A blog about life, language, writing, and other trivia.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Corn, Sweet Corn

Back in the midwest! Ahhhhh. Feels good.

(For those of you at, oh, say, the University of Illinois, who are from elsewhere and can't stand living in a 50,000+ sq. mi. cornfield, let me just say that it's like one of those 3-D wall prints: if you look at it just right, you'll see the charm.)

More as we get settled, promise.

Monday, May 22, 2006

It's Go Time

In keeping with the macho ethos I've been cultivating regarding moving, big trucks, etc., I thought I'd give this post a title that, at some earlier point in my life, might have actually been something I uttered just before an enthusiastic but no doubt pathetically inept bout of amateur pugilism.

But the fact is, it really is time to go, so this blog will be out of commission for a couple days, but hopefully no more than that. In the meantime, here's something from Michael Bérubé's blog--now being guest-hosted by Amanda Marcotte and Lance Mannion--that's just plain one of the funniest damn things I've read on any blog, anywhere (this one's by Amanda):

The critical mythology of neo-conservatives is that they were once idealistic leftists and totally cool and could so get laid and knew where to buy the best weed but the tawdry stupidity of liberal beliefs ran them off.

Much as in mathematics, it's not so much the truth of the statement as its sheer, elegant simplicity, that makes it so brilliant. Read the whole post. It's worth it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

At Least Mullet Over A Bit

I've purposefully kept most of my family life, including details about my baby, out of this blog, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It just seems as if my daughter should be old enough to at least perform "giving consent"--though she won't really get it for still many more years after that--before I lay her bare before the seven or so people who occasionally stop by this blog. But I just have to say that, damn, my kid has a lot of hair for a three and 1/2 month-old! I'm dying to give her a mullet (yes, it's that long), but so far, Lee is putting her foot down. Despite (or perhaps because of) both our appreciations for the dissoi logoi, I can't seem to find the logos that makes "Let's give our daughter a mullet!" seem the better argument. Maybe there are some issues to which there truly are only one correct side.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Whattya Gonna Do?

Just as more readers are starting to drop by this embryonic blog, I have to begin the "packing- and cleaning-intensive phase" of our move to Ohio (by way of a temporary move to the Chicago suburbs). Luckily, ma-in-law is here to help with Olivia (our 3-month-old daughter). Still, blogging will be light, and when I manage an entry, it will be short and sweet. I'll try to make it interesting, or at least quirky, but there will likely be no developed (or semi-developed) ruminations on pomo, disciplinarity, writing, or driving in the South.

So, here's my quirky observation for the time being: it's a truism to say that, as most people age, they acquire more stuff. But it's not just "stuff." It's "breakable stuff." Packing anxiety, it turns out, is directly proportional to age.

Edited to add: I'm done wrapping/packing/taping/spackling/etc. for the day and am sitting down with a nice Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (I'm not one of those, if it's a microbrew, it's automatically better types, but SNPA is quite good for the price). As I take a little time to re-read this entry, I now realize why I normally devote at least a few minutes to going back over my posts before publishing them. Quirky? Who am I, Jiminy Glick?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Disciplinary Writing (in Geologic Time)

I'm in the (very) initial stages of transforming my diss into something resembling a publishable book, and there's a point that I make in a relatively localized part of the diss that is going to become much, much more central to my argument in the book. Namely, I argue that the slowness of disciplinary publication processes (from lengthy periods of drafting, to painfully waiting on reviewers and editors, to preparing proofs, to printing, to dissseminating, and finally to the two or more years of seeping into circulation among other compositionists), serves an important centripetal function in the production and maintenance of composition as a discipline. Were our knowledge to accumulate in a more rapid-fire succession--say, through listservs or even IM--then it's pretty clear that it would be:

a. too localized to have a widespread impact and, therefore, to help solidify a sense of unity, no matter how loose, among members of the discipline

b. too fast to keep up with, making it impossible to identify relevant disciplinary questions or to situate one's contributions in relevant conversations

c. too lacking in formal observational/hierarchical controls (i.e., disciplinary mechanisms in the Foucaultian sense) for us to reliably distinguish authoritative from non-authoritative work, and

d. Just too damn much to follow (the "they'll let anyone into this party" phenomon).

Obviously, my argument is played out in greater detail and within a more sophisticated theoretical framework (mostly Burke, Foucault, and Niklas Luhmann). But that's the basic point: the slowness of writing helps to maintain the discipline qua discipline.

One thing I haven't considered, though, is the problem such slowness poses for people who write about what Spencer Schaffner calls "moving targets." When people write about subjects, especially digital media, that change almost daily, how can they be expected to work within the nearly geologic time of disciplinary publication? I know books and journals aren't the only venues out there, but even online publications like Kairos have review processes. And blogs, while incredibly useful as means of building community and sharing and testing ideas (especially gestating ones like the one in this post) and arguments (inevitably destined, or at least intended, for print elsewhere), simply aren't--and shouldn't be--subjected to the forms of ritualized observation that confer authority on more formal disciplinary work.

No conclusion. Just thinking "out loud."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Of all the paper topics . . .

Ok, show of hands: how many of you have had a student take on a topic you yourself would like to tackle? Now, how many of you found it far harder to offer suggestions for and respond to that paper than others?

A student in my intro to writing studies course is doing an intertextual analysis of the lyrics to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," to show how it performs "individuality" (and individualism). The idea came from the opening of the song, which directly borrows from a standard wedding sermon, weddings being those most clear-cut of situations featuring performative utterances.

The thing is, there's no way she's going to write the paper I want her to write--which is the paper I want to write--especially because it's clear that she's still struggling with the concept of performativity. On top of that, I fear the guidance I've given her (I am usually a very effective conferee when it comes to student writing), may have only deepened her anxiety about doing a good job on the project. Could it be that my effort to scaffold her writing process, and thereby keep it in her ZPD, has morphed into an effort to achieve a Vulcan mind meld? Am I trying to get her to realize my vision of the paper and not hers? I don't think so--at least, not in any ethically problematic way (scaffolding can require, though, that the teacher be willing to supply a push in the form of substantive suggestions now and then). But as a teacher committed to reflective practice, I have to at least consider the possibility that my responses to this student's writing have been deeply problematic from the standpoint, if not of ethics, then of pedagogy.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Me Drive Big Truck

Here's what I'll be driving across the Appalachians in less than three weeks:

In an earlier post, I said we'd be using PODS (Portable On-Demand Storage), but the largest "pod" is only 16 ft. long--not nearly enough for a three-bedroom, 2000+ sq. ft. home. So, it's back to the hard way.

Truth be told, I'm looking forward it. There's nothing like piloting a 26 ft. behemoth through the most rugged country in the U.S. east of the Mississippi to make you feel like a Real Man®. In fact, while the picture above is a better reference for the type of truck I'll be driving, this one better captures how I'll see myself behind the wheel:

Now, I think I'll go eat some read meat . . . .

(Edited to add: "read" meat? I guess non-stop FYC end-of-year grading = attack of the homophones!)

Monday, May 01, 2006

When in Rome Burlington

This post will be the first of two reflections on moving.

Soon I'll be moving from Burlington NC (home of Burlington Coat Factory and Gold Toe socks) to Bowling Green, OH. I couldn't be more excited, but I'm worried about my driving. See, over the last three years, I've lived in a town where there are no rules, exactly, for driving. They're more like suggestions. You know: "if it's not too much trouble, you might want to consider keeping your car right of the center line--but no biggie. We know sometimes you just need the whole road." Since moving here, Lee and I have (in most cases, many times) seen drivers:
  • turn left from the right lane
  • turn right from the left lane
  • wait in the right lane until traffic clears so they can get into the left lane to turn left
  • back up on the interstate to take an exit
  • back up on a busy four-lane road to turn into a business (and then still just drive onto the curb and into the grass between the street and the parking lot)
  • stop in the middle of the road to hand a package from one DHL van to another
  • park in the entry drive of the TJ Maxx lot because it's easier than finding a spot
  • pull up to an intersection, wait until we were upon said intersection, then pull out in front of us (and proceed to go 15 mph below the posted limit)
  • come to a complete stop to turn right from a busy street

There are more, too, but my neural net can only process so much at once.

At first, when we arrived, I was inclined to see such vehicular atrocities as validating my stereotypical beliefs about the South and southerners. And, while one or two of those beliefs have survived (I have honestly never lived in a place where you call a plumber or a landscaper and they want to arrange a time for you to call them so you can set up a time for them to come to your home!). Now, though, I see it as a symptom of contemporary life in the semi-rural South. Lots of the drivers in Burlington are from the countryside, and many of the rest of them are old enough to remember when Burlington itself wasn't terribly unlike the countryside--at least in terms of traffic volume. Most of the offenses I list above wouldn't be offenses in areas where there just weren't that many cars (when you're the only one for a mile in any direction, who cares whether you stop in the middle of the road until you're one hundred percent sure whether you need to turn or not?) That is, the driving in Burlington is symptomatic of a rural mindset in an increasingly urban landscape.

While I am no doubt grateful for such rich material to support my penchant for armchair ethnography, I cannot say I will miss driving here. Even more to the point, I am just plain worried that I have too fully been there, to borrow a term from Geertz --that I have come to see the culture of driving in Burlington enough as a local that, when I do get to Bowling Green, I'm going to find myself parking on the left side of Main St. because, well, there was the space, and why let a little thing like "normal flow of traffic" stand in my way? You laugh (maybe), but I've pulled similar moves here. I don't know--maybe I need to move from armchair anthropology to armchair sociology--but there's just this sense that, if nobody is going to look at me funny when I do it, then why not? (It's like in Hamlet, when the gravedigger says nobody will notice Hamlet's madness in England because there everybody is as crazy as he is.) Or, to put it more succinctly: When in Rome . . . .

Oh, and just to raise the stakes a little: the first vehicle I will be driving out of town is a 26 foot Penske moving van. Try backing that baby up on the interstate. But I'll save that for the next post.

(Edited to add pander: what is the craziest thing you've seen or done on the road where you live?)