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?