Thursday, August 31, 2006


Getting ready for fall term and reading Will's August 30 post on Weblogg-ed about Teaching gets me thinking:
"When we say “teacher,” what we are really saying is “the person in the classroom to whom students look for knowledge” or something like that. In the traditional classroom that almost all of us grew up in, the teacher was the focal point, the decision maker, the director, the assessor. Teachers, well, teach, or try to. We hire teachers based on how well they know their subject matter and how well we think they can deliver it to students. Teaching, the way most of us see it, is all about imparting knowledge in a planned, controlled way.

In a world where knowledge is scarce (and I know I’m using that phrase an awful lot these days), I can see why we needed teachers to be, well, teachers. But here’s what I’m wondering: in a world where knowledge is abundant, is that still the case? In a world where, if we have access, we can find what we need to know, doesn’t a teacher’s role fundamentally change? Isn’t it more important that the adults we put into the rooms with our kids be learners first? Real, continual learners? Real models for the practice of learning? People who make learning transparent and really become a part of the community?"

But for a writing instructor, how can knowledge be scarce? In fact, don't we create knowledge as we write?

Lunch with a blogger - or Blogging in (as?) the global lunchroom

A reference from my friend Michael Faris's comments
about this interesting article "Blogging in the Global Lunchroom" by
Geoffrey Nunberg from Commentary broadcast on "Fresh Air,"
April 20, 2004 "Global Lunchroom
And whether we bloggers are A-list pundit news filters or "merely" (?) female (60%?) diarists - - -

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Back to work, back to school

Having recently enjoyed a wonderful visit to Washington DC complete with tour of the National Portrait Gallery where I worked in 1969, I want to share two of the portraits I found especially dazzling.

Cecelia Beaux's 19th century portrait of Henry Sturgis Drinker, her brother in law, with his cat, seems a precursor to Everett Kinstler's dashing portrait of author Tom Wolfe, in ubiquitous white suit, looking so pleased with himself.

Could we say that these paintings are somewhat fungible? "Fungible"
Are fungi fungible?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Port Orford

Lovely fog and cool weather at Cape Blanco lighthouse,
looked a lot like this, but luckily the sun cleared briefly so that my brother and his wife could see the lighthouse. They have been volunteer docents at Point Bonita light house in California for years, and they know a lot about lighthouses. Cape Blanco is special in that visitors are allowed right into the lantern room next to the Fresnel lens, which is so amazing to look at. Hard to imagine that one of the head lighthouse keepers held his job there for 42 years, working all night every night, carrying lard oil and mineral oil up the stairs and trimming the wick. I will look for a link to post so that you can read more.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Forest and/or trees

Yesterday, while discussing the most attractive arrangement of book covers for a banner heading for our course Blackboard site, the office specialist commented that I must be a "concrete sequential" thinker, based on my preference for a particular order, whereas the order she had suggested - which was energetic and unbalanced - reflected her tendency to be "abstract random."

We talked about forests and trees. Definitely, I see trees first and then inductively think about the big picture, the forest they create. Working with students who start with abstract concepts such s "freedom" and trying to get them to add specific concrete examples to illustrate the principles is a challenge, just as trying to get the concrete detail students to raise to a generalization and summary. When students (or anyone) can raise to a metacognitive level to consider her ways of thinking, that helps with writing. Bonnie and I love to talk about cognition - such as her favorite paradigm, the Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator.

Another student, arguing for more women in politics, contrasted the benefits of women's empathy compared to men's natural systemitizing (spellling?) that leads to less connection and more war. Maybe this binary parallels the concrete / abstract above. Often I start systematically, and then step back to tap into empathy.

Hmm - more thinking on this is necessary.

Meanwhile, it's a nice cool 48` Saturday morning with no grass seed field burning likely today.


Lots of fun yesterday exploring the world of eggcorns, those malapropisms made when people don't know the real spelling of a word and create a phonic approximation that has other connotations. Apparently a famous one is "pus-jewel" which is quite logical. So I went to the Eggcorn database (I'll find the URL and post it here soon) and entered 3 possible candidates for their files.

First, "dull drums" - from a graduate student. As in, "he was depressed and down in the dull drums."

Second, "aquatint" - from another graduate student. As in, "he was a man of sorrow and aquatinted with grief" Or "he was not aquatinted with the paintings of __________"

[note to self: find the name of the British impressionist who painted the Thames and houses of parliament - I can see the paintings clearly in my mind but cannot think of the name. I hope - in the words of another eggcorner - that the name will dong on me soon]

The third example may not count as an eggcorn: "melon collie" as in "after his dog died, he was melon collie."

I'll see what other posters on the blog think of my offerings. UPDATE 9/8/06: Checking the Eggcorn Website, I see that no one has picked up on my offerings. However, I learned of the excellent and useful "donged" as in - "I slowly donged on me that no one would pick up on my suggestions."

Eggcorns seem slightly related to a phenomenon/game which a friend has told me about, called "Swetter-Litching" or "Letter Switching" which the Urban Dictionary says is the same as a Spoonerism, a well known humorous and presumably accidental phenomenon.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Can it be Thursday?

With summer session running four days a week, the end of teaching comes on Thursday. leaving us with one day to catch up on writing new syllabi, preparing new inserts for the online Blackboard, and reading articles. This is the penultimate week of the term, so students are rushing to finish papers. In the 8-week version, students get the same number of class sessions but fewer days between to complete the reading and writing. "A Modest Proposal" has been postponed to Tuesday. Wednesday's last day of class will feature the documentary film What It Means to be Free with Oregon Poet Laureate Lawson Inada reading poems from his book Legends from Campabout his experience as a child in the Japanese internment camps. ON Friday, no students came and I had time to catch up on ordering textbooks, memos for incoming graduate students, reading more wonderful work by Gerald Graff - you must read Clueless in Academe and apparently I must read Culture Clash his book from 1994.

What books to take on my trip? I bought Anne Lamott's new (in paper) Plan B, plus Billy Collins' new (in paper) Nine Horses. What will airlines ban next? No water - but hopefully they don't consider books inflamatory, though of course they are - hence why did Plato's Republic say, "First, kill all the poets" -- [I really should find the exact quote one day]. Pen is mightier than sword - especially if we now read "pen" as any "text" which means not only anything written (even on blogs) but visual rhetoric as well.

I think another post is coming on.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Winslow Homer

This image of a wall in Bermuda has long been one of my favorite paintings, though this particular reproduction is pinker than others I have seen in which the wall is much whiter. I shall write a poem about this.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sitting at Van Gogh's Cafe in Arles

wrapped in the still warm August night
light from the stars serene and distant
above these old streets while below the glow
from the cafe's gold windows holds
us safe for a while. I shall read
or think or dream, suffused in the scents
of the south - lavender, dust,
the good vin rouge, too late perhaps
for bread and butter, radishes, maybe
goat cheese, olives. Shall I call the garcon
in his long white apron, order un cafe
au lait, un whisky? Spoons rattle, saucers,
glasses clink on the bar, espadrilles shuffle
across cobhlestones, the murmur of voices,
now a laugh, raucous but muffled
passersby slide into the dark toward home.
Folded letters in my bag remind
me of those who wait, the sketch
book with a few blank pages left, the tattered
book of poems. It is enough.

Sara Jameson
August 4, 2006

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Swift's Modest Proposal

My friend Michael just posted on his blog "Collage of Citations" some excellent thoughts about teaching Swift's "Modest Proposal" in freshman composition courses and the problems with providing students with enough background and context so that they can be critical readers without at the same time coloring their reading with our own personal slants. Michael is reading the Sheridan Blau's book The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and Their Readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003. You can read his original post from August 2 and our conversation atMichael Faris’ “Collage of Citations” Collage of Citations