“You Don’t Change Your Narrative”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Are You Ready for Some Midterms? – MSNBC’s Political Narrative
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

What if remix culture (and concomitant sampling practices) are to blame credit for the willfully negligent truncations of context? Whether such truncations are on the rise, it is difficult to say, but they do seem to be more frequently in the news: 1) absurd fixations on narrative preservation/continuation, and 2) a bandying among television networks over how adequately a clip represents, synecdochically, the situation within which it arose. Samplers all, we cannot avoid the negation of context, can we?, so perhaps the best we can hope for is some rhetorico-ethical insight into why (and how) this happens, and, after that, some relief in laughter.

Star Whale

Harnessed beneath the floating future British metropolis, a star whale labored against zero gravity, acting as a gentle, unassuming engine to carry humans toward some uncertain destination. This is a near-spoiler, I suppose, since it gets at the gradually unraveling Smilerpremise of “The Beast Below,” the second Dr. Who episode to air this season– Sat. night on BBC America. For the second consecutive week, I watched, not fully sure whether I would grow bored with Who’s kitschy special effects or impatient with the show’s fantastical excesses. Yet, like the week before (unlike some), I was pleasantly surprised. I thought Episode Two was well done–well enough that I recommend it: an army of creepy fortune-telling machines (think Zoltar Speaks with extreme mood swings: called “Smilers”), a blaring, flickering civics quiz after which participants have the option to forget or protest (mass, self-selected forgetting preserves the Queen’s authority; too much protest dethrones her), and, of course, the city’s hefty, bottom-floor host, a schizophrenic giant merciful toward the children but unkind to adults. Enough.

All the more striking in this episode was the unmistakable family resemblance between the star whale and the withering, abused avanc in Mieville’s The Scar, that massive underwater creature yoked to Armada as their floating conglomeration of warped hulls and things drifted toward the water’s edge.

Ch. 71

Over the weekend I gave the blog a two-point tune-up. Point one: Rolled
all one-hundred and some entries from
Exam Sitting
(later renamed "Dissarray"…so clever!) into Earth Wide Moth.
I will delete the other site soon. Now my old reading notes have a home with a
hearth: the "yesterblog" will churn those entries back to the front page once
per year so that I can freshen up on all that I’ve forgotten over the last
eighteen months. Point two: Launched a TV station–EWM-71–by
making a page with a bunch of YouTube custom players. I know, I know: all
big media conglomerates started small. Naysayers might add: "Technically,
YouTube is not TV," and to them I would retort, "Why are you crapping on my stoop during this moment in the sun?"

I appreciate that all of the programming is easily controlled and readily
updated through YouTube. I will see a video I want to add, click on it,
bump it into a playlist, and there it is, live on EWM-71. I can also re-arrange
the order of the clips in any playlist. Why bother with this? Well, not only do
I like it, but I’ve been thinking about some sort of project that would tie into
this practice of tele-tubing; something for a class, maybe, where research
involves piling up a yarn of video snippets. Not necessarily a full
24-hour marathons of crappy 70’s TV, but a variety show arranged into a single
page–a wall of moving images. And then write some sort of account of it, a
review of the next person’s programming line-up, annotations, and so on.

Another programming note: Eventually, what I’d really like to see is a Web
2.0 application (developers?) that makes it possible to produce something like

at home. Voice- and video-enabled pairs could connect, pre-load
(or randomize) a list of discussable points, set an arbitrary timer, and then
get going with a pop-pop-pop conversation. And then post it to blog, of
course. Go!

1. John McCain’s plagiarized speech
2. Tayshaun Prince’s minutes against China
3. Spiced ketchup
4. How long of a job letter is too long of a job letter?
5. Peter, Paul, and Mary

I came up with these off the top of my head. But seriously, there would
be a lot to love in a DIY, web-based PTI module, no? If it doesn’t come
along soon, maybe somebody will go out on a limb with me and pitch a PTI-styled
conference panel, so I can get it out of my system.

An Address


Strange Maps shows a map
of ‘the island’ in Lost, and in the
discussion, there is a question about naming, an observation that it is peculiar
that the island is un-named.  In one sense, the LAT-LON coordinates name
the island, locate it, provide it with an address (I would repeat those numbers
here but for the jinx). But the island is not named (Formosa!) in the
conventional sense of toponyms.

The map itself displays layers of plausible locations (colored dots) and
zones (rings) meant to match up with events over the first three seasons of the
program. I find the map interesting because it surfaces at the same time I am
reading and (sketchily) writing about archives, tagging and keywording, what
Derrida in Archive Fever calls the archontic dimension–consignment,
the gathering and piling on of signs.

What does the map archive? And where is the imaginary map between
commencement (sequential) and commandment (jussive)?

I don’t know.  I cannot settle this yet, and I am in no hurry. Lost
is not even airing again for a couple of months, and then, only if the writers’ strike is
resolved. Nevertheless, I am–for these few minutes–taken on a detour through
the map as a museum of Lost, of a topo-nomology embedded almost entirely in television (a
domain, like many others, about which we must continuously ask, What is lost (er,
diminished) in "legitimate hermeneutical authority" (3)?).

On Channel Two

Until I read
Andy Cline’s
at Rhetorica.net, I didn’t even know it was TV Turn-Off week. 
I’ve already soaked up a few minutes of TV today, so I guess I blew that one. 
Next year, next year.  Plus, with the NBA playoffs, forget it. 
Anyway, I’m much less inspired by a week for this and a week for that than I am
by the grad school mantra: "Get yourself right for next week."  Or
something like that.

I read Steve Johnson’s article–"Watching TV Makes You Smarter"–yesterday.  And I’ve read a few of the entries made
by folks (here

) from the blogroll who’ve written on the subject.  Should be clear
from the outset that I’m not sure I’ve got anything much to add.  But I’ll

Johnson’s article suggests to me the importance of more complicated
understandings of cognition–of thought activity.  What happens in the
encounter with a particular interface–paper or screen?  What’s the
mentation?  The mind in action?  And how are mediating tools (Werstch,
Bruner, others) implicated in the complex neural patterns inside one’s head, the
firing of pulse-driven networks, the image vectors figuring some animated
correspondence to word, sound, intelligible object.  Sure, depending on
which examples of television programming we want to invoke as an example, we can
argue that the tube affords us activations more complex than we might’ve known
otherwise.  But loopy, fractured narrative structures?  Not unique to
television nor to any medium.

I agree with Jeff in his contention that
Johnson’s article is a solid articulation of the cultural shift instigated by
new media; a media mind–yup. And yet it’s not just the media part of the
phrase that seems to be misunderstood, obscured in the school-as-institution’s
cling to literacy.  Mind, too, has been shrugged aside either as a
mystical, speculative science or, in no more hopeful terms, as a universalizing
monolith misappropriated to the narrow path of biological determinism (I
oversimplify, but some version close to this one seems familiar).  Three
pounds of generic (c’mon, whose is it?) grey matter and a dissection pan. 
Since I’ve been reading some brain science books this semester, I’ve been
wondering–week in, week out–about how much bearing it has on the work we do in
composition, especially when we hinge pedagogies on new media.  How much do
we assume, for example, about how minds work, about how meaning is differently
apprehended, differently made?  The givens in comprehension? Whether
attendant to the teacher-penned comments at the margin of the page or in the
complexly spun plots of a television program. Recently and specifically, it’s
been Faucconier and Turner on conceptual blends and Antonio Damasio on mind and
affect in The Feeling of What Happens.

I expect this discussion will continue to stir throughout the week–as people
find time to read Johnson’s article at this frenzied moment late in the
semester (two weeks to go at SU).  Its coincidence with
TV Turn-Off
week sets up an interesting counterbalance, no doubt.  As just one last
thought, it also got me thinking about the

episodes ABC has so thoughtfully edited this week (endless efforts
to put H.Dumpty back together again).  Last night they aired a re-cycle of
Desperate Housewives; Wednesday the same thing’s going on with only
must-see show of the season in my world, Lost.  And so even as
Johnson makes the case that television programming potentially stimulates us to
more complex ways of thinking about story sequences and about inferential
dialogue-gaps that require us to fill in through projection and anticipation,
ABC has turned out full, hour-long episodes dedicated entirely to catch-up, as
if everyone wasn’t watching every episode.  Continues the questions, how
will we be conditioned?  What leaks into habits of mind?  And so on.

Added: Dana Stevens of Slate comments on Johnson’s article.