Sunday, July 26, 2009

The City & ytiC ehT

L ate last week I finished China Mieville's latest, The City & ytiC ehT. TC & CT is a detective story, but it's not just any detective story (what Mieville calls a "police procedural"). In terms of theoretical richness, this one holds even with Perdido Street Station and The Scar. Mieville creates a pair of cities fraught with boundary in.discretions. Citizens from Beszel and Ul Qoma pass by each other every day, but as they do so they must unsee people and things from the other city. Even where the borders become confusing overlaps, in cross-hatched zones likely to draw heavy traffic from autos and pedestrians, unseeing remains a necessary tactic (sort of the opposite of panoptic conditioning; unseeing here as deliberate, uneasy negligence). Political, jurisdictional consequences are of course tied to this cities-wide condition. Within this intricate third-spacious scene, Mieville works up a novel that jets along with surprising acceleration: mystery elements, hazy figures, and ethereal domains, also detective work that relies on the knowledge available even while deliberately unseeing and smudge-remembering what is present (that is, a kind of audiovisually unconfirmed felt sense).

I'd say more, but I already returned the copy to Collin, who both recommended it and lent it to me, and since it was a borrowed copy, no margin notes, no dog-eared pages. But this entry is to say, pick it up. It's a lively, quick read, very much the sort of thing you still have time for even if you feel summer fading to fall.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ken Macrorie

B y way of WPA-L and Twitter, I learned yesterday that Ken Macrorie passed away earlier this month. Macrorie was, among other things, an innovator, a teacher well-known for parodying the most "dehydrated" approaches to English Studies, for railing against mechanical prose, for cracking jokes on hyper-cantankerous pedagogies and their perpetrators.

I encountered a little bit of Macrorie in CCR732, our course on curriculum. We didn't read all of Uptaught. I don't even think I own a copy (it might be packed, if I do). But copies are surprisingly cheap on Amazon: used for 25 cents plus four bucks S&H. They're worth more than that. I also had three or four conversations with my first MA adviser about the I-Search paper, Macrorie's self-styled take on the research paper, research freed up to personal aesthetics, intensities, delight, etc.

In addition to reading Mike's and Jeff's recent entries, I went back and looked at a couple of entries where I wrote about Macrorie's stuff. And I was glad I did.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

NYC

W e took the Empire Service to New York City last week, then strolled around the city for a couple of days as a kind of three-way graduation present to ourselves. D. hadn't been to the city during our five-year stay in NY, having missed the 2006 CCCC and our sprint down to the old Yankees Stadium last year around this time. During this little trip we took the W line from midtown Manhattan down to South Ferry, rode across the harbor and back on the Staten Island Ferry, wandered around Central Park (including the CP Zoo), ate brick-fired pizza at Angelo's, and generally just meandered around and made the most of it. D., Ph., and A. (Ph.'s friend) took in a Broadway show last Wednesday, while Is. and I walked Times Square, hung out in Toys-R-Us, and got ice cream. Ph. and A. spent a couple of hours at the MOMA, too. Thursday, we all took the train back to Syracuse again.

Statue of Liberty

We were caught up in a heavy downpour the first day--not the best way to start things off. But the skies cleared up as we ate, and we still had time for the Statue of Liberty jaunt later that evening.

Central Park

We didn't bring a stroller with us, which meant that D. and I spent a lot of time carrying Is. Not that we mind. But she is getting bigger, and we walked almost everywhere we went. By the end of the trip, my arms were starting to become frozen in the child-perch position.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

G.O.F.

R eading this evening about the 19231 beginnings of the Great Outdoor Fight in Bakersfield, Calif.:

Figuring that where there was noise, there must surely be money, [Ken] Crandall decided to make the G.O.F. an annual event and become wealthy by selling sandwiches  to the crowds who came to compete. He cleared an acre of his land, put up a high chainlink fence around it, and distributed hastily printed fliers throughout central California. An excited public quickly phoned, mailed, or telegrammed the information not only throughout the nation, but throughout the world. Newspapers in Italy ran sensational articles about the "Festival of Beasts," while papers in China advertised trips to California so that one might "Defeat Over Long-Time Dudes." (7)

Onstad, Chris. The Great Outdoor Fight. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse, 2008.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Restyling 2

S pent a few hours this weekend restyling the blog. I'm almost satisfied with the new front page. The internal pages and archives will have to wait. They're still functional because they pull from the style sheet, but I have to shift attention to the other, more pressing work I'm doing this summer or it will mount into a punishing backlog. More about that soon.

The latest design makes better use of Cron rebuilds. I've installed MT-Twitter (Brandon Fuller, I.O.U. $10), created a blog to archive the activity stream, and then ported that blog's contents to the EWM front page using the multiblogs feature. I'm still on the fence about Twitter. Not sure I will do anything worthwhile with it (I haven't adjusted to the different signal-noise ratio, and I'm not certain I want to). But I have an archiving process in place, just in case.

I also created a new logo, new banner, and new favicon a couple of weeks ago. Is. helped me, which explains the spectrum of yellows. And then I dumped some of the clutter (calendar, Google Reader shared items, etc.) and shortened the horizontal navigation bar by making better use of a thin above-banner menu with various app icons. I customized the graphics for the search form, too, but I might redo those when I have the chance, make them slightly smaller. I'm not satisfied with the banner, but I plan to return to that and the other unchecked tasks later on.

If you have any impressions (wow! or sux!), I'd love to hear them. It's still very much a work-in-progress, but I've tried to make the most of since it's also a way to avoid my other, more pressing work in progress.