Posted by on Wednesday, October 8, 02014 at 09:00 PM to Sport.

Right Foot, Right

Exactly five weeks ago--and I do mean exactly...at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, September 3--in the middle of a pick-up basketball game I leapt many many inches (±3) into the air to intercept a three-quarter court pass. The ball reached my hands, it stopped there, and gravity brought me back to where I'd started. Only, the landing, settling down on Earth again, dear ground control, didn't go so well. Right landing gear crumpled, an old black shoe sole gripped and wrenched counter-clockwise against the freshly polyeurethaned floors, many thickly tackily coated planks, cork-screwing my shoe+foot and the bones inside until the fifth metatarsal said, "Fuck it. I give up."

Sometimes bones give up. They break.

Landings are so common in jumping sports that I would guess on any given night, through 90 minutes of pick-up ball, there are 1,000 successful landings by any given player. And years ago, the tip-toe landing would have resulted for me in a sprained ankle. I've had tens of sprained ankles, mostly on the right side--so many in fact that I had a knuckle-sized bone spur surgically chiseled off the south-most tip of my right tibia in 1995 because so many bone chips had rustled and rattled in there, nomadic calcifying teasers making the bone think it needed to grown even though it didn't need to grow. But grow it did until sprain sprain sprain, I couldn't lift my toes toward my knee without bone-bone pinching. I'm not complaining, only historicizing the ways some ankle area bones try to retrieve their loose chips, advancing gradually as if to bring them home again. The spur was with a couple of knocks taken away and the ankle more or less as good as new. Refurbished, at least.

But the broken fifth metatarsal was new, a first. I'd only broken any bone once before, my left wrist during a 1990 high school basketball game against Leroy-Pine River, a game we lost, a game I continued to play in after halftime despite having fractured the wrist you guessed it intercepting a goddamned three-quarter court pass. A pass I caught. A landing I flubbed. I recall Pine River (the Bucks) had a couple of giants in the post, immovable trees who we kept fouling and fouling but still could not overcome.

Last month's broken foot popped audibly, a long-faced spiral fracture that left me in a huddled pile on the sticky floor, polyeurewincing with the sensation that something extra was in my shoe--a feeling similar to when, as a kid, my brother and I rode bikes (without helmets!) up Winn Road to the Kountry Korner to buy a Sunday newspaper but didn't have pockets and so carried home loose change in my shoe. That's what it reminded me of: shoe as coin purse, jangling. At least two quarters in there.

Back on September 3, an hour and three wins into our weekly run, I told my teammates I was through, that I'd felt a bona fide pop, and then hobbled to gather my gym bag, fish out five dollars for Brandon "The Commissioner", and without peeking inside the shoe to count the coins (dime and a nickel?), wobbled out to the Element and drove straightaway to Canton's emergency care outfit. They took three x-rays, but they only showed me this one:

"You might need surgery. This is a very serious break. I'm sorry your basketball career had to end this way." They said more, but this is most of what I remember.

By the following Monday, after a five day wait, I finally sat down with an orthopedic surgeon who assured me that it wasn't as bad as I was led to believe, that I would be fitted for an orthotic walking boot, and that I was only to listen to my pain and to return in a month. Before the boot, this:

And after:

And so I'm taking a few minutes here--tapping out a few lines--to commemorate the ordeal because tomorrow is that one-month follow-up. The foot has, as far as I can tell, mended to a point of allowing me to walk (but not jog) without pain. I've been on campus for the last two days without the boot, negotiating the craggy asphalt around Pray-Harrold and having an okay time of it. I hope to retire the walking boot officially and to shift next to a physical therapy regimen that will, whatever else comes of it, get me back to a more runnerly routine and, if I'm lucky, eventually give me the choice to take another trip or two up and down the hardwoods.

Posted by on Wednesday, September 17, 02014 at 02:00 PM to Belt of Verbs.

Graphicacy

For the past few weeks, "graphicacy" has insinuated itself into the part of my brain where nagging curiosity comes from (the self-nagebellum), becoming the terministic equal of an ear worm: word worm. Term worm? Lexical maggot? Whatever. And there, for weeks now, it has wriggled, dug in.

I don't recall encountering "graphicacy" before Liz Losh mentioned it casually in her presentation to EMU's First-year Writing Program during her visit last month. I wrote down several things from Liz's talk, but graphicacy was there on top of my notes, large and starred. It stands to reason that graphicacy keeps company with literacy. Both are -acy words, which means they are adjectives converted to nouns and that they name or identify conditions. Presumably these, too, are nominalizations, but they by-pass verbs, which is the problem I've been thinking about. We have reading and writing to verb literacy, but what verbs graphicacy?

I had to do a little bit of cursory sifting and searching for graphicacy, to start. It seems like the term was initiated in a mixed and sprawling range across math education (learning to plot points and interpret graphs), geography (facility with maps), and graphic design (technical-aesthetic savvy). Late last month, it surfaced in the context of a conversation about multimodal composition and the graphic rhetoric we have adopted at EMU, Understanding Rhetoric. This is the main reason it took hold for me: graphicacy seemed to gather an array of practices related both to understanding and making visuals. It sweeps into one pile an assortment of visual communications--graphs, maps, word clouds, comics, painting, photography, typography, data visualization--much in the same way visual rhetoric does. And yet, with graphicacy as with visual rhetoric, it feels like we are still missing a sufficiently encompassing verb to capture the array of practices.

At our Advanced WAC Institute on campus late last April (or was it by then early May?), I worked with a team of colleagues on a new (for us) configuration. With colleagues from Communications and Education, we put together an institute keyed on five complementary practices: writing, reading, critical (or I would say "rhetorical") listening, speaking, and visualizing. The fifth term, visualizing, was mine to introduce to institute attendees, and it was the most difficult to identify with a verb that was adequate to account for the frame, which amounted to concept mapping, drawing/sketching as heuristic for arrangement, and creating occasions for students to work at the intersection of textual and overtly visual and designerly composition.

Because we called it "visualizing," we began the sessions needing to backtrack and contextualize. With visualizing, we weren't talking about conjuring brainbound images or about an indwelt priming of the mind's eye to work on problems or particular ways of seeing. These were among the associations attendees made with visualizing. And this seemed reasonable. Visualizing wasn't quite the right verb. But what is the right verb? What is the general verb comparable to writing, reading, listening, and speaking that relates not only to seeing but to creating visuals, especially in consideration of vector illustration programs and shape-based concept mapping software that bears only faint relation to drawing?

Graphicacy stirs this question yet again but does not quite answer it. But I hope not to call it "visualizing" ifwhen we convene the institute again next time.

Posted by on Wednesday, September 3, 02014 at 02:00 PM to Sport.

Factory Hyperadequated

I attended EMU's season-opening football game against Morgan State on Saturday evening. Along with a colleague, I made my way through the ticket line, paid $15 for a general admission pass, and found seats on the aluminum benches on the south end of Rynearson Stadium well enough before kick-off to see some of the pre-game activities. Through a summer rebranding effort, which included the addition of gray astroturf (er, synthetic grass substitute), Rynearson now doubles as The Factory, a designation promoted publicly by the program's new head coach. I was seated at the most distant end of The Factory away from where our football players made their entrance onto the field, an entrance I did not notice as special or distinctive at the time, but one that later made its (justifiable, embarrassing) rounds because of a peculiar wall-buster of an idea that involved several players wielding real sledge hammers as they attempted to knock over a loosely stacked wall of cinder blocks. The rally-cry might have been something like, "Some of us will move brick walls together."

Have a look for yourself.

Some have characterized the wall smash theatrics as a dim stunt, others as a silly but forgivable mishap. I agree that it could have been better. Foam bricks, if we must.

The game itself played out as an even match. EMU took a slight lead into a fourth quarter lightning and ominous weather suspension. After an hour, the suspension lifted, and the game played out as a victory for the Eagles by the same score, 31-28.

Yet, in its aftermath, observing as I have some of the strained exchanges about the wall smash episode, the status of the program, attitudes toward extravagances in what are felt elsewhere around campus to be lean times, I remain stuck on The Factory and the labor metaphor it calls, stuck because it has been summoned in haste and perhaps a bit too strenuously.

True, EMU sits in so-called automation alley; factories (many closed, left behind) are thick across the area landscape. And a fantastic, idealistic notion of factories does--for some, I guess--conjure up images of coordinated human-machine brilliance, hard work, sweat, pride, toughness, overtime pay, and camaraderie. Else: chronic fatigue, robot workers, union busting, environmental hazards, sore hands and backs, funny smelling air, indoor lighting, machinic-ambient noises, and so on. This is all just to acknowledge that factories are not so easily envisioned in a warm, soft pillow of feel-good enthusiasm. Factories don't rally for me much sense of a bright and promising future; instead, I think of my neighbor in college who could barely pay bills while making seats for Ford on third shift. And as such, coupled with the gray turf, The Factory is a marketing frame that becomes memorable, though not always favorably memorable.

I don't mean to take pot-shots on the campaign. Not at all. But I do think it is setting up a fascinating case of metaphor and its limits. I.A. Richards in The Philosophy of Rhetoric wrote about dead metaphors, and he used adequate as a verb to pinpoint the metaphor's all-full capacity to excite the interpretive leap from one familiar frame (e.g., football stadium) to another whose pairing would amplify the significance of the first (e.g., factory). That amplification reaches its limits when two become one (i.e., when stadium and factory align). Richards says that the metaphor, once adequated, is dead. It stops exciting those leaps and instead grows weary, tiresome, banal. Wan metaphor. Dead metaphor.

Dead metaphors can re-awaken. And I don't think it's quite right to say that The Factory is a dead metaphor. Not yet. But adequation might be useful in helping us grasp what's going on with our football program's attention-hungry campaign. For instance, I lost count of how many times the work whistles blew--whoo!--during Saturday's game, not because they were infrequent but because they were torturously too many, too many for my taste, anyway. Somebody would make a play, and the stadium would ring (chirp? bellow? cry out?) with a couple of toots of a work whistle. This along with the gray turf and along with the wall smash constitutes a tropical hybrid between metaphor and hyperbole--such an effortful blast that the metaphor has gone from invoked to something like hyperadequated since June 19 when The Factory was first announced. By hyperadequated, I mean that the metaphor is extra dead, groping zombie-like and unselfaware for attention that risks making reasonable people--prospective fans--turn away, cover their ears. Maybe this is what becomes of metaphor when it is grandstanding, straining so hard to take hold that any purported significance is eclipsed by its trying too hard to take hold and to circulate.

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About
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Welcome to Earth Wide Moth. FaceI'm Derek Mueller, Associate Professor of Written Communication and Director of the First-year Writing Program at Eastern Michigan University. Generally, my teaching and research concerns writing, rhetoric, and technology. More specifically, I'm nomadically navigating questions concerning new media and networked digital writing activity, mapping and geographies, visual modeling methods, network studies, and theories of composing. In addition to this blog, which blurs the boundaries commonly thought to separate personal and professional interests, I make use of Delicious, Flickr, Twitter, etc. Send email to dereknmueller at gmail dot com.
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