Arrived home from MLA via Detroit on Thursday. Since I’ve surrendered almost three full days to gluttonous lazies: home-made fried chicken, NFL playoffs, afternoon naps, a nightly Wolavers’ oatmeal stout, a breeze through Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and darn near nothing else.

Today I can feel the low, resistant grind of changing gears–from no gear to anything-chug productive. Spring syllabus is due tomorrow–or Wednesday, depending on who you ask (this would be easier if I didn’t read *all* of my email). I’m penciled in for a section of WRT205: Critical Research and Writing, a course that more or less picks a topic (invention by topoi) and then gets on with research a la “critical inquiry”, which I take to mean “examined” or “deliberate” inquiry: self-reflective inquiring.

Did I mention that it’s an online class? I still thinking about whether to heave Blackboard into the weeds (where it belongs?): bypass it altogether and instead channel all of our encounters through a wiki-blog-delicious-youtube mash-up. The former is, if you can stand it, a cinch; the latter is far more interesting and also more work coming at a time when, well, there is already plenty enough work. Tonight, I can’t decide. Tomorrow I’ll flip a coin. But if the coin comes up “Blackboard,” that just might be enough to jolt me back over to the mash-ups.

The course itself–as planned–is a dance with pop culture and media valuation. We’ll read Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good For You, contemplate his handling of the good/bad reversal, and think/write/talk about his book–what he calls “an old-fashioned work of persuasion” in the first sentence–as a dissoi logoi, or strengthening of the (presumed to be) weaker position.

In keeping with program-level expectations for the course, the first unit will be something of a reading of Johnson and his work with sources and evidence. It’s a sort of parlor inventory with a hermeneutic slant, viz. who’s saying what, what it means, and so on. The second unit in the course usually involves some sort of annotated bibliography, but I’m thinking along the lines of a collection/annotation aspect (rel. Sirc’s “box-logic”) that might involve a playlist/compilation in YouTube or Seeqpod. Will put that alongside a more recognizable batch of article/chapter annotations and ask students to speculate about their complementarity. Unit Three is that well-run horse, the sustained research project, 10-12 pp. By that time, I’d like to have the dissoi logoi well-enough in hand that students will be developing arguments rel. to popular culture that complicate status quo views of brain-rotting media. And the fourth, final piece of the course will be some kind of semester-long foray into “serially immersive” new media writing: blogging, annotated social bookmarking, etc. The point here: to again insist on the generative, associative collusion between immersive new media writing and its (still) eventful counterparts in the academy. It’s an online course: this is the both-and set up to bridge the institutionally recognizable (and desired) and peppy, alt-logic digitality.

Melodic Recombination

Linguistically, Is. now comes up with delightfully unexpected sequences: phrases (borrowed from cartoon characters, muppets, us, or wherever), nursery rhyme snippets, lullaby lyrics, and personal observations. Conversation with her is increasingly adventurous, experimental, spontaneous, and thoughtful.

For instance, for the past couple of days, she has sung the alphabet song with an alternative ending. You know the one: “A B C D E F G, H I J K LMNOP, Q R S, T U V, W X, Y and Z.” Only, at this point, she switches to “Twinkle, Twinkle” with “How I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.” The melody follows; it sounds like a continuation of the alphabet song. What I find so appealing about it (other than the fact that there is pure joy in listening to a two-year-old sing) is that it’s a hypertextual maneuver (a protologic of new media, no?) and an unexpected comment on the early development of alphabetic literacy . I’m not prepared to get into Chomsky and Pinker (as I think through this), but I like the way the lyrical crossover introduces a layer of accidental meaning, very much the sort of thing underscored in new media composing. The melody carries, but the alphabet is recontexualized in seemingly earnest curiosity, abstraction, and symbology–for me an illuminating glimpse of Is. enjoying anti-gravity in the “galaxy of signifiers.”

Back on the ground: Yesterday we were out on an errand, in a store, and, after a someone (dark hair, pointy hat) walked past us, Is. loudly asked, “Was that a witch?” D. and I had a similar response: carry on, then out of earshot explain that, no, in fact it was just some other patron, and that we’d have a longer discussion of Ahmed and interpellation when we got to the car. Of course, I also had to explain to her that if, by chance, it was a witch, shouting out the question in open public put all of us at risk of being turned into toads or worse. This is, after all, the more compelling reason for why not to call explicit attention to any of the specters out and about in late October, yeah?