Tuesday, February 28, 2006


In response to my recent Pancake post, Marissa is moved to ask:
has anyone ever told you that you look like hillary clinton?

In fact, no, no one ever has. But the question reminded me of Clancy's not too distant post in which she included a pic of Hayley Mills, the celebrity she is often compared to. So I went in search of a photo of Hillary that might highlight the similarity. Sadly, my first choice is clearly copywrited, so I didn't want to post it here. I am instead offering this:

I can't say that I think this really looks much like me, but what I discovered in my research is that I would definitely say Hillary and I have a similar mouth profile. I had never really noticed that before. But it's true.

The really bizarre part of this process has been finding that if you do a Google image search for Hillary Clinton, you get a sense of how many people out there dislike her. Maybe that's true of any politician?

When I was in high school, it was Princess Diana I was said to look like.

Hmm. Similar hair as Hillary's. So maybe it's just the hair? (Though I'm loathe to admit my hairstyle now is the same one I had in high school--I *have* changed it, I'm sure.)

Another quote dump: blogging as linked writing

Today's topic in my blogging class: blogging as a reading/writing/connective practice. In other words, it's basically what I think of when I think of what I like about blogging. And, like last week, I'm throwing some quotes here that I want to have easily accessible but don't want cluttering the class blog. They're below the fold, if you're interested.

From David Weinberger, "The New Is":

the Net explodes the old view of intelligence as the containing of lots of knowledge. This container model is reflected in how we talk about documents: We say they have contents even though print is as 2-dimensional as a shadow. On the Net, documents – pages – get their value to a large degree not from what they contain but from what they point to. Without links, there is no Web. This is an ecstatic model (to borrow Heidegger's term) rather than a container one.

(This means, by the way, that the Web is built on a spirit of generosity. If every site were as stingy with external links as most commercial sites, there would be no Web. In this way, the Web reflects our better, social nature.)

Links, not containers: A page is what it points to.

Multiple tags, not single meanings: A thing gains more meaning by having multiple local meanings.

Messiness, not clean order: The best definitions are ambiguous.

What are the sources of these breaks with the idea that knowledge is supreme when it sees just one, sharp-edged order?

It is the connectedness of the Net. We can see what the world is thinking. But that just leads to relativism, a form of disappointment. Instead, the Net is filled with joy. That is why almost a billion people are using it and are finding it transformative. In fact, we are escaping from the old, dissatisfying clash between objectivity (the world as it looks when we're not looking at it) and subjectivity (the world as it matters to us). With the Internet, we get multi-subjectivity for the first time. Take blogs. They look like publications, but they're overwhelmingly conversations. We're linking to one another, disagreeing, amplifying, making fun, extending, sympathizing, laughing. We are talking with one another, thinking out loud across presumptions and continents. If you want to know about an idea, you could go to an encyclopedia and read what an expert says about it. Or you could find a blog that talks about it and start following the web of links. You'll not just see multiple points of view, you'll hear those points of view in conversation. That's new in the world.

From Henry Farrell, "The Blogosphere as a Carnival of Ideas"

What advantages does blogging offer over the more traditional forms of academic communication? Blogging sacrifices some depth of thought -- it's difficult to state a complex thesis in the average blogpost -- but provides in return a freedom and flexibility that normal academic publishing can't match. Consider the length of time it takes to publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal. In many disciplines, a period of years between first draft and final publication is normal. More years may elapse before other academics begin to publish articles or books responding to the initial article. In contrast, a blog post is published immediately after the blogger hits the "publish" button. Responses can be expected in hours, both from those who comment on the blog (if the blog allows them) and from other bloggers, who may take up an idea and respond to it, extend it, or criticize it. Others may respond to those bloggers in turn, leading to a snowballing conversation distributed across many blogs. In the conventional time frame of academe, such a conversation would take place over several years, if at all.

From Will Richardson, "Blogging Thoughts. . .Again"

From the "Throwing it Out There to See What Sticks Deptartment" here are some very raw thoughts about the various types of Weblog posts for teachers and students and where they fit on my very indistinct blogging scale:

# Posting assignments. (Not blogging)
# Journaling, i.e. "This is what I did today." (Not blogging)
# Posting links (Not blogging)
# Links with descriptive annotation, i.e. "This site is about..." (Not really blogging either, but getting close depending on the depth of the description.)
# Links with analysis that gets into the meaning of the content being linked. (A simple form of blogging.)
# Reflective, meta-cognitive writing on practice without links. (Complex writing, but simple blogging, I think. Commenting would probably fall in here somewhere.)
# Links with analysis and synthesis that articulates a deeper understanding or relationship to the content being linked and written with potential audience response in mind. (Real blogging)
# Extended analysis and synthesis over a longer period of time that builds on previous posts, links and comments. (Complex blogging)

From Will Richardson, "Connective Writing"

What I have been trying to celebrate, however, is what I see as an opportunity for a new type of writing that blogs allow, one that forces those who do it to read carefully and critically, one that demands clarity and cogency in its construction, one that is done for wide audience, and one that links to the sources of the ideas expressed. For all those reasons, it's also one that I think we should add to our curricula. Clearly, I have been wrong in attempting to call that blogging, which I realize now is a much, much more inclusive term. So I've been trying to come up with another name for it. Not easy.

But since this is an outgrowth of George Seimens' thinking about Connectivism, and since a search of the term didn't bring back anything that seemed to indicate the term has a defined space already, I'm going to start calling it "Connective Writing." I'll spend some time clarifying what my definition of it would be, but I want to stress (and ask for more push back if it's out there) that I'm talking about something uniquely suited to blogs. I'm talking about this post, about our ability to connect ideas in ways that we could not do with paper, to distribute them in ways we could not do with the restrictiveness of html, and to engage in conversations and community in ways we could not do with newsgroups or other online communities before.

And, not really about linked writing, but about blogging as a writing practice, from Kathleen Fitzpatrick, "Practice, Practice, Practice" (via Collin Brooke, "Poetics of the Everyday")

when I write every day, whether here at Planned Obsolescence or elsewhere, on other projects, writing gets easier and easier. Not just in terms of the production of sentences, though that of course comes more smoothly, but also in the production of thoughts, of things worth writing about.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A few good pancakes

I'm a pancake snob. I love a good pancake; I loathe the icky personality-free white-bodied blobs topped with too-thick fake syrup that pass for pancakes at most establishments that serve breakfast.

In Milwaukee, a good pancake (more than one, really) could be found at Beans & Barley, the one place on earth I miss most. (OK, so that's maybe hyperbole. But it could be true. I'd have to stop and think.) For one thing, there's no white-flour pancake there: only whole wheat. And no too-thick syrup, either: only real maple syrup or some kind of wonderful compote. But beyond the basic whole wheat buttermilk, they also serve up some mighty fine blueberry cakes, granola cakes, and (if you ask) blueberry-granola cakes. Also, seasonally, they prepare wonderful things like cornmeal pancakes with cranberry-orange compote, ginger pancakes with peach compote. Ah. Pancakes.

In Bloomington, where I lived before moving to Milwaukee, the best pancakes were at the Uptown Cafe. A fine cottage cheese pancake. A lovely blueberry pancake. And, on occasion, a fiery Indonesian corncake, served with salsa.

So after living in Bloomington and Milwaukee, I thought a good pancake could be found in most any place. Of course, I was wrong. Indianapolis? Think again. Carbondale? I know some people rave about the blueberry pancakes at Harbaugh's, and they are, certainly, better than some, but they just don't do it for me. Too bland.

Surely, surely in Columbia. After all, it's a moderately large college town, not unlike Bloomington. But so far, I haven't found it. The only really decent breakfast place, which serves great egg dishes, has chosen to go the boring route of basic buttermilk. (And they even serve the overly-thick fake syrup. This is a restaurant affiliated with one of the most expensive dinner venues in town. And they can't serve maple syrup?)

But there's always home, right? I do make an awfully fine pumpkin pancake.

The occasion for this pancake encomium? Tomorrow's Fat Tuesday, of course. And IHOP's serving up free pancakes. Not that I really like IHOP's standard pancake. But I *could* wax nostalgic about my youthful fondness for those fruit syrups they keep on the tables...

[Thanks to metafilter for the National Pancake Day scoop.]

Thursday, February 23, 2006


this is an audio post - click to play

I created these because it pleases me to create them. Go ahead and download them, save them, give them to your friends, print them and hang them on a wall, whatever you want. "Property" is simply not a productive paradigm for art.

Don't get TOO serious.

What am I doing? If you give out a free-floating assignment, you better be willing to do it, too.

Wonder what everyone else is doing?

Update: How'd I miss this?

Thanks, Marcia.

And one more link about growing brains. Via metafilter.

Social movement, of a kind

This morning I was thinking about the rhetoric of social movements and how a text like Negotiating Difference tends to reinforce argument hope--the belief that argument is the only way that change happens (as a certain person last weekend asserted). And so I was thinking how a paper might be written that would argue for a more affective approach to the study of social movements, one that would understand what Grossberg calls "affective epidemics," one that wouldn't procede from an understanding of emotion (on the one, best-case scenario, hand) as some sort of add-on means of persuasion or (on the other, worst-case scenario, hand) as the means to manipulate a naive public in a degenerative public sphere.

And I was casting about in my mind for a recent example that might serve to show that what matters in getting change to happen is not so much the specific case that's made, but the possibility of affective overload. One example that occurred to me was Oprah's successful campaign to pass legislation to prevent the trafficking of children. What mattered in that case was, first, an affective engagement made possible by Oprah and her guests, and, second, a material overload of letters that swamped congressional letterboxes. It wasn't the "logic" of the guests or the good arguments put forth in the letters: it was the physical mass of all those messages.

And then I take a look at the blogosphere and see that Michael Bérubé is succeeding quite nicely in subverting the vote for the most dangerous professor: his readers are voting for him multiple times and have pushed him way ahead of the other 100 contenders.

It's a joke, but jokes have effects, too. And it's somewhat astounding to see the effects Bérubé's readers have had, practically overnight.

Not that you needed more evidence of the amazing social force of the internet. But there it is, all the same.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Me and my broom

It isn't Quidditch. In fact, it's about the farthest thing from Quidditch, which is nothing if not a game of complexity: balls with their own wills flying hither and yond, gamers dashing among them, some with heavy "bludgers," while others try to make it through hoops or to spot a special tiny, golden ball.

No, it isn't Quidditch, though it does require brooms.

image via sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Of course, I'm talking about the relatively new Olympic sport of curling. Oddly enough, it's the only Olympic event I've watched at any length. (It was on at the Rec center while I was working out, ok? And, if you want to watch, here's a video clip.)

I remember the first semester I taught comp at UW-Milwaukee some years ago. First day of class, I did my routine: fill out an index card, include some interesting and unique fact about yourself. One person's fact: I'm on the curling team.

Being from Texas, I had never heard of curling. And as I gained bits of information about the sport over the years, it never made a lot of sense. They sweep the ice to get a big stone to the goal? (A heavy, quite earthbound stone.) How long does that take? Somehow I imagined it taking ages just to make a little progress. I thought watching a curling match would be something like waiting for water to boil.

I'm happy to report that it's much more fast-paced than I imagined. Which only makes sense: why did I think movement on ice would be slow? The sweeping helps to direct the stone--it moves along pretty fast after being "delivered" by the "skip."

(And, speaking of movement on ice: did you know it's only recently that physicists understood how ice scating works?)

And though it may not be Quidditch, it inspires intensity: just look at their faces. History says the sport started in Scotland. Makes sense: golfing also started in Scotland. Both are sports that focus intensely on pathways.

No big point here, my friends. Just wanted to juxtapose two sports that require brooms, even if one is imaginary. (And even if it is hard to tell that one could be real.)

Blogging and journalism: the feedback loop

Today's topic in my blogging class: the relationship between blogging and journalism. I have a number of journalism majors in my class, so I'm eager to hear their responses. Rather than clutter the class blog with these longish quotes that I hope to highlight, I'm going to clutter my own blog. You can read them, if you're interested, by clicking the Keep Reading link below.

From J. D. Lasica, “Blogging as a Form of Journalism”

Branscum ticks off four cool things about Weblogs:

• Creative freedom. Part of a blog's allure is its unmediated quality. "For a working journalist, there's no luxury like the luxury of the unedited essay," she says. "I've been an editor longer than I've been a writer, and I know the value that an editor brings to your copy. Even so, there's an enormous freedom in being able to present yourself precisely as you want to, however sloppily or irrationally or erratically. I don't have an editor to pitch the story to, or a copy editor who decides he's not happy with my syntax... You think it, you write it, you put it out to the world."

• Instantaneity. "Even when you're writing for a weekly magazine, it seems like it takes forever to see your work in print," Branscum says. "With a Weblog, you hit the send key and it's out there. It's the perfect disposable journalism for our age."

• Interactivity. "It's a kick to get feedback from people you've never heard of who stumble on your Weblog," she says. Branscum estimates that 30 readers might surf her blog on a slow day and 900 might read it on a busy day, with pointers from other sites and other bloggers often driving traffic to archived material.

• Lack of marketing constraints. "The people who are interested in your perspective find you, instead of you having to find a publication that reflects their interests," she says. "You don't have to necessarily tailor your work for a certain readership or demographic."

* * * *

Fleishman doesn't buy into the standard blogger mantra that unmediated writing is superior to copy that has passed through the editorial sausage factory. He finds blogging neither superior nor inferior to traditional journalism — just infinitely fascinating. "One of the most interesting things about blogs is how often they've made me change my mind about issues," he says. "There's something about the medium that lets people share opinions in a less judgmental way than when you interact with people in the real world."

That's what seems to resonate with bloggers: not the publication of a first-person journal but the chain of interaction it often ignites. Says Fleishman: "Someone spots an article or commentary you've posted, which triggers a blog entry, which triggers further responses, and before you know it your blog becomes part of an interactive discussion in this obscure backwater of the Web that's being read and cited by thousands of people. It's pretty amazing."

From Stacy D. Kramer, “Journos and Bloggers: Can Both Survive?”

Blogger Claude Muncey's notes from the session include this advice:

What journalists can learn from bloggers:
-- you can blur the line between the personal and professional without corrupting the process;
-- you can learn to improvise in real time;
-- how to have a conversation with their readers;
-- to be humble - you don't know everything.

Bloggers can learn from journalists:
-- the value of leg work;
-- the nature of accountablility;
-- that editing is a good thing;
-- to be humble - you don't know everything.

From Robert Niles, “The Importance of Blogging in Journalism Education”

I require all my students at USC Annenberg to blog, regardless of class topic, with the idea that blogging gets students in the habit of writing, and in a conversational style that effective journalism needs.

(And see the sample student blogs.)

From Don Gillmor, Introduction to We the Media

But something else, something profound, was happening this time around: news was being produced by regular people who had something to say and show, and not solely by the “official” news organizations that had traditionally decided how the first draft of history would look. This time, the first draft of history was being written, in part, by the former audience. It was possible—it was inevitable—because of new publishing tools available on the Internet.

Another kind of reporting emerged during those appalling hours and days. Via emails, mailing lists, chat groups, personal web journals—all nonstandard news sources—we received valuable context that the major American media couldn’t, or wouldn’t, provide.

We were witnessing—and in many cases were part of—the future of news.

* * * *
I was in the audience, reporting in something close to real time by publishing frequent conference updates to my weblog,an online journal of short web postings, via a wireless link the conference had set up for attendees. So was another journalist weblogger, Doc Searls, senior editor of Linux Journal, a softwaremagazine.

Little did we know that the morning’s events would turn into a mini-legend in the business community. Little did I know that the experience would expand my understanding of how thoroughly the craft of journalism was changing.

One of my posts noted Nacchio’s whining, observing that he’d gotten seriously richer while his company was losing much of its market value—another example of CEOs raking in the riches while shareholders, employees, and communities got the shaft. Seconds later I received an email from Buzz Bruggeman, a lawyer in Florida, who was following my weblog and Searls’s from his office in Orlando. “Ain’t America great?” Bruggeman wrote sarcastically, attaching a hyperlink to a Yahoo! Finance web page showing that Nacchio had cashed in more than $200 million in stock while his company’s stock price was heading downhill. This information struck me as relevant to what I was writing, and I immediately dropped this juicy tidbit into my weblog, with a cyber-tip of the hat to Bruggeman. (“Thanks, Buzz, for the link,” I wrote parenthetically.) Doc Searls did likewise.

“Around that point, the audience turned hostile,” wrote Esther Dyson, whose company, Edventure Holdings, held the conference.1 Did Doc and I play a role? Apparently. Many
people in the luxury hotel ballroom—perhaps half of the executives,financiers, entrepreneurs, and journalists—were also online that morning. And at least some of them were amusing themselves by following what Doc and I were writing. During the remainder of Nacchio’s session, there was a perceptible chill toward the man. Dyson, an investor and author, said later she was certain that our weblogs helped create that chill.2

* * * *

The person in our little story who tasted journalism’s future most profoundly, I believe, was neither the professional reporter nor the newsmaker, but Bruggeman. In an earlier time, before technology had collided so violently with journalism, he’d been a member of an audience. Now, he’d received news about an event without waiting for the traditional coverage to arrive via newspapers or magazines, or even web sites. And now he’d become part of the journalistic process himself—a citizen reporter whose knowledge and quick thinking helped inform my own journalism in a timely way.

Bruggeman was no longer just a consumer. He was a producer. He was making the news.

* * * *
This evolution—from journalism as lecture to journalism as a conversation or seminar—will force the various communities of interest to adapt. Everyone, from journalists to the people we cover to our sources and the former audience, must change their ways. The alternative is just more of the same.

We can’t afford more of the same. We can’t afford to treat the news solely as a commodity, largely controlled by big institutions. We can’t afford, as a society, to limit our choices.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Argument hope

via losthighwayrecords.com

A few weeks ago I was beginning to draw together threads to basically say what Jenny says so well in her recent JAC article:
Interpretation and the productions of meaning are never far from the visceral, felt experience that doesn't always coincide with meaning. A writer's impact may not have the same effect as its meaning effects (151).
. . .
We need a literacy that acknowledges, along with Maurice Blanchot, that I am not the center of what I know. . . . That is, my ability to articulate and explicate the world cannot ever possibly cover its full operation. (152)

Exactly. And we don't need this affective literacy because recent public discourse has "declined." One of the things that I find particularly valuable in Jon's work is his demonstrating that the priority of affect precedes the postmodern; that the affective turn may be a theoretical turn even as affect has operated on people's bodies and habits long before that turn.

Just thinking about these things after a weekend of argument about the centrality of argument. And not even argument as "rhetoric" but argument as agonistic discourse. Argument hope: the belief that we can change society for the better by getting everyone to make good arguments.

What is that image of Johnny Cash arguing? It isn't. It's doing. It's affecting.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

So I talked about blogging

After my two colleagues talked about traditional literary texts and the future of interpretation. It was ok. I took copies of a screen grab of my class blog to illustrate what a blog is (since the room we were in has only an overhead projector and I was pretty sure some members of my audience wouldn't know).

But, you know, it's a challenge to try to talk about the excitement of blogging to non-bloggers. I feel this intense connection to blogging, but how to make that intensity present? Honestly, it seems like an almost impossible rhetorical challenge. Not that I was trying to do blogvangelizing. I was trying to talk about the future of English studies. And part of that future is attending to these texts circulating outside of the bounds of cardboard and paper.

But I had, fortuituously, picked up a bottle of Ethos water before my presentation. So maybe that enhanced my persuasive powers.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A beginning: English departments and complexity

Saturday noon, I'll be part of a roundtable (with two colleagues, one in British lit, one in American lit) on the future of English studies. The roundtable is part of my department's English Graduate Student Association's annual conference. I've been agonizing over what to say. What to say, when so much could be said? What to say, when so much (from my view, somewhat on the margins of things) needs to be said?

And with that bit of agonizing going on in part of my brain, I sat down to take a look at what was current on my Bloglines account. And had a lightbulb moment: I'll write about this! This very activity. At this very moment. Here's a quite modest beginning, with some notes on where I'm going. (I'll be talking for only about 7 minutes or so; most of the time will be given over to audience comments and questions.) Feedback most welcome, if the notes make sense.

English Departments and Complexity

Today, the day I’m writing this, I open my bloglines account, read a few new entries from various bloggers in my field, rhetoric and composition.

Debra Hawhee, at Urbana-Champagne, reports just finishing a chapter. Her entry includes a photograph of her desk, stacked with Kenneth Burke’s Attitudes Toward History and Rhetoric of Motives. I know, from Collin’s report of last summer’s Burke conference on his blog, that she’s doing work on Burke’s theory of the body. Cool work, I think—work that links to my own growing interest in affect, habit, and Burke’s theory of motives.

[What I see of significance here: being reminded of work that will surely impact my own; the handy keeping up with what people in my field are doing that both Debra's and Collin's entries demonstrate; the link between rhetorical studies and theoretical studies that many may not be inclined to associate with rhet/comp.]

And Jeff Rice, up at Wayne State, offers this brief entry:

Is blogging like storytelling?
Then where
does this story begin?
Or: which chapter are we on right now?
I love reading Jeff’s blog. It’s often unpredictable, but I can usually predict reading it will do one of two things: make me laugh or make me think. Today, it makes me think. I’ve heard it said that the pleasure of reading blogs is a narrative pleasure. And it’s true that a kind of narrative emerged over the past year in the space between his blog and Jenny’s, culminating in their announcement last December that they’re “getting hitched.” Sure, it was fun to be part of something like an inside story, but that wasn’t what kept me reading Jeff’s or Jenny’s blogs.

[More to come: more blogs, reading blogs and connections to ideas floating in English depts: narrative theory, body theory, aesthetics—as well as ideas that may not be floating outside of rhet/comp or truly cutting edge theory: networks, production, etc. With the goal of noting complexity--that English depts. *are* always already complex, might as well more accurately reflect that complexity through hirings, course offerings, etc. Something like that. Not really trying to be polemical, however: more about trying to show the pleasure I take in my own field and how that field opens up into other areas of interest common to English dept. folk, even as some things could benefit from greater attention.]

[I apologize for the current linklessness; my computer is acting like it wants to freeze up soon, so I need to get this posted. Will add links later.]

{Update: Now with links!]

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

When Valentines go bad

via My Creepy Valentine

I couldn't even bring myself to post one with a cat--it's a terrible thing when even a cat can't redeem a bad Valentine.

And I formerly lived closer to Popeye country (aka, Chester, Illinois), though I'm not far now.

You gotta love a town that will raise thousands of dollars to erect a statue of a cartoon character. There's a Popeye museum, too.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Technical difficulties

I recently bought a cheapish Toshiba laptop to replace my ancient Toshiba laptop (upon which I wrote my dissertation and which is so ancient that it has no modem, even though modems did exist when I purchased it). (And now that I've written that sentence I'm wondering if they're called "laptops" anymore? Maybe I'm supposed to say notebook?) It's true that last May I announced my intentions of buying a Powerbook, but my budget didn't really look favorably on that purchase.

So last night I was watching a couple of shows from the first season of Curb Your Enthusiasm on it. Usually I use the laptop for more serious ventures (like blogging, say), but I had just received the DVD from Netflix, and, being cable-deprived, I've never had a chance to watch this series, which I fully expected to be one of the funniest shows ever. And C. was reading in the room where the more conventional DVD player resides, so I thought I would just hide out in the kitchen with my laptop and have some good laughs.

But the first disappointment was finding that the shows (at least the two I watched: the first one and another one called "The Wire"), while funny enough, were not sufficiently funny to cause me to laugh out loud. So I took out the DVD and left the laptop on the kitchen counter while I went to do laundry or something. A couple of hours later, I returned to find a blank screen. No big deal: computers usually serve up a blank screen after a couple of hours of being left alone. So I tapped the touch pad, tapped some keys. Nothing. The power button was glowing blue, which, I think, is the color it glows when it's on. So I pushed it. Nothing. I pushed it and held it down. Nothing. I looked around in my owner's manual and tried a couple of things. Nothing. I mean, nothing. No sounds, no nothing.

So I closed the top and left it sitting there overnight, the power light still glowing. Finally, this morning, the battery drained itself out and the power shut down, and I was able to start it up. Everything seems fine.

But what was that? Anyone know?

Friday, February 10, 2006

An alliterative aside

Driving home this late afternoon, I heard the news on my local public radio station: Missouri basketball coach Quin Snyder has resigned. Said the announcer: this comes after six straight losses, the last to Big 12 bottom feeder Baylor.

Say that last noun phrase aloud a few times.

It's true, that's my alma mater they're describing. But when have I let team loyalty get in the way of a little literary appreciation? And, anyway, I kinda like the image. Not Bears. Bottom Feeders.

The *BAYLOR* Bottomfeeders. Sic 'em.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

OK, this is weird

Not that I usually care about these things. (Or even really care now.) But I just found a blog entry that completely lifts something I wrote last week on my class blog. It isn't anything particularly interesting or insightful, but they're totally my words, with links intact to blogs I read.

Again, not that I particularly care. I just wasn't expecting it. I mean, what's a blog if it's not your own words? But maybe I'm making incorrect assumptions.

It's just weird. That's all.

I Heart Blogging

Jon invites comments about the good and bad of blogging. Being hailed in that post, I feel I should respond. But I'm not up to responding over there just yet. And I wasn't going to respond here, either, until (while looking for something on my jump drive to use for the aforementioned workshop that begins in a little over an hour) I found the proposal for this year's CCCC that, sadly, was not accepted. As part of a panel, my individual proposal was short. But I'm pasting it in here because I want to remember it and perhaps write about it (even if I won't be presenting it at CCCC next month).

Speaker X will draw from Brian Massumi’s Parables of the Virtual to argue that blogging offers affective relationships to literacy that run counter to or exceed traditional academic literacies and that thus potentially disrupt managerial tendencies that tend to compartmentalize writing in time and space. Affective shifts, according to Massumi, lead to movement and change rather than normalization and assimilation.

(And, can I just add that my spelling is reaching new lows today? Not only did I misspell Marcia's name in my last entry, but in this entry I initially typed "right" for "write." Jeez. And I've got a workshop to do--doesn't bode well.)

Answering my own question

The question up in the banner: Why not blog?

Why not? Because I'm obsessed with cat food. Tuesday I couldn't stop talking about the fact that a shipment of catfood had not arrived. It made me a bad colleague and a boorish (not to mention borish) dinner companion.

Why not? Because I can only say yes despite all my best efforts to say no and so have a workshop to give this afternoon that I knew about only a week ago.

Why not? Because I forget the very things I think I'll blog about, like Win Horner's "Salon" last Thursday. Both Marcia and I were kicking ourselves because neither of us brought a camera. And that kicking of ourselves prompted a colleague to say: oh no. I have to watch myself. You could blog anything I say. (And look! I just did.)

Why not? Because I had a strangish medical experience yesterday and yet feel squeamish about blogging it.

Why not? Because I seem overly in love with the suffix -ish today.

Why not blog? Let me count the ways.

Update: I corrected my misspelling of Marcia's name. Marsha is my cousin. She doesn't blog.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Speaking of economics

As a field of study, it's in growth mode:

Colleges and universities in the United States awarded 16,141 degrees to economics majors in the 2003-2004 academic year, up nearly 40 percent from five years earlier, according to John J. Siegfried, an economics professor at Vanderbilt University.. . . The number of students majoring in economics has been rising even faster at top colleges. At New York University, for example, the number of econ majors has more than doubled in the past ten years. At nearly 800, it is now the most popular major. (from Jessica E. Vascellaro, "The Hot Major for Undergrads Seeking High Pay Is Economics," via encarta.msn.com

And as economics' star has risen, what's fallen are the "soft" sciences of sociology, political science, history.

On the one hand, as the title of this piece suggests, students are gravitating toward economics because graduates in the field get good jobs. And on the other hand, according to this article, it's even considered a cool track, if the success of Steven Levitt'sFreakonomics can be generalized to that conclusion.

So whether to see this as a promising trend--more people with more understanding of the workings of the global economy!--or merely more of the same--most people going where the money is? A bit of both, of course (isn't that always the answer to these killer dichotomies?).

Surprised me, though, I have to admit.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Romance of the free market

I'm somewhat astounded, though I guess I shouldn't be, that the premise behind L. Carter's Market Matters is that the field needs a good does of classic economics:
In a competitive environment, units of value (dollars, scholarly articles, units of persuasion) will eventually flow to inevitably to the idea, product, or service that creates the most value for those who adopt the idea, buy the product, or use the service. This inevitability is what Adam Smith described as the "invisible hand" of capitalism--when people make rational choices about how to spend their hard-earned resources, those choices, aggregated in an economy, will reward the most competitive products, services, and ideas. (7)

Yep, that's pretty much classic economic theory in a nutshell. Carter believes rhet/comp needs a good infusion of this theory to counter
the "decidedly socialist perspective, one that espouses strong anti-capitalist, anti-competitive sentiments" that is behind "much of the theory underlying composition studies, technical communication, rhetoric and college English in general" (viii).

Well, I think that's a bit overstated. While it might be true that much of our field professes (or has professed) a political sympathy with Marxism or other leftist orientations, little in the field reflects much critical economic thought (as Mike often and usefully argues). Indeed, I would argue (though I won't here, at much length) that the WPA discourse that to some extent forms the core of the field is very economically naive--a naivety that can be politically and ethically very problematic.

So I do see the need for more economic thinking in our field (and so look forward to seeing Mike's work published), but would hope we would recognize the historical anachronism of classical economics.

Not to knock Carter, who is at pains to "find value" in the "socialist" work done in the field. I just wasn't expecting this from someone who criticizes those who would "hide behind esoteric theories that somehow do not need to justify their existence" and who cling to a "romantic" view of the writer. I don't know: clinging to classic economic theory in the postmodern, information rich, managed economy seems kinda romantic to me.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The joy of teaching blogging; or, my brilliant career move

You know, I had a brilliant idea last spring. This was the idea: I'm going to teach a class on blogging! All blogging! All the time! And my major justification: it will be fun!

This was a novel idea. Usually I teach the things that need to be taught. Which doesn't mean they can't be fun, but that isn't the primary intent.

And I've just been reading over my students' blogs (today was their first week of required blogging), and you know what?

It's fun! I mean, come on. I read blogs everyday. Now it's my *job* to read blogs. It's kind of like getting a job tasting chocolate or something.

It's cool to see how some of the students already are really getting into it, how other bloggers are finding their way to some of their blogs (and to our class blog), how they've developed interesting angles for focusing their blogs.

It is, as I predicted, fun. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Some good music

A small list of fairly recent (2004-2005) jazz CDs that I'm currently enjoying:

  • Alice Coltrane, Translinear Light: The long-awaited return of John Coltrane's widow and pianist (after McCoy Tyner left), with son Ravi Coltrane as producer and contributing saxophone player

  • Dave Douglas, Keystone: Compositions inspired by the films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle; includes DVD with "Fatty and Mabel Afloat" accompanied by Douglas's music. This show is also on the road.

  • Branford Marsalis, Eternal: Surely one of Branford's loveliest recordings; I've long wanted to really like one of his CDs (after all, he worked with Sting and has a concert album recorded in Bloomington, IN--it's the nostalgia/sentimental thing), but none ever quite did it for me. This collection of ballads, though, hits the spot. Beautiful, beautiful playing.

  • Paul Motian, I Have the Room Above Her: Motian is a fabulous drummer--impressionistic, consummately improvisational. He joins with the distinctive guitarist Bill Frissell and saxophone great Joe Lovano.