Saturday, October 25, 2008

Autumnally turned

A couple of days ago I wrote an entry in response to a tag. And then there was some malfunction with the blog, and it completely disappeared. I don't feel inclined to recreate it. Instead, I'm offering a poem, because I'm currently undergoing a Rilke revival. Back when I was doing the MFA, Rilke was all the rage. So I bought books of Rilke, and, while I liked them well enough, they seemed heavy and sometimes hard to understand. Now I think I just wasn't ready for Rilke when I was 23. In fact, I ended up selling some of the books, but I kept two: Letters to a Young Poet, a book of prose that has one of my favorite lines in the world, the admonishment to "live the questions," and also a selection of poems edited by Stephen Mitchell. I've been dipping into the poems here and there lately, and finding them all wonderful. Here's one I read today, entitled, appropriate for the season, "Autumn Day":

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander on the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

I love the way the poem moves from a pastoral scene, with the wind on the meadows, and then moves to the flaneur, wandering, restless, among fallen leaves.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Technology is not one

JBJ over at The Salt Box offers a nice little reminder that no one technology is "the" answer. Rather, they're all tools, yeah? Technologies of possibility. Technes. Rhetorical. An excerpt:

Anyway, all of this is to say that if you give me a goal, I can tell you why I prefer one form to another. I prefer wikis to blogs for my class notes assignment, for instance, because that assignment focuses on the public, shared work of the class. The collaborative nature of wikis is good for that. In cases where I want students to develop, over the course of a period of time (a month, a semester), a perspective on a topic, or when I want them to roleplay in an interpretative game–well, a blog sounds better for those tasks, since it’s probably going to be organized chronologically. But I cannot tell you, abstractly, why one tool is always better than another.

Now that Bloglines decided the other day that it was time to clean out my feeds, I'm keeping up a little better with my subscriptions. So now maybe that will feed (yes, riffing off yellow dog) my blogging again. Goal: blog more frequently. Tool: RSS feeds.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

There *is* joy in Blogville

for the mighty Bérubé has come back.

(Now I have to remember how to do the accent thing again. I had become habituated to it just before he retired the blog back in 2007.)

And, yes, I'm several days beyond the scoop. He resumed last Tuesday, announcing:

My friends, I suspended my blog retirement so that I could see us through this crisis.

Ah, yes. Thank goodness. It makes me think that maybe I too can suspend my default retirement.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A call, a box

My friend hails me, and so I feel I should slap up something new.

I've been blogging this semester, but over at my class site on ning. Yesterday, I asked the folks in my class to read Sirc's "Box Logic" and to make a basic box. I love that article and I love that assignment. So simple, so elegant. I made a box, too, starting with a photograph by Shelby Lee Adams. (That inspiration came from my many conversations with A, who is in the process of writing a mighty fine paper about a documentary on said photographer.) Adams 's photographs have generated controversy among critics who say he is reinforcing stereotypes about Appalachians. He responds that if people would just look at the pictures, without their preconceptions, they might have another kind of experience. So that's kind of what my box is playing with.

Friday, September 05, 2008


This blog needs some content.

A picture of a baby?

Not really content.

Too bad. I think it might make you smile.

(My great nephew J; pic lifted from his dad's myspace page.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In Defense of Hippies

Once again, my colleague inspires me.

Before ascertaining during his campus visit here last year that he too hated hippies, I had only met one other non-conservative person who claimed to hate hippies. That other person is my good friend and local blogger ComoProzac, who recently suggested my interest in Tapestries was hippie-ish. But after having a conversation with another friend, I find that many people share this aversion toward hippies.

I guess I've lived in too many hippie havens. I've always thought the presence of hippies signaled the presence of many good things: yoga, natural food co-ops, progressive politics. And hummus. I had never had hummus until I went to the Trojan Horse in Bloomington, Indiana (an alleged hippie haven) with my grad school friend Kitsey. Perusing the menu, I asked her, "What's hummus?" (I had never been offered such food in Weatherford, Texas. Not in Waco, either, though they may have it there by now.) "It's hippie food!" she answered. I love hummus. And whenever I eat it, I think of hippies. (Yes, I know it didn't originate with hippies. But I can't help it.)

And the Wikipedia entry on hippies says that they have philosophical progenitors in such luminaries as Jesus Christ, Hillel the Elder, Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, and Gandhi. You know, it's all about counter-culture, finding another way. Peace, brother/sisterhood, understanding and living in harmony. I like those things.

But "hippie deodorant"? No, it doesn't work. And maybe some other aspects of hippie culture aren't things we ourselves pursue. But I stick by my assertion that the presence of hippies in a place is a good sign. At least in the midwest. I can't speak for other parts of the country.

And now after all this hippie talk, I've got a hankering for hummus. I'm at Uprise (yet again)--I think I'll get some!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A little something for July

I still have plans to be a jane come lately to the CCCarnival. But, until then, I feel obligated to make at least one post before the month ends. Here are some highlights from July 2008. Lest we forget.

1. We closed on the house! Yes, the big purchase I have been alluding to was our house, which we've been renting since we moved to Columbia four years ago. For various reasons, from contract to close was drawn out for three months. It was, as I told one friend, the worst experience of my life. Maybe that was an exaggeration, but it was close. But now we have the title! To our house with purple shutters and an attic painted like the sky.

2. By the end of the week, I will have taught a whole class this month. Like the past two summers, I taught Intro to Women's Literature. The students do a lot of blogging and two very simple new media productions. It's a good time.

3. C and I went to Carbondale before the session started, back at the very beginning of July. We were there for just one night and didn't get to see everyone we would have liked to see. Our main purpose in visiting was to have dinner with K, who was the chair who hired me. He's leaving to be a chair out west.

4. I went on a silent retreat over the weekend. Ah. Grounded again.

5. I finally finished the introduction for my book (although I still want to change a couple of small things).

6. I ate the best cookie in the world at Uprise. Ginger chocolate chunk. Two of my very favorite flavors, together.

7. Which reminds me: I've been spending a lot of time at Uprise. It's a pretty good place to write, despite the really bad design choice of putting electrical outlets UNDER the benches. It means there's no graceful way to plug in one's laptop. None at all.

8. I am mourning the loss of Scrabulous on Facebook. Sure, there are other word games, but no other has the nice leisurely pace of a game of Scrabble between two remote friends.

9. Hansel, my brown tabby, came down with a urinary tract obstruction. This is one of the things I have always feared, that my cat would get blocked. It's very dangerous--can lead to death within 24-48 hours because of the toxic build-up. We rushed him to the emergency room at the vet hospital at midnight last week. He's back home. (And was he ever happy to get home! Little can match the happiness of a cat back from the hospital. As C. said, being in the hospital must seem like an alien abduction. The probes, the lights, the strange beings. And to suddenly be rescued from that! What joy!)But apparently he's at a high risk for getting obstructed again, especially for the next two weeks. He's currently enjoying an all wet food diet to help keep him hydrated and diluted.

10. I am so so tired. Bone tired. Many high stress situations over the last few months. Next week I'm going away. Although it's a curriculum workshop, it includes yoga everyday. So I have some high hopes.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Well, well, if it isn't June

And even past the summer solstice, no less. I have good friends who are visiting Vietnam for something like two months! They update their blog more than I have of late. They have pictures even! Take a look.

Some things have improved since I last blogged:

* I no longer sound like Marge Simpson, for instance. (At least I think I don't.)

* I watched There Will Be Blood, the first movie I managed to sit through in months. That final scene. Hmmm. Still thinking about that. Other than that, I was struck by the ordinariness of greed, hatred, delusion.

* I have a car! (Thanks to Jenny!) Now I can drive myself places, just like the old days.

* The house is back in a semblance of order. C. has taken to interior design and has made some nice improvements in the arrangement of some things.

* I've got a book to finish. Is that an improvement? Sure it is. I actually believe I'll finish it, despite recurrent moments of fear. Maybe after that I'll have other, more interesting thoughts.

Until then, I can offer you a picture of one of the happiest parts of my last sad trip to Texas:

Jay con Tia Donna, April 2008

Little Jay, my newest great nephew. With his Tia Donna. ¡Que allegria!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

No Sea-Tac for you!

Hmmm. I'm home, listening to music. Various things, here and there. A nice little song from Portishead's latest. A lovely saxophone riff from my man Wayne Shorter on Herbie Hancock's Grammy-winner.

I'm sick. I really do sound like Marge Simpson. C is also sick, though so far sounding mostly like himself.

But grades are in. That's a good thing.

Tomorrow the Rhetoric Society of America Conference begins. After the last RSA, I declared I would always go to RSA. And I planned to. I'm on the program. But even before so many other things happened, I was beginning to wonder if I could really swing it. For one thing, there's the whole cost of going to Seattle, yeah? And that kind of bucks up against this big purchase C and I are still hoping to make but that has been in process since, well, January.

And then there are some things I haven't reported on this humble blog. The wrecking of my beloved blue Escort, for example. It was my first new car, purchased in Milwaukee, at a dealership practically across the street from our apartment there. And I lived on the fashionable eastside!

The dealership is gone now, replaced by Whole Foods.

And now my blue Escort is gone, totaled when a teenager in an SUV ran a redlight. Sigh. She cried. I didn't. But it made me sad, all the same.

Other things, too. Some things reported here, some things not. It's been maybe one of the most concentrated periods of "major life events" that I've ever experienced. Perhaps a hip fracture is next? (Bad taste. Shouldn't joke.)

So things have been a wee bit chaotic here. And so I decided no RSA for me. Not this year. It makes me sad. Because I do think it's the greatest conference ever. So if you're there, you better enjoy it. Just think of me, sitting here in my house, talking like Marge Simpson. How much I wish I were you, staring out at Pugent Sound.

You'd better enjoy it. Are you enjoying it yet?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jazz lists

My soon to be former neighbor has a list of jazz greats, of jazz albums he likes, that he can remember without looking at his collection.

OK, then. I like jazz. It may not say that over on my sidebar, but I do. I go to jazz concerts whenever I can (and when I like). Last one: Kurt Elling in KC, to celebrate an anniversary in December. But this isn't about concerts, is it? It's about albums. Here's my list of albums I love, that may or may not be "great":

1. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. Yeah, it's on everyone's list. But it's the one that turned me on to jazz and that never gets old. Doo-do-doo-do. I heard a jazz singer in Carbondale, IL do a vocalese version of Freddie the Freeloader. Didn't like that so much. But the original version is what interpellation means. It's calling you.

2. John Coltrane, Love Supreme. (I seem to have inadvertently deleted #2-4. I'll have to restore them a little later.)

5. Kurt Elling, Live at the Green Mill
. Kurt Elling is getting a lot of love in this entry. My first exposure to Elling was this CD (bought in Indianapolis during my one year there). His version of "Going to Chicago," with vocalese great Jon Hendricks, is as memorable as songs get.

6. Patricia Barber, Modern Cool. Another vocal CD by a Chicago-based musician, also purchased during my one year in Indy. (Or The Nap, as some of my summer students at IU called it.) She does an amazing version of "Light My Fire." Also a be-a-utiful vocal dance on "Constantinople." (And features my favorite contemporary trumpet player, Dave Douglas, on one track.)

7. Dave Douglas, Charms of the Night Sky. Oh but I love this CD. I love the mingling of jazz trumpet and Eastern European instruments (accordian, violin). I love the ease, the delight. Mmmm. (He did A Thousand Evenings with the same musicians. Also unforgettable. But those are just two of many, many great discs.)

8. Wayne Shorter, Footprints Live! . The greatest living jazz musician and composer, imho. This CD was his accoustic comeback. Astounding music. But let's not forget the old ones: Juju. Night Dreamer. Speak No Evil. Hearing McCoy Tyner play the opening notes of Juju always takes my breath away.

9. McCoy Tyner, Quartet. His latest. A Christmas gift last year. A current favorite. No one hits the keys like McCoy. (I've also loved The Real McCoy and Trident.)

10. Dave Holland, Prime Directive. Another one that has seen a lot of play. Another (along with Coltrane, Shorter) Miles Davis alum. Another (along with Mingus) bass player. I like the bass.

11. Ben Allison, Peace Pipe. A third bass player. He teamed up with Malian kora player Mamadou Diabate to produce sounds that resonate deep in the gut.

12. Duke Ellington, Ellington at Newport, 1956. The classic recording of a classic set. "Take the A Train." "Mood Indigo." Good stuff. Good energy.

13. Cassandra Wilson, Blue Light Till Dawn. Another vocalist who blurs lines. Her version of "Tupelo Honey" often gets lodged in my brain, and I don't mind at all.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Help with reading

It's finals week, and as summer quickly approaches, I'm thinking of celebrating in my usual way: reading a novel.

But what to read? I'm having a hard time deciding. And then I thought: surely there's an app out there that will tell me. Or will at least suggest something.

Behold: What should I read next? I'm currently adding titles to see what they recommend.

Update: Um, I kind of think its database is kind of limited. I'm not getting great recommendations. I mean, like they're suggesting I read the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just not what I had in mind.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Disaster relief

The death toll in Myanmar/Burma may top 100,000 and those who are left face long term food shortages (especially given that they were already facing food shortages). I have it from a source I trust that the Foundation for the People of Burma has a long history of good work in that area. If you're wondering what to do in the wake of so much suffering, you might consider a donation to FPB.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thanks on this disorienting day

I'm grateful to all of you who stopped by and left a comment about my father's passing or have otherwise sent condolences. I used to wonder what a person can possibly say to someone who has lost a significant person. And now I know that it's simple: a kind word. A memory, if you have one. A shared experience, if that's there. But, mostly, it's meant a lot to me to have the loss acknowledged. To know there's support. And so I very much appreciate all of you who have sent those words, those thoughts.

And so it's also my birthday today. I usually make a big deal out of it and write some sort of silly post about Kenneth Burke or cats or something. Today, I'm just not feeling it.

But I am feeling gratitude. So that's what's here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

With love

My father, circa 1945

Travis Houston Strickland
June 27, 1926-April 27, 2008

My father died of a massive heart attack Sunday morning. Although we knew he had heart disease (he had a quadruple bypass six or seven years ago), we were much more concerned lately about the hydrocephalus that was causing memory loss, dizziness, and trouble walking. I talked to him Saturday night. He was starting to sound better. I wasn't prepared at all to get the frantic calls early Sunday morning. Not at all.

But rather than dwell on that, I'll just point to what he loved. He loved that he served in the Navy during World War II. He loved Branson, MO, and laughing. Folks loved his easy smile and his friendliness. He loved carving wood figures with a group of friends who called themselves the Wood Chippers. There's a photo of him I'd like to have, sitting in front of a store on the road between Weatherford (where he lived) and Stephenville (where my sisters live). He and his wood chipping buddies are carving for crowds who visit. He has a piece of wood in his hand, and he's smiling.

He told my mother he loves her. Those were, I think, his last words.

I already miss him so much.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What kind of example am I

Not much of one, at this point, I should say. Some things that have been happening in the many days when I haven't blogged, some good, some not so:

1. I went to New Orleans for CCCC! I don't care that the beignets are greasy and the coffee diluted with chicory. Cafe du Monde is the oldest coffee stand in the world (or so they say)! And I went there with Jackie (and M and F)!

2. I also did yoga while in New Orleans, at Wild Lotus Yoga. The teacher, Amanda, offered a lovely synthesis of flow and alignment.

3. Before New Orleans, I was in Texas. My dad had neurosurgery. The surgery went fine. The recovery and results are still in question.

4. Over the past five months, I've been invited to join three boards (one on campus, two community-based) and one handbook-writing group. It's work I'm very committed to, but it's keeping me busy.

5. A sibling was first diagnosed with a mild heart attack, then just heart problems. We're still waiting for something a little more definitive.

6. The redbuds are in bloom. It's my favorite time of the year, when the trees are almost fuzzy with buds and the purple blossoms startle here and there.

7. C. and I are making a significant purchase. It involves a lot of paperwork. It's making me tired.

8. Much rain. It turns the yard into a swamp. It drives my sinuses crazy, the shifts in barometric pressures.

9. Three siblings, two parents in Texas. Much stress. I'm here in Missouri. Much stress.

10. But, still, much to relax into. Friends. Dinner at R & Z's with Debbie a couple of weeks ago. Dinner tonight. Dinner tomorrow. Dinner next week. All with friends.

Monday, April 14, 2008

It's April, and so it's time

To blog some more. And since it's National Poetry Month, it's time for a poem.

And I offer you John Berryman, specifically a poem I once enjoyed reciting. In my youth, ennui seemed cool. Not only that, but my mother really did tell me she was never bored. And so she reprimanded me if I dared to say that I was.

Dream Song 14

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no

Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another one

I've begun a new blog. Yes, another. This one charts my progress on my RSA presentation. In fact, it will be part of my RSA presentation.

The folks in my Writing Web 2.0 class are working on their final projects for the next five weeks. So I'll be working on this RSA presentation alongside them.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Wiki writers

In the Web 2.0 class last week, I asked everyone to find something on Wikipedia that they knew a lot about and to edit something on the page. I decided to do this because so many of the folks in the class had been blogging about how they couldn't imagine editing a wiki and didn't really like the idea of wikis because someone might come along and mess up what's written.

Luckily, SZ's excellent presentation on Tuesday about her own wiki helped to dispel some aversion toward wikis. But, still, I wanted writing to happen. So we all edited on Thursday.

As I was illustrating to the class what I wanted them to do, I had to think quick to try to find an entry I thought I would be able to edit. What popped into my head? Peter Elbow. So I went to his page, which is in fact surprisingly short. I edited it by adding a word to one sentence and then adding an entire sentence that linked to another Wikipedia page. That was my contribution.

The most popular pages for the folks in the class were their high school pages. Some of them had to start from scratch, while others were able to add just a sentence or two to already existing pages.

A couple of students after class blogged about still not wanting to contribute to wikis.

But what struck me about the activity is how much, really, it IS writing. There's the myth of the author, of course. But didn't the author die in the 60s? Why is that specter continuously haunting acts of writing? What is writing if it's isn't adding a little bit to what's already accumulated? Even when we're writing a whole entry (or paper or book or whatever) ourselves, we have to accumulate. Aggregate. Select. Then create some sentences. Go back and add some words. Write some new sentences.

The wiki. It *is* writing. That's what I say.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Great age, great youth

I stole this pic of my father and my newest great nephew from V's MySpace page.

When I went to Texas for Thanksgiving, my dad was having pretty severe memory problems. But he remembered this little guy was supposed to be arriving.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Something you might not want to know

I was away Friday through Sunday, at a retreat for teachers in Barre, Massachusetts. The retreat itself was wonderful: I met some fabulous people and spent a significant amount of time in silence.

Also, it snowed Saturday morning. I had expressed concern the previous evening about the upcoming snow. I don't think I'm ready--that's the gist of what I said to folks at dinner, most of them New Englanders, who seemed to believe I must be used to lots of snow. I don't have a hat, I complained.

Saturday morning, it was my duty to ring a bell, to let everyone know it was time to assemble. I had to go outside, to ring a little bell under the falling snow. As I was putting on my shoes in the foyer, a fellow retreatant came out of her room, presented me with a fuzzy hat. (I learned later she went looking for a hat in the lost and found after she heard me say I needed a hat. How nice is that?)

I wore the hat later as I walked up the little road that led to another retreat center. The snow was barely falling then. Mostly I heard the snow compacting under my feet. When I stopped, I could hear birds sing.

So it was all lovely, lovely. Then the return late Sunday. It was fine, until the very last bit. And that's the bit you might not want to know. Rain in Kansas City. A tiny plane bouncing through the storms from Kansas City to Columbia. I didn't mind. I felt peaceful. But my gut--well, it had other thoughts. I had to reach for the bag. You know the one.


And then when we landed, my one piece of luggage didn't arrive with me. So the next day, no hair dryer. No moisterizer for my dried out face. And on top of it all: a very bad headache.

But I'm all better today. And, yes, able to remember what a beautiful weekend I had, after all. Plus, reading the blogs from my class: another pleasure. Thanks, all.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A book for my class, had it existed

Clay Shirky's book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations would have been perfect for my Writing Web 2.0 class this semester. If only it had appeared a few months earlier!

Here's what Shirky himself says about the book:

Here Comes Everybody is about why new social tools matter for society. It is a non-techie book for the general reader (the letters TCP IP appear nowhere in that order). It is also post-utopian (I assume that the coming changes are both good and bad) and written from the point of view I have adopted from my students, namely that the internet is now boring, and the key question is what we are going to do with it.

Yes, as I said: woulda been perfect. Because that is exactly the question of my class, and exactly the question that interests my students. So we have all these cool tools. So what? What can we do that we couldn't do before?

Actually, I think the folks in my class are coming up with some pretty good responses to that question. They're just now working on concept maps to think toward their final projects, and a number of their ideas have me pretty excited.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Social network/social action

So I was saying last time that I would like to see scholars of social action rhetoric take up network theory, and it seems that they might be. At least, it seems that sociologists of social movements are taking it up. Through the power of networks and the long tail, Amazon recommended Diani and McAdams's Social Movements and Networks: Relational Approaches to Collective Action.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

To be of use

We've been talking in Web 2.0 about aggregation. Aggregation of knowledge is one of the principles of the wisdom of crowds: individual pieces of knowledge come together. And aggregation is a good thing to do with all the content of the Web, so everyone now has an account on Google Reader.

And Duncan Watts mentions aggregation in the first chapter of Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, in which he asks the basic question informing the book:
How does individual behavior aggregate to collective behavior?

One piece of that puzzle: they become a collective through action, specifically through interaction:
Although genes, like people, exist as identifiably individual units, they function by interacting, and the corresponding patterns of interaction can display almost unlimited complexity.

The emergence of collective behavior, then, comes about through the way in which individuals interact:
the particular manner in which they interact can have profound consequences for the sorts of new phenomena--from population genetics to global synchrony to political revolutions--that can emerge at the level of groups, systems, and populations. (27)

This is why I would say that insofar as rhetoric folks want to study social action, they should be studying networks. Of course, I know only a tiny bit about the scholarship on the rhetoric of social action myself, so who am I to be giving advice?

At any rate, as a final piece of this aggregation/emergence ratio, I want to quote a bit more from Foucault's The Use of Pleasure, adding a bit more to the brief quotation that Shaviro includes in the preface to Connected:

[quotation is forthcoming]

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Not as Connected as I thought

I thought for sure I had blogged about Steven Shaviro's Connected, or, What It Means to Live in the Network Society. But a search for "Shaviro" on this humble blog comes up with a couple of links to entries on his blog, but nothing about Connected.

So, I guess this is my entry in response to Connected, which is on the agenda today in my "Writing Web 2.0 class.

I assumed I had written about it because I rather love this book. I love the writing in the book. I love the tiny, blog-entry-like sections. I love that he includes my favorite quotation from Foucault in the Preface (the quotation from one of the last two volumes of History of Sexuality, where Foucault in his own preface asks what knowledge is worth unless it leads "in one way or another and tot he extent possible, in the knower's straying afield of himself").

I love his discussion, drawing from Burroughs, of addiction and viruses. Shaviro writes,
the logic of networks tends toward the algebra of need because the addiction process is facilitated and accelerated when materiality is replaced by information (11)

That seems to explain my experience, reaching way back into my childhood, pre-internet, when I would sit in read what were almost the only books in the house (save for the Bible and other religious materials, and a few random books here and there): the many-volumed Britannica Encyclopedia. I could sit and read for hours and hours, spurred on by the cross-referencing, the thoughts sparked by something I had read in one entry leading me to another. The information network. The draw of knowing, the need, the urge.

And it loops back, infecting "me":
identity is implanted in me from without, not generated from within. My selfhood is an information pattern, rather than a material substance

(Kind of one of my repeated topics, as seen here: see more here.)

And while the idea of the viral spread of information isn't new, I still find it useful, explanatory, heuristic:

The message propagates itself by massive self-replication as it passes from person to person in the manner of an epidemic contagion. This is supposed to be more than just a metaphor. The viral message is composed of memes in the same way that a biological virus is composed of genes. the memes, like the genes, enter into a host and manipulate that host into manufacturing and propagating more copies of themselves. Packages of information spread and multiply, just like packages of DNA or RNA. (13)

"Packages of information": for a junkie like me, that sounds mighty tasty.

But wait! Is it a package or a performance?

We cannot think of information as just a pattern imprinted indifferently in one or another physical medium. For information is also an event. It isn't just the content of a given message but all the things that happen when the message gets transmitted. As Morse Peckham puts it, "the meaning of a verbal event is any response to that event." In other words, meaning is not intrinsic, but always contingent and performative.

And so this blog entry performs these memes in a certain way. It gives some sort of new meaning to these words from Shaviro (and Foucault and Peckham and). And so on to class, where more performance will happen.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Morning kind of person

I found this quiz at Battle of the Ants, and it turns out I'm just like JM:

Hmm. 6:49 am. I have to say that really does sound like my favorite time to be up and doing, even if it doesn't always happen. Especially in the dark days of winter. (Which, happily, are getting brighter and brighter.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

"Severe creativity"

While I'm in the quoting mode, I'll add this from poet Major Jackson, who I had the pleasure of hearing speak today. In response to difficult topics, he said, we need to approach them with "severe creativity."

I love that.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


I'm reading the blogs of students in my "Writing Web 2.0" class, and I'm noticing the pleasure of it. (Although I've been practicing mindfulness for awhile, I'm taking an 8-week class, offered freely to MU students, faculty, and staff, on "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction." I'm planning to use aspects of that class for a class I'll be teaching in the fall, "Mindful Writing." And the reason I mention this class is that one of our homework assignments is to notice something pleasant everyday. Today, I'm noticing how pleasant it is to read these blog entries.)

Why pleasure? There's the pleasure of a person's excitement in encountering a text, the recognition that this is d*** fine writing, as in Aa's post. After a long quotation from David Weinberger's Small Pieces Loosely Joined, he writes:


So, after I ignore that strange quotation mark, this is something I really wish I'd written. In a thesis or something. Maybe for the dissertation, to be named later.

I love the ALL CAPS of inspiration, of, as Aa goes on to say, feeling good.

Lauren also uses quotations as a way of blogging, writing,
Because it's late, and I've worked 9 hours today, and I'm very tired; the following is a simple list of my favorite quotes from The Medium is the Massage.

Yes, absolutely: favorite quotations are a great blogging strategy, a great way to use a blog as an extension of the brain. A way of tapping into Web 2.0's ability to aid the rhetorical canon of MEMORY.

And what are some of her favorites? Those are a pleasure, too:
"The alphabet and print technology fostered and encouraged a fragmenting process, a precess of specialism and of detachment. Electric technology fosters and encourages unification and involvement"

"The amateur can afford to lose."

Yes, yes. And, as amateurs together, we're bringing our expertise to bear, our outside connections to bear, teaching each other, as Julia frequently does, linking readings in our course to her current schooling in law. Her most recent blog entry, for example, links the idea of crowd wisdom to the jury system. She notes that the jury system is similar to "the wisdom of crowds" insofar as "the individual intelligence, prejudice (or lack thereof), and innate and learned biases will balance to result in a reasoned and appropriate judgment." But, the similarity goes only so far, causing her to question what really makes the jury system work:
The author notes that four conditions characterize wise crowds: diversity of opinion, independence, decentralization, and aggregation. These conditions do not exist in the jury system because jurors are severely limited in what personal, specialized knowledge they apply to the facts of a case. Jurors who are experts in certain fields may be excluded from sitting on a jury; jurors are not allowed to draw on local knowledge, and their private information is not supposed to inform their decision. . . .
The limits placed on juries lead me to wonder: is it the “wisdom of crowds” or legal rhetoric that shapes a jury’s decision?

Good question. And that simultaneous linking with and questioning with a text is another thing that Web 2.0 makes visible: connection is learning, and connection is what the web enables, and what the social web enables even more. And when those connections don't quite fit, questions emerge, and that leads to more inquiry, more learning.

jsdp59 offers another good example of linking, using the traditional rhetorical appeals to think about political rhetoric:
I think the most effective form of rhetorical communication is probably pathos. Appealing to people’s emotions is generally the best way to get a response out of them. I think if you play off of people’s fears and worries, you will generally get more of a response out of them. I was watching the political debate tonight, and I was looking for examples of these three types of communication and which one would be used the most. I saw examples of the candidates using pathos appeals when talking about the economy. They tried to say that right now it is bad, but if you elect them they will fix it for you. This probably isn’t completely true, but nevertheless it makes us feel good.

I'm also moved by pathos, finding pleasure in the sheer beauty, the sheer facility in writing that many of the folks in class are sharing with me and the rest of the class. Riffing off Anne Wysocki's notion of "reciprocal communication" in design, another Anne writes:
But people “in love,” or those choosing to practice the art of loving others have long participated in the tradition of building beauty. Parents find their children beautiful. Spouses find each other beautiful. Dog owners find their mutts beautiful. Many children, spouses, and dogs (to make an odd collection) may possess the kind of beauty (abstract formality?) that would win them facebook contests and endorsements, but not all of us that have found ourselves lucky to be loved in one of these ways could make that claim!

So beauty is (or ought to be) reciprocal. It involves communication. Communication is reciprocal. Even blogging.

How will I understand this union of form and content that I call my blog? Is it beautiful? Will I be able to make “day-to-day particular[s] stand out against the background of the larger realm of steady social practices”? Can I make that change?

A beautiful reflection on beauty. The whole entry is quite beautiful. You should go read it.

And in contemplating a similar question (how to understand the "union of form and content" that is the blog), Jake writes:
Consider what is necessary: everything.

Well, not exactly. I guess it's no surprise that in this age of technology more and more things go into a work of composition to make it work. I am not simply a writer. I am a graphic designer. I am a computer programmer. I think I may even be an interior designer--at least in some sense of the word.

I love the isolated first line, the follow up that qualifies it. The rhythm of the repeated subject, and then the surprise of that final line that interrupts the repetition: "I think."

And there's humor. McLuhan:
Humor as a system of communications and as a probe of our environment--of what's really going on--affords us our most appealing anti-environmental tool" (The Medium is the Massage 92)

I can't figure out how to attach my blog to my Facebook account, so I just put it in the info column as my website. Is there another way? I started going through the applications to see if that would give me a clue about attaching my blog, but I got distracted by the hugs, farts, and how-smart-are-you ads.

I love how the humor here gets at the amazing mix of fun and annoyance of the environment that is Facebook.

And that isn't even all the blogs. That isn't even all the pleasure.

Friday, February 01, 2008

In progress

That's right. I'm finally--finally!--updating my template. I gave the assignment to my students and felt I had to do it myself. It's long overdue. More to come.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ah, rhetoric

Ah, rhetoric.

Light of my life, fire of my neurons.

No class can begin without rhetoric.


And so I directed the students in my Writing Web 2.0 class to the Forest of Rhetoric, Silva Rhetoricae, to learn of rhetoric’s wonders.

I wax poetic. I can’t help myself. I love rhetoric. Sweet rhetoric.

The challenge, then, is how to talk of it. What is it that I really want them to know, to be able to use, as we write web 2.0 together this semester?

I want them to know, I think, that when I talk about the rhetoric of a given text or site, I’m talking about what the text is doing. Not what it means, but what effects it might have. And who it might effect. And how.

According to Gideon O. Burton, the guardian of the Forest of Rhetoric,

for most of its history [rhetoric] has maintained its fundamental character as a discipline for training students 1) to perceive how language is at work orally and in writing, and 2) to become proficient in applying the resources of language in their own speaking and writing.

Yes, that’s basically it, isn’t? I want us all to be curious as we look at Web 2.0 applications and sites, to perceive how they work, and to consider how to apply them.

But there’s always more. Much more.

To some extent, I’ll be using the “canons” as jumping off points. I want to promote the virtues of Web 2.0 as a tool for invention, the first of the canons. Gathering, sharing, juxtaposing, mapping: these are all activities made easier with Web 2.0. But I also want to talk about arrangement and delivery, about the design of pages, about the viral travel of memes. And once we’re talking about memes, we’re talking about memory. And if Web 2.0 doesn’t promote experiments in style through web self-fashioning by way of blogs and social networking sites, well, then, I don’t know what does.

And, of course, I’ll want to talk about the persuasive appeals, with the caveat that they work together, that we can’t privilege logos as folks are sometimes wont to do.

Plus there's the whole situation/ecology thing to talk about. But that will have to be saved for later.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Work to do

This week marks the return of Lost, the beginning of Season 4. (I won't be watching it Thursday night, however, due to other obligations. I'll download it from iTunes the next day. So don't give it away, please!)

For the past 13 weeks, however, there have been these mini episodes, released first on Verizon phones and then over at ABC a week later. But the good folks over at the spoilers page of Dark UFO post the episode each Monday, prior to its being posted over at ABC the following Monday. I've been watching them, thinking they're ok, filling in a little bit of the plot here and there.

But today's, the last one: pretty freaky. Just go look, why don't you, and tell me if you don't think so. Someone has work to do. Just like John Locke in the final episode of Season 3. And someone has come back to say so.

And here's the title "So it begins." A glimpse just seconds before Jack's eye opens in Season 1. Just go watch. Before I spill all the beans.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Dalai Lama on economic systems

At a gathering at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), [the Dalai Lama} said: “I am a Marxist monk, a Buddhist Marxist. I belong to the Marxist camp, because unlike capitalism, Marxism is more ethical. Marxism, as an ideology, takes care of the welfare of its employees and believes in distribution of wealth among the people of the state.”


Of course, he was talking about ideology, not about actually existing communist societies. He noted, for example, that "There are very high degrees of exploitation in . . . China, similar to the exploitation during industrialisation of Western countries a century ago."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Today on Facebook

I'm teaching a class called "Writing Web 2.0" this semester, and I'm beginning the class with a tiny little ethnographic assignment. Take a close, curious look at Facebook, as if you hadn't encountered it before. What do you see people doing with Facebook? To what use is it being put?

This, then, is a record of some of my observations.

Facebook is clearly a place to connect with people. Each member of Facebook has a profile, where he or she usually posts a photograph and has some information about him or herself (including birthdate, interest in men or women, relationship status, political affiliation, etc.).

It also seems to be a place for a kind of ritualized, low stakes competition. For example, I have received several notifications over the past few days, telling me that someone has fed a friend to my vampire, that someone has challenged my movie knowledge, that someone is playing a game of Scrabulous with me. As the last example suggests, this ritualized competition is a kind of play. So, in addition to connecting with people, Facebook offers a space to have fun without leaving your chair.

Facebook also allows people to join groups. One of my Facebook friends, for example, is a member of the following groups: Kill Beacon Now ▪ Computers and Composition Online ▪ Graphic Design and Adobe Photoshop ▪ 4Cs: Conference on College Composition and Communication ▪ H-DigiRhet ▪ Rhetoric ▪ Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, Pedagogy ▪ Laurie Anderson has it all figured out! ▪ Equality California (EQCA) ▪ What the Foucault ▪ Composition Community. Some of these groups are professional (4Cs, Kairos), some are political (Equality California, Kill Beacon Now), and some are "fan" groups or just for fun (Laurie Anderson has it all figured out). What they have in common is the goal of connecting people with similar interests. These groups also allow the people who join them to "brand" themselves as a certain kind of person. Facebook, then, is also a place to "build" and circulate an identity (or maybe identities).

And, lest I seem over serious here, let me add a link to "Crackbook," which I found via my Facebook (and f2f) friend Zac. Crackbook is a spoof of Facebook, claiming the mere illusion of connection.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

While I was away

Some things I've done since my last entry, lo these many weeks ago:

* Met up with my online writing groupies in Chicago

* Silently retreated in St Louis

* Re-viewed all of Lost, Season 3 on DVD

* Bought a new appointment book (half price after January 1!) and began filling it up

* Began a new yoga class because one just isn't enough

* Discovered a Columbia restaurant I might just be willing to love

* Listened to some wonderful jazz (the latest by Kurt Elling and McCoy Tyner), thanks to holiday gifts from C

* Made it to some amazing live jazz (also Kurt Elling, jazz singer extraordinaire) in KC, in celebration of our anniversary

Some other things, here and there. Some involving pumpkin dip. Some involving the possibility of a very big purchase, the like I've never made before. Classes begin in another week. Much left to do before then.