Sunday, October 31, 2004

Mist, Crumbs, Peculiar Ethos

I found Corey Union the other night (and damn, how I should be working on a response paper--something from Handa's vizrhet anthology this time).  I found Corey Union; parked on the uphill grade just a block from the place.  Into Exhibition Lounge, I strolled.  It was empty, dark.  Televisions stood on each side of the podium; one leaked static, the other, a faintly discernable "unusable signal" message.

Note-taking during a Vitanza talk is a nasty gag.  Trick, treat, then this? What?  Yet I scribbled until my miniature yellow tablet filled up.  Then I stopped.  And so these notes are my own (and now yours) strings.  

The television monitors--two of them--mattered to the talk.  Vitanza's text (talk) coincided with the movies; each screen played a slow frame-rate picture-show: hands typing, VV talking, cutting mushrooms, duck and cover footage.  All of it loosely discordant--a purposefully jumbled synchronization of themes, resonances, unmatched with the precise (re)turns in the paper he read. And the object (although everyone in the audience would disagree, mostly) was to find the in-between space, the gap between the spoken-text and the screens.

Said Vitanza of the (de.per)formance, "Impossible to follow.  It does not follow."  And no claims to immediate intelligibility.  And "unmasking is forever an unmaking."  But I might have that wrong or it might have been a quotation from Deleuze on actual-virtual and two mirrors.  I might have it all wrong.  And in this case, that would be okay. "This event is for tomorrow unfounded on yesterdays," Vitanza said.

It was called "The Coming Pedagogy of the Peculiar."  With refs to post-pedagogy--knowing and making even if or always non-codifiable, Vitanza addressed theory, asked us "to learn to live with ghosts," Hamlet, Marx, and Derrida, himself.  String: beside "himself." String: the ground, the ?, the indeterminate self that shakes us, sets us trembling. And "let us not lose sight of the alongsides."  Vitanza told us definition means to limit: creating certainty by throwing away the crumbs.

I got particularly rapt up in his suggestion that "community is always coming along" and that "it resists collectivity as much as it resists individuality."  And a nursery quip: Subjectivity sat on a wall.  You know the rest. Essence-existence-irreparable. String: Less interested in what goes for truth.  More interested in a discourse of untruth which has haunted the text.

It was, on the whole, haunting.  It promised to be. And here you have fewer than half of my notes which continue--strings--loose, tangential, listed.  Fifty minutes plus Q&A: vagabond Sophists, Zeno's arrow, chromosomic multisexes (how many you want?), mushrooms and dough, Virginia Woolf, Proteus and a bowl of water.

~Keep your eyes on the in-between--the space between the excluded middle and the excluded third. Between them should haunt you.  It should disturb you.

After the talk, I met and talked with Alex (and expressed my gratitude for his return email filling me in on the time, location), then introduced myself to VV, asked him how we'll re-gain access to his talk--an essay? Book?  Kit.  It'll likely be a kit.  Available sometime soon--a future date "unfounded on yesterdays," to be sure.

Drove home in the rain.

Friday, October 29, 2004

CNY Conference

Blog's been nagging me for an entry.  Okay, so it's Friday afternoon.  I picked up 37 seven-page essays with invention portfolios this morning. (Mercy Closeme! Quite a stack.) And after reading yet another 100 pages in Lakoff's Moral Politics this afternoon, I'm worn down tired. Damn near too tired to climb in the Element and zip south for VV's talk in Cortland at the CNY Conference on Language and Literature this evening at 7:30 p.m. Key-note. For illustration's sake, the photo right shows just how close I am to not going. But for the open-ness of a still narrow margin.  I'll try to blog a few notes about it later, provided I can find Corey Union. 

The theme for the conference is "Haunted by the Future: The Academy's Coming Community."  No better way to convene Hallowe'en weekend.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Wednesday: Vital Issues

1.  Never ever ever end an email with the closing, "Educationally yours."
2.  Lakoff's radial prototypes ~ Berthoff's ladder of abstraction?
3.  On the walk home from class Monday night, five or so houses ahead, a skunk crossed the street, crossed the sidewalk and went under a front porch.
4.  Two slices of pizza for lunch today.  My health?  Notaworry.  One slice was supreme--topped with bits of veggie. Plus I biked to campus today. Plus I gulped lunch with a Diet Pepsi so the calorimeter would even out. 
5.  Past-a-Past-a-due-date-form. Nobody at SU has checked out Weaving a Virtual Web: Practical Approaches to New Information Technologies?
6. Campaign this-n-that: Hawaii matters. (From random bloglines links I haven't read on a word level)
7. To avoid the skunk (a chance meet-up on my side of the road), I crossed the street, slinked a wide curve to be sure not to startle it.
8. "I said peppermint tea." (Ever clarifying my tea order so to avoid the dreaded--and day-ruining--pissmint tea they put in a cup for me the other day.) I didn't drink it all, but I did take a second sip (for experimentation's sake) to make sense of the non-minty flavor of hot whatever-drink and honey they'd served.  Faintly like sweet chicken soup.
9. This morning, skunk odor in the neighborhood.  Next, where's my copy of Comp in Four Keys?
10.  Just a few minutes until I offer a talk on C. Selfe's Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century:  The Importance of Paying Attention.  What to say?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Spectral Season

D. and I drove over to Marcellus this afternoon to take in one of Ph.'s last soccer matches of the fall.  I can't overstate the value of getting off campus, winding through the CNY countryside this time of year.  Several amazing scapes surround on Syracuse's edges; we turned off at Marcellus Falls just before arriving at the field.  I probably won't be able to take in either of the last two matches (next week), and I still hadn't snapped any pics this season, so we had several good reasons to make the 30 minute drive. 

The digital camera's been on the shelf all fall.  I've used it intermittently--wacky in-house blogabilia, but nothing like I was doing a year ago when chronicling these fellas (#4 nationally, wtg E. et al.) was my mainstay.  So I dusted of the electra-kodachrome, shuttered a few moments from today's match.  Below, two of my favorites.  More photoshere.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Fun-Hog Vote Favors Kerry

Hunter S.!

Even the Fun-hog vote has started to swing for John Kerry, and that is a hard bloc to move. Only a fool would try to run for president without the enthusiastic support of the Fun-hog vote. It is huge, and always available, but they will never be lured into a voting booth unless voting carries a promise of Fun.

[via datacloud via boingboing]

Wednesday, October 20, 2004



Ph. brought home an English quiz with a score of 95.  Great.  Just great.  It was a take-home quiz.  

Instructs: On your paper circle the letter of the word whose meaning is unrelated to the other words in each set. [No kidding.]

10. (a) forgotten, (b) imagined, (c) conceived, (d) formed

Context: It's a vocabulary quiz on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart."  Ph.'s answer: A. Marked wrong. Normally I wouldn't bring Ph.'s school work here (human-subjects ethics quandary), but in this case, he's looking at me distrustfully when I say that I think it's mistakenly marked wrong.  I could use some consensus here.  What's the answer?


More related (and because I've been horrible about keeping family and KC friends updated since we moved to NY): Ph.'s middle school soccer squad won again tonight, 4-0 over Cortland, lifting their record to 4-5 this season.  They've won four of the last five games, and Ph. has scored goals in each of those five games, accumulating six goals along the way.  I know, where'd he learn to do that? The last two strikes have been direct kicks from 30 yards.

Evening grad seminars have kept me from several of these matches, unfortunately (D.'s able to attend most of them).  And he's not quick to report on the results.  But for the first time ever, he's keeping handwritten notes on the refrigerator schedule--recording W's and L's.  From somewhere, in the last year, the record has started to matter. He's definitely not high and low according to wins and losses; admirably even-tempered about the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

With the Lights On

I just set out to key in a few notes I could post at EWM--say anything about registering entries less frequently in the weeks ahead, about the mid-semester curve which, now rounded, reveals three seminar projects with deadlines in clear view, about new ideas and whatnot, about biking through the lovely fall weather we're having in Syracuse--to a meeting at Ph.'s school, to campus for CCR732--today's session on service learning as the latest momentous shift in composition, then pedaling over to Barry Park after class so Ph. doesn't have to walk home from soccer practice alone in the rain. 

To end, Judith Butler's Excitable Speech wins the mid-semester prestige of most compelling read (and it helps that it was set up by Austin's lectures collected in How to Do Things With Words).  It's got me thinking about a whole bunch of stuff; a cloudy project emerging from Davis's archisemiotics and performative architecture(s) is now jockeying with my other half-plan--a stir-pot of Barthes, Saper with a yet-to-be IDed ingredient.  Still something missing and a heap of reading to take up.  One other project involving weblogs, and one other project on walled classrooms and their antitheses, deep cyberia.  And in the upcoming week, it's Lakoff's Moral Politics, the final bit--on mapping--in Comp in Four Keys, and selections from Gamsci's Notebooks.

Fade to air up the tires.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Grand Unification Theory

Marvelous web zen on mixed media posted today.  All worth checking out.  Just so my time is not without relevance to my current project(s), highlights:

  • Jason Salavon's The Grand Unification Theory: It's a [Dark and] Wonderful Life
  • and Herotown: Green's the mightiest bunch
  • Eddie Breen's Piggyback Art: Infectious.  I'm overdue for a fit of Breening with a few things.
  • Jason Kronenwald's Gum Blondes: Jaw muscle exercise, fresh breath, fighting tooth decay, a collaborative element and this. Would this be service learning if, say, it involved a group effort to chew-tack a cityscape? (Sorry. Reading Deans--Writing Partnership--on service learning. Seeking stickiness.)
  • I want one of these.  Just $3200 and I could watch it all day.  Well, for sixteen hours.  Pure relaxation.


Nota bene: Just noticed quasi-debaucherous links linked from the first link here. Caution!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Stale Art

On my mind--Emig citing Jakobovits.  Any guesses when Jakobovits likened composition to stale art?:

The linguist Leon A. Jakobovits suggests that "stale art" is algorithmic--that is, it is produced by a known algorithm, "defined as a computational device that specifies the order and nature of the steps to be followed in the generation of a sequence." One could say that the major kind of essay too many students have been taught to write in American schools is algorithmic, or so mechanical that a computer could readily be programmed to produce it: when a student is hurried or anxious, he simply reverts or regresses to the only program he knows, as if inserting a single card into his brain.

From Janet Emig's "Lynn: Profile of a Twelfth-Grade Writer."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Five-Throb Frontal Lobe


1. One more conversation about authoritative sources and research via the i-net. Roughly: "Never use .com sources; prefer .edu or .gov domains."
2.  Toothache (or some more general category of mouth pain).
3.  How the hell did my copy of Comp in Four Keys (ordered from and sent with a friendly note from a Big Ten alum) get to be so rotten smelling? It really stinks.  Pets and smoke and gin-breath-belch. As I read, the odor makes me wonder whether the person who read it before me reached the end. One of my office mates suggested dashing the smelly book with baby powder. I'm ready to smear on some Vicks vapor rub just to get through this next article.
4.  Read it by tomorrow. Oh, and this too (attachment PDF, 27 pages). And while you're checking your email--this.
5.  News you won't find in the sports section of your local paper: I've been playing Friday evening basketball this semester.  Won a pair of three v. three games on Friday, but I wrenched my lower back so horribly that even today I can barely pull on socks, tie my shoes, etc. Unofficial status for this Friday: questionable. Official status when playing competitive basketball for the rest of my adult life: idiotic.

Saturday, October 9, 2004

G.W.B. on Dred Scott

We watched the debate with friends last night, quasi-Superbowl-party style.  I wasn't impressed with the town hall model, particularly for the way is positioned the audience members as dupes--mere question-readers, polite listeners (to say nothing of the homogeneity of the sample of folks from the St. Louis metro area).  I know the candidates simply wouldn't allow for follow up questions, but what good is a town hall forum if the questions are safely sanitized (which we can expect in all of the debates) *and* the question-askers don't get to ask for clarification, nuance, specificity?  I want answers.

For a few minutes this morning, I've been reading these fine entries on the debate.  Good points all around. The two strangest moments of the debate--for me--were the small business, lumber company setup (Want to buy some wood?) and the reference to Dred Scott as an example of justices failing to perform a "strict" reading of the U.S. Constitution and instead to render a decision clouded by personal opinion.  Relative to the Dred Scott reference, the live events in the debate, however, were neither clear nor understandable as GWB spoke; as I looked back at the transcript this morning, I thought the record, as formatted with sentence and paragraph breaks, was generous to the President's fumbling of "slaves as personal property" as a matter of "personal opinion":

I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States.

Let me give you a couple of examples, I guess, of the kind of person I wouldn't pick.

I wouldn't pick a judge who said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't be said in a school because it had the words "under God" in it. I think that's an example of a judge allowing personal opinion to enter into the decision-making process as opposed to a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.

That's a personal opinion. That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the equality of America. [emphasis added]

And so, I would pick people that would be strict constructionists. We've got plenty of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Legislators make law; judges interpret the Constitution.

And I suspect one of us will have a pick at the end of next year -- the next four years. And that's the kind of judge I'm going to put on there. No litmus test except for how they interpret the Constitution.

A few critiques of Bush's resorting to the Dred Scott case to address his criteria for justice selections have--as you might expect--already made it to the blogosphere.  Particularly thoughtful takes turned up here and here.  I'm sure the reference to the case was a grab at local resonance (much like Edwards' reference to the number of U.N. workers running the Afghanistan elections as fewer than it would take to setup polling stations in Cleveland); the judgment about slaves as citizens stemmed from St. Louis some 150 years ago. It resulted from Missouri's slave-state status set against Illinois, a free state, just across Mississippi River. 

The most ironic aspect of Bush's reference to the case is that Justice Roger Taney--in 1857--rendered a judgment against Dred Scott and his fundamental human rights because--as I understand it--Taney read the U.S. Constitution as a "strict constructionist," which explains the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) as a correction to the dangerous mis-applications of constitutional law along strict, "that's what the words say" readings of "property" and "citizenship."  With "strict constructionist" justices, then, I suppose you get readings of the law that are so narrow and rigid that constitutional amendments are required to ensure equal rights for all people.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Batteries, Juice, Middle School

Spent the late afternoon taking in Ph.'s soccer match at Barry Park.  He's knocking the ball around for his middle school team--a mix of seventh and eighth grade soccer players who've played seven or eight matches this fall.  I brought the camera, but it has been idle for some time, so the batteries had just enough in them to auto focus a time or two before giving me the blink-alert.  Backup set of AAs: same. No pics.Juice

Before today, the team hadn't won a match.  They held close in a couple of one-goal matches, but no wins.  Today--bear with me, I'm gloating--Ph. chipped in an early goal to put the team up 1-0 against the squad from Mexico, N.Y.  In the second half, Mexico tied the match, 1-1, and late in the second half, Ph. broke lose for a long, one v. one run on the right side, which he capped with a chip shot around the defender and over the keeper's head--into the far side of the net.  After the match, I told Ph. that camera's batteries were sapped--no pics.  Well, he said, we've got pictures in our minds.  Heh, memory--and a humble attitude on top of it.  

Afterward.  To the school for Open House Night. Welcome: "Tonight, you will be your child."  It wouldn't be appropriate for me to critique the school or the teachers. He's surrounded by plenty of good folks doing their best with a received curriculum.  But two observations.  1) In the science room, a variety of posters were on theGarfield walls, but the only recurrent poster--the only one that appeared multiple times, once per wall--was a spread from the U.S. Army.  On it, "An Army of One" in big letters along with pro-soldiering action shots, smaller messages about homeland security, fighting the war on terror, vigilance, watchfulness.  Today we'll be using graduated cylinders to determine the density of a metal nugget. Now march.

2) Music.  Where to begin.  Recurrent poster: Garfield.  It wasn't neatly recurrent with only the finicky orange cat.  Odie showed up in a couple of frames, and there were inspirational phrases about hard work and the road to success.  Lots of instruments in the room, too, huge drums and whatnot.  The curriculum made me feel like dashing home to give Ph. a hug and kiss on the forehead.  I would (do) have done horribly in this class.  (Please tell me if I'm blogging in poor taste now.) Test tomorrow! on the early musical periods--Antiquity, Middle Ages and Baroque eras. Students will not be allowed to head to their lockers for their notes.  Antiquity, Middle Ages and Baroque eras.  Listen: They will know the instruments, important figures, and so on.  Where to end.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Res Ipsa

Speaking of speaking for itself: MLK holiday? Meals on wheels?  Damn you, Dick Cheney!

Back to the program.

Monday, October 4, 2004

How to do things with boxes

Rather than diving into John Austin's How To Do Things With Words tonight, I'm refueling.  Presented on Foucault--again--tonight; that went well.  Tomorrow I carry on about Ways of Reading in an online distance curric. for FYC--talk and talk until folks are yawning or fifteen minutes passes, whichever comes first.

And to restore my creative groove tonight, I knew what I'd do at the moment D. pulled the last Puffs tissue from the box here in the office: box bot.  I'm ashamed to say I can't remember the sequence of links that led me to this the other day (Metafilter?  Slashdot?  Some kind, unattributed blogger on my roll or one degree removed?).  Shameful, but I'm filled with gratitude if it's worth anything.

Here's the bot.  Unremarkable, perhaps, but carved, scissor notch by scissor notch, from a drab, empty Puffs box--a box pulled empty of its puffy softness by the whole family's first cold in Syracuse. 

Box bot

You really should try one--even especially if it turns into something you never imagined.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Through Drawring

I'm giving another 5-10 minute spiel on Foucault Monday evening (bc Barthes: canned).  This time, I've committed to map-charting the model(s) spelled out in the last chapter of TOOT.  I'm fairly satisfied with what I have so far, but a few cues in the last parts of the chapter still have me scratching my head.  I'm not sure how best to represent history as a concept that pre-existed the modern human sciences; I have no idea how to fold the strict ethnology-psychoanalysis model into the countersciences scheme I have here; and, I haven't decided what to do with the problem of linguistics--the grand dilemma of the whole book. 

"The domain of the modern episteme should be represented rather as a volume of space open in three dimensions" (346).

"In relation to biology, to economics, to the sciences of language, [the human sciences as configured] are not, therefore, lacking in exactitude and rigour; they are rather like sciences of duplication, in a 'meta-epistemological' position" (355).

"But when one follows the movement of psychoanalysis as it progresses, or when one traverses the epistemological space as whole, one sees that these figures are in fact--though imaginary no doubt to the myopic gaze--the very forms of finitude, as it is analyzed in modern thought" (375).

Please let me know if you see anything disastrously wrong with any of the models. My renderings are best guesses, and my expectation is that we'll process 'em into distortion through the group-fueled critique machine Monday night.  In case you think my day was a total waste (if this is all I have to show for it), I'll have you know I assembled a kitchen countertop island thing'mabob with wheels *and* watched a few minutes of SU's impressive win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights *and* hanged a fresh clothes bar in Ph.'s closet.  The old bar just wouldn't bear his weight when he climbed for something way up on the top shelf--rather than asking for a hand--last night.  Like the modern episteme spelled out by Foucault, it all crashed, a structure-less rubble-heap of fabric and debris.

Friday, October 1, 2004

Archisemiotics, To Critiques of Space

Like Chuck, I started my FY writing class early this morning with a teaser about the debates last night: who watched?  next-day gut-level impressions?  

The first comment in my 8:30 a.m. section: "George Bush came off as really likable and genuine.  He was angry at times, but he was real, like somebody you'd meet at a bar.  His vocabulary seemed more everyday.  He came right out and said 'You can't do that.  The president can't lead that way.'"

Mm-hmm.  Okay.  The barstool intellectual stumble-de-do is exactly the thing that worries some folks (although I won't name specific names). <loop> It's a lot of work.  You can't say wrong war, wrong place, wrong time.  What message does that send?  It's a lot of work.  Six-party talks...if ever we ever needed China, now.</loop>

Students had great insights on the debates; they recognized nuance between the candidates, articulated them with conviction that this election matters to them.  We shifted our attention after several minutes, even though some students preferred a sustained conversation about the event over the other plans for the hour.  The connection, for us, came from the debate's framed emphases: foreign policy and homeland security.  Homeland security is particularly timely in these classes--the two I teach every MWF.  The courses are organized around questions involving spatial analysis--geographies of exclusion, socio-spatial critiques of the campus and of hometown spaces, and arguments about surveillance, privatization of public spaces, neighborhood watches and localized security poses, perceptions of threat, and so on.  In fact, the second assignment is called, "Homeland (In)Securities."  So I wanted to move from the debates--how would we understand homeland security if we could read the notion through last night's debates alone?--to our current, in-progress projects on hometown spaces, memory work, strangers and safety, contested zones, etc.--how can we extend the idea of a controlled surrounds (in the debates, taken to the limits of the globe, empirically exhaustive) to the material-spatial patterns of policing, security, "known" threats and deliberate municipal designs aimed at thwarting risk?

I grumbled about Mike Davis's "Fortress L.A." article (from City of Quartz), earlier in the week, but I'm doubling back on those doubts now that the classes read the chapter.  Davis adopts a term I'm growing ever more fond of as we move ahead with spatial analysis--archisemiotics.  Basically, Davis argues that L.A.'s architectural development implies unambiguous messages about social homogeneity in the urban center.  If we accept the latency of meaning in the city-scape (buildings, barriers), reading spaces becomes a process of seeing significance in spatial design as it determines who can go where, when, for how long, etc., and imposes a character on the peopling of the space, its social flows--viscocities.  It makes structures rhetorically significant, inscribing them to their perimeters with a sentience--not unlike, according to Davis, the eerie, systematized conscience of the building in Die Hard

I suppose there's a whole lot more to it than I can exhaust here and now--or than I'd even care to considering I have one helluva cold.  I just wanted to register an few thoughts about teaching at SU this semester--because I haven't yet--and, too, comment on last night's debate.  The cross-over this morning, even though I'm not teaching courses with an explicit focus on the election, was striking--even exciting; it was a pleasant reminder that I'll never be too busy to savor moments when students are brilliantly conversant with each other over hard questions.