "the other of the future." (18). Identification with the corporate team replaces or "simulates" historical identities. Moreover, as the line between management and laborers gets obscured in service work (as it does in the comp discourse), it becomes more difficult to recognize oneself as a member of a class (and more difficult to unionize)--see Liu 63.

In one of my last book chapters, I look at collaborative/social constructivist theories of the 80s and 90s alongside popular management theories of the era (especially TQM). What's interesting to me is the way that collaboration was often figured as radically politicized (in, for instance, the work of Jim Berlin) even as it replicates corporate practices (something that Berlin, in his last book, fully acknowledges). OK--so that's old hat. But Liu's point about the erasure of historical identities seems to connect up with Mike's critique (or my understanding of Mike's critique) about the absence of economics in composition discourse, even among those who gesture toward class-based critique. If pedagogy is nothing more than classroom management (in this case, using collaboration as technique), then histories do get erased because histories are irrelevant to the arrangement of bodies in time and space to reach a desired outcome (whether that outcome be mastery of the writing process, academic discourse, rhetorical analysis, what have you). Another dimension of the managerial unconscious.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Sit down, write

I've been feeling singularly uninspired most of this week and sat down at my computer this morning determined to write something, no matter how uninspired. (It *is* Friday, I thought, and I *do* have all those new pics of my cats...) I thought back to COLLIN'S SAGE ADVICE and considered just listing some things I've obsessed over this week (NBA finals, Siamese cats, dark chocolate M&Ms . . .).

Then I turned to the blog of probably the most consistent and prolific blogger on my blogroll, Ron Silliman. (Back when I was planning to do a PhD in American Lit, I thought I would do a diss on "Language" poetry--Ron Silliman is one of the leaders of that movement, school, coalition, trend, what have you. His anthology In the American Tree is one of the classics of non-mainstream poetry in postwar America--or maybe we could just say of postmodern American poetry. So when I found he had a blog--even though now my reading of poetry comes only in intermittent fitful bursts--I was very excited.)

At any rate, today Silliman was writing about one of his favorite poets, Steve Benson:

So far as I can tell, it was Benson who really pioneered the idea of “the sitting” – as in “write for five minutes” – as a unit for poetry. No doubt that is what many poets – think O’Hara, think Whalen, think Blackburn – have done for decades if not centuries. But it was Steve who really got it & was thus able to raise it up to the level of visibility, that any poet might be able to make use of the form. For Benson, for whom being present in the moment is so much what his writing is about, it’s a perfect fit, particularly as no two moments will ever be identical, yet they will always be sharing the same timeless truth: this is now.

Although a blog isn't a poem, it could be. And this at least in part was what I was thinking when I wanted to make an analogy between poems and blogs a few months back. (But then never did because I decided to overthink my motivation for wanting to do metablogging: overthinking, yes, a curse.) Poems are short, compact, and the best poems are ones whose words have a strong gravitational pull, so that meanings pull toward them. And then meanings manage to get out of the orbit and hurl themselves out into space. That's good, too.

But, really, what I want to record is how much I like that idea: sit down, write for 5 minutes. That's writing. Peter Elbow will get you there, too, no doubt. Does it change if you call it poetry rather than freewriting?

Another interesting thing about that quote I took from Silliman is that last bit: "the same timeless truth: this is now." At first I thought, how banal. And how odd for Silliman to say something so banal. But how can "this is now," which is really a statement about a moment in time, be "timeless"? Well, if there is no time. . . Eh? Another connection.

And, you know, it isn't as if anything I've written here is new or startling. But to get back to what I like about blogging: it forces you to write, it forces you to make connections, no matter how small or apparently uninspired. Keep doing it, and eventually some of your blogging will get more inspired. (And I think it was a poet, years ago, who first gave me that advice for the writing of poetry. If you write only when you're inspired, well, you aren't going to write much. Nor are you going to be inspired much.)

My pep talk to myself.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


I'm joining the many other rhet/comp bloggers in expressing my sadness at learning of John Lovas's death. I introduced myself to him at the Blogging SIG at CCCC in March, but since this blog was only just beginning then, he didn't know who the heck I was. But he was cordial, all the same. I introduced myself because, as other bloggers have already written today, I felt that I knew him through his energetic, insightful blog. (And, well, he was also past chair of my major professional organization, wasn't he?)

I'm somewhat late in hearing the news because, oddly enough, I've been away most of the day for a cancer screening of my own. All's well at the moment on my health front, thankfully, but even the strange rituals of screening do a good job of bringing one up close to mortality. As John noted in one of his last blog entries, none of us is promised tomorrow. Even so, there's something oddly reassuring about being able to go back and read John's blog; maybe it's just, as he says, the illusion of control that the making visible of words offers.

Over on my bloglines account, I see that I'd saved some of his postings from last semester. I especially love the one called "My Three Hour Day," in which he offers up his schedule for one day to counter a letter-writer to a local newspaper who had suggested teachers don't work full days. It's a wonderful illustration of his humor and his enormous energy.

I'm going to miss reading his blog. A lot.

More tributes:
DeAnza College

Samantha Blackmon
Collin Brooke
Jenny Edbauer
Joanna Howard

Steven Krause

Liz Kleinfeld
Derek Mueller
Clancy Ratliff
Cindy [at] Red Bird Rising
Jeff Rice
Mike [at] Vitia

Monday, June 20, 2005

Screen distractions

Participants in the Transliteracies conference this past weekend were

invited to participate in an experiment in the social practice of conference-going by using the “comments” section of the Roundtable 3 page to post reflections, questions, or reactions in real time during the roundtable conversation. While these comments will not be displayed on the screen simultaneously with the roundtable conversation (because it would be distracting), they will be shown during the question-and-answer period.

As part of that thread of comments, Anne Balsamo reports that some classes at USC encourage just this kind of distraction:

Courses in the Interactive Media Division at USC use this system as “heckle screens”....where students are allowed, and in fact, encouraged to post, google,
surf during classes, including during lecture time. the “behind-the-back” heckling is projected onto screens on every wall in the room.
Several conference participants, including Balsamo, went on to call for their comments to be projected, though apparently that didn't happen.

At any rate, I find the making visible of what people are "doing" during class--and thus actually making it part of the whole texture of the class--very intriguing. It's all there, anyway, so why not make it obvious instead of discrete? Why not see what happens if all that extra media gets stirred up into the basic trajectory that the instructor brings to the class?

But, as Tara McPherson notes, that all comes with a certain amount of panoptic pressure, too. If you know whatever is on your screen could end up being projected for the whole class, well, that's probably going to lead to some self-censoring, isn't it?

Still, it's attractive. Why not make use of the creative way that minds wander, to see what that wandering can add to the class?

Friday, June 17, 2005

It's Friday. Wouldn't you like a cat?

What's a blog without a cat or two or three? June is Adopt-a-Cat month, and it's already half way over. Go here to search shelters nationwide.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Design doldrums

I'm really really bored with the look of my blog. I spent an hour or so this morning trying to fiddle with the template, to no avail. Actually, I think I might have made it look worse. Here's what I don't like:

(1) How it's a standard template from blogger that hundreds of other people are using.

(2) How for the last couple of months my sidebar slips down to the bottom of the blog on some screens.

(3) How big the font is.

Now, you would think at least some of these things would be easy to fix. But I admit it: I usually take the easy road when it comes to design on the web and so have only the barest of skills. Something to work on when I'm not working on my book this summer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Managerial aversions, 2

Aversion, of course, is a movement--a movement away. The capacity to engage in relations of movement and rest: affect.

Aversion as a response to feeling "beleaguered"--feeling pushed, misunderstood. Here's Bruffee, in a 1977 MLA address:

The profession is in the habit of considering them second-class citizens, in
part because they have stepped through the looking glass . . . into that never-never land where croquet mallets turn into flamingoes and croquet balls turn into hedgehogs: the land of administration; and mainly, of course, because they take the job of teaching writing seriously.

The solution? Deny that you really are that, turn away, affectively from that part of your work:

[I]n my list of what writing program administrators are expected to do I have not included what most of us think administrators do—the managerial tasks of making up schedules, assigning classes, hiring and firing, that sort of thing. Of course some writing program administrators have those responsibilities too. But where writing program administrators differ—or should differ—from most other college administrators is that the most important part of their job is not managerial but directly educational. . . . In fact, I would say that only when writing program administrators conceive of their job in this larger way, as teaching, do they have a prayer of doing the job as it must be done.

As I suggested before, in part this reflects a particular way of defining the managerial, a definition that management gurus would be at pains to contradict. It's interesting, moreover, that Drucker considers the manager to be unlike any other role in our "institutional society" save one: the teacher. And that the work of primary pedagogy, according to Worsham, is the fixing of emotion. And that immaterial labor, according to Hardt & Negri, is twofold: informational and affective.

Some connections I'm working toward making.

Monday, June 13, 2005

No time, just movement

Happened upon the most recent issue of Wired at my local rec center this weekend and have since then been planning to blog about this Peter Lynds fellow and his theory that "There is no 'now,' only sequences of events." After poking around to see what else I could learn about this guy (a college dropout who caused a small sensation after he placed his article "Time and Classical and Quantum Mechanics: Indeterminacy vs. Continuity" in a peer-reviewed physics journal a couple of years ago), I discovered that a fellow rhet/comp blogger (Alex Reid) had already blogged about Lynds and had made a provocative connection to Deleuze in the process.

At any rate, the Lynds article caught my eye for several reasons:

(1) Time doesn't exist! Yea! So I can stop agonizing over how to manage it?

(2) An outsider managed to publish in a peer-reviewed journal. Intriguing.

(3) He reached his theory by contemplating Zeno's paradox. You know the one: an arrow must traverse an infinity of points before reaching its target. But it can never traverse an infinity of points. So how does the arrow ever reach its target? This is the same paradox Massumi, via Bergson, goes over in the introduction to Parables for the Virtual.

Here's Massumi: "A path is not composed of positions. . . . That continuity of movement is of an order of reality other than the measurable, divisible space it can be confirmed as having crossed" (6).

And Lynds's theory seems to say the same about time, as described by Wired: "reality is merely sequences of events that happen relative to one another; time is an illusion."

Traditional argumentation theory, via Aristotle, assumes that movement happens point by point: the linking up of enthymemes is the key to persuasion. But movement, according to these theories, doesn't happen in discrete moments or point by point. If our arguments fail to move, maybe they're bogged down by Newtonian models of time and space?

Friday, June 10, 2005

It's Friday, so look at my cat

Casey May 2005
Originally uploaded by donnastrickland.

Casey came to live with us in January as a foster cat, having been rescued last spring by Columbia Second Chance, a no-kill shelter in town. They estimate his age to be around 6, though my vet suspects he might be a bit older. Definitely middle age, in other words. We officially adopted him in March, a couple of weeks before Gabe found us when we visited the local Humane Society.

Casey's a very low-key cat who finds little Gabe's desire to wrestle him and chase him very disconcerting. He's always liked this spot by the window but often retreats to it to get away from the adolescent menace.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Managerial aversions

I'm working on my book this summer, so expect to see a lot of the managerial stuff. Can't help it.

It's intriguing to me that an organization like WPA tends to avoid the word "management" and all its cognates. The preferred term is "administration." In part, this results from historical/institutional legacies: all managers in academe are called administrators. But it's curious how truly offended some in rhet/comp can get when their work is called "managerial." So part of what I've been working on today is trying to understand that, trying to watch the aversion gain momentum historically in the pages of CCC and the WPA journal. And also noticing how the field's understanding that "administration is intellectual work, while management isn't" to some extent reverses how the literature on management formulates the matter. Here's Peter Drucker (gasp!) for instance, writing in the 1970s before, apparently, it was possible to conceive of female managers:

The manager always has to administer. He has to manage and improve what already exists and is already known. But he also has to be an entrepreneur. He has to redirect resources from areas of low or diminishing results to areas of high or increasing results. He has to slough off yesterday and to render obsolete what already exists and is already known. He has to create tomorrow. (45)

Interesting, isn't it, that here the administrative function is a part of management (not the other way around, as in the WPA literature), and that it's really the more conservative task?

Ok, maybe only interesting to me. And maybe I'm being somewhat cryptic. Gotta save something for my book, don't I?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Rhet/Comp and the information economy

It's odd, isn't it, that rhet/comp as a scholarly field has had so little to say about the broad topic of what is variously called the information or knowledge economy? Insofar as "we" teach writing, literacy, rhetoric, we certainly participate in the circulation of information, but it's so seldom that scholarship in the field critically connects what happens in the classroom with these larger contexts and implications. I suppose in part I'm really just repeating what Collin and Jeff were saying back in April, but what prompts this observation today is a little cruising I was doing over on this site. University of California Santa Barbara is hosting a conference called "Transliteracies: Research in the Technological, Social, and Cultural Practices of Online Reading," and speakers will include folks like Alan Liu, Katherine Hayles, and Christopher Newfield (whose important if limited book on management and the research university I've recently finished). "Transliteracies." Doesn't that *sound* like something rhet/comp should be involved with? One could blame the hosts (UCSB, like all UC schools, seems to have a pretty rigid division between "English literature" and "Writing"). But the more interesting question, it seems to me, is the question Collin more or less asked back in April: why is it that rhet/comp isn't doing scholarship that attracts the attention of people like this?

Now, it isn't as if I've been doing anything like scholarship that would potentially attract the attention of, say, Katherine Hayles. But I'm realizing more and more how my own scholarship in the managerial needs scholarship on the information economy and new media and how these folks at UCSB seem to have already noticed that (well, pretty obvious) connection. Alan Liu, in particular, seems to be behind a lot of this work: see, for instance, his Palinarus website that collects information on the academy and corporatization.

All in all, this entry is really a note to myself on how I might go about rounding out my book manuscript.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Unacknowledged legislator?

Saw this one over on Silliman's blog, and since the last one (on cities) has now moved to the archives, and since I already blogged for real today, felt I could justify posting it:

P. B. Shelley
You are Percy Bysshe Shelley! Famous for your
dreamy abstraction and your quirky verse,
you're the model "sensitive poet." A
vegetarian socialist with great personal charm
and a definite way with the love poem, you
remain an idol for female readers. There are
dozens of cute anecdotes about you, and I love

Which Major Romantic Poet Would You Be (if You Were a Major Romantic Poet)?
brought to you by Quizilla

Why I'm ok with English depts.

It could just be because I've always, always been in English departments, through my many years in graduate school and through my three (count 'em, three) tenure-track jobs. And it could be that I'm amused by my multiple graduate degrees, all from English departments (one in creative writing, one in lit, one in rhet/comp--all I'm missing is linguistics!).

But certainly it's in large part because so much of my own work has been heavily, heavily influenced by what some still call "literary theory" and indeed by teachers and experiences during my years as a grad student in literature. Re-reading C. Wolfe's chapter on Michaels and Rorty in Critical Environments, I'm reminded how important (even while frustrating) Cary's seminar was to my intellectual formation, how much of what I read during that class (obstensibly on Ezra Pound, really much more on materialist theory) informed and made possible my dissertation at another university and in a very different program. I never took a single class in lit while working on my PhD at UWM, but my prior work in a lit program nonetheless was indispensable in making me the particular kind of scholar in rhet/comp that I've become.

This reflection comes in late response to the thread last week on a professional listserv about the relationship between lit and comp. A former colleague, in particular, argued that there is no necessary relationship between the two and that, in fact, pursuing the relationship could be damaging to the field. That argument comes out of a particular institutional situation that I won't go into here, and I also didn't feel inclined to write a response to the listserv. Why? Because it's such a simultaneously banal and complex issue. Banal in its regulation of the field's attention (as Jenny suggests about banality in general). Complex in that some writing programs have had good reasons for separating themselves from English departments, and are thriving. But separation is more of a fitting response to local contingencies than a call to revolution, as Maxine Hairston once tried to make it. Yes, it's irritating when colleagues don't necessarily understand what you do or make assumptions about what you do, but who in their professional life (or just life in general) is immune from misunderstandings and false assumptions?

I value the humanistic vector that has contributed to making composition studies possible and worry that a wholesale desire to "break our bonds" from lit would become a way to more fully articulate ourselves with the managerial. Which isn't at all to say that's what's happened in any free-standing writing program. And which isn't at all to say that I ncessarily foresee this happening. Rather, it's to say that I value the strategies for thinking that I glean from literary studies (and philosophy and elsewhere) and am rather bored with the tired arguments about the evil empire of literary scholars.

But just because I'm bored doesn't mean I'm not, also, interested. Interested in its persistence and what that tells us about our disciplinary habitus, our dominant disciplinary affect.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Books to frighten undergraduates

I'd like to teach a course called "Scary Books," in which we read the National Conservative Weekly's ten "Most Harmful Books." We could talk about the rhetorical work of such lists: what do people who censor or censure books hope to accomplish? What does it accomplish? Why might each of these books have been deemed dangerous? Why might it be important to read "dangerous" books in a democracy? Rhetorically-significant questions, in other words.

(Thanks to Mike for the link.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Some nice things

How's that for a title?

We got back to Columbia late Monday night. About 10 miles from our house, the "service engine" light came on. Not so bad, but it meant yesterday was eaten up with waiting around for a diagnosis (bad spark plugs) and repair (full tune-up).

Anyway, the topic is supposed to be nice things. In my last blog post, I seemed to suggest the trip would be featureless and boring, so I'm here to report on nice surprises along the drive:

(1) The Flint Hills in southeastern Kansas. I thought all of Kansas was a flat expanse of golden wheat fields. I was wrong. The Flint Hills roll along in such a fine green way that you could almost believe you were in Ireland. (Or at least I could, having never actually been to Ireland.)

(2) Lake of the Ozarks area, southwest of Columbia. Sure, it's meant to be a tourist trap (Ozarkland, anyone?), but even all those golf courses can't disguise the fact that this foothill area is really quite lovely: picturesque vistas; winding, branching waterways.

(3) Even northern and central Oklahoma, which I remembered from my childhood as a vast expanse of nothing, opened out into some lovely vistas and wooded areas. (I35 through Oklahoma, however, is a big mess: work areas every 50 miles or so that reduced the lanes and kept traffic backed up for miles. It took way too long to get through Oklahoma. So we skipped the interstate and took highways back: much better.)

What I'm basically saying here is this: we expected a long boring drive and were pleasantly surprised by scenic moments.