Monday, February 28, 2005

The Marsupian Enigma

Kangaroo Found in Storm Remains a Mystery

Roaming around Dodgeville, WI in January. Obvious, isn't it? A kangaroon in a storm must be hunting a nice down jacket. Dodgeville is the home base of Land's End. Ergo . . .

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Four more things

I'm in my office to finish up some mind-numbing work (the old annual update) before tomorrow, so I'm going to add four more things about me. The previous 11 things are here, here, here.

(12) The year I lived in Indianapolis, I survived on a steady diet of comedy: The Hollywood Squares, Whose Line Is It Anyway, Friends, The Simpsons. I'm sure I'm forgetting something. I never watch any of those shows anymore. It was a sad year.

(13) Also during my year in Indy (or The Nap or Naptown), I became obsessed with basketball for the first time in my life. You might think this is because of the whole Indiana-basketball connection, and you might be partially right, but then why didn't I latch on during my seven years in Bloomington? Boom Baby.

(14) My favorite college basketball team? The Salukis. Sure, I've left Carbondale, but I've still got a soft spot for those underdawgs.

(15) My hands are often very cold.

Friday, February 25, 2005

And for us non-procreators?

The question is not to procreate or not, the question is can you. If you can, then you can get married. If you can't, then there's no reason to marry. The only reason to marry, according to some, is to procreate. (You know, in order to pass on patriarchal names and property and such.)

Here's what the state that issued my marriage license has to say:

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in January that "there was a rational basis for the Legislature to draw the line between opposite-sex couples, who as a generic group are biologically capable of reproducing, and same-sex couples, who are not." (from the AP)
OK. Let me try to employ Booth's Listening Rhetoric here. The rationale here is that people get married in order to reproduce. If people didn't reproduce, there would be no reason to marry.
Now, I'm married. I've been married for awhile. I've not reproduced. Was getting married a waste of time? Or should I get busy right now and procreate before my marriage loses all validity? Could I qualify for an annulment since my marriage is without issue?
I guess I got away from listening rhetoric there in the last paragraph. The rationale (as I've already suggested above) is not *will* you reproduce but *can* you. It's the potential. Whether you do it or not doesn't matter. It's whether you can.
And what about infertile men and women? Should they be barred from marrying?
Oops. Got away from listening again. It's hard to listen sometimes. Especially when it seems as if the listening isn't mutual. One thing Booth maybe doesn't quite tell us is how rhetoric works when listening can only take us so far. I'm not listening that well: there's all sorts of static getting in the way. And it's hard to listen, from the other side, when you're pretty sure the highest authority in the universe has told you what's what. What does rhetoric do for us then?
(I haven't finished Booth's book, either. Maybe someone who has could answer some of my questions?)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Tread marks on women's bodies

Ohio Governor Signs Bill to Sell "Choose Life" Plates:

"The American Civil Liberties Union has announced that it will consider a court challenge to the license plates, the Associated Press reports. There are currently 10 states in which 'Choose Life' license plates can be bought, reports the Toledo Blade, with sales of such plates being blocked by legal challenges in three additional states: Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina."

No matter that the need to fuel those cars and the whole late capitalist economy has had a hand in something like 17,000 civilian deaths in Iraq.

No matter that, legally, women are free to choose to end a pregnancy.

It's time to give support, lots of it, to NARAL.

Update 02/27/05: More of it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The digital and "literacy"

I've been thinking about Collin's suggestion that the internet is being figured as (or at least is figured as in Wayne Booth's RoR) rhetoric often is and has been: as a bad use of discourse, a source of corruption and poor thinking. Which got me to thinking about the interesting nostalgia for reading qua reading in P. Harkin's article in the latest CCC, an article on the reception of reader-response theory, which ultimately becomes an argument against the "professionalizing" of composition, which, in her view, has led to a break from reading because we think we need to focus on writing. (Lots of relative clauses there, folks--hope you're following me.)

Now, there are parts of her article that I like quite a lot, and I have been struck this semester with how my own students, as she points out, tend to think an article says what they expect it to say rather than what it in fact says (no, Max Weber doesn't argue that capitalist accumulation is rational; in fact, he says quite the opposite, and that's what makes it interesting). But just as the observation that students aren't writing that well out of high school is as old as the composition class itself, I suspect that the observation that students aren't reading as well as we might like is also an old gripe.

What really surprises me, I guess, is her final point, that we're all too busy chasing after the new when maybe we need to be brave and return to the old (ie, the old reader-response theory). Now, I'm happy to reconsider reader-response theory and to re-think what it might add to the teaching of writing. But that move at the end troubles me, because it sounds too much like the, ahem, cute complaint of a few weeks back. I mean, folks, do we really need to abandon the new in order to appreciate stuff that isn't new? I still use freewriting a whole lot in my classes, despite the fact that Peter Elbow turned teachers on to this strategy thirty years ago. But I also use blogs, and I'm also constantly worrying over ways of making my teaching fresh. Who wants a stale classroom? But can't the old and the new peacefully co-exist? Even as we need to constantly rethink the old in light of the new?

Anyway, even though I haven't really read this article yet, I wonder if Douglas Kellner's suggestion that we teach "multiple literacies" provides a productive way to think the old and the new together. (Link via Weblogg-Ed.) Guess I should read the article and find out.


Just want to add an aide-memoire or nota bene or some such thing: I do understand the now infamous "cute" comment as a certain kind of response to labor issues. That is, how can we expect new and/or inexperienced and/or overworked contingent instructors to implement all these new ideas? Well, we can't. But that's no justification for failing to push pedagogy forward even as we work to change the labor conditions that make composition teaching such a political and ethical and, often, intellectual quagmire. (See Jeff's excellent discussion of this very issue.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

More news from Waco

Waco's First African American Mayor Dies

Although my blog is beginning to seem obsessed with it, I haven't really kept up with the goings-on in Waco. So I didn't know that Waco had elected Mae Jackson last year, a woman who is being remembered as "a unifier of races and social classes."

Baylor students used to like to tell this joke around the lunch table: pour a pile of salt on the table, then pour black pepper around it. What's that? Baylor. Ha. None of us white students seemed to give much thought to why that was the case or how the people living in the neighborhoods around Baylor felt about this private college full of mostly pretty well-off white people in their midst. None of us white students ever talked much about the politics and ethics of living off the labor of Black people, even though Black folks from the city were clearly visible around campus, doing lots of hard and often unpleasant manual labor.

And then in summer 2003, a Baylor basketball player disappears. He's Black. He's been murdered. And the white coach circulates a rumor that the player was dealing drugs, trying to cover up the money the athletics program was handing him under the table.

That white coach is forced to resign, finally, when a Black assistant coach hands over taped conversations with him. The last I heard, that assistant coach is a persona non grata, without so much as a job.

So, yeah, some racial politics going down in Waco, fueled pretty strongly by the Baptist college on the banks of the Brazos. Now that there's a regime change at Baylor, let's hope the city will have sense enough to go for some consistency: sounds like another leader like Mae Jackson wouldn't be a bad idea.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Miracle on the Brazos

How did I miss this: ?

Thank the gods. The Preacher/CEO is no longer president of Baylor. Maybe intellectual dissent can now return to the banks of the Brazos.

Though I now joke about my undergrad days at Baylor, I did *think* while I was there. Wrote a paper on Marx for Robert Baird's Modern European Philosophy class, on civil disobedience for Richard Battistoni's honors colloquium, and even managed to do some work on feminism and a whole thesis on sexuality in Mary Oliver's poetry for Ann Miller. For a Texas girl from a small town, these were important intellectual and political milestones. I get the feeling that under Sloane's regime, most of these things would have been censored or would at least have flagged me as a trouble maker. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...)

I could go on and on and talk about the inquisition, I mean interview, I had at Baylor some years ago, but I'll spare you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Notes for (possible) future posts

1. I'm teaching fy comp at my seventh institution for who knows what number of times. And yet, I can never keep everything in my head that I want to keep in my head when I'm planning a fy comp class. Like this semester was going to be the semester that I got some joy in the class. (See Marcia's post, which reminded me.) Then I go and pick work as the topic of inquiry. Despite Posner's NY Times Book Review article to the contrary, we are not a culture that finds joy in work. We believe we should, but we don't. (Capitalism, after all, isn't a joyful system.)

2. The 1999 movie _Office Space_ offers some pretty useful scenes for thinking through American cultural beliefs about work. Esp. that last scene where manual labor is romanticized. But other things, too: the whole happy service worker satire, the going postal motif, the gendered divisions of labor.

3. Again, thanks to Marcia, I'm reminded of the heuristic value of lists. I think I'll get some lists going in my fy comp class on Friday.

4. But if I am going to focus on work, why didn't I make space for music? Russell's right--students do respond strongly to music. And I originally had some music built into the syllabus, then it got nixed. Maybe there's a way to sneak some in?

5. Lists are great, but I seem to like the number 5 the best, so I'll stop for now.

Update 3/7/05: I just want to correct the name in #1 above. It should read "Postrel's," not "Posner." Posner is someone else, but Postrel is the author of "The Book of Jobs." I've known for weeks that I needed to correct that but finally felt compelled to do so after coming across her blog.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Everyone's yucky week/month/semester

I feel a powerful urge to not post today, but I'm avoiding it for the sake of keeping some semblance of rhythm. And I'll take as my topic the thing that's pulling me away from blogging: stress and busy-ness.

What is it that's making everyone feel particularly rotten right about now? Click on about every other blog over on the side there, and you'll find someone's recent post about the awful weeks, days, etc, that they've been having. Is it the alignment of planets? Is it post-traumatic stress left over from the election? Is it always like this in the winter part of the second semester? I don't seem to remember always feeling so tentative at the beginning of the second semester. (Yes, I'm kinda feeling rotten myself, though better than, say, a couple of weeks ago.)

Hmm. Well. That's about all I care to say about that. At least I posted.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Speaker's circle

There's a "speaker's circle" on campus here, and I walk by it or through it every day on my way to teach. Recently a trumpeter was playing there for a couple of days (last tune I heard him play: Sonny Rollins's "St Thomas"), but more often than not someone is evangelizing. All campuses seem to have these people coming around. Here's what I want to know: does anyone take them seriously? I mean, even at Baylor ("Thee University") people would gather around the street-corner preachers on campus in order to deride them. So, following from that, I want to know: do people ever take public speakers who set themselves up on campus or a street corner seriously? Maybe a person or two? I'm just wondering if a "speaker's circle," rather than being an invitation for open discussion and debate, is really just a locus for spectacle. (Which leads to another question: is setting up a speaker's circle a way of making the university seem to be a place for public discussion and debate without really being so?) What function, in other words, do these random but insistent people serve? Why do people turn to evangelizing, whether of the religious or secular kind? It's a performance, obviously--but a performance signifying what? An identity. . . rather than movement. (Isn't that what Massumi says about performance, that it doesn't leave room for movement, only for a reiteration of where we already are?)

So here's something I heard in Speaker's Circle last semester, shortly after the World Series was over:
[With elaborate, affected gestures]
Curt Schilling
shed his blood
for the curse
of the Bambino.

It was very strange. No one was really listening to him at that moment; he was just there in speaker's circle, improvising, working out the elaborate gesturing.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Where I've lived

I guess this is #11 in my list of 100 things. (Can't count each one, can I?) (Cue taken from StepAside.)
  1. Weatherford, TX
  2. Uvalde, TX
  3. Weatherford some more
  4. Waco, TX (yeah, laugh it up)
  5. Bloomington, IN
  6. Milwaukee, WI
  7. Indianapolis, IN
  8. Carbondale, IL
  9. Columbia, MO

Almost half a lifetime in Texas, now another one in the midwest. The coasts keep eluding me.

Friday, February 11, 2005

How about 5 more things?

It's getting late and I haven't posted, so I'll rattle off another 5 things about me and be done with it. Here we go:

(6) Same birthplace as Mary Martin and Larry Hagman. That's Peter Pan and JR to you. Soon (already?) those references will have no meaning.

(7) Parents' birthplaces: even tinier Texas towns--Antelope and Rock Creek. Don't let them fool you: everything is *not* bigger in Texas.

(8) Like many girls, I developed a horse fetish. I lived in Texas, but no horse for me. I would tear out and save up ads for horses. Things like "9-year old gelding. $300." I believed just showing these ads to my parents would finally yield a horse. I was wrong. My first rhetoric (un)lesson.

(9) My father used to say, "I have to work for a living." I didn't understand. Didn't everyone work for a living?

(10) And now for something completely different: Prince Charles? I thought *I* would marry him.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Day of Echinacea

A number of comp students have lately showed up to class to turn in their homework and then leave, saying they're sick. At a committee meeting on Tuesday, people were coughing and sneezing. Today I feel like I could be going down that road. So I'm dosing on zinc and drinking echinacea tea. I'll cross my fingers, too--you never know what might help ward off the evil flu demons.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Long Day

Wednesdays are my long days on campus, and today was even longer than usual. But I'm home now, and I just want to say that the grad students in 8010 totally rock. Because most of them haven't taught before and will be teaching for the first time in the fall, I decided to have an assignment that would require them to do two lesson plans for my English 1000 (ie, first-year composition class) over the course of the semester. They're doing really bang-up jobs, and since all four presentations today were for the same day (this Friday), I don't know how to choose from among them for my own lesson plan. They're all good: the Kadinsky-based freewriting, the adbusters group work, the "take a role" and talk about these facts from the undergrads who work report, and even the "survival" scenario, which, as I told them, I just have an aversion to so probably won't use. (But the lesson plan itself was excellent and involved reflection, etc.) And they're giving me fresh, exciting ideas to take into my comp class.

So that's what I have to say: rock on, 8010. You make my week.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Cute commentary

Who knew one word could cause so much upset.

Here's what I don't understand: instead of telling Jenny (and me) that she's wrong to think a remark is mysogynistic, why not ask why/how she finds it so? Why respond to one feeling of being dismissed with a further dismissal?

Something to ponder.

A Mardi Gras Melange

Inspired by the carnival of TV images that came at me while at the rec center this morning, I offer these observations:

(1) Country music videos are very strange. Or not strange enough. Some pretty obvious emotional work going on there: Sania Twain in a corset-topped gown, riding a white horse through vaguely renaissance-inflected sets; Kenny Chesney in his little straw cowboy hat, singing in front of a lighted carousel at night, interrupted by scenes from a summer of beach love; some guy with intensely dimpled cheeks singing about kids, while images of unfailingly smiley children flash by.

(2) Condoleeza Rice says the middle east has a "deficit of freedom." I have to admit, I haven't been paying close attention to the way this administration flings around that word. I knew that Bush had repeated it ad nauseum in his inaugural address, but just that fact made me sort of tired and uninterested. But, really--a "deficit of freedom." Also--we're on the right side of the freedom chasm, the Arab world is on the wrong side. Some pretty interesting frames there. Freedom no longer as in modernist thought an absence of restraints, but now a thing, a commodity, a kind of income.

(3) And, speaking of Condoleeza, why is it that she must speak so precisely while the president, who though speaking as if a good ol boy is nonetheless a blue blood with some short eastern roots, can speak so slovenly? It's not that I'm trying to buy into the "he sounds so dumb" faction because, as a native Texan, I'm not very happy with the idea that a vaguely Texan accent makes a person sound dumb. (Not that I sound much like a Texan these days, having excised traces of it probably for the same reason Condoleeza may well have excised traces of an accent in her speech.) Rather, I'm interested in the fact that Condoleeza and I chose to get rid of our accents (I realize I'm making an assumption about her, but she was born in the south, after all, and occasionally I can hear traces of that sneaking in) and Mr. Bush has chosen to heighten his.

(4) Rubberband man on ESPN. I'm speechless.

(5) Jim Belushi on the View. How did slovenly sexism become so funny and even cute? (I'm talking reception here, not my personal opinion, lest I'm misunderstood.)

(6) Toni Braxton wants to make a comeback. VH1 is trying to help. That's all I have to say about that.

Monday, February 07, 2005

A week's blogging

I would just like to note that, with this post, I have completed a week of posting daily to my blog.

Later I want to post something about the affect of wpa work, but I need to finish commenting on some student work before noon.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Coming at you at 7200 bps

It's raining this afternoon, so if I manage to post this message it will be a small miracle. Who knew such slow connection speeds were even possible.

The telephone company repair person said when my phone line goes totally dead and stays that way, then they'll be able to fix it. I'm not sure I understand the way that works, but that's what he says.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

5 things

So this is one of those days that I need to defer to the Post-it note idea that Collin suggested. I will use this Post-It note to begin the obligatory 100 things about me list, starting with a list of 5:

(1) Cinco de Mayo. Same as Karl Marx and Kenneth Burke.

(2) Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate. In that order.

(3) People tend to think I'm well organized and neat. Those are the people who've never been inside my house.

(4) Then again, I'm good at organizing. It's just the keeping it that way that becomes my problem.

(5) One day when I lived in Bloomington I realized the wonderfully sweet almost grassy smell exuding from silvery plants in my friend's garden was lavender. Since then, I've used and consumed lavender in a variety of forms: dried lavender, lavender water, lavender soap, lavender lotion, lavender lip balm, lavender tea, lavender salad dressing, lavender cheesecake, and, yes, lavender chocolate.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Joining In

I should note, albeit somewhat belatedly, that I've ordered my copy of The Rhetoric of Rhetoric and plan to be part of the book conversation/carnival thing going on.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

One small step . . .

I added a blog roll!

This was no easy task, either, as I was working from my home dial-up connection and kept getting kicked off about every 5 minutes. I think small animals are slowly making nests of my phone line. Whenever it rains my phone stops working. Really.

(It wasn't raining today, however. That's why today I'm blaming small animals for the incredibly slow connections that lasted for only minutes--or even seconds--at a time.)

Blogagogy and the troubling of the spheres

The whole issue of public/private writing that blogs seem to trouble in interesting ways has been on my mind ever since Marcia quietly pointed out to me (over email) that I seemed to be saying something I didn't mean in my 8010 syllabus:

"The individual weblog is mainly a space for you to talk to yourself: to think through ideas, puzzle over ideas, etc."

But how mainly a space to talk to self if self is talking in a public space? Indeed. I do think there's a distinction to be made between a collective blog and an individual blog (which is the distinction I was groping toward), but the distinction can't really be a traditional expressive/transactional distinction. Surely collective blogs also allow for what's been called "expressive" discourse--language for working out ideas rather than for getting things done. But expressive discourse also always gets something done; it's just that if we don't show it to anyone, it's not doing much for another one.

What's lost, though, by making the analogy between a paper diary or journal and an individual blog is the sense of interaction that Marcia and some of the folks over in Collin's class are talking about. (I know I should ping but don't know that I've quite figured that one out yet.) The idea of "getting out of the way" is a sort of bizarre belief that writing is, despite the collective work we do in a class, really a matter of the individual genius doing work. Wouldn't want to mess with that.

So now I regret telling the folks in my 8010 class that I wouldn't comment on their individual blogs unless they asked me to. I've also apparently established myself as being outside of the collective blog, too, though I think I could probably join in without too much of a big deal. I like what Derek says about "writing alongside students, engaging in dialogue with their writing, and offering links to other conversations that might do any number of things to shape, guide and coach." This makes much more sense than the idea of "writing without teachers" or "the withering away of the teacher," concepts I've critiqued in my writing but seem to nonetheless continue to try to practice. The teacher can't wither away, anyway, and by being this silent lurker on student blogs really comes to seem more like a Big Brother (or Sister, I guess), keeping an eye out to make sure the work is being done (hello Foucault!). And, lest we forget, Freire never told us to wither away. He said to dialogue. And the teacher isn't exactly dialoguing if the teacher is only reading, never writing back. In fact, the lack of writing back only reinforces the difference of the teacher.

What do I do???

See, Marcia--you're absolutely right. This is why instructors should do a modicum of research before jumping on the blog wagon.

(But, hey--does that third ping work? Maybe I do know how to ping.)
Answer: No, it doesn't. No, you don't. Have to work on that another day.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Taking Collin's Sage Advice

Thanks, Collin, for the suggestion to keep the threshold low and treat posts as small things. No need to be brilliant. (But people might read this! Must be brilliant! Or at least deep. Right? Right?)

It's a gloomy gloomy day outside. I guess really it's just worth one "gloomy." I used to live in Milwaukee for goodness sake. Now *there*'s some gloom to be had. Way below zero gloom. And though I'm only a few degrees north of Carbondale now, I seem to be really feeling those few degrees difference. Got spoiled with the short and fitful winters there.

But, hey, birds are smarter than we think. I should have linked to that NY Times science article yesterday. Now there's something I can do. Link to interesting NY Times articles. But that was yesterday. Still, I can briefly summarize some of the interesting parts: crows on a street in Japan wait for a red light, walk out into the street and leave nuts there, cars run over the nuts, the crows eat the now open nuts. It's a plan. And then MP told me about the African gray parrot who calls the dog over to his cage, bites the dog on the head and says, "Stupid dog." As my SO said, it's the birds. They're the ones who'll take over.

And one more thing from yesterday's science news: a piece by the former science editor, about (male) scientists' apparent inability to take her seriously. (Now there's a research question: if, as the Harvard prez suggests, women might be genetically incapable of doing math, is it also the case that men are genetically incapable of recognizing a woman who is good at math?) One scientist, after being introduced to her, looked around and asked where that new "little twerpy girl," the new science editor, was. "That would be me," she answered.

That deserves another egads. Even though I never say egads.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I never say "egads," but I just wrote it in an email message to a friend and former student and now I've chosen it as the title of this post to signal my shock and dismay that I've neglected this blog so dreadfully.

Why have I neglected it? I mean, Becky is still blogging, and she had a mighty fine but now unmentionable reason not to blog (head trauma and all). I've had no trauma, to my head or otherwise. Just the regular beginning of the semester business, getting my classes all ready, going to hear job candidates talk, and such.

It's just that I haven't yet found a rhythm, have I? Not for my blog nor for other things. There's something about moving that really messes with my spatio-perception. You would think I might be over it by now. But, no, I'm not.

Still and all, it's supposed to be in the 50s by the end of the week. It smelled all mulchy on campus today. Maybe I can convince my body it's spring. Then I can feel energetic and rhythmic.

And then, my friends, I'll blog.

Or maybe blogging will help me feel energetic and rhythmic? Blogging as epistemic--no, as affective maintenance. Something like that.