Not Just Any

Family photograph at the holidays, maybe 1984.
Family photograph at the holidays, maybe 1984.

Overnight, planted digitally from the Pacific northwest by my aunt, not just any photo but this one, my dad’s family at Sheboygan, Wisc., holiday, my grandfather, Arvin, notably a WWII veteran, front-right, my parents to the right, brother just behind me, genuine smiles in a moment I can’t quite remember until I see this, but where is memory, anyway?, because then it is there in front of you, kermit frog-eyeing a collapsed cookie monster, an early 1980s Jim Henson haircut, almost but not quite matching shirts, and especially my great-grandmother, Meta, her hand at my back bringing me closer. #relations

Have Some Soup

A friend whose dad died not too long ago just the other day statused about how the loss of a parent ((((stuns)))) you with new base time, increments reset. If it had a sound, it would be the kind of droning low-tonal yawp-hum that would make clockfaces crack, gears melt, springs and innerworkings wrench and bend, digital and analog both, no matter. How long has it been since they died? How many week-months? How many day-years? Nevermind BCE, nevermind Christ’s West.

Apropos for a Monday, today makes twenty-one years since my mom died. It’s nothing to cake about. Seven-thousand-and-some days. 183,960 hours. An e-annotation+8 in seconds. Googling these figures, I learnt too there’s a country song about this duree, “Twenty One Years Is A Mighty Long Time,” but I didn’t listen to it. The Earth flips axes (re-begin your geocoding, GISers!), but you can figure out how to walk it right-side up, footfalls alternating, gravity adequate again. Even if it takes a defiant while. There are mysteries without shits to give about them. Like, I don’t know why I mark deathday this year. Who even cares! Mother’s Day was okay. Some years you really feel it on a birthday or Mother’s Day. Some years, deathday. Probably because of the moon. Wounds long-healing have good days, good hours, bad days, bad hours. For twenty-one years and probably for longer than that.

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Aphorism Aphid Tick

Writing in the abstract also suggests learning the rhetorical device of brevity and the rhetorical power of the aphorism. Teaching the value of exploring something in the abstract, without practical purpose or intention, would return composition pedagogy to its sophistic ethos (we dare not say roots). In other words, finding new touchstones means leaving touchstones behind. It means plumbing the depths of abstraction. It means ob/literating the ground.

at times I need this deep
forgive me
(Haynes, 2016, 106)

Finished reading couple of middle chapters from The Homesick Phone Book yesterday, outdoors on the patio seating at Cultivate, sipping on a peach iced tea, strangers with an excitable dog sitting close enough that when the dog barked I could feel his breath on my leg. His ferocity or was it fear shook the table. Those middle chapters were “Writing Offshore” and “Glitch Rhetoric.” The first is a favorite, a steadfast influence (I can feel it still), an inspiration for the dissertation, a PDF I hand off often to graduate students, though I can’t say I’ve ever assigned it in a class I taught. It’s better adrift.

In “Writing Offshore,” I’ve wanted to pause questioning on water’s alternation to the slower-shifting and stabler-seeming ground of, well, ground. Why not air?, says Gemini with a huff. Earth-water is all. Haynes sets this tension so smartly, completely, convincingly, reason’s earthen stabilizers and uncertainty, wavecrash what’s deposited in tidal pools only to be reclaimed, though to be clear this is just playing at some extensible daydream beyond what Haynes writes, past that edge where the avanc towed the armada in Mieville’s The Scar. Ankle deep wade-in is recalling that I happened to read “Writing Offshore” and The Scar at the same time, when?, maybe twelve years ago. Their syncing up mattered. I don’t think I will ever forget them for being coincident.

I picked up The Homesick Phone Book anticipating a re-charge, intellectual kinship, a sip again of ideas I want to experience again and yet more vividly. We do this with reading, sometimes but maybe not often enough, picking something up again because we do our own most inspired thinking with it, through it, alongside it, from it. For Homesick through me, I am a firelit and alive–younger (transported to twelve years ago when I read so much more…or maybe just so much more excitedly). This time, though, it’s the stuff on addressivity that supplies the sort of trouble I want from scholarship: I am beginning to understand this, I don’t know what to do with this; something must be done with this.

On the note card bookmark I have a scribble about how I want this book to clink boat hull to craggy jut the telephone of the winds, that voice-portal shrine to relatives swept off by the 2011 Fukushima tsunami. The living call the dead (or maybe dead but certainly lost). They chat, catharsis in telephony implying but not quite answering, what if the lost and gone can hear us? I was thinking a homesick phone book would offer directory assistance, some kind of way to understand sublime-extrarational addressivity, or why it’s important to have the right number for a gone. I don’t want to talk to just any dead-departed-lost relative, but this one reasonably stable and identifiable figment. Oh, so telephone of the winds can only connect me to a baggy ephemera mass, mostly memory with touches of other flits and wisps of energy? Is this the only way?

It’s something of a pivot, but whose groundlessness is this inaddressivity? That is, whose un-dialable figment requires foothold? Hmm…what I’m trying to say is, I don’t need anyone else’s dead relative’s number, not so much. There’s trouble in this, the question of locative address for what’s groundless. And some germ of this I hope to carry to Watson in October for the presentation I’ll be attempting there, what I’ve titled for now as “Discipline Going Gone,” on the concept of gones, or dissolution and endings and termini, especiall in disciplinary contexts, unless by disciplinary in October and after manymonths I mean personal. This is not endism, no, but it is precarity-inventory. I hope for it to also outline how gone-noting can aid us in understanding (and perhaps also in continuously articulating) disciplinary fragility. The field’s a mess. Fumblesome af. Something in that willing confusion and its wish, to pick up the slivers of needing this deep and of asking forgiveness (see epigraph), of not finding in a book what’s not there but casting about nonetheless, picking up the phone of the winds, bloop-bleep calling into it, hello?, and asking whether this or that has fallen away, forever lost to waves and sea floor sediment and whale stomachs, whether it (e.g., the still-unbuilt but then almost-built but then washed away hacienda) will be back, asking with addressive precision down to sixteen decimal latitude and longitude when will we see one another again.

N.b. Aphids made it into the title for noticing bug life alongside the barking dog at the coffee place.

Marking the Semester’s Enough

I’ve asked students to write a semester-capping reflection in-class, today marking the end of the Winter 2018 semester at EMU and, with it, the final session of WRTG121: Composition II: Researching the Public Experience. The prompt occasions a letter noting takeaways in terms of attitudes and habits relating to writing, command of language, and grasp of research processes, although it’s a stacked ask insofar as its privileging ground and anchorage qua affirmations of footing, solidity, presumptions of growth that value lodging over dislodging, mooring over unmooring. Another way: might just as well be asking about attitude-habit upheavals, a churn of language, ungrasp of research processes. Whatever of the teaching-learning paradoxes, here are a few of the takeaways for me:

  • Our curriculum moves swiftly from establishing researchable questions and attempting, with the aid of systematic note-keeping, a brief proposal and cursory lit review, next to carrying out a microstudy documented with research memos that adheres to an appropriate research method, and finally to a pair of presentational moves, one in-class (elevator pitch to peers with careful consideration of slidecraft), one at the Celebration of Student Writing. Much of the semester felt to me to be balanced and right-paced, although at the end, two presentational gestures left one (the CSW) lagging secondarily a bit, without enough time to develop it fully.
  • That said, the curriculum remains promising in that there surfaced (for most?) a more obvious and followable connection among an evolving researchable question (or series of questions), sources gathered and annotated in association with the question, the enactment of methods chosen as ways of following rigorously the question out into the world, and the variations on presenterly circulation that care for translation of a nuanced research process into something shareable. Obvious and followable: this, according to students who informally related not having especially much experience with being guided to undertake research writing this way.
  • Our program’s bundle, Understanding Rhetoric and EasyWriter, primes this approach, introducing key ideas and standing readily by as consultatory resources for reminders and support, though at moments this reminding and support isn’t quite enough due to my assumptions about everyone’s remembering these materials as backdrop. I forget to say, use these books in this way (even after reading selections or pitching and modeling usefulnesses at the semester’s outset). Thus, the consultatory function of these books, this semester, seemed to fade, seemed to follow a declining use-trend, when I’d imagined an increase, expansion, uptick.
  • In future semesters, when teaching a class like this one, I may try to do more to poll students before the semester begins, to think together and ahead about thematic orientations. We ventured into environmental justice this semester, but I’m not convinced that the explicit and direct attention we devoted to EJ at the outset sustained as the semester wore on. It felt to me like the most prominent concerns of EJ quieted as our efforts shifted to more tightly tailored research projects; with this is that inevitable tension between the general and the acute, between the frame and the pixel.
  • Early-semester one on one conferences continue to be tone-setting for interpersonal rapport that builds as a semester goes. This practice is reasonably enculturated in the FYWP at EMU, carried out section for section for section, but it’s a practice I’d like to extend with focal intention to other classes I teach, doing more with these scheduled conversations while also thinking about how to keep them student-led and only in minor ways repetitive.

That is it. Enough for forty minutes of in-class writing. Enough to say the semester that was, was. Enough to mark even lightly a few of the details I’ll carry for a while hereforward.

Cabbage, Jicama, Beets

Spiced kraut, jicama sticks, golden over red beets, and cayenne kraut.

Next batches, spice blend kraut (experimental and mysterious, possibly terrible…or great), jicama, gold beets over red, and cayenne kraut. The krauts are half food processor, half crude cut. The jicama sticks are a pay-it-forward to Is.’s schoolmates who after one of her basketball games *ran over to ask, “Can you send more jicamas with Isabel?,” and the beets are a first attempt, ordinary 2% salinity. As for the last round, cayenne kraut was, it brings a briney tear to my eye how good it was now that it’s almost gone. Also did a half gallon of halved brussel sprouts; I’d make them again, tart and crunchy. But I learned that green beans are best with dill and also no, life is pretty fine as it is without fermented asparagus in it. #nextbatch #widemouth

Wabi Sobby – Tournament Pick’em Invitation

Time again for the EWM Yahoo! NCAA men’s basketball tournament pick’em – 15th annual. Same as last year, we’re using Fibonacci scoring (2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21), continuing with the upset bonuses, +2 points for upsets in the first two rounds, +1 for upset picks after that. Everyone is welcome to join this pool, which will include some of the surest, most over-confident pickers of all time. Take a sip of homebrew kombucha to quell any nerves. There’s no time time for calling your mortgage appraiser, warming the oven to make a pizza, gazing into your half-empty crystal glassware for clues about what tomorrow never wanted to hold.

Sign up! Free, free, FREE, yes, freee to you: join this year’s group on Yahoo!, Wabi Sobby (ID#43578). If you have questions, elbow me with all you’ve got via email at dereknmueller at gmail.com. Invite your friends, frienemies, faux-frenemies, Canadian compadres, Facebook abandoners, wishful critical thinkers, mentors, interim interim interim associate provosts, sentiment analyists, old fashioned pulse takers, motor scooter drivers who have parked illegally in the contact zone, members of Relationshoppers Anonymous, elementary school cohorts, neighbors of Appalachian permaculturists, people who say they do yoga but who haven’t done yoga in a week, distractable sabbaticaleurs, avant-garde tattoo artists, grandparents at the frozen yogurt place, weasel whisperers, assessment specialists, etc. The group has space for the next 49 who sign up. Giant stakes: reputations are made (or treated to eternal lessons in impermanence) right here.

Yahoo! Tournament Pick’em
Group: Wabi Sobby (ID# 43578)
“15th annual.”

Firm up your selections any time between the selection show on Sunday evening, March 11, and first tip of the round of 64, whatever time that is EDT on Thursday, March 15.

Join Us in Ypsilanti on March 23

EMU’s First-year Writing Program invites you to join us in Ypsilanti on Friday, March 23, for the 2018 Winter Colloquium. Dr. Melanie Yergeau  will present  at 10:30 a.m., “Black Mirror Meets the Classroom: Neurodiversity and Social Robots.” After lunch, at 1 p.m., she will lead a writing pedagogy workshop, “Disability, Access, and Multimodal Pedagogies.” For more information, contact Derek Mueller, Dir. of the First-year Writing Program,  at dmuelle4@emich.edu, or Rachel Gramer, Associate Dir. of the First-year Writing Program, at rgramer@emich.edu.

Promotional flier for Dr. Melanie Yergeau's presentation and workshop at EMU on March 23, 2018.
Promotional flier for Dr. Melanie Yergeau’s presentation and workshop at Eastern Michigan University’s Pray-Harrold Hall, Room 219, on Friday, March 23, 2018. Free and open to the public. The presentation, titled “Black Mirror Meets the Classroom” is at 10:30 a.m.; the teaching workshop, titled “Disability, Access, and Multimodal Pedagogies,” is set for 1 p.m.

Tempeh 1, Tempeh 2, Starter

First batch of tempeh went surprisingly well, a 50-50 blend of mung beans and hulled soy beans, 1 cup of each when dry, then softened, dried, mixed with 2 tbsp white vinegar and starter envelope.  Thirty-six hours later, a nicely held-together block, nutty and light, suited to a stir fry, enough motivation for a second batch. Second batch was black beans, a one pound bag, soaked overnight, softened by low boil, then drained and dried. White vinegar and another starter envelope. Again, in the folding proofer, positive results in about 36 hours.

With the second batch, I’ve followed instructions here toward sporulating a sliver of tempeh. I cut a candy bar sized chunk from the rhizome-colony, set it back in the proofer, 88F, inside a bowl covered with cellophane. Twenty-four hours later, it’s showing all the new-growth signs of sporulating. Maybe another 24 hours before I’ll remove it from the bowl, set it in the proofing box to dry (for what, maybe 36 hours?), then cube it, blend it to powder, and mix with a tablespoon of rice flour. With this, another new attempt, lentils or chickpeas or a mix of the two.

Tempeh
A gallon-sized ziplock bag inside a proofing box is filled with mung and soy beans that are covered with white mold.