Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Centigrade 480 or so

Been a few days since we rushed over to the movie house to catch Fahrenheit 9/11.  Plenty has been said about it--from folks inviting the president to view it, to Letterman's top ten, to Kenneth Turan's NPR/L.A. Times review and Jenny and Chuck's insightful entries.  All of this means I'm going to keep it short, mention just two of the pieces that have been fomenting since we watched it early Sunday. 

Stark Juxtapositions: The humorous scenes weren't enough to soak up my sense of shame, horror, disappointment--the whole lot of nightmarish associations volleyed throughout the two hours, playing off the dreamscape opening.  Some of the juxtapositions were plainly crushing, and so I felt sad while watching the movie.  I wonder why there aren't more reviews on Moore's film as sad.  Propagandistic, unapologetic, scathing, and edgily documentary-like, but also sad.  And here we are.  When I left the theater, Bush was still Commander in Chief.

Election Impact:  The movie-viewing public isn't neatly partisan, nor would this movie have been a success if it played a milder line, with a gentler approach to the inquiries and associations.  Sure, it pushes hard issues, and it does so in a way that will reverberate across party lines, that will, perhaps, even redefine party lines.  Why?  It's compelling stuff, I think.  F911 reveals no less than a small bundle of res ipsa incriminations.  The torturous overplay of trailers, reviews, clips, etc. must have a relationship to the latest, and lowest-yet approval ratings (at 42%).  No telling if the hum will last through November, but it's unimaginable that the White House can muster enough damage control to restore Bush's image as a competent leader(!).  Then again, now that the sovereignty or whatever in Iraq has been turned over, Bush and company can refocus on the re-election campaign.

I really should have thrown this together right after watching the movie.  I'm sure I had more to say then. Certain! But there's just been so much F911-ing, and I feel a bit run down, blase.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

He crammed his mouth with fry and munched and droned.

Around Bloomsday, I picked up on a couple of interesting James Joyce projects: Finnegans Wake and Ulysses.  Okay, so it's nothing revolutionary.  Wait a second...maybe it is.  See, both projects are making use of blogs to cycle the e-paginations of the respective novels.  The sites run RSS feeds and disburse one page each day.  I'm not sold on the slow-release scheme for each book, but I am pleased to see the way these blogs are bending the print paradigm into an alternative textual system--complete with searchability, feeds, archiving, and free access. 

The Ulysses project appears to be the better automated of the two at this stage.  If you check the link, you'll see the entire novel is available in chunks and it's cycling through on an engine of sorts, chugging through several hundred pages, one by one over the next two years, automatically.  The Finnegan's Wake project isn't entirely online yet, so there'll be no reading ahead for now.  But FW has comments enabled, so it would be conceivable to watch discussions unfolding out of each page, not that I have any idea what those discussions might undertake. No nubo no!

So while it might not seem groundbreaking at first (nor am I sure this kind of thing hasn't been done before), I want to watch how it goes.  I think it connects in interesting ways with much of the list-talk about subscription gouging and digital models for journal distribution (subscriptions, archiving, access, etc.), news and entries about feeds overhauling the browser approach to reading the web, and transformations of biblio-traditionalisms into what's rapidly unfolding in front of us.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Fire and Bikes

To say nothing of the nearly constant rain, we had a fine time camping at Weston Bend State Park last night.  Yeah...camping, I said.  We jaunted up to the park late yesterday afternoon, hauling along a tent, a cooler, hot dogs, s'mores ingredients, bug spray and a foreboding sense that the clouds on the horizon really meant business.  And they did, sprinkling overhead for most of the night.  It was a basic outing to the campgrounds:  bicycling, burning stuff, and trying to lay low, thereby avoiding the contempt of the grounds manager who, between sucks of oxygen from a respirator, was stunningly rude.

To put off more pressing work today, I cooked up little digimentary, a docu-dramatism depicting our stay.  It's not as long or as essayistic as I would like it to be, but I wanted to play around with the capture feature on my camera and see how challenging it would be to run it through my system into a sampler combining music, stills and video.  The mixing software is an old version of Sony Movieshaker--a standard install on this desktop.  It handled everything with ease, but I wish the audio leveling had greater precision.  Since I'm not in the market for any new software, it'll have to do.

A favorite camping memory:  In the summers, my brother and I would pitch tents in the yard, string extension cords to the tents, and convene long--even overnight--sessions of C64 video-gaming (of course we set up the computer in tent).  It was a kind of portable bedroom wired to the house; our two large outdoor dogs could come and go as they pleased while we fought through The Bard's Tale and Archon.  One of those summers, J. slept outdoors for a month straight.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Glenn, 1995, "sex, lies, and manuscript"

 Glenn, Cheryl. "sex, lies, and manuscript: Refiguring Aspasia in the History of Rhetoric." On Writing Research: The Braddock Essays, 1975-1998. Ed. Lisa Ede. New York: Bedford St. Martin's, 1999. 336-351.

Big Idea
Aspasia, a woman rhetorician from Miletus--what's modern day Turkey--stood in an improbable role during the heyday of the rhet-charged Greek polis.  A contemporary of the patriarchy of better-historicized--Pericles, Xenophon, Aeschines, Aristotle and Sophocles--Aspasia affected the public sphere and contributed, with notable influence, to the votary of male officials.  Cheryl Glenn's 1995 Braddock-winning essay, invokes mapping metaphors to suggest gendered displacements while appropriating Aspasia a legitimate place in the rhetorical tradition.  The essay is necessarily encyclopedic; it also piles through a fair amount of best-guesses, probabilities and likelihoods in a successful attempt to carve out historiographic room for Aspasia.   Glenn's work situates Aspasia in the context of heavily patriarchal rhetorical tradition.  In doing so, she  exposes openings and possibilities in the sketchy historical record, and ends with a call for ongoing re-readings of the rhetorical tradition that ask questions about representation, absence and silence, and that accept Aspasia as a beacon for modern feminist scholarship in rhetoric.

Wondering About
My foothold in classical rhetoric is shaky at its most stable.  Reading "sex, lies, and manuscript" helped me see the tradition as a contested realm, and the trick for the scholar of classical rhetoric--it seems--is to explore the nebulous areas, to inquire about what's missing and why, and to see the tradition anew by refreshing it with now-relevant questions.  It's clear I need to spend more time with B&H's The Rhetorical Tradition; I've plans to crack it later this summer.

The "sex, lies, and manuscript" reference gets explained later in Glenn's essay (or is it in the afternote?).  I never saw the movie sex, lies, and videotape, so the allusion was a stretch.  I think it might have come across more resolutely for readers ten years ago, but the reference didn't seem adequately sustained, sufficiently built-in for me--especially for the juxtaposition of manuscript and videotape. Probably would make better sense if I checked out the movie, eh?

I wondered how differently each of the characterizations--"[one who] ventured out into the common land, [one who] distinguished herself by her rhetorical accomplishments, her sexual attachment to Pericles, and her public participation in political affairs"--rolled together to give Aspasia a single sense of persona.  For that matter, did Glenn find these overlapping identities competing?  Manipulable? Exclusive?  It's not easy to say with precision, but especially in the places where Glenn needles at Pericles' legitimacy (suggesting, basically, that "Aspasia surely must have influenced Pericles in the composition of those speeches that both established him as a persuasive speaker and informed him as the most respected citizen-orator of the age" (342)), I had the sense that the unverifiability of it all encroached on Glenn's argument. And, of course, I recognize that this also points to an imperfect historical record and the difficulties of writing across +/- 2,500 years. 

I picked up a few terms that I'd heard before (some of them, anyway), but that I hadn't explored lately:  arete and homonoia.  As Glenn casts them, arete tends toward an elite sense of governance by virtue--a kind of oligarchic/aristocratic democracy, whereas homonoia called for virtue by all, no matter gender or social class, for the good of the entire democratized polity.  According to Glenn, "Thus was manifested the complex tension between the elitist arete and a more democratic homonoia.  Another useful term was panhellenism, which points to "a doctrine sorely needed to to unify the Greek city-states, just as it satiated the male appetite for public display."  The term is used in a way that might allow something like diversity or heterogeneity (especially in relationships, I guess) stand in its place.  And the last noteworthy term is consubstantiality.  The funeral orations aspired to this attribute of consubstantiality, which basically means that the experience--the rhetorical effect--would be replicated throughout time, so "the shared experience of this rhetorical ritual linked [!] everyone present even as it connected them 'with other audiences in the past' (Mackin 251)" (344).  Consubstantiality.  Consubstantiality.

"Such challenges not only restore women to rhetorical history and rhetorical history to women, but the restoration itself revitalizes theory by shaking the conceptual foundations of rhetorical study" (336).

"When other women were systematically relegated to the domestic sphere, Aspasia seems to have been the only woman in classical Greece to have distinguished herself in the public domain" (338).

"By every historical account, Aspasia ventured out into the common land, distinguished herself by her rhetorical accomplishments, her sexual attachment to Pericles, and her public participation in political affairs" (339). 

"The Menexenus contains Plato's version of Socrates' version of Aspasia's version of Pericles' Funeral Oration, further recognition of Aspasia's reputation as rhetorician, philosopher, and as influential colleague in the Sophistic movement, a movement devoted to the analysis and creation of rhetoric--and of truth" (344).

"Jarratt explains the sophistic rhetorical technique and its social-constructionist underpinning with her definition of nomos as a 'self-conscious arrangement of discourse to create politically and socially significant knowledge...thus it is always a social construct with ethical dimensions' (60)" (345).

"Our first obligation, then, as rhetorical scholars is to look backwards at all the unquestioned scholarship that has come before; then, we must begin to re-map our notion of rhetorical history. By simply choosing which men and women to show and how to represent them, we subtly shape the perceptions of our profession, enabling the profession to recognize and remember--or to forget--the obvious and not-so-obvious women on our intellectual landscape" (349).

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Chilling After the Missouri's Origin

Following the Lewis & Clark re-enactment?  Me either, but for their reservation to stay the night in one of the gymnasiums on campus this weekend.  After the initial request, they got the Old Gym: Labor Hall. One room, 94' long. It's historically appropriate--dusty, bugs, cobwebs.  What...rustic accommodations won't do? The re-enactors prefer the air-conditioned gymnasium for the weekend?  Just as well.  Nobody else is cooling off in there.  To the river's source! 

Wish in One Forum, Blog in the Other

The mighty-meta tug-o-war on techrhet last week whipped up quite a storm.  It's lain quiet again, for now, pending reloads and recalculations I suppose.  I didn't jump in because I was busy in N.M.; it was all I could do to keep up with reading the threads, and as much as it stimulated in my own thinking about why blogs enable something different than I've seen before, I kept cool, not knowing the antagonizers and button-pushers from the from the trumpsters or the trumpeters from the analogs or the analogues from the bots--no disrespect intended.  Single-channel lists: wash cycle hot bleach and mixed colors swirling. 

I started blogging because the lists often fall dead silent or explode in a frenzy of over-action cum clog.  It's not an either-or dilemma between lists and blogs, of course, and I still lurk on a few lists in an attempt to keep up with what all the brilliant, well-established folks, the makers of list culture have to say.  A blog, however, is a different kind of home.  Plus, I wanted to give it a try, write more often--whatever I wanted, in a space where I could tap into what others were saying and where they could tap into what I was saying.  Tap!

I sipped a few beers last night--going away beers--with a blogger and two non-blogging academic folks.  Four of us.  We talked a lot about the futures of blogs as legitimate scholarship, tech-enabled publishing alternatives, the connections enabled in spite of distance and time and (even more monumental) disciplinary partitions.  Although I won't go to great lengths to parade statistically-based or empirically sound proofs of the value (rounded to the nearest decibels) of blogs in composition, I will give a nod to these inferences (as in, take what you will):

  • Let's not forget the importance of interchanges between bloggers and blog skeptics (Pyrrhonist bloggers; I think, but don't blog)--folks who dismiss it as a waste of time, a distraction, a plight of infoglut, an unruly diary, and so on.  Among doubters are technophobes, neo-Luddites, old guards and other well-intentioned folks who might give blogging a try with just the right nudge.
  • Proving a medium takes time.  Assessment models haven't kept up with front-edge media, hybrid pedagogies, experimentation, error.  Oh, and proving the medium deadens it, renders it hegemonic, pledges it to the regulative rain-cloud.  All rubrics can go to hail.  Well of course this is free-float and naive.  But assessment regimens condition us to systematized drone.  The models fall flat.  The coursework is a bore.  Disengagement begets cheating, and cheating inspires outcry.  I'm not ready to say assessment is the enemy, but just frontload a call for writing with a four-column rubric and see what kind of tamped out stuff unfolds.  Ore into molds, mechanically poured.
  • Blogs chip away at segregations between journalists and academics, between the public sphere and the academy, between old and young, between Michigan City, Indiana and Fulton, New York, between 1:00 p.m. and 1:45 a.m., between you and me.  We're apart, no we're together.  Apart.  But here. And there. Yes, and blogging does that.  I suppose MUD's and MOO's do that, too.  Or wiki's.  Or house parties. Or flagship conferences.  But blogging doesn't require us to share a project as much as to share a curiosity; it doesn't need us to gather, but it enables us to disperse, to distribute, to connect, and to recoil.  Invitations to all.

Well, I tried.  That's all I have to say about weblogs for now.  I was noticing--disturbing as it is--that my "On Weblogs, On" category was crusting and falling behind the other categories.  So I needed to carry on about blogs. 

My infrequent posting are explained by a new pile of work at work.  Since my official letter of resignation didn't get circulated far and wide, it's taken word of mouth to spread the news that I'm leaving the U. in less than a month.  With that, I'm in on a whole docket of meetings--including another pair of search committees tomorrow.  Mission:  replace myself.  Tackboard: Sell the house that hasn't sold, scrap through online stuff, scratch that itch to see F 9/11 [link via IA] this weekend, plunk out notes on Glenn's Aspasia, mow the front grass.  Well, yeah, and see which forum gets full fastest.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

On Fathering


Happy Father's Day, Pops!

I hope J. was suggesting that the bottle goes in my mouth, not my ear. And no, that's not my index finger I'm waiving around. (Sorry--no clue who I was giving the bird at <2.) [Idea for photo-posting on Father's Day with gratitude to Krista at Arete]

Bernalillo, N.M.

Back from New Mexico last night; I haven't had much time for blogging.  Here are a few photos from the camp and a story from the Albuquerque Journal about what I've been doing for the past four days. Considered picking up this t-shirt from the gift shop.

The folks putting on the camp.  We had about 300 kids attend this year.

T. and E. with three of the young dancers who performed at closing ceremonies.

The mountain at the edge of Albuquerque.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Pot Shards

"I was serving my tribe before serving my tribe was cool": Gov. of the Zia Pueblo on a guided tour this morning.  The tour started at the oldest church in the United States--a modest one-room Catholic adobe put up around 1660.  From the church, we walked a few hundred yards to the plaza where the Gov. challenged the athletes to a traditional foot-race across the plaza.  Only about seven of the athletes competed (and none of them were basketball folks), but the Gov. put on a good show, finishing in the top three, and with cowboy boots on.

I'm on the coat-delivery crew in the (early) morning.  An organization out of Pa.--Operation Warm--is here.  They distribute something like 50,000 coats each year to young people.  So before the camp sessions tomorrow, six of us are off to the Santa Ana Pueblo.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Painting the Painted

The airspace around Albuquerque shook our jet plane like a sand winder.  Chop! Damn! Turbulence!  At dinner, a local CPA (who handles salary cap negotiations) said the pocketed cross-drafts rattle most first-time visitors, especially the ones gliding into town from the West and North.  We sputtered in from the Northeast.  Am I relieved? 

It's late, and I'm exhausted.  Between dropping Ph. at basketball camp this morning, sitting in on a search committee for two hours in the morning, scrambling around to pack, herky-jerking through the Southwestern skies, and mucking with all of the fine Native Vision folks: p h e w.  Enjoyed the company of the principal from Bernalillo H.S. at the reception for the program.  Lots of talk among the athletes about the athletes v. campers basketball game on Friday night.  If I'm the youngest player, we're in trouble.  Bernalillo H.S. won the N.M. 3A State Championship this year. 

After an early breakfast at the hotel in the morning, the 37 folks on the athlete list are shuttling over to the Zia Pueblo for a tour before re-assmebling at the high school.  I brought the camera, but I don't intend to tote it around.  Picture, what?  It goes: take memories, leave dust tracks. 

Nice talks with Jim Rourke (of B.C. and the KC Chiefs, Oakland Raiders) who now lives in Boston and who had nothing but fondness for the Carrier Dome--when the subject of Syracuse came up.  He told me he played against SU in November during one of the last seasons before the dome was built.  November 12 of 1977?  Yeah it was cold.  And SU won, 20-3: even colder.  Enjoyed listening to Scotty Graham and Steve Jordan (former Vikes) chat..oh, and Toni Linhart.  Heck, everybody.  NBAers?  Just as I was coming up to my room, Dan Roundfield was checking in.  Camp sessions start tomorrow afternoon. Quite a group.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Just a Ballandabasket

I suppose it'd be overkill to post an entry about how much I enjoyed the NBA Finals. So I won't pester you with the sweet details.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Swamp Misfits Charming Burst

In the spirit of Chuck's link [via pullquote] to "the [cool] Four Word Film Review" site, here's my take on Shrek II: Greeny Saves Face, Gingerly.  If you liked the first Shrek even a little bit, see this one when you have a chance.  Okay, it's late, probably not showing this late.  Go see it tomorrow.  Or Wednesday.  

As sequels go, it's smarter, riskier--pun after pun, topsy-turvy plays on fairy tale lore, new characters (what's up with the Pinocchio scene?), and just plain fun.

Dear Dream Interpreter,

Dear Dream Interpreter,

Sorry for not writing until now and for sometimes saying aloud that dream reading is worth a pinch of sh!t.  I hardly ever remember dreams, but the other night I had two vivid visions.  

In the first one, I dreamt that this stupid house never sold--never ever sold.  The details are fuzzy, but there were a heap of for sale signs in the front yard.  Hundreds of for sale signs piled together, bent, rusty.  And I felt disappointment. And it was not easy to cut the tall weeds growing up between them.

In the other dream, I was standing in the lunch line, about twenty people back from the ticket-taker at the cafeteria for Beal City Public Schools.  Who butts in from the back of the line, cutting, along with three of his friends?  Shaquille O'Neal, that's who.  WTF?! I couldn't see his head, but the Lakers jersey and No. 34 gave him away.  He and his friends pushed by us and into the kitchen.  The end.

So what could all this mean, Dream Interpreter?  



Sunday, June 13, 2004

This box belongs to:

At the edge of the chair watching the NBA finals.  

Tweaking minor goofs in the VCampus to eCollege conversion piloting in the U.'s online courses this summer.  Our DL staff told me this was the largest online course migration--moving between CMS providers--to date.  No idea how they figure that or whether anyone cares.   Noticed today that some comments (in an asynchronous threaded discussion) were time-stamped out of order.  So the response gets tucked in before the comment to which it replies.  

A wall of wind and lightning gusted through KC last night, flickering the lights and littering the area with branches big and small.  All the newscasters could talk about today is the registering of 75 MPH, "hurricane force" winds that blasted the region last night.  Up on the rooftop one shingle lifted, so I scaled the ladder, rummaged around up there late this afternoon, dabbing fibrous tar-goop.  

Prepping for a trip to N.M. on Wednesday.  Will fly into Albuquerque for this summer's Native Vision Sports and Life Skills camp.  All the to-do with house-selling and moving has left me feeling distracted; my focus definitely isn't on the camp--hosted this year by the Southern Pueblo Tribes in Bernalillo (which, I think, is just outside Albuquerque, although I haven't checked a map). We learned on Friday that the house-seller in Syracuse accepted another offer.  So we're just counting days, waiting impatiently for this lovely house in KC to be swept off the market by a new owner.  Else?  Too early to say.

I've been keeping readerly tabs on all of the exciting things shaking up the Blogosphere--the Hawaii C&W conference, mainly, and Jenny's hard-earned, well deserved Best Blog Award.  Is there a trophy?  Some kind of graphic insignia?

Pizza Hut now boasts WingStreet here in the metro area.  And we ordered some wings. But I've decided PH should stick to pizza.  Traditional pizza.  Chicken products from pizza hut--buffalo style chicken pizza, chicken as a topping, WingStreet wings--leave a lot to be desired.  I don't usually flail around with grand decrees about food stuff, but I'll never eat chicken from Pizza Hut (or WingStreet) again.  Blech!

Blog entries I've been contemplating: 1. How are the Braddocks going?  I'm a third of the way through them.  Continue?  Shelve it? Change the approach? 2. My oldest uncle--G.--succumbed to cancer yesterday.  It was a long, relentless time working on him. Been thinking about a tribute, mainly because watching Big Fish last night (between storm flickers) brought up a few ideas about memory, imagination, myth, family.  I hope to share some good ones later this week.  And my uncle G., being a pastor and a forestry biologist, well, I sense a certain, tough-to-describe peace about it all, in part, maybe, because his time came almost exactly seven years to the day after his younger sister, my mom, passed away.  Heh.  This paragraph started out about the Braddocks.  No, I'm not all over the place.  Really. 3.  Bookmarked this article from the NYT.  It ties into a whole set of issues about verified readership. So I can put a clandestine confirmation cue in the message to ascertain it has been certifiably, indubitably read?

Friday, June 11, 2004

Odell, 1980, "Needed Research in Discourse Theory"

 Odell, Lee. "Teachers of Composition and Needed Research in Discourse Theory." On Writing Research: The Braddock Essays, 1975-1998. Ed. Lisa Ede. New York: Bedford St. Martin's, 1999. 84-92.

Big Idea
Lee Odell argues for yet-to-be-done composition research as of 1979.  He contends that we must not only be practical and pedagogically centered, but we must also shape discourse theory and adapt it to benefit students.  His premise rests squarely on the basic notion that theoretical investigations in composition must always return to practical matters, to pragmatic application in the classroom on Monday morning.  I'm not certain how long before Odell's 1980 piece the Monday morning question became a fixture in composition studies.  "How will you use this to teach?" was often bandied about by some of the practice-heavy folks in my MA program.  It's a line of thinking that somehow characterized the useful and worthwhile queries as ones that can be proven to funnel toward students' proficiencies in writing.  Unless it shapes student writing, it's fluff, abstraction (or that's the script, anyway).  Odell's brief article starts with a push away from Kinneavy's Aims of Discourse; he faults the aims for their overemphasis on product at the expense of attention to the series of choices reflected in a student text.  Odell thinks composition folks should investigate student choices by engaging in comparative readings of drafts, redirecting student projects through revisions toward "different purpose[s] and appeal[s] to a different audience," and by enlisting students to explain--even through tape-recorded narratives(!)--their own choices while writing. Odell suggests advantages in comparing unassigned student writing (writing done for non-academic purposes) to assigned student writing.  How, for example, do styles vary when the writing is subjected to the forces inherent in the institutional arrangement?  Because we can be sure student writing performance varies, we must acclimate our evaluation methods. Odell's case aspires to getting inside why students do what they do when they write and understanding full well how our own work affects what they do.

Wondering About
This is a brief little article, under ten pages.  It reminded me about one of the research interests of a professor in my MA program.  He contended that one of the first orders of business in teaching composition was to come to terms with the thing that governs students' sense of essayism. He supposed a kind of accumulation of essayistic force compelled many students to write mechanically, guided by their overpowering sense of what an essay is (often conditioned by years of Thou Shall Not's) rather than what the specific language in the prompt asks them to do.  In these terms, students' choices aren't always affected by consciousness, choices aren't always easy to articulate, decisions aren't always precise or simple.  And I wonder if the same is true for more experienced, even professional writers.  Must we always be able to explain choices?  Is every articulation governed by a choice?  Is it possible for unchosen (free, unrestrained, accidental) articulations to achieve a desired aim or must the entire writing process be underscored by choice after choice in pursuit of an explicit aim?

Along these lines, Odell's essay sent me reminiscing about a hard camp-line in my MA program.  The line basically divided those who held that, in fairness, instructors must account for the entire semester's plan at the outset of the term of study.  Students should be able to look ahead;  proper planning by the instructor ensures a more organized semester and, as a result, the course will come off as more polished, more coherent.  Over on the other side (Me? Oh, back then I straddled.  Good MA students avoid the wrangling, stick to the middle.) were folks who contended that we cannot know where what the next assignment should be until we've read the one before it.  It was more in line with responsive pedagogy--the kind that accepts that we need to improvise, bend the curricula to our students who vary from term to term, and allow for contextual factors to steer the course rather than proceeding from an inflexible master plan.  How does this connect with Odell?  I think his work here supports a version of the second approach, the loose and responsive plan.  After all, he argues that we must get to know our students and, in doing so, realize that effective pedagogies are fine-tuned to specific students.  

It makes sense that composition instructors should care about un-assigned student writing.  Digital media have given us greater access to unsolicited writing done by students; we can read weblogs and participate in chats without getting wrapped up in institutional dynamics.  But what other sources of un-assigned writing are there?  Where might we look harder at writing done by students outside of academia?  Why are they writing?  How might our writing curricula navigate the assigned-un-assigned binary for the betterment of everyone involved (including the assessors, accreditors--who unfortunately matter)?

Notably, several of Odell's methods for getting to know the choices students make when writing strike me as incredibly laborious.  Tape-recording?  Reading multiple drafts and attempting comparative readings of multiple drafts is challenging, but listening to students' voice-recordings explaining the choices they've made in a particular essay draft seems impossible.  Could be my own sense of appropriate pace and workload, but I can't imagine attempting more than two essays in a sixteen-week semester if multiple stages and careful interrogations of choices were part of the plan.  At times, I have used MS Word's document comparison feature to read revised essays against their predecessor, and although it doesn't come with a student narrative about specific choices, it does reveal patterns and lend insight to the scope of changes being applied between drafts.  I can also see the use of a discussion of choices when conferencing with students.  I've never tried it, but I am curious about the experiences of folks who have used voice-clip inserts to comment on student writing (in the mix of text-based comments, perhaps).  And I suppose this comes close to one of the recent discussions on the WPA list about the writing assessments used by UPhoenix where, because of the burden of responding to student writing, human readers are teaming up with machine readers--layering computer and teacher--toward a two-part rendering of response to student writing.  It's not exactly what I had in mind when I wrote about collaborative commenting a few months ago, but it churns up some interesting (disturbing, exciting) possibilities.   

"One basic assumption in current discourse theory is expressed in James Kinneavy's claim that purpose in discourse is all important" (85).

"A second major assumption in current discourse theory is that different writing tasks make quite different demands on writers" (86).

"The writing of our students represents a kind of information that is almost impossible to obtain in any context other than a course that is primarily concerned with students' writing" (84).

"Whereas we once could use a single, widely-agreed-upon procedure for evaluating all the writing done in a given mode, we may now have to use a variety of evaluation procedures, most of which we have to create for ourselves" (88).

"When our colleagues complain to us that we're not teaching students to write, they often mean that they're tired of seeing misspelled words and sentence fragments" (89).

"If it is true that students are likely to be more successful with one sort of writing task than with others and if it is true that we must vary our evaluation procedures according to the specific writing task at hand, we may have to make substantial changes in the way we assign and evaluate writing" (90).

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Mugs Across the Curriculum

A group of Harvard students has fashioned a social network site for stimulating connectedness among coeds at several top-flight schools.  According to their site, 

You can use Thefacebook to:
- Search for people at your school
- Find out who is in your classes
- Look up your friends' friends
- See a visualization of your social network 

This has interesting possibilities, especially for its emphasis on institutionally centered networks as safe(r), inherently associational, loaded with potential for fruitful connections. The visualization feature is intriguing, too.  And although it's pitching the social dimension of undergraduate life (where there are, of course, other ways to "find out who is in your classes"), I can't help but wonder how Thefacebook could affect professional networks or whole fields of study, perhaps even the entire professorate (provided there is such a thing). For now, the group is playing on the kid-ish "poke" to name the contact gestures.  Pokes are kind of like trackback pings--only they're aimed at interpersonal, single-channel (removed from wide readability) communications; I suppose this brand of funning toward a sense of social connection and generated collegiality would doom Thefacebook to imminent failure in more formal (read serious, read professional) circles.  But it's fun to think about the potential, even to imagine how this might reweave the social fabric for community colleges or commuter-based institutions or large-scale distance learning programs (none of which appear on the list yet).  So far, according to the article on Wired News, nearly 250,000 students are registered for poking at 34 institutions.  Notably, the site limits poking to folks at one's own institution, which makes good sense considering that students at Harvard really shouldn't be poking students at UMich--and vice versa.

Monday, June 7, 2004


Still too lazy/occupied to muster a full blown entry, but these photos dumped from the digital camera are a quality holdover.  First one is a look at the falls.  Broke up the drive on Friday by stopping in Niagara for an hour and a half.  Strolled around; ogled the view.  Delightful weather for onlooking. American Falls are on the left; Niagara (Canadian?) Falls on the right.  I can't recommend the Planet Hollywood restaurant.  D. discouraged me from photo-documenting the reason.  Go ahead; ask why.

Patched panorama

Here is my favorite pic from the trip.  On the way back through Detroit, I passed on Syracuse memorabilia to my nephews.  The orange wig was a hit--far more coveted than the stuffed Otto we brought.  In the photo, older nephew T. is in a compromised position, holding fiercely to the wig on his head and the wireless Nintendo controller in his left hand while younger nephew T. goes for the two-for-one: choke hold and wig grab.  Oh so brotherly. 

Should have picked up two orange hairs

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Gobbling SU

Twenty second eatery reviews:
1.  The Varsity.  Perfectly bad food.  Mmm.  Affordable pizza by the slice, cheap beer in plastic cups, curious and not-too-spicy wing sauce, an environ slathered in Syracuse memorabilia.  Recommended by R. Brecke, the only SU alum on the faculty at my current U.  And we ate there twice today: lunch and dinner.  Cholesterol?  No worry.  All hospitals between the restaurant and the hotel.  Plus we walked the long way back through campus this evening, stopping through Crouse Hall to remember where things were and to read some of the postings and messages on office doors.   
2. Munjed's Middle Eastern Cuisine.  Lunched in the Westcott district yesterday.  Ph. and I chomped spilly pockets of beef-lettuce-Mediterranean sauce.  Good eats.  We'll definitely be back.  D. tried out some kind of chicken on a bed of hummus.  Different.  She would've ordered chicken and rice, but they only serve it on Friday and Saturday.  Cool when restaurants have odd menus with some stuff for specific days. 
3.  Genesee Inn continental breakfast.  Fruit, cereal, juice, coffee, yogurt--name it.  All while looking out from the sixth floor concierge room of the recently renovated hotel.  Genesee Inn's a good fit.  Close to campus (four blocks up the hill), clean.
4.  Alto Cinco in Westcott.  We almost ate there for lunch yesterday, but it was so crowded that we slipped next door to Munjed's.  A.C. is popular; it was crowded when we returned in the evening (just down from T. & T.'s house).  They serve handmade Mexican food.  Lots of choices on the menu.  I tried the chicken mole.  Not bad, but next time I'll try something other than the mole.  The catfish burrito or chili relleno thing, maybe.

Other stuff:  D. and I started the day at the OCM-Boces admin offices on Thompson Street (just south of the airport).  Drove up there because D.'s calls from Missouri have been perfectly futile and we thought a drop-in would get us closer to certification.  Missouri and New York don't have a reciprocity agreement, so there's more processing involved.  Funny, we chased around from building to building before we were referred to an elusive "Elaine" in building A.  At the door, they pointed us to the conference room, told us we could call "Elaine" at Ext. 6213.  "Elaine doesn't see people," said Doordesk.  "Sorry."  Surprise that Oz author L. Frank Baum is from Chittenango, just a few minutes up the road?

An older couple in a minivan pulled up to a stop sign, rolled down a window, and asked me where the Genesee Inn was.  "Go down to that light, take a right, it'll be on your right."  Sort of a turning point to give out directions in a new town--especially considering that I was the one puzzling over directions to the same hotel just three days ago. 

We formalized an offer on a house this afternoon.  Will see where that leads.  Figure it's a toss-up since another offer was promised around the same time.  Should know more by the end of next week. Tomorrow we'll snake back through Western New York and Ontario to Detroit.  Rest of the drive on Saturday.  May usual blogging resume before long (remember the good ol' usual days at EWM?).

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Aspirin Commercial and Dino BBQ

Detroit-Indiana, Eastern Conf. Finals, game six: one long aspirin commercial.  Can we get Bayer as a sponsor next time these teams play?  And for the NBA Finals, it would only be fair to let Detroit and Indiana combine teams to play LA.  The Wallaces, Jermaine O'Neal, Rip H., Reggie Miller, Tay-tay Prince, Artest, Billups. That'd be even.

Sampled Dinosaur Barbeque (Willow & Franklin) here in Syracuse tonight.  'Twas a recommendation, so we stopped in for dinner.  Ended up sitting outside; missed some of the blues atmosphere and moto-decor on the inside (although the music was piped al aire libre).  Picked up on a Harley-Davidson theme, but didn't sort out the connection beyond (coincidental?) clues.  The cornbread grubbing sparrows were something new.  Decent barbecue, I'd say, but the sauce was more of a salsa barbecue than the spiced smokehouse stuff we get in KC at spots like Gates.  Not used to seeing vegetables (bits of onion and green pepper?) in the sauce.   A generous smattering of Now-and-Laters and Pistons basketball for dessert.  Is this the worst (perhaps baddest) travelogue ever?  (That's okay.  It's a restaurant review. And a Pistons fanzine.  And an aspirin commercial.)