Friday, November 11, 2005

two ideas

I watched a lot of ppt music videos today, and read student reflections about that work. Most students can see the value of choosing the right image to match with the song and the overall message; I wonder if the analogy to working with sources would make sense? Locating, choosing, and using a direct quotation from a source, for example, is similar to locating just the right image (not usually an easy thing to do) because there are many images--choosing the right one is important to the overall message of the paper / videos. Choosing a quotation from an essay might be like cropping a photo--sometimes we get images that have a lot of information, but we have to select and crop from within that image. That probably isn't a useful analogy, because most video composers use full images, rather than cropped images.

Thinking through this analogy, however, highlights some fair use and citation issues. In the video, students tend to use whole images, but I think they understand that they shouldn't just insert a whole essay into their own essay. Or maybe there is yet another issue highlighted here: students aren't sure how to "crop" an essay, how to pick out the right "image" from an essay that is full of images.

Well, I could say more, but I want to get my other idea down before I lose it. I was just thinking about one of my dream articles--what McLuhan means for English studies. I was thinking of Rice's article on McLuhan and composition, and the media ecology article on McLuhan for rhetoric, and there is the Frye-McLuhan comparision that Cavell has done, but what about McLuhan for the whole enterprise rather than breaking him up. McLuhan as the glue, or at least a touchstone, or whatever the right image would be--which in fact is something that McLuhan envisioned, although he certainly didn't have composition on his radar. I was also thinking about McLuhan as anti-environment for English studies: clearly more conservative, un-disciplined, vernacular and populist rather than specialized and professionalized. Starts to move in the direction of The Arts of Living. Hmm--that seems pretty good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

way too long...

without a post.

I have been reading student papers and, and, and, I don't know what else. I guess I have been trying to get the ppt music video research project figured out and straightened out, and I have been running to meetings, and meeting with students. Busy, busy, busy, but a good kind of busy.

I just reviewed a set of proposals that went more quickly than usual. Made me feel like I do get better at something with practice.

I have been wanting to get to McLuhan for compositionists. The chapter in Mc's Legacy, "Beyond McLuhanism," is going to be able to function as an excellent starting point for a chapter on David Byrne, David Carson, Laurie Anderson, etc. I think many chapters will move along if I ever find the time.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

what's the routine?

still trying to figure out how to fit my academic writing into my schedule. spent today grinding through committee work, doing class preparation, answering emai, thinking "i need administrative support," but never seeing any legitimate opening for writing or reading.

last night I spent a chunch of time locating some files and getting organized to do some writing, but I never got past the sorting stage. sigh....

I often hear about the person who gets up two hours early to write the novel or scholarship or whatever, but that doesn't seem to work for me. I do write better in the evening, but that usually keeps me awake much longer than I can sustain for long.

I just read a little analysis about my personality type (enji, I think)--it said "we" have trouble doing things we are not passionate about. Maybe I am just not passionate enough--although that doesn't seem right when it comes to McLuhan for comp. I am starting to think about doing something like getting a hotel room for one night over the christmas holidays--take off in the morning, work all day (probably at a library, but could be in the hotel), write as late as I can, sleep, get up and check out, keep working all day, head home for supper. Probably looking at about 16-20 hours of dedicated work time--I think I have enough material to pull that off without having to worry about running out of things to write. If I could flesh out all my chapters, get some feedback, and peck away at it over the semester, I could try to shop a manuscript around at CCCCs. That would be ambitious and professional of me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

life is not a game

I might have already written this post early this year--i guess that means the idea just won't die. I am thinking about the metaphor life is a game, a metaphor I have used in a paper that may never get published, and I have been thinking about it in the context of all the baseball "controversies" this fall. These artificial worlds are taken so seriously, despite the fact that the games are so meaningless, and if we think about these controversies in the context of world catastrophies that follow one on the next, it is hard to imagine how we have culturally got to a point where we value the games so much--want to discuss, analyzed, dissect them so much--and what we seem to want to do with the disasters is forget and move on. we don't want to point fingers.

But i digress. I wanted to write about a new framework for thinking about that paper: Spellmeyer's Arts of Living. I had explored, but not developed that framework earlier. I probably need to drop or cut back on the pragmatist framework. think I have thought about the persistence of this metaphor, from Johnny Damon to poker manuals for life, but if I get reader reports back on the piece and I get the expected rejections, I will try to move work into this other framework, and probably look at the journal college literature a little more closely.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

research problem

So, I am trying to think of a good way to interact with the research class. I wonder if I can present them with a research problem like this one:

Marshall McLuhan provocatively suggested that kids in the 1960s were trying to interact with print like it was a screen: they scanned print, looked around, but didn't focus on words, had trouble holding the line of the line. How might we research a claim or hyposthesis like this?

Or, I want to develop a pedagogy that favors tactility and connectivity rather than abstractness and isolation? How might I do that, and how might I research this pedagogy?

Rather than read texts closely, I am interested in making connections among texts: compositionists after McLuhan. David Byrne, David Carson, Laurie Anderson, others.

Or really, really generally: I want to understand 21st century students. What is that going to take? What do writing instructors in particular need to know?

I suppose we could also play around with tetrads. Tetrad laptops, tetrad cell phones, tetrad personal essays, literature, the genre approach. I should probably bring in a bunch of McLuhan books.

What, if anything, are laptops doing for your classes (as student, as teacher)?


Saturday, October 08, 2005

money, money, money

I am starting to think more seriously about books for English 120, and I ran across Barbara Ehrenrich's new book, Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream. I went to Amazon to check out a price and it was grouped with a book called Class Matters, which in turn lead me to Money and the Meaning of Life and Money, Money, Money: The Search for Wealth and the Pursuit of Happiness.

all of these books have a lot of potential for teaching and scholarship. I am inclined to take a serious look at CM and MMM because those are edited collections--a little easier to work with in a writing class, and the first covers a wide range of stories about class in america. the ehrenrich book is interesting in the context of my poker paper and my interest in the changing american dream. according to the poker ads, the american dream isn't really pursued anymore: you hit it big with a few bets a kaboom! you live the American Dream.

AS I was thinking about the American Dream, I also thought about metaphors we live by as a context for my "Life is not a Game," paper. I think I have already blogged about Johnny Damon's biography and the poker as metaphor for life books I have seen, but I don't think I precisely thought of metaphors we live by as another context for that paper. I could probably drop the whole rorty and pragmatism thing if I made that shift. Certainly a book I have always wanted to read, although the title pretty much says it all.

One additional random thought: an assignment for Writing in the health Professions. Maybe it would come out in the journals / blogs, but I would like the students to compile a list of further readings as part of a strategy to get them to think about being life-long learners and readers within their field.

I notice I am at 9 minutes: I wonder if others write this much in 9 minutes? Now 10.

Monday, October 03, 2005

When I don't journal...

ideas get away from me. I know I missed a bunch the last 10 days, but let me try to get a few down.

I heard a wonderful radio show, Speaking of Faith, on Sunday. The host interviewed a surgeon / theologian who has written about the wisdom of the body, dying, and a memoir Lost in America. I heard lots of potential in Sherwin(?) Nuland's words for my course on Writing in the Health Professions, and for the memoirs 110 students are about to write.

I really enjoyed re-reading Klosterman's FRC last week; I saw all sorts of McLUhan traces, some of which I had already noticed, some of which were new to me. The complexity of his media ecology analysis is impressive. I am more certain than ever that there is an article to be written about learning from Klosterman. Although students struggled with the complexity and absence of linear line in his arguments, they also saw humor and insight in his work.

I need to write a proposal about style within the next two weeks. I was telling people about my theory of style as "space management"--informal brings everything close together: writer close to subject, writer close to reader--it is intimate. A duh-pithany, I suppose. Midlevel is about motion, about jazz and action, about being "stylish" and entrancing and enticing, about mesmerizing rather than than me and you. Midlevel is the only style that gets called "stylish"--informal is conversationally real; formal is devoid of style, without stylistic flourish, distant, professional, scientific--all that non-jazz. I think I might have fun with this. Oh yeah, and I want to argue about the importance of putting these styles in front of writers; an analogy might be to a color chart: style as circular, rather than grid-like, as primary, secondary, and tertirary styles, cools and hots, effective and dissonant blends.

Now that is using the journal: the whole color chart thing came to me as I wrote!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Life is Not a Game

I have an essay circulating right now, "Life is not a Game: Richard Ford's Pragmatism," in which I make the argument, through Ford's fiction, that life, indeed, is not a game, although that metaphor is powerful and popular, and, most importantly, that we are easily seduced by that metaphor.

I saw the other night at B&N that Johnny Damon's autobiography is titled something like "having fun in the game of life." And i see that there is a new book out called Poker as Life: 101 Lessons from the World's Greatest Game, a title that connects up my Ford paper with my Poker paper, also circulating at this time. I might do well to beef up the early part of the paper with an emphasis on the cultural uses of this metaphor. I suspect I can find many more without too much work. It seems to me that I heard something about this on the radio the other day--oh wait, it was tonight, perhaps. Garisson Keiler reading Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days"--an odd sounding rendition to say the least, but right on target.

I also started to see james McKean's Home Stand: Growing Up in Sport getting a lot of attention. That memoir definitely looks like a must read. maybe I should put it on an Amazon list or something. Or maybe I should just buy the darn thing. I probably need to read it to help me finish my "mystory" project, which could be titled "Growing Up in Sport."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

getting the blood flowing

I was reading some tips for how to get students' blood flowing during early morning classes, and I guess I find myself in the same situation this morning, needing to do some writing, but feeling a little sluggish and tired. My own tendency with students is to not ask them to write, but to get up, breathe deeply, move around a bit. I guess I will see if sitting down and writing this morning will be sufficient to get my blood flowing, or whether I would be better off to go do something--yoga, recycle, ride the bike, etc. A cup of coffee shouldn't hurt!

Trying to find some time today to write up a proposal for composing with music. I think I have the quesitons more or less figured out, so now the question becomes: what to read? What's the background context. The new essay on "the when and the where" of new media seems like an obvious choice, as does Dickie Selfe's book (track it down), media ecology more generally. What I really need to figure out, I suppose, is composing with music. I have some good material for composing visually, but how should we introduce concepts of rhythm, tone, etc. You can see how much I know about music!

Totally random: Betsy and I were talking about the new BBC poll that reported there is very little confidence in the phrase "govt. for the people, by the people" even among western democracies (except in Scandanavia), and I was complaining that Americans simply continue to reject all the data that "proves" governments that provide services--education, health care, social security--are able to run countries with better standards of living and better distribution of wealth. Then we heard a radio story about "progress," and author quoted John Steinbach as saying "The poor in America see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionares," or something like that. I need to track it down. This little piece of information might add to my interest in teaching a unit on leadership, responsibility, and money next semester.

Well, let's see if I can move on to some real writing now.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

getting rejected

I got a straight out flat rejection of an essay from a journal today, which has only happened to me once, maybe twice before. and quite frankly, i was surprised--I think the essay is pretty strong, and one reviewer seems to have thought it was well written. But I ran into, as far as I could tell, some readers with very different world views who simply would not accept my premises. Powerful lesson on the limits of good writing: the well crafted essay going up against firmly held beliefs will lose out to those beliefs every time. That's why I think I had better keep my submissions going to journals with more open-minded readers.

Getting rejected, however, seems to have lit a fire under me. I spent a couple of hours revising a project that has been accepted, and then I started on a new book chapter tonight. Maybe I thought I would just cruise through the year, getting the now-rejected piece accepted, getting the other piece I sent out last week accepted, appearing productive and smart to friends and colleagues. But boy, when you get a flat out rejection, you realize that you have sunk X amount of time into some sort of whole. All that time and effort might actually result in nothing--only questions like "what have you been doing with your time?"

The rejected piece and the piece I am revising both received some comments that I find especially frustrating as a writer. In both pieces, I explain that I am doing X because of Y, and both pieces had readers say, "no, I don't want you to do that." I am open to the fact that they might be right, but they don't even provide the "y". They just say, "don't do X." And both sets of readers, quite frankly, did not seem to read certain parts of my essay very carefully. Again, I need to remain open minded and accept the fact that maybe the confusion is a writing problem that I can fix, but I sure wish readers would try to read a little more carefully. All these lessons are good ones for me as I am on the verge of collecting some student work.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

things to do

convert my website into a portfolio
get website access for tas
contact tlc about working with powerpoint music video
get irb for semester and beyond
work on fec manual: have sample syllabi ready for adjuncts and others

more on manual: include the first-week material (Activation, Demonstration, Application, Integration), Kolb, Bloom, include lists of further readings (don't waste too much time / space here) include lesson plans, effecitvely written up in terms of goals, ADAI, learning cylce, and expectations of cognitive engagement. Include sample assignments, sample activities: how much is going to be too much? Include maps of 110, 120, 300 level.

Include TA assessment plan, or just treat that as a separate part of program assessment. Need to get around to sharing plan with GTAS.

hmm, I felt like I had more to write, and then it seemed like writing blocked some of my thinking and now I am stuck. I guess I can plan my day tomorrow: prep my week of classes on Monday (ie. print off stuff and assemble as necessary--samples from domains?) prep for vert writing: get the numbers, the flow chart, etc. figured out. look at old docs. Keep some scholarship moving: turn to wireless paper, plan on big T after that, book project for the spring: getting behind again! Oh yeah, student project: formulate four questions, put one GTA in charge of each question, mini-essays of 4 pages as result. Get this one written up.

Need to get out front with 120 readings (White like Me) and EC: some new grad texts.

I think it helps to keep the to-do list fresh!


bring in a wide range of music and ask students to describe music in langauge that fits the genre of music. emphasize this notion of language matching the music. find examples, like the amazon review of Medium is the Massage--hippie talk. try to find a music example as well.

bring in a collection of documents (maybe 5 collections of 10) for day 3: the domains of writing, genre knowledge, basic ability to read and comprehend various documents. I should start / gather one collection as a model, and then ask gtas to each gather a collection, from which we can share resources.

klosterman: start building my rationale for choosing this book for a rhetorical, genre-based program. 1) he is making a lot of arguments. 2) he is working in a genre that a lot of people like to read and write. 3) he uses sources! 4) he addresses various audiences. 5) he is "one of us" writing in the world--he exemplifies the "call to write." 6). he is funny and audacious, but also problematic and disturbing: what could be more complex than that! 7) we don't have to read the whole thing. this is writing that is meant to be relavent, not a monument.

oh, thinking 764 and the second position paper: dig up the Tate-Lindemann exchange, use the Kyburz essay in strategies, Gunner's things fall apart, mabe Geoff Sirc?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

assignment ideas

I think this sequence of courses would work:

1. media deprivation assignment: give up your dominant media, journal and pay attention to the effects, write a "memoir" of the week--the implications, results, effects, etc. a more traditional media memoir would also be good, but I think this one, the everyday, would be better.

2. ppt music video + new literacy commentary. Do the digital immigrants have a clue? analyze some videos?

3. stretch assignment: propose a learning project, do it, make an educational proposal about the role / place of independent, self-direct learning. keeps the journal going.

Very hands-on approach, new literacy focus, might be light on reading but strong on concrete-sequential, pragmatic, sensory.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Points to emphasize

1. I am going to ask you to write in different genres, different types of writing, rather than just one or two types of writing all semester with the goal of helping you extend your style, helping you recognize different genres as reader and different conventions for writing. [not concise enough yet]

2. You will be able to draw on personal experience for some assignments, you will need to read and respond to a single text for some of your writing, and you will need to be able to respond to multiple texts in other pieces of writing.

3. You will compile a portfolio of your best work at the end of the semester, giving you a chance to drop one assignment, revise the others, and earn a grade that reflects your abilities.

Okay, those are all boring.

1. We are going to use music as our touchstone because it is easy to work with, of interest to most students, and something you can share.

2. I'll come back later.

all I ended up emphasizing was technology (music video, weblogs, blackboard), and be thoughful, observant, curious. IN TA strategies we generated some interesting ideas, including a list of what students typically think of English, followed by the punch line: in this class we are going to write about and with music, do reviews, media memoirs, and music videos.

The whole "theme song" prompt was a failure across the board: too many students couldn't or wouldn't say anything. Need to revise and rethink. Could also go with "one word" to describe you: a movie character, etc, etc.: maybe more prompts that open things up, but focus on how associations communicate.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

i've had a productive weekend, if doing a lot of work constitutes a productive weekend. more or less got monday and tuesday figured out, with some finishing touches to add tomorrow. read and sent off review of article--why do I always make those such a high priority? edited my poker paper--need to find the time to make the final changes and then get moving on the next paper. i've been thinking about the Scott McCloud piece a lot lately, so maybe that is the one to go with. tonight I thought--maybe this can be my first Flash essay? I could probably work with Nick to get his photo essay into flash, and flash would probably handle my video. can I really tackle the learning curve, however? seek some expert help? other options seem to be: try saving it in ppt: not likely going to work. set up a nice simple two-panel web page template and treat it like a comic book. I would rather not re-do my big triangle, but perhaps I have to.

i have also been thinking about a wiki book with new media assignments: a kind of writing new media that put the assignments up front and lets the discussion follow. i could contribute my ppt music video, my vcl assignments, the stretch assignment. i would love to get bob c. from georgia to post his wikipedia assignment, betsy's photoshop assignment, and, oh yeah, the call to blog. an old project that died--I could revive it.

oh yeah, I also picked out some christine lavin songs, lyrics, and will add a few tracks to the class soundtrack. feeling pretty good about that. plan to play 30 seconds from each song (X10 = 5 minutes), then ask about the songs they have listened to, what they have taken from them (what they might say about them), which can be followed by listening again to SNAG or other songs as a class, talk about it, going through this process of listening carefully, building an argument in the review. also listed the Metal songs I want to include: maybe I will stop by the office tomorrow? Maybe not?

Friday, August 12, 2005

similes, metaphors, quotations

Taking a college writing course is like Tiger Woods retooling his swing: your writing skills might have gotten you this far, but to get to the next level, you need to adjust your approach, consider new strategies, work towards a new and better swing.

"Chester Burnett would have sounded pretty silly singing, 'I am not going down that dirt road by myself' rather than 'I ain't goin' down dirt road by myself.' The former may have been good grammar but it is bad blues."

hartwell's G, G, and Teaching of G says that he and his anti-grammar friends have been accused of being alchemists: making a real problem go away. Johnson is after real magic, the magic of sound; what does Kress say about the way sound bi-passes the intellect?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

everything bad is good for you

i finished steven johnson's everything bad is good for you, a nicely argued book that claims "we"--the not so smart, middle-to-lower-segment of the population--are getting smarter because pop culture is getting more complex and demanding. he makes very interesting arguments about the complexity of reality tv coming from its game like elements and coolness--intense viewer involvement (a theory I have shared with many via a mcluhanesque lense--which johnson also uses). he compares shows like the very simple starskey and hutch to the more complex hill street blues to the very complex sopranos: certainly a good formalist analysis of the shows, if lacking viewer data. he makes good arguments that kids immersed in IM, video games, computers, cell phones are not smarter because of the activities they do on those games, but because they are developing the ability and confidence to solve problems and handle a lot of information. I noticed just the other day that when I was asked how to do something on a computer, I had no idea, but I simply started thinking through the likely answers, navigated my way around, and stumbled on the thing we wanted to do. I have noticed that I have, indeed, really developed those skills in the past 10 years. When I first started using computers, I had to call in a technician the first time I ran into a big snag. Now people call me in, and I have no real training with computers. he makes nice qualifications to his arguments, pointing out that he does not think tomb raider will have the cultural staying power of shakespeare, and that the smarter are not getting smarter. he doesn't worry much about the loss of print-based skills, and advocates balanced use of all media.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

back on the bike

two weeks since I have posted here, although I made a couple of entries on my laptop file. I think about posting regularly, but I have been so busy writing that taking 10 minutes to simple gear up for writing, or push through to write, seemed a distraction or a bad use of time, not a valuable activity. and yet, I would also say that i have been a little more tense, irritable, and difficult the past two weeks--beause I have been busy, for sure, but perhaps because I under-estimated the therapeutic release of writing 10 minutes a day. clearly I will have to be understanding and sympathetic when students have a bit of trouble keeping up with their journals or blogs. i just read an article about an anthropologist who returned to school as an undergrad, taking courses that she hadn't taken as an undergrad, and she found herself struggling to keep up with load, looking for ways to cut corners and stay ahead, including turning in a paper that was a first draft, not an obsessively re-drafted academic essay.

last night some of the gtas were over and were talking about assigning more journals. i think blogging has really brought the activity back to the forefront, and while not for everyone all the time, it sure has good effects most of the time.

I found a copy of "look at your fish" online: I think I will make a list of 10 short essays students can read and respond to as part of 10 mintues a day--if they choose to. Although reading and responding will take closer to 30 ; )

I keep thinking about how to build a list like that with others--time to wiki, i think!

and then I will be sure to come back here more regularly. i do feel a kind of peace has settled over my being. . . .

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A bunch of notes

I was flipping through the new wired and noticed all sorts of McLuhan-like observations. The U2 tour gets a story with a pull out quote explaining that the show uses infra-red cameras to make the crowd part of the show = rock spectacle as rock happening--no more either or, both/and.

Another article on war bloggers. McLuhan notes in Understanding Media that battlefields contained as many typewrites as weapons, but now, in addition to the communication technologies that kept the war effort functioning effectively, soldiers are now using personal communication technologies to "personalize" the war--extend their experiences, undermine the effort in some cases (one soldier was demoted because of what he wroter), therapy, etc. My brother-in-law called us from his cell phone in Iraq--bringing him and the war directly into our kitchen. I suppose such immediacy brings a mix of comfort and discomfort for most families. No longer is war so easily defined as "over there."

I need to return a book to the library: Amped by David Browne. Didn't get into it, but it looks like a journalistic / media ecology analysis of skateboard scene--the new tribalism swept into the media juggernaut.

And I need to return Donald Norman's Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things. Can y'all shout with me "extensions of the self!!" Need to check on his relationship to McLuhan.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

TA Training and goals

I just made a note for the TA Training workshop--I am going to ask the TAs to list 5 goals for the semester. So what are mine?

1. A talkative, engaged class. I know I can't control this one entirely, but last year my 110 was pretty quiet (one student consistently talked), whereas the year before I had good distribution. Work pretty hard on this one.
2. Coach more, instruct less. I feel like my teaching is getting more and more directive, and my comments less supportive and encouraging. I need to get back to coaching.
3. Share more. This relates to #1: my goal is to ask student to produce writing that other students might want to read (reviews, memoirs), and I hope that sharing more leads to a class that knows each other better / well.
4. Meet with students more. I have dropped back to one conference the last few years, but I think 2 might be in order.
5. Discuss more. Another variation on the same thing, I suppose, but as I have gotten more directive and and more specific in my teaching, I have taken away from the discussion element. I still remember a student who said to me my first fall "I like how we sit around and discuss philosophy." I just haven't made much room for that the last few years. I probaby could stand to tell more stories, too--as long as they are good ones!

Oh, and maybe to add a bit of diversity, I want to get more music into the class: a course soundtrack, more playing of and discussing music in class, etc.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Biggest Game in Town

Finished A. Alvarez's book over the past few days--an account of 4 weeks in vegas for the 1981 WSOP, with plenty of background on the game and players. Brunson heavily featured, Jack Straus, the more philosophical but less well known Mickey Appleman, who provides the Freudian analysis of poker as sublimation. The virtuallity of the whole experience strongly emphasized: money means nothing, the chips practically mean nothing, being totally involved in anything becomes crucial (if there isn't a bet on something it is of no interest to these players), the "straight world" is almost non-existent, unknownn to these players. One didn't know there was a war in Vietnam, the election of Carter got almost no response from players or from the Vegas paper.

Alvarez mentioned the no clock factor, which I have known about for quite a while, but it made me realize that I should probably take a look at the clock chapter from UM as well as the others I have already re-read.

I also visualized the Understanding Games project as a full length project: a chapter on poker, on extreme sports, on professionalism / amateurism (probably one chapter, not two), probably an early chapter just on games and technology, games as extensions. Maybe I need to think sections, because games and media are obvious of great importance these days. Oh yeah, a chapter on video games, and perhaps a chapter "life is not a game." What seems to be happening to most of these players is that they do make that switch over and lose some significant grounding, although Appleman who isn't married says the married players have a certain grounding in wife and kids. Perhaps a tenuous and strained grounding, a relationship with a co-dependent person. Which is not to say I want to argue against games--perhaps they simply are very prone to overheating. The escape factor, the fantasy factor, is very tempting, dangerous, and not so unreasonable. Religion offers escape, games offer escape, art and creativity offer escape.

Why is it that we need to stay grounded? To not ignore our material conditions? To help others better there material conditions. To not be self-indulgent? Which is perhaps why players want to recruit others to their games. I have noticed a certain evangelical rhetoric emerging among the poker players. Liberation theology? Perhaps a chapter on religion (closely connected to sport and play). Perhaps a chapter on politics--increasingly a specator sport, and as the poker players say, American democracy requires a $10,000 buy-in.

New long range plan: M for C, UG. Guess I had better get that first project moving again!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

finished FRC

Finished reading Klosterman's first book--looking forward to reading the other two. Got to see some themes popping up that he has since re-worked: guilty pleasures shows up in FRC, as does the notion that some of these stars are so open they can be completed by fans in just about anyway. K. uses that argument for Lenny Kravitz, if I remember correctly, the same argument he used a couple of years later for Britany Spears. Not that re-using the argument is a bad thing. Some stars work that way--what McLuhan might call "low intensity stars," while others are specific and filled out--high intensity, I suppose.

K.'s obsession with cool rose to the surface: clearer all the time. He concludes by accepting that he is not cool, but GNR and other metal bands helped him live a virtual reality in which, by association, he got to experience coolness. Hipsters are not cool. Living by total id, it seems, is cool; living without pretension, living in the quest of pure pleasure (booze, drugs, sex) is cool. Liking what you like is cool (somehow "what you like" is natural--doing what comes naturally). This belief in an id and natural pleasures that are somehow outside of socially constructed values seems core to K.'s views. Yet he throws around deconstruction in a couple of places. If K. is the affective critic of the 21st century, the affective critic is not bound by rigorous or consistent terminology: too much of a print-based value.

Or, to take another angle, if learning to write like television (Ulmer's electracy) is learning to write like K., some of the core strategies seem to be:
--include yourself in the story (K. even explains that rock criticism is always about the rock critic)
--reject intellectualism, or at least the kind of the intellectualism that threatens to make you look stupid
--reject anti-intellectualism by making arguments for the intelligence of anti-intellectual art
--eliminate the theory-practice gap: all practice, reckless use of theory

Not sure this list is really going anywhere. Must go look up affective criticism.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Klosterman II

Still working on course prep, still working on Klosterman. Read his article in Esquire about / with Britney Spears, including his McLuhanesque line that Britney's image is so contradictory and ill defined that everyone and anyone gets to assign her the meaning they most desire: hero to 12 year olds, porn star to their older brother, the reason young women hate themselves to young women, and the slightly creepy line that explains why the guy who hates Chuck thinks he has the mind of a childmolester: dads wish Britney would come to a sleep over with their 12 year old daughter.

But to the point. I read another article about Guilty Pleasures where CK starts out decrying the evils of anti-intellectualism (which surprised me a bit), but he followed it up with his more familiar criticism of feinged intellectualism. He goes on to attack the catch phrase "guilty pleasure" because he thinks guilty pleasure should be reserved for sleeping with your ex-girlfriend's roommate, and it should not be used for things like enjoying the Patrick Swayze movie Road House. Prented intellectualism, he seems to argue, is the result of not enjoying the enjoyable things in life. "It never matters what you like; what matters is why you like it."

He also says that pretend intellectualism leads to anti-populism, which is maybe what he is always arguing for: a ND retrieved populism that does't mean bucking the corporate master in the way good old ND populism did, but it means something like "let me enjoy my pop culture because I take great pleasure in it, and don't try to make me feel like a dumb-ass (i.e. guilty) for liking this pop culture." I am starting to hear in his tone a lot of ND defensiveness--and perhaps that defensiveness plays everywhere because he is usually making an argument for the most popular, the best selling, the most mass of the mass culture. ND is everywhere.

Possible formula: "Liberal" media (hipsters) makes the masses feel stupid, "conservative" media makes the masses nervous about their sins, the "masses" consume but do not produce the mass media. 'Cept CK. Probably wrong again.

Oh, and what would JR do with CK's obsession with coolness?

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Pretty immersed in planning 110 right now; thinking about Klosterman as the first "affective" critic of the 21st century. Affect is the hot buzz word in pedagogy right now, but I haven't exactly seen it applied to writing, a style of writing, a kind of writing that is generally dismissed as emotional, sentimental, etc. He has been described as a "fanboy," fans and critics of his write about his enthusiasm, his optimism, David Byrne is quoted on the back cover as saying that Klosterman writes about how hair music feels, how our media saturated lives feel, and that seems to be a pretty ringing endorsement for Klosterman as affective critic. Oh yeah, and the feeling is in the details.

The affective critic would have some sort of relationship to the organic critic, but I will have to figure out what that is.

Sirc's writing strikes me as "affective," I like how it sounds, how it feels. He is hard on the voiceless, bodiless prose of academic writing.

These tensions continue to bump and grind in the way that tensions between professionalism and anti-professionalism or amateurism always bump and grind. The dynamic is give and take, not a matter of drawing lines in the sand. Sirc's affective writing, alt.dis movements, the personal in the academic, have all pushed the line of professionalism back, which then raises the question: if affective writing becomes the dominant prose style in the field, is it still anti-professional? I guess McLuhan would just say figure and ground have reversed, and that a call for professionalism--perhaps in a new form?--will return.

The pragmatic question is: will affective criticism do the work we want it to do? It does seem to be writing that is more like television, more like electracy; oh yeah, K. has written a MyStory. The formula: personal encounter / personal significance, cultural perception, cultural perception re-considered.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Thinking about teaching

I have spent most of the last six weeks working on conference presentations and essays for publication, but for the next two weeks, I plan to focus on prepping my composition class and my TA training class. I was just working on my 10 minute a day assignment, which prompted me to come to my blog and think through all my tasks.

I have the syllabus more or less ready to go, and I am starting to work through the daily plans. Day one and two are in good shape, but #3 was scattered and way too ambitious. I think I have got it worked out. Trying to keep things straightforward is always a challenge, and the first few weeks of a course are always tricky because I always want to immerse my students in information--I need to work on the pacing. Slowing down too much can be the opposite problem--if students are primarily immersed in high-speed electronic culture, the two options are either to "pick up the pace" or convince students that the classroom is a "time to think." I haven't used that distinction before--i should give it a try. I should try to track down that David Brooks one page editorial.

Will have lots of work to do with unit 2: teaching FRC for the first time. The new TAs seem excited about using it, and I had a fun conversation with my neice this weekend who just saw Motley Crue in WPg--front row seats with backstage passes. I think my neice is exactly the same age as Klosterman--I wonder if I am just 3-5 years too old for the metal scene? I know that by 1984 I was listening to the Talking Heads, so I am thinking that I might have been pretty immune to metal by then. I had tried Led Zepplin and a bit of AC/DC, but neither really worked for me. I actually don't mind either of them now--maybe I do see more of the humor and less of the bombasticness (is that a word?).

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Read and interesting essay by Tony Tremblay--brought Freud and McLuhan together to argue that the Internet, as a new technology, a new extension of the self and specifically the nervous system, is an autoerotic technology. Puts the internet in the historical context of the novel and film--both had similar autoerotics properties when first introduced, then regulated (censored, hence cybriety), and then split in roughly two directions: mainstream art and underground. Interesting history of how the film industry fought censorship in the 1970s in order to take advantage of the sensual / voyeuristic properties of film at a time when the industry suffered. Tremblay suspects that the Internet is and will go throught similar patterns--autoerotic, largely unregulated, gives way to regulated mainstream and underground sites. Tremblay also draws on McLuhan's plea to understand media more effectively, and perhaps to disrupt this historical pattern in ways that productively draw on a better understanding of this emerging technology.

Trying to think about how this article will help me understand online poker. All sorts of social stigma associated with poker, and specificially going to the public poker rooms, is removed from online poker (more or less). The pleasure of the game--simple, fast, engaging, erotic--now penetrates wider spectrum of players, drives the poker train. The issue of regulation is hot--still technically not legal in the US, states like ND have debated whether or not to become the hub of legal online gambling, but the state legislature just turned it down this spring, largely based on moral arguments trumping economic arguments, although some argue that a gambling economy is never a good economy. I guess Tremblay's piece should help us understand the regulation issue somewhat: if we understand what the technology is enabling/enhancing, what it is being obsolesced, what is retrieved, what is reversed, we can atleast have a starting point for regulating (or not) online gambling in effective ways. Sin taxes would be a start, although very anti-American. Re-channeling the intellect and energy that is going into online gambling would be useful, but perhaps not realistic. Not letting it go underground /offshore is perhaps a good first step--the marijuana argument, I guess. Put in the context of American moral conservatism, online poker is going to be an interesting challenging to the religous right.

Monday, July 04, 2005

school is back in session

Not exactly, but it is July, and I will be changing my work pattern from "all research, all the time," to class prep plus research. I really want to get myself organized for class prep, and what better way to do that than a blog list?

110: where am I at?
My review unit is in pretty good shape--review class preps, gather more materials, perhaps refine some class activities. Informal review: voice, style, insert readers. RS review: voice + analysis; comparison. Formal review: music, lyrics, image. Well, style, style, style anyway. Write some reviews of my own. Get the whole Johnny cash class ironed out a bit--develop the materials, use the web. Do more good exercises. Play around. Get them to work with words.

Finish FRC, figure out everything, write my own memoir, contact Klosterman. Emphasize reading in this unit. From description to analysis, making arguments, the K. way!

New literacy: settle on readings right away. Get the video project instructions set up more clearly. Wow--have I really taught this class before?

Oh yeah, other random notes: start with a 5 factors blank sheet--get students to fill it out on the first or second day. Maybe do so again mid-term, plus start to add additional terms. Make the final exam closed, no notes, fill out sheet again.

A bunch of other things to do:
collect the info on grades for the grade inflation talk.
start working on a website / bb site: map them out, figure them out.
do more to plan the future 110 and 120. Figure out where to start and what to use.
Get back to work on TA Strategies.
Do more with ongoing TA assessment.

That's enough--no sense spoiling a 4th of July holiday!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

A 6:40 am reflection

Last time I tried to start the morning with ten minutes of writing, I was pretty foggy and didn't feel like my time was particularly well spent. The last few days, however, I have also been trying to read while I was pretty foggy, so rather than struggle through a story I need to read, I will see if I can get the blood and coffee pumping with an early morning reflection.

I suppose I can list the things I dreamt/thought about as I was sleeping / dozing. I have been thinking about how to get in touch with Chuck Klostermann, or at the very least figure out if I can find a video of him reading. I think it would be exceptionally useful for students to hear him reading--get a sense of voice connected to writing. I was thinking more generally about encouraging the TAs to encourage their students to read aloud, although I need to remember to do that as well.

I have been thinking about turning my CW presentation into a web text, probably for CC ONline, maybe Kairos, but I get hung up on concerns about copyright (I would really like to show pages from UC, although I guess I could just put a link to McCloud's site--problem solved!), and then I need to think about some of my own illustrations and how to get them onto the web. I suspect I just need to buckle down and do the work, re-create and re-fine the illustrations in another program. I might also ask my students to say something about their work, the Big T, and include them as authors: KB with BH, DK, etc. I should probably contact them pretty early in the process to see what they would be willing to do.

Finally, I have been thinking about the laws of media blog paper because I saw a note that I was supposed to get that paper out a year ago. I am starting to envision for myself two tetrads: the blog as hunting and digging, the blog as reflecting and generating. They have a tiny bit in common, but not really very much. This writing is very much about sorting out my personal / professional life, the blogging I did in Fall 2003 was very much about exploring, connecting, finding new information. This blogging isn't about the web at all, other than web as "pull," posting as prompting.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

following a thread

I think I am about to commit a copyright violation by posting part of a Rich Haswell email to my blog, but I am not fiscally profiting from this posting, and am using it for educational purposes:

"In Talks to Teachers on Psychology (1899), William James had this advice:
"Prepare yourself in the subject well so that it shall always be on tap:
then in the classroom trust your spontaneity and fling away all further

In the terms of this thread, if you keep current you will find that what you
have recently read or recently researched so often applies to today's issue
in the classroom, and so easily comes to mind, that your "preparation" for
class will be substantially reduced and your enjoyment in the classroom will
be substantially increased."

While part of me thinks that a well-designed, well-organized class will produce more enjoyment for all, I have to admit that the more organized I try to get, the less successful I seem to be in the classroom. I wonder if there is a crucial balance I am not achieving--maybe I have to be perfectly organized in order to run an effectively structured class, and my 80% organized just creates confusion. Maybe I am trying to make the classroom too hot, not leaving enough room for cool participation.

There were many other interesting observations on the WPA list this morning: the falling away of reading in composition courses, the question "is more writing going to produce better writing"? a question "why did the work smarter, not harder, revolution pass composition by"? Rich Haswell suggested that folks search "volume-of-writing" on CompPile, which made me think that I should take a few days in TA Strategies to search various databases. Perhaps for each position paper, we could visit a different source / new source: CompPile for starters, MLA, JStor: NCTE even? Definitely a useful activity to try out, I think, and one that could perhaps model the Research Memo assignment.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

wow, i almost forgot...

that I was trying to write for 10 minutes a day. I think I last wrote on Saturday or Sunday, and it is now Thursday. I was out of my rhythm, having been at a conference, where I was able to write, but as I transitioned back into the home routine, I forgot one of my new routine items. does that mean tenaday doesn't make any differenec? I started feeling a little disorganized last night, and thought about writing then, but somehow got interrupted. now I am at a transition point, trying to figure out what to do next, which does seem like an ideal time to write and clear my head.

just finished getting another conference presentation ready, and I got way more involved in the project than I meant to. another example of filling the available time, perhaps, but one where I also kept telling myself that I was working on some new skills, some PPT skills. My presentations are really starting to take a visual turn: a good thing. My overall presentation and design still seems a bit clumsy, but I am making progress. I think the creative, anti-corporate use of PPT is really starting to take off--although I saw only one really sophisticated use at the CW conference.

as I was finishing up my presentation for SLA, I started thinking about doing this presentation again for the department, but using more time to do a meta-analysis of the presentation: what are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach to presenting material? what happens when we compose in layers? what principles of composition shaped my paper and slides?

heading out tomorrow, back to work on Monday: I need to set a goal for Friday July1. media ecology paper? check to see when WSOP ends. Doesn't look like I have made a very definitive plan, have I? But it probably makes sense to keep this momentum going, finish up the draft, and then get back to McCloud / McLuhan and try not to let myself get off track again--for a while.

Monday, June 13, 2005

the little things

I am always writing about the little things. More or less finished an assessment report--just have to wait for some data to complete it 100%. Can't forget to write up a report on 110 exemptions, and probably should talk to BS about starting to collect and track data more thoroughly and consistently. We should also start tracking students longitudinally--how does "understanding leadership" in 120 show up as relevant later in their academic / personal careers. Oh yeah, we also need to firm up the data about the institution--students not being challenged--and students not reporting much writing instruction effect. On a totally random note, I keep thinking I should take a look at GJ's writing to see what effect the Christianson method had on her thesis.

Lists of things:
10 copies of the PPT screen--big T--in color.
hotel and flight info
burn PPT to disk (X2)
buy new bag at VM
buy chairs
cheep foods
other stuff on the edge of town
Rounders and Dog Town / Z-boys

okay, I had better stop and reflect. How does writing lists for 10 minutes a day help my writing? I do enjoy the process of just getting on the keyboard and hammering away. I am starting to convince myself of the drive to clarity--keeps me focused or at least keeps the conversation in my head moving, instead of turning over and over. Thinking about my writing projects, I think I really should try to get the CW presentation out as a web-text by the end of the month (explore copyright question), and similarly get SLA paper out to Explorations by the end of the month. July should be book and prep / WPA. Richard Ford is on the margins and should probably stay there. If I can squeeze him in an hour here, an hour there, I could then just send him out in this order: CE, MFS, Aethlon and see what happens.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

June 3 all over again

I took ten minutes to try and get myself organized back on June 3 because my writing projects were wandering. I haven't posted yet this week--two missed opportunities--but I see a need to try and get focused again, so I am back.

I started reading some recent interviews and articles by Rorty, thinking that I might be able to pull off the Rorty-Ford article pretty quickly. I think I would need to give the paper more time and thought to make it fit for Philosophy and Literature, so I am thinking MFS now. More generally, though, the thought of really getting back into the paper and doing it right seems daunting. The paper is probably fine for what it was--a conference presentation--but I should probably let the sleeping dog lie.

I actually got ahead of myself yesterday, nearly finished my CW presentation, and because of that, did not really stick with my plan to finish the CW presentation. That is definitely what I should do the last hour at the office today. Bibliography plus editing, I guess.

Tomorrow and Friday I will try to finish the sports lit presentation (which always gets me going with the Ford presentation), leaving Monday and Tuesday of next week to work on the FEC Report and probably get all my receits in order for the IDG and my trips.

When 10 minutes a day just becomes making lists, is it really a good form of free writing? Would I be better offer reflecting and observing, working through difficult theoretical problems and issues? the one I am struggling with right now is "antienvironment," and specifically art as antienvironment. For the term to be useful, it seems to me that it has to be more than just "art helps me see the world in new ways!" I just read on MF's blog that a cognitive antienvironment helps us see things in our environment that we had not seen before. Now that might be useful: Mark Cochrane's poetry helps us see the homoeroticism of sports that we have not wanted to see? Too obvious? Dog Town and Z Boys helps us see our environment in more creative ways? that one might be worth developing. better head over to word.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

ten minutes every two days?

I haven't been writing everyday as the title imperative would suggest, but I think the idea of 10 minutes a day is working pretty well. I am thinking pretty actively about my writing projects, and the blog at least gives me the illusion of keeping my projects straight. Yesterday, a day without blog, still resulted in thinking through my list from Friday. My SLA presentation needs to be a nice crisp review of McLuhan's work on sports, it needs to be followed with the short poker section I have written (illustrated appropriately, if possible), and it probably needs to be limited to one example of an "anti-environment." I am leaning towards Mark Cochrane--he deserves some good attention at SLA. I don't think I should worry about trying to publish this talk. I should, however, follow through on the Richard Ford paper, and I should follow the World Series of Poker for the next month, try to pick up some ideas and scholarship in small bits and pieces, and then give myself about a week to write the paper. Send off whatever I have--journal of Media Ecology I think--and see what kind of response I get. If I can send out Ford, poker, and maybe my CW presentation to CC online, as well as keep the book moving forward, I would definitely be able to feel like I had a focused and productive--or perhaps more importantly a disciplined--summer.

Tomorrow, however, I need to focus on the Pharm/Nurse writing course:
check with Renee on how to use the account and fund--refunds, stipends, etc.
set up thursday lunch if I hear from don
work on the course materials
send out materials to the group
look at the budget and additonal expenses from here on out (definitely John Bean's book)
look at the new materials I have received.
accept that I probably won't work on my research tomorrow

Friday, June 03, 2005

some follow-ups

Why did communications embrace McLuhan? In the Man and the Messenger, the author (drawing blank) quotes a McLuhan letter to Pound in which McLuhan explains that he is done with / bored with literary criticism, and he would have gone into technology studies (or something like that) if he had a second chance.

Postman in the introduction to the same book says that McLuhan faired better than the more erudite Mumford, Ellul, Innis, and others because he was more a part of the 20th century: more optimistic. McLuhan's optimism has been coming up a lot, although re-reading UM today, I noticed a lot of sharp jabs at people and things.


I can't quite believe how my writing (or non-writing) wanders: I spent the day working on McLuhan for sports lit, but I guess to be fair, I spent much of the morning researching the Poker phenomenon. I guess that is where the problem started: I was able to visualize a whole paper, not just a paragraph, that would get at understanding poker with a McLuhan-style probe. I actually got that paragraph written, but I guess that I also lost focus on designing a hand out for the confence, and I started to slip into something that looks more like a paper.

When I moved on to my Richard Ford part, I pulled up my paper from 1997, started reading, and figured it looked like it was ready for publication ; ) I did a quick search for Ford scholarship, and a little bit has been done, but not a lot. Ford has resurrected Frank Bascombe--a New Yorker story last year--so I started looking at ways of finally getting that piece published. I think I got this idea a few years ago to, but nothing happened. I think I am starting to worry that I won't actually send anything out this summer, get part way into my book project, stop doing that, and then where will I be: high and dry with nothing to show.

I did read a nice interview with Ford where he talked about how he often just wants to quit, and needs somebody to push him along (his wife, mainly). Seeing that, seeing Frank back of the page, made me think that I was getting signs. But I often manage to ignore signs.

So, if I decide to stay focused, I pursue none of these side-projects. If I decide to let myself wander, and I start to work on stand-alones, I have:
1. a Richard Ford paper (for Philosophy and Literature?)
2. Understanding the Poker Craze: Everything McLuhan said in UM comes true in the Poker Craze (for Canadian Journal of Communication) or something like that.
3. the big triangle paper for computers and composition online.
4. maybe a more theoretical paper for Computers and Writing.
5. Anthony and I are talking about something for the special issue on composing with sound.
6. I guess I could also be thinking about my SLA presentation as a paper for Aethlon or some other publication.

Yeah, like I am going to pull all this off! And at the same time keep my book project moving forward, design a new course, be the WPA, manage the dept. website, and have a life.

And I won't do any of these things if I keep taking 10 minutes a day to write on a blog.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The formal cause

I stumbled around my draft trying to explain Aristotle's "Formal Cause," McLuhan's use of it, the relevance of the FC to "the medium is the message," and the ways in which McLuhan is not a technological deteminist. I was ready to give up, chuck the whole project, but I kept plugging and I think wrote myself through to some clarity. Great self-check: writing is hard, I have to write to produce good writing, good writing = good thinking, bad writing can lead to good thinking. I have to remember that the project does not have to come out set in stone, although I also worry that the cement I am pouring is so wet and loose it may never set ; )

My writing today didn't really help me finish my Francis Bacon node, but I started a whole Aristotle and Technological Determinist node--probably a good place to start. Better get that issue cleared up right off the bat. I also recognized a number of times how much background information I am assuming, which got me thinking about a first chapter not unlike the first chapter of McLuhan for Managers: a short biography that highlighted key McLuhan publications and MM's specific work with managers, business, consulting, etc. I think a chapter like that might be fun to write and potentially quite useful.

So, here is a question: why did Communication Studies embrace McLuhan (the New Critical literary scholar) but English did not? I don't think Comm folks use Ong much, maybe not even Havelock. Innis a bit--I guess James Carey has addressed this issue a bit. Obvious answer: Understanding Media is about mass media and other things, hardly about literature at all. Gutenberg Galaxy is a great take on the history of rhetoric--I guess English departments weren't much interested in rhetoric at the time, were they?

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

the ball is still rolling

I am staying on track with 10 minutes a day, although about half my "posts" are simply going to my hard drive. Don't know if splitting posts between two locations will have a negative effect on this experiment--depends on whether or not notes like these are just fuel for the fire of writing, or if they are actual recoverable resources I need to and want to come back to.

Took care of my note-taking today: got Kinneavy and Ross up to date. Started to thread some of those notes into my outline for chapter one, although that material and that set of notes still feels hard to work with. I read Bacon's The Great Instauration from an online source, but I suspect I just got the intro and not the full effect. I will definitely need to take another look at Ulmer's use of "instauration" to see what the heck he was excited about. More generally, I would like to see if I can get the Bacon node into shape within a single week; see how long these kinds of historical nodes will take me to write. When I re-read the Laws of Media, I can could trace the argument the McLuhans are making, although very little of it is tied to actual Bacon texts. Eric says his father consulted Bacon frequently, that Bacon, Vico, Joyce, Eliot and others represent the great "grammatical / rhetorical tradition" of poetic wisdom, of observation without theoretical encumberance, of multi-leveled exegis. Bacon specifically rejected Ramus and scholasticism, the syllogism, returning him to observation and intuition. Vico tried to repare the split between logic and rhetoric, but, according to the McLuhans in Laws of Media, did not see the split between primary nature and secondary nature, the later being the world made and remade by the extensions of humans. I will try to figure out what needs to be said on Bacon this week, Vico next--although my goals may be a little much.

Other things: Ross C for Josh H's committee?
Keep at PharmWriting (good progress today). Contact students.
Probably should look at some vertical curriculum materials.
Report on assessment by June 30, probably the deadline.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

plan your work and work your plan

I was told that "plan your work and work your plan" is one of the seven steps to being a highly successful person. Can't hurt.
Followed through on today's plan to look up authors' guidelines for Computers and Writing Series as well as Utah State. Also organized most of the files for McLuhan for Compositionists project, wrote a table of contents, and worked on first chapter, incorporating the new Jeff Rice article that asks "why was McLuhan ignored in 1963 when composition emerged as Composition--a professional field." I found myself getting bogged down a bit, which I frequently do: how much detail is the right amount of detail? I initially thought I would knock out some of the early occurances of McLuhan, in Deemer's "composition is a happening" and in Macrorie's work, but I suppose I will save that for later.

Also started exploring the Bacon/Vico roots of McLuhan's thinking: definitely a topic in which I will have to be careful not to totally immerse myself in those two as I try to make a point about McLuhan's roots and his distrust of the dialectical, the schoolmen, the specialists. I have been wondering if I need to go back to Cicero--I suppose McLuhan is largely invoking that notion of the need for breadth of knowledge, for wisdom and eloquence, not just one or the other.

Tomorrow's plan: visiting Mark's class in the morning, or for part of the morning, any way. Need to really put the CW presentation together in a way so that I can leave it until I get to SF. Small crowd likely, so don't knock myself out. Gotta figure out whether to pursue a publication or just let it go as is, fold McCloud into McLuhan for Compositonists. Putting it together means finishing off diagrams, scanning in the visual language matrix, CRAP, figuring out how, exactly, to deal with my students' work. Perhaps just go with it as is, not worry, and similarly not worry too much about the publication at this point.

Things to read:
Wysocki's essay on form and content again.
Kinneavy's Theory of Discourse (no small task).
Bacon and Vico, primary and secondary sources.

I should try to do a better job of staying focused on the readings, too; skimmed a few things on Bacon and Vico today, but not sure I took anything useful from them.

10 minutes is too easy--but maybe 15 is too long and keeps me from working my plan. Kinneavy, here I come.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

sticking with it

Back to an evening post, using my home computer, for what that is worth. Hmm, the keyboard seems more suited to my clumsy typing--can't overlook the role of the keyboard in successful / pleasurable writing experience. Can't overlook any of the tools, really: laptop versus desktop versus pen and paper or whatever tools one is drawn to. I have told the story that I wrote my dissertation on a laptop, but I haven't ever really written in that same sustained, focused, what seemed to me under-control-way since then, but I haven't used a laptop extensively since about 1998, either. I now have one, but it is my secondary computer, my office computer still taking on the burden of the typing / working. The keyboard there, however, drives me nuts: kinda sticky, really dirty (despite my feeble efforts to clean it), and, well, there are a variety of factors in my office that probably inhibit productivity. I better not make myself too depressed.

Both days this week I have been falterning on my writing projects, loosing a sense of direction. What started out as "a paper that I could present from" evolved into a paper that I could try and get published, but it was getting way too detailed to think about as the paper from which to present. I started up a PPT file for the presentation, and that seems to have helped keep me focused on the presentation, but leaves the paper sitting as a lame duck. Now I am starting to think about the paper as a chapter in McLuhan for Compositionists, even though it has a strong McCloud focus. Tentatively thinking about the paper as a chapter on re-visiting "hot and cool."

Also faltered because I started to play around with a drawing program called "Expressions," but after wasting an hour or so, I could see that the learning curve is simply more than I can deal with. Just haven't used enough drawing programs, and just don't have the time to mess with one right now. Not soon. Not till I write a book. Went back into PPT and did some little diagrams--seems about what I need, what I am after. I am absolutely pathetic as a visual compositionists, but luckily I am a teacher, not a visual compositionists ; ) Lucky, or slightly discouraged by that realization.

Tomorrow's plan: take a look at the book prospectus guidelines for CW series and for Utah State--see if doing a prospective will get me on track and keep me there. I realized that if I made the McCloud paper a chapter, it is a long way along, and it will really help me with the chapter on Medium is the Massage. That might give me three pretty substantial chapters, a prospectus, and a solid vision for the other two chapters (or two other chapters) in the book.

Also take some time to keep developing the PPT.

Ahh, ten minutes a day--just what I need to get organized.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Waking up

I have done alot of my writing at night--the last thing of the day, a kind of wrap up of my thinking. Always gives me more than enough to write about. Trying out an early morning post today because I sat down and coulnd't decide: do I keep reading Kress' s Literacy in the New Media Age or do I keep working on my paper. Obviously neither : )

I should probably go with Kress because I probably do need to work him more fullying into my paper / argument if I am going to successfully locate McCloud within the context of ongoing discussions about visual literacy, or literacy, or ...

I can see that writing in the morning results in elipses and short, under-developed thoughts. I definitely feel a little foggy and not quite ready to take on the work of either sustained academic writing or reading.

I woke up realizing just how far my paper has drifted from what I have proposed to present on at Computer and Writing, although I don't think that is going to be a huge problem--my presentation is pretty straight forward and something I should be able to pull together effectively enough. My paper is drifitingn increasingly towards a detailed theoretical argument, and that might be a good thing. I can probably think about shifting the paper away from a pedagogically focused paper and therefore away from needing IRB approval. I might be able to tie my discussion into AFW's ad analaysis, although I McCloud is clearly not the guy to repair the form-content split. He might be the guy to provide a counter to Kress because he enables a broader vision of words and images than Kress.

Okay, go with Kress today, be ready to get fully back into the paper tomorrow. Try an outline, look at the multiple possible arrangements. Try a comic book.

Some old posts

I wasn't sure if I wanted to or needed to post my off-line free writing, but then I convinced myself that I wouldn't mind having all these scribbles in the same place. So here they are:

Ten A Day, May 14, 2005

Lyle Lovett in concert, Fargo Theater, like having three friends play in your basement. Lovett was in conversation with the audience the whole time, knew what was going on in Fargo, and offered up postmodern country with cellist and bongos, mixing country, blues, gospel, and stand-up. Can’t help but think about the power of the arts versus the power of critique, production or hermeneutics. Betsy played the cello as a kid and wished someone had shown her that the cello could be relevant and hip, not just a tool of the classical orchestra machine. And then we (John, Cindy, Betsy) all talked about what a bodily / embodied / dialogic event we had just participated in, no polite sitting on hands and clapping nicely at the end of a monument. I suppose if any of us really knew anything about classical music we might have a different understanding of an orchestral performance, but being as unschooled academics as we are, we prefer the pomo country and the range of emotions: the humor, the sadness, the grooves, the insights.

I was thinking about how to write about this experience, about how not academicize the experience, to capture the feel of the experience, to memorialize the everyday, rather than dissect and critique it. And I was just thinking about concert experiences: Lyle and Greg Brown at the Fargo Theater have been spin-tingling, Jonathan Richman at the now defunct club downtown and at the pub in Ames was brilliantly intimate, the Bare Naked Ladies new years eve 1996 in New York City was other-worldly, on par with the Blasters in 1985, Winnipeg. I haven ‘t gotten to any real rock spectacles—maybe the Dylan concert in about 1990, and the Midnight Oil concert in 1988 or ’89, oh and the Bush concert in Ames about 1996. But stadiums are empty sounding and I have never seen the musicians who really matter to me in the big places. But little venues, under a 1000, many under 500, really create the experience that works for me. Oh yeah, Blue Rodeo in the Burton Cummings theater, Elvis Costelo in Minneapolis. The concert tonight convinced me I have to track down David Bynre, and soon, but it also has to be the right place. The fargo theater would be perfect, of course.

May 16, 2005

Just finished Kurt Spellmeyer’s Arts of Living: Reinventing the Humanities for the Twenty-first century, a book somewhat sympathetic to the notion of memorializing the everyday because it is so critical of academic professionalism, although in the end Spellmeyer seems to want students (and academics) to focus on global / environmental / social issues, and not so much the everyday. I always get pulled both ways, because I want to do both. I feel guilt for not being more politically active personally, for not “politicizing” my classes more thoroughly or in sophisticated ways, but I also think that in part everyone needs to get to that level of engagement when they can, and one thing they might need to do is get right with themselves, understand themselves and their beliefs, before they can understand the larger pictures.

Spellmeyer definitely finds value in students making knowledge and making connections, which ten minutes of writing a day can potentially facilitate. What the omni-presence of the writing task seems to do for me is to keep me thinking all day, what am I going to reflect on? What is significant today, or how does the lack of significance in a day like today, in which I started to clean up my hard drive and finished off my grading for the semester, connect to my life as a whole, to the (in)significance of my existence. Well, I definitely feel a change in the rhythm of my life at the end of each semester, a relief and a weight is being lifted, but I haven’t figured out yet if that is good or bad. If teaching is indeed my profession, should I feel more sadness than relief at the end of each semester? Should I move through each semester more in tune with the rhythm of the machine, and move up and down less frequently during and after each semester? Is this rhythm likely to count off my mortality in alarming regular patterns (another year older and deeper in depth) or will I find re-birth and re-newal each fall, each year?

Ten minutes a day should improve my typing.

May 18, 2005

So, here is the rub. I can make 10 minutes to write at the end of the day, but I didn’t get my writing done during the day. I am working on a paper about Scott McCloud’s big triangle as a heuristic guide to understanding and producing pieces of visual communication, but I spent the day reading, cleaning up my hard drive, getting my hair cut, then coming home to get ready for a dinner party. On the one hand I shouldn’t be too hard on myself—I have just finished the spring semester, and should be willing to give myself a little breathing time. But on the other hand, I really need to get this paper written, I more or less have the paper figured out, yet I sputter and stop, never really getting into the project today.

I suppose I need a good old-fashioned “night-before” approach. I should probably just set an arbitrary deadline (my birthday on the 22nd might be a good one), and really stick to it. Work late, work hard, stay focused, get lost in the project. If I had to guess at one major change in my working habits, I seem to have lost the ability to get lost in a project.

I have just been writing for 5 minutes, and I could easily stop here. I don’t know what else I want to write about, but I suppose this is also part of the discipline of 10 a day. Being able to push through, and perhaps being able to discover an idea, a phrase, a theme that I haven’t been able to draw out from my unconscious. Something about “engagement” would be good—most of the reading I did today was pretty critical of Scott McCloud’s idea that icons lead to involvement on the part of the viewer, while reaslistic images present a particular representation of a person, place or thing, an image that we might take pleasure in viewing, but not one that draws us in. Most of McCloud’s critics don’t seem to see or take much stock in the way that McCloud is drawing on McLuhan’s hot and cool but they also have some good points. Griffin is as thoroughly involved in Harry Potter as he is in Pokemon and Yugioh. All three are the kinds of stories that allow for fairly easy insertion of self: the school environment for HP, the battling and dueling in the others. The iconic Pokemon is most clearly directed at younger viewers, with Yugi becoming more realistic, and finally HP being “hot” in terms of media—print novel to film.
My inclination is to talk about the demands these types of representations place on viewers, but that demand does not necessarily result in involvement. Clearly personal history, background knowledge, all sorts of non-textual elements influence the level of investment and involvement. Time is a factor. Adults generally lose this ability to become significantly involved because our lives fill up, but we probably seek it through things like following sports, pornography, playing games, or simply watching TV. TV is really brilliant in terms of not demanding a lot of viewers (in most cases), yet (or therefore) resulting in high levels of involvement, in a fairly ongoing, rhythmic way (the Thursday night or Sunday night ritual).

Ritual is significant here, but I went from struggling to read 10 to writing for 15. Better save my energy.

May 22, 2005
Thirty-seven today: better get to work. I am at the statistical half way point (or something close to it).

Hot and cool media revisited. I am still working on the McCloud paper, and having a bit of trouble working through his definition of realistic images received, iconic images perceived. I really hit the wall when I realized that what he is saying about icons is that we fill in the blank icons, the smiley faces, and he suggests that high level of closure makes them more universal. He has been taken to task for this definition because of course what people want from icons is not “universal subjectivity” but universal agreed upon meanings. Washroom icons need to be agreed upon, not subjectively determined, at least in our cultures that want to keep men and women separate when it comes to private matters. McCloud is trying to figure out “why are we so involved, and he uses essentially the McLuhan hot and cool distinction to suggest that we get involved with these simple cartoons because they are open (cool) to our involvement, but as I have been writing and thinking about this, I just don’t see the observation holding up very well. There are too many examples of hot media that people become too involved with: Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, pornography. And more generally, as I was working on my analysis of the Gap ad, or if we think about the Beneton ads, those realistic images, when un-anchored by text, become abstract, open, unattached from constraints, provide many affordances. Anne Wysoki’s reflection on the Kinsey ad also seems to show how a viewer brings so much more to an image that just what that image seems to invoke. In other words, that ad is really hot—realistic image, fairly specific text, anchored, transactional—but she brings to bear her experiences, her background, her feminism, her politics. High definition visual-verbal communication may not invite closure, may try to limit closure, but it cannot entirely prevent a reading against the grain. Wysoki goes on to call for a different aesthetic, a new approach to design, but such a result seems somewhat arhetorical. Will changing design really change attitudes? Really change patriarchy? What if a Cindy Sherman show had used the same design but inserted the dismembered dolls and garbage where the Kinsey model currently resides? We definitely need to thinking about gender, race, class representations in our visual-verbal texts, and we can / should explore new designs and relationships that might upset the easy associations, but we also probably need to realize that those new designs will be difficult to perceive, to make sense of, the indexical relationships will be stretched and challenged.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

One of the great things about journaling, blogging, scribbling, whatever, is the freedom. The invitation to just write, and not cite, not work out every detail of the argument, not worry so much about how others are going to read what you write. I worked on my Scott McCloud big triangle paper for about two hours this morning, and I added material, but as I started adding I immediately started wondering--am I going to deep? Will my readers get lost in the detail.

Then I thought about pulling back, and all I could imagine is all the readers / listeners saying, "what about X, what about y"? Tricky stuff, this writing. It seems to me that eventually I get locked in--I figure out the right amount of detail, I settle on a dominant or likely audience, and then I stick to a game plan. Not always easy, and I often switch my game plan too frequently. I have gotten better at saying to myself, "well, those are just two different papers, both equally good, both do-able."

I actually had a few moments this morning wondering just how big the McCloud project could be. His critics have complained about his theory or description of "involvement," and that topic alone could be worth a chapter in a book. I was writing about that last night in my non-posted 10 minute spew. I keep thinking about Kurt Spellmeyer's little phrase that art calls us and media feeds us--that seems like a chapter or full blown essay that he condensed into a single pithy phrase. I keep thinking about "taste," too: high art and low art used to be so clearly(?!) or at least vigorously defended, but that distinction is increasingly fuzzy. The modern invention of rhetoric, in one version of its history, offered up the cultivation of taste as an appropriate and necessary antidote to the emergence of the modern market / capitalist system. The father of modern economics, Adam Smith, was also a modern rhetorician/philsopher who developed a whole treatise on "moral sentiments".

McLuhan is an interesting example of one of the first modern scholars, despite his Cambridge PhD, to not openly reject the bad taste of popular culture in the way that his contemporary Northrop Frye did. What the heck does that have to do with McCloud? Comics, I guess, are still trying to get out from under the bad taste label.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The writing, not the posting, is what's important

I seem to make it on to blogger every 2 or 3 days, but I continue to plug away other places: 10 a day. Sounds like fruits and vegetables--similar positive results, I hope.

My most sustained blogging effort failed largely because of the many steps involved: opening Tinderbox (available only on my Mac at home), writing, saving exporting, dialing in, FTPing, checking, adjusting, etc. Any notion of 10 a day became more like an hour. I also concentrated on filter blogging: finding relevant and interesting websites, and writing about those. I found great material, and really enjoyed the processs for the most part, but sometimes would find myself getting frustrated because I couldn't find a site worth filtering, or I would find too many and couldn't decide what to filter.

I think this approach has a lot of potential for sustainability. Writers need to be writing. I need to think of myself as a writer. Sometimes I need an audience, but mainly I need discipline and a routine. How will I know if the writing pays off? If I produce finished products, for sure--I can't let the "notes" get in the way of the end product. I noticed myself the other day starting with a vague phrase about "stuff and things" or something like that, and I replaced my vague word choice with something more concrete. Little things--those might be important. Voice: I want to write my academic finished prose with an engage voice, perhaps more formal than what I am using here, but not much. Geoff Sirc, who got this ball rolling for me, has voice, and knows how to use it (hear the ZZ top in the background?).

Music, music, music: I do keep writing about music, I do keep thinking about collecting it, thinking about drawing on it for my own creativity, but also for my students. Possible assignment: find interviews with your favorite musician (or director, or actor, or whatever), and find out what they say about their creative process and their work ethic. In other words, find out how your favorite "compositionist" works. Oh, that reminds me: read Laboratory Life by Latour and Woolgar. Rename: The Composition of Scientific Facts.

I did just finish Kurt Spellmeyer's Arts of Living--he is willing to see the artistry in all professions and our daily lives. Times up.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Sure, it looks like I fell getting out of the blocks...

but in fact, I have just done my ten minutes a day in word, saved on hard drive. Maybe I'll upload, maybe I won't. The point of the blog is to get me writing ten minutes a day, not necessarily to blog ten minutes a day, but the blog is a nice public, visible, memorable reminder. Friday I couldn't access blogger, yesterday I couldn't grab my neighbor's wireless signal. tonight I am free loading.

i wrote about the lyle lovett concert yesterday in the post I didn't post, and I started listing other great concerts I have attended. This morning, concerts from 15+ years ago started coming back to me--Deja Voodoo at the U of M when I was still in high school ( a great trip into winnipeg and i danced my face off), Deja Voodoo a couple of other times, but never as much fun, Cowboy Junkies in the U of W coffee shop 4th floor--or whatever we called that thing. Oooh, now I am starting to think of a lot of great shows (and a good number of mediocre shows) I checked out when I was in college--that was a pretty big and important part of my life when I was 16-22. I remember saying to people afterwards, after I started graduate school, that I no longer had money for music and books, and books won out. That might have been a huge mistake!

I just remembered a concert that I went to at the U of Calgary though--at a time when I was starting to pull back from the music scene. The Boot Hill Foot Tappers opened, I remember that, and then it was another roots rock Canadian alternative band, but I am forgetting which one! I don't think it was Blue Rodeo, but maybe. Seems to me that it was somebody I had seen in Winnipeg at least once. Like all my favorite concerts then, it was standing room only because there were not chairs and tables--we couldn't help but dance. I do remember being inappropriately attracted to a friend of my wife at the time, which you might think is the reason why she is no longer my wife, but that is not the reason. And who are you, who I am imagining reading this?

Memorializing the everyday--I should have done more of it! I can also see the value in recoveing those moments of passion, excitement, extro-version on my part. I need more of those, I need to let go more often, and music seems to have been a bit part of those moments.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Getting started might be the hardest part

I've been floating this idea of a blog for a while, but it has probably taken me close to a year to actually make the committment. I just read Geoff Sirc's essay “Composition’s Eye/Orpheus’s Gaze/Cobain’s Journals” (Composition Studies 33 (Spring 2005): 11-30) and couldn't put off the project any longer. He makes his usual compelling, unsettling argument for writing about the everyday, for journaling, for shaking off the pretentiousness and strained style of academic reading and writing. I've been reading Ulmer on the value of notebooks and journals too, so push has come to shove.

What Composition needs most, perhaps, is a bad attitude. . . . Compositionists need to feel fucked, too; they need to sit around their living rooms, rip up about 250 shitty “classic” essays in our complimentary copies of reader-based textbooks, and move on, cleansed and revitalized. (23)

I feel like a colossal failure everytime I read Sirc, but I think, "someday I will get it figured out." I wonder how much he is pushing my buttons, our buttons, because I have heard him say he does teach something like academic discourse, he does want his students to suceed in college, to develop some necessary skills. But he also comes across, in person and on the page, as genuine, sincere, a little frustrated, a little tired of Composition as Ways of Reading.

Ten minutes a day is going to take some stamina. I've been writing for seven--the last three probably lead to the break-throughs ; )

So, why am I drawn to the Sircs, the McLuhans, the Ulmers, yet teach The Call to Write, generic conventions, academic discourse, research and citation. Why do I assign what I assign? Betsy just walked into my office to show me FLW's falling water on the new cover of the new edition of "Writing Analytically" and she opened the page to "Doing the method on the poem" and I just had to / have to shake my head--WTF are we doing in Composition?

I think I will go throw out the 55 complimentary copies of Writing Analytically that just arrived in our department.