Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Against spambots

So I just deleted a bunch of junk comments and found it sufficiently annoying to prompt me to change my comments settings. You'll now be prompted to do a little word verification thing to comment. A small step to keep the spambots away. Please, all others, comment on.

Mmm. . . the 80s

I was tempted to do this meme from New Kid on the Hallway:

(The rules: go over to Music Outfitters to find the list of the top 100 songs from the year you graduated from high school. Bold the ones you like(d), strikeout the ones you don't. I'm adding a different twist: the ones I've never heard of or can't remember anything about, I'm leaving alone.)
But not feeling up to revealing (a) the year I graduated from high school or (b) *my* bad taste in music, I chose to simply say this:

Wasn't the music of the 80s really somethin'? I mean, let's just look at the top 2 songs from various years in that decade:

1. Physical, Olivia Newton-John
2. Eye Of The Tiger, Survivor

1. When Doves Cry, Prince
2. What's Love Got To Do With It, Tina Turner

1. That's What Friends Are For, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Gladys Knight
2. Say You, Say Me, Lionel Richie

1. Faith, George Michael
2. Need You Tonight, INXS

OK, so 1984 wasn't so bad. But how about 1982? Brings to mind some images that I'd just like to forget: Olivia Newton-John in pastel tights and leg-warmers.

Not to mention bringing to mind an ear-worm that I'm sorry to pass on to whoever reads this.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Duped in Southern Illinois

My my.

Thanks to metafilter, I've learned that all those "heartwarming columns" in the Daily Egyptian, the student newspaper at my former institution, written by a little girl whose father was in Iraq, were fakes. I used to see them while perusing the newspaper during my workouts at the Rec Center on campus, and I always found them a little too saccharine for my taste. I also found it kinda weird that they were so popular (as attested by letters to the editor). I remember that the first (or one of the first ones) was about how confused the little girl was by anti-war messages that she found on campus. Hmm. Think there might have been a bit o' ideological work being done there?

Anyway, it was all a big hoax. A very strange, convoluted hoax that involved deceiving a little girl into believing that she was going to be a moviestar. Weird, weird stuff going down in the Mississippi Valley.

Update: A report from Duluth, of all places.
Update 2: The original Chicago Tribune story (free registration required)
And a sample of "Kodee's" writing.
A search at Technorati reveals conservative bloggers suggesting that this is the fault of the extremist left-wing media. Um. No. It's the fault of some very troubled and very naive journalism students. I mean, folks: they even had a memorial service for the little girl's "daddy" who reportedly died in Iraq. It was this "death" that got the Chicago Tribune involved. And the Chicago Tribune, unlike the DE, checks their facts.

I always thought there were too many misspellings and cutesy phrasings for it to be real. But I had never imagined this multi-layered, um, performance.

Change is good

I think my title comes from an Arby's commercial, but, what can I say. I like this idea, originally from Jay Rosen (via Ken Smith at Weblogs in Higher Education). Rosen and colleagues presented a panel at a journalism conference entitled "Things I Used to Teach That I No Longer Believe." I like that. Seems like CCCC might could use a panel or two on that topic. (Double modal: code-switching into my native Texan speech, yes.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Railroading comp

I haven't posted about my book in awhile--here are some recent notes:

To understand something about composition studies as a discipline, think of the railroad.

The railroad, according to business historian Alfred Chandler, engineered the managerial revolution. Before rail lines connected place to place, before it became necessary and possible to convey materials across the land at high speeds in this rudimentary communications network, the middle manager did not exist.

What did exist: the shop foreman. The overseer. We know about the plantations, where enslaved peoples were forced to do fieldwork, housework, whatever no one could be hired to do. And in textile mills, where mostly young women spun and carded cotton, men directed their labor. But with only one product being churned out, and with the product needing no marketing because "the market" saw to its distribution along appropriate channels, the circulation process of production, distribution, and consumption could be, more or less, "left alone."

Complexity seemed to call out for greater coordination. Complexity of systems: the railroad manager had to find a way to coordinate trains on the lines to avoid tragic accidents. He (and yes, definitely he) was the administrator of flows:

The 1850s were a time of building and of learning to manage the railroads as the nation’s first modern business enterprises, the 1860s and 1870s were a period of coordinating and competing for the flows of through traffic; the 1880s and 1890s were the years of system-building. (Chandler, Visible Hand 145)

[Excursus: Traditional writing pedagogy (as it has been reified): a way to coordinate the flows. Watch out! Don’t go crashing into that idea. Stick to your path.]

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Not that it's news anymore

The "kill Hugo Chavez" pronouncement has already been widely reported (even on NPR, where I first heard it) and the maker of that pronouncement is currently the second most popular search on Technorati.

So why am I blogging about it?

Because I was raised up an evangelical, that's why. Or at least I guess that's why. Even if I'm not professing it anymore, it seems to bother the heck out of me to see these people behaving so badly. Especially because of the way in which the Christian right aligns itself with corporate-think and the most repressive politics imaginable.

The good news, I guess, is that the fact that it's being taken up so quickly suggests that it's already being broadly denounced. (It's news not because the reporters agreed with it but because they knew it would get a rise out of people--ie, they knew it would be greeted with outrage.) In other words, most people, even most evangelicals, would be shocked by this news. (And my favorite blog title on this newsbite comes from The Stinkin Desert Post: "Who Would Jesus Assassinate?")

The bad news: it's a big distraction. I mean, look how it's distracting me. Some people (16%, according to an unscientific online survey) will do the Rush/Fox News audience-thing of thinking it's great, funny, yeah. And then all those other outraged people (including me) will blog about it, talk about it, and generally express incredulity. It's an affective moment, but one that only reinforces the affective positions that are already out there.

And that's all I have to say in this big, circular, why-am-I-bothering entry.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Back to school

My grad seminar (Rhetorics of Motives, Emotion, Affect) will be blogging here this semester. Just had our first class, and since my blog is in some real need of content, I offer a few of my "lecture" notes:

For the first two class meetings, I want to address the questions of why emotion/affect (and what the heck is motives doing in there?). If I could have assigned readings for the first day (and I could have, I suppose, but never have done such a thing, though I know it’s done), I would have focused the class today on what we’re doing next week. So here’s what we’re doing next week, as a preview and as a context for what we’ll be talking about today:

Next week, we’ll be reading four essays:
• Worsham, “Going Postal”
• Hardt, “Affective Labor”
• Hariman & Lucaites, “Dissent and Emotional Management in a Liberal-Democratic Society”
• Grossberg, “Ideology and Affective Epidemics,” from We Gotta Get Out of This Place

I think of these four as providing a way of thinking about possible motives (attitudes as prelude to action: Burke) and exigencies (situations that call out rhetorical responses: Bitzer) for the study of emotion and/or affect:
• Worsham, in particular, offers theoretical/political motives for a study of emotion. [a change in mind doesn’t always or often lead to change]
• Hardt offers a contextual motive/exigence (affective labor as one aspect of “immaterial labor,” the labor that dominates the Postmodern economy, according to Hardt [and Negri—this argument appears in much the same form in Empire and is also taken up in the earlier Labor of Dionysus.]
• Hariman & Lucaites offer a theoretical motive (rhetorical studies has yet to seriously take up the question of emotion) and contextual exigence (emotional management is a primary task of liberal-democratic societies, and visual rhetoric is especially powerful in effecting that management).
• Grossberg offers an important theoretical concept (“affective epidemics”) especially relevant, according to G, for our neo-conservative times. (Hmm: really especially?)

[That “and/or” in “emotion and/or affect” is significant, and it’s the and/or that we’ll be focusing on in today’s class. IE, we’ll be sort of “defining,” but not with a view toward some sort of Socratic resolution of what these terms mean, but rather with a view toward thinking about what the terms do and how they open up possibilities for thinking and acting.]

Emotion/Affect/Feeling: Terministic Screens:

I want to think about these three terms as “terministic screens” that enable ways of thinking/feeling/acting, rather than as terms to define, once and for all. Because, for one thing, we won’t be able to do that. They shift around a lot, depending on who uses them and to what end.

First, though, let’s think about this idea of “terministic screens.” [Handout of first two pages of Burke’s essay.]
scientistic and dramatistic
definition itself as necessarily dramatistic
suasive, directing the attention
terms select, and thus also deflect
add to it: terms as necessarily emotionally laden: terministic avalanche? Terministic affective networks?

We might also usefully think of Burke’s idea alongside Massumi’s (via Deleuze): brick/toolbox
A concept is a brick. It can be used to build the courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window. What is the subject of the brick? The arm that throws it? The body connected to the arm? The brain encased in the body? The situation that brought brain and body to such a juncture? All and none of the above. (Foreward xii)

Deleuze’s own image for a concept is not a brick, but a “tool box.” He calls this kind of philosophy “pragmatics” because its goal is the invention of concepts that do not add up to a system of belief or an architecture of propositions that you either enter or you don’t, but instead pack a potential in the way a crowbar in a willing hand envelops an energy of prying.
. . .
The question is not: is it true? But: does it work? What new thoughts does it make possible to think? What new emotions does it make possible to feel? What new sensations and perceptions does it open in the body? (xv)

Terms that get stuck to “emotion”?
Prop: Dove “promises”—the candy itself, the wrapper, the tactile, the body, the gender implied, the message

What’s the difference between an “emotion” and a “feeling”?
Damasio: handout
“In our attempt to understand the complex chain of events that begins with emotion and ends up in feeling, we can be helped by a principled separation between the part of the process that is made public and the part that remains private. For the purposes of my work I call the former part emotion and the latter part feeling in keeping with the meaning of the term feeling I outlined earlier.” (Looking for Spinoza 27)

“The principal meaning of the word feeling refers to some variant of the experience of pain or pleasure as it occurs in emotions and related phenomenon; another frequent meaning refers to experiences such as touch as when we appreciate the shape or texture of an object. Throughout this book, unless otherwise specified, the term feeling is always used in its principal meaning.” (3)

“Making whole returns us to Spinoza’s claim that body and mind are parallel attributes of the same substance. We split them under the microscope of biology because we want to know how that single substance works, and how the body and mind aspects are generated within it. After investigating emotion and feeling in relative isolation we can . . . roll them together again, as affects.” (133)

• What does this way of thinking of emotion do? How does it confirm what we think we know? How does it challenge received ideas about emotion? What could we do with these ideas, both positively and maybe negatively?

According to Damasio, “affects” is the name Spinoza gives to the whole ensemble of “drives, motivations, emotions, and feelings.” But according to Brian Massumi, Deleuze and Guattari use the term in a very different way, even though they too bring Spinoza into the picture:

From Massumi’s “Notes on the Translation” for A Thousand Plateaus:

Affect/Affection. Neither word denotes a personal feeling (sentiment in Deleuze and Guattari). L’affect (Spinoza’s affectus) is an ability to affect and be affected. It is a prepersonal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that body’s capacity to act. L’affection (Spinoza’s affectio) is each such state considered as an encounter between the affected body and a second, affecting, body (with body taken in its broadest possible sense to include ‘mental’ or ideal bodies). (xvi)

Friday, August 19, 2005

The pleasures of a clean desktop

I shared an office with a visiting professor this past year, and somehow sharing an office made me feel unmoored, without a real home.

This year I'm sharing the same office with C, which is odd, since I've never shared an office before with the same person I live with at home. But I'm willing to deal with it. Last year C was down in a shared office space in the basement, so at least he's getting a better deal. And sharing an office with a person I already know is much better than sharing it with a stranger (no offense to A), since C is already well-aware of my quirks. So today we re-arranged the space a bit, and I cleaned off my desk.

Feeling unmoored last year led to some bizarre and unproductive habits. Basically, nothing was filed; everthing was in various stacks all over my desk and bookshelves. Now things are filed, and my life seems manageable again.

Ah. Such pleasure in arranged spaces.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

I'm really not a fan of teaching the logical fallacies. In fact, I had to look this one up in order to know its fancy latin name (which means: after this, therefore because of this). But the "our students don't read" plaint, which has also reared its ugly head locally for me, seems like a nice example of this fallacy. Our students don't read because they watch too much tv. Our students don't read, even though they useta read lots. Our students don't read because high schools are doing a bad job. On and on it goes like some kind of everlasting blame motor. And the reason it seems fitting to bring up logical fallacies in response is because it seems as though the kind of teacher who likes to teach logical fallacies is the same kind of teacher who tends toward these good ol' days arguments, which are ultimately based on fallacious reasoning. So it's oh so tempting to point this out to certain someones. But because we rarely are persuaded by being pointed out flaws in our own reasoning (I've had the whole rabies incident to help me re-learn that lesson), it seems fairly useless.

Hasty generalization? Hm. Maybe. But like I said, people rarely learn from having their logical flaws pointed out to them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

What this blog needs

is some content, folks. Either that or a little more joissance. I feel it coming. Classes start Monday. If that doesn't lead to content and joissance, I don't know what will.

And, really, I'd like to join this new carnival (which also seems like a good path to the above), but don't expect to be able to get to it just yet. But Mike has a pretty impressive start for anyone who has a mind to get to it.

And another newly discovered source of excellent content and joissance: http://ydog.net/gm/archives/00000457.html

You know, blogs is where it's happening. Even if not on this particular blog at this particular moment in time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

New game: You be the judge!

Here's the question:

Should an animal rescue organization know the protocols for how to respond to a possible rabies exposure?

OK, folks, I'm waiting for your answer. And, in the meantime, you can use this question as an indication of why I've been absent from this blog for the last week. I've been, shall we say, a bit occupied. Just when you think a bad situation can't get any worse.

(But lest my readers start to form all kinds of strange ideas: no, I'm not foaming at the mouth. And the crisis has for the most part passed. I simply found it somewhat hard to focus on the blog during the actual crisis itself.)

Saturday, August 13, 2005



Purple calabash
Pink Lady
Green Zebra
Bloody Butcher
Sweet Peach
And more


Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I meditate. I don't usually talk about it here because I don't really want my blog persona to become overladen with too many associations (I mean, there's already the eccentric cat thing going on) and because, well, what's to say? But as a meditator, I participate in a local sangha, and as part of this participation I often hear what's known as a dharma talk. A few days ago, the topic of the dharma talk was intention, and it's intention that I want to blog about.

One of the reasons I'm interested in Buddhist discourse is because it's so laden with attention to emotion. Mindfulness or insight meditation is all about watching, paying attention to "what comes up" in the body. And what often comes up, of course, are reactions to stimuli, reactions that are either positive, negative, or neutral. Anyway, according to Buddhist psychology, all actions are preceded by intention. When I first heard this, my immediate sceptical reaction was to think, well, hardly. Ha--As if we intend everything we do!--my post-humanistic not-self scoffed. But the person delivering the dharma talk parsed out intention in this way:

in: toward
tendere: to stretch (as in tendon)

To stretch toward. A movement, bodily motivated. Intention as affective rather than rational. Useful image: the stretching of a tendon. Stretching toward, but often not noticed until the action is completed. Maybe never rationally acknowledged. But intended--affectively motivated--all the same.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The attic project

My house has a very large, carpeted attic that served as a playroom and an office space for previous owners. I've never let my cats up there because at the top, the stairway is protected by two half-walls that I could easily see my cats jumping on and, after a nap or during a fight, falling off. Falling off, that is, down a stairwell that must be 10-15 feet deep. I didn't like that idea, despite cats' much-lauded ability to right themselves when they fall. Some cats still manage to break bones, etc.

So with the help of my cat-sitter, I fixed up a little netting/board thing, so now my cats can jump to their hearts' content.

However, the more immediate motivation was to provide a safe haven for a foster kitten who will be joining us in the next day or so. And having a kitten up there has made me even more cautious: I've been combing the floor, looking for the stray things I sometimes find and that somehow allude my vacuum. Today I found a child's tooth. (It was formerly a playroom, remember.)

And here's the kitten:


And if, perchance, he and Gabe turn into playmates after a few weeks of careful, slow introductions--well, he might just stay for good.

Update 08/11: We brought the kitten home Saturday. Very playful over the weekend, started acting lethargic on Monday. Test yesterday for Feline Leukemia Virus came back positive. This is not good. Not only for this sweet little guy, but also for our resident cats, none of whom have been vaccinated for this. They're all indoor cats, and the kitten had tested negative at the shelter, so it hadn't seemed necessary. (And I'm loathe to give my cats unnecessary anything.) Turns out there's a 60-day period from time of contact with an infected cat during which false negatives can turn up. The kitten is going to be retested again, but right now I'm feeling pretty blue.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Must say something

But what?

My house has purple shutters. Last month, a man came to our house. Your neighbors don't like your house, he told C. It's off balance. Let me show you. No other house on the street has purple shutters.

I love the purple shutters. The house came that way, but still, I love them. I love the purple walls that lead to the attic, too. And the ceiling in the attic painted blue and white, a mimic of the sky.

I don't understand blandness and safety. Or, I should say, I do: there's comfort there. But depression, too. And a smoldering violence.

So must say something. Must not fall into the trap of saying nothing.