Sunday, December 31, 2006

In the beginning was the Logos - - -

In the beginning was the logos says St. John - and most translate this as Word - but if we understand logos as the active power to create, the intelligence, the creative urge - that means a great deal more than "just" a "word." And in fact, we also sometimes say that the word is Love. Which implies pathos or emotion, yet more. And don't we have to include ethos, or the character? So, "the word" must include logos-pathos-ethos. No wonder it is so persuasive.

I have read more on this topic somewhere, but at the beginning of a New Year, I wanted to just make a note of this before I forgot. Maybe a reader out there can help me with a reference?

Composition IS or could be Rhetoric

Responding to Sharon Crowley's article "Composition is not Rhetoric" from Enculturation 5.1 (Fall 2005), where she argues that most composition classes - especially first year composition classes - are not rhetoric because the students write personal essays, I would like to argue that at Oregon State our WR 121 is indeed rhetoric because we do what she requires:

Any theoretical discourse that is entitled to be called "rhetoric" must at minimum conceive of rhetoric as an art of invention, that is, it must give a central place to the systematic discovery and investigation of the available arguments in a given situation. Furthermore, it must conceive of the arguments generated by rhetorical invention as both produced and ciruclated within a network of social and civic ddiscourse, images, and eents.. As ancient rhetors such as Gorgias and Cicero argued in theory and personifice in practice, any practice entitled to be called "rhetoric" must intervene in some way in social and civic discursive networks.

I would agree with Crowley and argue that the way we teach "entering the conversation" - teaching students how to locate the various stakeholders in an issues - the WHO cares - and finding where these people are discussing the issues (their discourse communities - whether Wall Street Journal or Ladies Home Journal - does help students intervene in a social network.

This is carried out further in my WR 222 course. Social and civic discourse communities are exactly where I want my students to intervene.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Self-Identity as continuously constituted

To what extent is the self that is presented on this blog determined and influenced by what is possible to say and write, by the format and appearance, by the context of the blogosphere and the conversation of fellow compositionists and rhetoricians, for a bravely imagine myself to be one of their number? And as I continue to post here, to what extent is my self-identity continuously constituted and socialized?

Lurking on the web? or being a good public audience?

So, here's my question: I visit a number of blogs by academics, colleagues, friends, etc, but I rarely comment. Should I comment more often to let them know that I was visiting? Otherwise, does it seem creepy that I am reading their publically published material and not saying anything? When I read the blogs of graduate students in our department, it's interesting to see their perspectives on what is going on. Sometimes I comment, such as to point out the happy coincidence that we are reading the same book, etc. I wonder if that seems too "supervisory" or Foucauldian? On the other hand, my friend and colleague (and GTA) Michael reminds me that after all, it's a public blog and if someone doesn't want the material read, they shouldn't be pubically publishing it. Good point #1. And the fact that few people comment on my blog doesn't mean that few read it. Good point #2.

Writing to a non-specific "general" audience undermines some of the usual audience analysis that rhetoricians would normally do, and yet, the content and tone of a blog sort of self-selects an audience, doesn't it?

Brown Cow Yogurt's Rhetoric

Being a long time fan of Brown Cow Yogurt's Cream on Top yogurts and noting that they donate to environmental causes, I was eager to see the repackaging / new look that “Lily [the brown cow] wanted.” Unfortunately, I am disappointed by the new foil top which no longer allows me to reseal the yogurt if I don’t finish it. Luckily, I still have one or two of the older packages, and the old red lids will fit the new cups, so I will keep them to seal the cups.

Of course, I am not likely to need to do that very often in the future because they decreased the size of the cup 25% from 8 oz. to 6 oz. while keeping the price the same (.99 cents at either of the stores I frequent). This is effectively a 32% increase in price (6 oz for .99 compared to 8 oz for .99), a sneaky and deceitful way of raising prices under the cover of a sentimental story that Lily the nice brown cow wanted a new look. I am very disappointed in this company. They pretend to be consumer friendly, but by this action, they show that they are just another greedy corporation. I pointed this out to the other customers in the store last night so they would see what the company is up to. The management was apologetic. Of course, it is not their fault.

Perhaps if enough former customers let Brown Cow know of their disappointment, they will reconsider and reduce the price to .75 cents, which is the same rate per ounce as presently. Then Brown Cow would look like generous and fair-minded folks. And since they are saving money with the new lids, they will still come out ahead. If you want to write to them on this subject, their address is Brown Cow Farm Antioch, CA 94509, or try their website.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Life in School - What the Teacher Learned.

I am so much enjoying Jane Tompkins' teacher memoir A Life in School: What the Teacher Learned. [I bought it 2 years ago and just started reading it over this Christmas break.]Tompkins graduated from Bryn Mawr about 8 years before I did and went to Yale for a PhD in American literature, with a dissertation on Melville. She recounts her struggles as a graduate student and a new professor, through her tenure at Duke, and the new looser way she wanted to teach her classes. She's a big fan of Parker Palmer's spiritual teaching approach. She's very honest about the fear that even experienced teachers feel in front of a class, hoping that the students will like the material, will like the class, will like her, will learn. Maybe I'll recommend this book to our OSU MA graduate teaching assistants, though I know that they already have too much reading. I would want it to inspire and reassure, not alarm them with the rigors ahead. Her writing style delights me. This has been perfect reading all week. Ostensibly, I was hunting for ideas for the 4C's paper on teacher identity formation, but found so much more to enjoy.

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay Oregon

From Christmas to New Year's is usually the best time to see gray whales migrating south along the Oregon coast. Today was a perfect day to go - sunny, clear, 47 degrees there (compared to 27 degrees in Lebanon, OR, this morning), and the ocean fairly calm so that any spouts would show up. We had lunch at our favorite place - Gracie's Sea Hag - clam chowder, tuna melt.

Many people were out at most of the coast side viewpoints - right in Depoe Bay at the harbor overlook and along Hwy 101 with binoculars and telescopes, and crowding the many whale watching tour boats that leave from Depoe Bay Harbor. The mood was festive even though no one we saw had actually seen any whales today. Didn't matter. We had a lovely day, despite the fact that seagulls pooped on the car [we foolishly parked under a street lamp post] so we had to take it through the car wash in Newport before coming home. Lovely rosy sunset behind Mary's Peak as we drove back to the Willamette Valley.

Here's a picture of the overlook at Depoe Bay and another of a whale we did not see.
Images thanks to a search on Google Images.
Whale view is from
Depoe Bay view is from

"A grave disappointment all round"

In reading the humorous “Last Page” feature of the January 2007 issue of Smithsonian magazine - one of my favorite regular magazines - about true-life personals in the London Review of Books, I was delighted to notice a clue (in the third item from the end, box 6453) to James Fenton’s poem “God: A Poem” whose second verse reads:
A serious mistake in a nightie,
A grave disappointment all round.
Is all that you’ll get from th’Almighty

Is all that you’ll get underground.

I taught this poem in an Introduction to Poetry class at Oregon State University last winter. It’s reprinted in the Norton Anthology of Poetry, 5th edition, p. 1965. That was fun to find.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Online Identities

Just found an article on "Personal Homes Pages and the Construction of Identities on the Web" by Daniel Chandler, which looks like it will relate well to the research for 4C's that Michael and I are working on, even though it is ancient (2000). Wonder if this research has been updated with all the recent changes.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Semiotic domains - part 2

More reading of Gee's book presents an interesting connection between the kinds of meta level thinking that I hope my students in WR 222 will do next term and the kinds of thinking that graduate students do as they move into teaching.

When I explain to my students in WR 222 (intermediate composition/argument) about discourse communities - a conceptual place where natives / insiders are specialists in a content area and language and can detect a newcomer / immigrant as "not one of us" (at least not yet) - compared to the larger everyday lifeworld of nonspecialists where "everyone" interacts -- I hope the students will have a better idea about the academic and workplace domains they hope to (or may have to) join.

The last point is crucial. With video games or sporting events, neophytes voluntarily become enthusiasts and specialists. With academia, neophytes (students) may have no desire at all to become specialists.

When Gee (p.43) contrasts the internal design grammar (content) with the external design grammar (social practics and identities) this makes me think about how graduate students might move from a studently-identity into a simultaneous teacherly identity. Gee writes:

Semiotic systems are human cultural and historical creations that are designed to engage and manipulate people in certain ways. They attempt through their content and social practices to recruit people to think, act, interact, value, and feel in certain specific ways. In this sense, they attempt to get people to learn and take on certain sorts of new identities, to become, for a time and place, certain types of people. ... some of these identitites constitute, within certain institutions or for certain social groups in the society, social goods. By a "social good" I mean anything that a group in society, or society as a whole, sees as bringing one status, respect, power, freedom, or other such socially valued things. Some people have more or less access to valued or desired semiotic domains and their concomitant identities. Furthermore, some identities connected to some semiotic domains may come, as one understands the domain more reflectively, to seem less (or more) good or valuable than one had previously thought. Finally, one might come to see that a given identity associated with a given semiotic domain relates poorly (or well) -- in terms of one's vision of ethics, morality, or a valued life -- with one's other identities association with other semiotic domains. For example, a person might come to see that a given semiotic domain is designed so as to invite one to take on an identity that revels in a disdain [or, alternatively, I would argue, a valuation] for life or in a way of thinking about race, class, or gender that the person, in terms of other identities he or she takes on in other semiotic domains, does not, on reflection, wish to cotinue. In this sense, then, semiotic domains are inherently polticial (and here I am using the term "political" in the sense of any practices where the distribution of social goods in a society is at stake.)"
In saying this, Gee is hints at theessential self-awareness needed fas people intentionally experiment with and adopt identities when they join, temporarily at least, new semiotic domains.

Video games, says Gee, usually allow players to "customize the identity the game offers him to a certain extent" (p.45) and that people who play games learn to do just this. Which leads Gee to discuss social justic for those who do not have the opportunity.

This customizing of the standard or default player identity sheds light on the experience of graduate students who become teaching assistants.

ps: part 3 Gee also refers to semiotic domains that could be "composed of clusters (families) of more or less closely related semiotic domains" (p.43) - which sounds applicable to departments in the college of liberal arts.

Semiotic Domains + Affinity Groups = Discourse Communities

James Paul Gee's excellent book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Literacy and Learning shows a clear way to explain discourse communities to students by helping them see that they already participate in/communicate in a variety of social groups which share interests, language, and expectations. Extrapolating from his work with gamers, we can apply the theory broadly to understand why students struggle to grasp audience for their academic papers. As Graff terms it, students are "clueless in academe" because instructors do not explicitly invite students to become members and learn the language. In fact, school obscures the semiotic domain. Academe as arcana. Probably used to be true. Graff uses the analogy of sports fans to show that students understand rhetoric and discourse communities, just not by those names. For example, members of this discourse community -- i.e. affinity groups in the semiotic domain of Major League Baseball -- can immediately converse anywhere on their shared interest: "What about them Cubs?" As instructors, we need a new metaphor to help students enter, especially in today's multimedia world. I imagine that as I get further into Gee's book, more ideas of how to make this clearer to students will arise.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Note to Mac users

Jill/txt has a great post about a new software supposedly help retrieve stolen Mac books, but as she points out how do you know that the software itself is legit? Sounds good, though.

Research - a great excuse to read articles I want to read anyway!

Now that fall term is over, grades are turned in, and evaluations are received and used as next term's syllabi are started, there is time to get back to other projects in hiatus. One of these is research for a co-authored paper for 4C's to be written about graduate student teacher identity formation and presentation online. The research is an excellent excuse to read blogs by teachers, especially teachers of rhetoric and composition. Just now on Torill Mortenson's blog "Thinking with my Fingers" I found this cool article called "Blogging Thoughts: Personal publication as an online research tool" by Torill and Jill Walker, who also has a cool blog jill/txt. These add to three articles I found this morning by Michalinos Zembylas, which I printed to read. Luckily the Christmas break will have some time at home to read. My plan is to read and take notes, partly here on the blog and partly on the excellent Google Docs site where Michael and I are collaborating.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Books - it's like Christmas already

The OSU bookstore had a sale today and with 20% off on even the remainder books, I got some I am really looking forward to reading:

Face op Face: Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism, and Awakening edited bh Linda Hogan and Brenda Peterson (I have several of her excellent essay collections on nature). I'll probably start with the interview with Ursula Le Guin.

The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg, who writes for Harper's and New Yorker so that sounds good. Nature essays, one chapter per month of the year. I'll probably start with December. He lives in upstate New York, but apparently the essays are from all over.

The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime by Miles Harvey. I love maps, so this should be fun.

Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World by Yang Erce Namu & Christine Mathieu, the story of a girl who left her native Moso region of the Himalayas where the culture is entirely matriarchal. This area - Tibet, Mustang, Nepal etc has always fascinated me.

Poet of the Appetites: The Lives and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher by Joan Reardon. I have been an avid reader of Fisher since a teen because my dad loved her articles in the New Yorker and gave me several of her books. Remarkable person. Wonderful stories about her life in France in the 1950's with two young daughters supporting herself as a free lance food and wine writer.

So, my bedside table is full, full. But right now I am re-reading The Irrational Season by Madeleing L'Engle. I would rather re-read something I have loved than risk spending time on something that does not comfort me.

I am so thankful for books!

When I worked at a bookstore and got 35% discount routinely, I bought quite a few. For one thing, they make excellent insulation in a house - keep in warm in winter, cool in summer. Today a book buyer came through the English department - slim pickings as most offices were closed and empty. I told him that I regard the books in my office as belonging to the department for the use of the graduate students and instructors, so I could not sell them. And the ones on my own shelf are mine, and of course I don't sell those. Oh no.

But right now, instead of starting any of these, I am going to read some student responses to They Say, I Say by the Graffs. Meant to do this weeks ago.

Wishing you many happy readings.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Training Graduate Students to Teach Writing - part 2

So, last night, after reading Sally Barr Eberst's essay on "Why Graduate Students Resist" in my previous post, I looked through the rest of the WPA volume and found this essay: "Inventing a Teacherly Self: Positioning Journals in the TA Seminar" by Jackie Grutsch McKinney and Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater, from vol. 27, the following year (2003). It is also highly relevant and useful.

McKinney and Chiseri-Strater begin by quoting from Lad Tobin's essay "Teaching Against the Teaching Against Pedagogy" (must find this!)

New teachers must compose teacherly identities through invention, performance, integration, revision, trial-and-error. In order to make purposeful decisions about specific, concrete issues (e.g., how to arrange desks in the room, what to wear when they teach, what texts to assign, what grading system to use, and so on), graduate students must first recognize, develop, and invent themselves as teachers (Tobin 71 in McKinney and Chiseri-Strater 59).
[Tobin, Lad. "Teaching Against the Teaching Againt Pedagogy: Reading our Clasrooms, Writing Ourselves." Reader. 33/34 (1995): 68-84.]
While I can definitely use this information/insight right now with the current new TA's and for sure next fall with the next class of new TA's (should I share the article with them? if so, when?), Tobin here points directly to issues for the 4C's paper -- namely invention, performance, and trial-and-error.

For I think that we have to consider at least these points:
  • Are we talking about only looking at intentional self-presentation or also unintentional?
  • Do TA's even want to be seen as teachers? (What about those who do not plan to continue teaching?)
  • What about mulitple - overlapping/intersecting personas?

McKinney and Chiseri-Strater categorize the postings in the teaching journals in their own TA seminar into types of responses:
1. Confessions: I made a mistake (62)
2. Offerings: Am I Right? Or, See, I'm Doing Fine (62)
3. Aversions: I Just Want to KNow How to Do This (63)
4. Conscientious Objections: Sorry, [I tried it] But It Doesn't Work (64)
5. Transformations: See How I Have Changed (65)
They see these stock narratives as roles the new teachers adopt as they struggle with / resent the growing understanding "that none of the methods introduced in our seminar will work for everyone [all the time]" (65). In training their new TA's, the authors were especially concerned with #4:
"Out of all the narratives, we were most concerned initially with the teachers who wove these tales since our fear was that they were composing a teacherly self that resisted or misinterpreted every theory or practice we had shared with them in our seminar." (65)
They go on to say,
As first then, we misread the TAs' self-presentations or teaching narratives as the only or the true narrative of their teaching experiences, but upon rereading the journal in the context with the other assignments . . . we came to see that the teaching reflections and self-presentations were not the only useful barometers for the TA's classroom. Just as Newkirk notices in his undergraduate essays that students create personas or perform a self in their writing, he also shows the limitations of this self-construction when he asserts, "The key feature of these presentations is their selectivity:[emphasis mine] every act of self-presentation involves the withholding of information that might undermine the idealized imprssion the performer wants to convey" (Newkirk 3 in McKinney and Chiseri-Strater 66)

[Thomas Newkirk. The Performance of Self in Student Writing. Portsmouth NH: Boyton/Cook, 1997.]

In their conclusion, McKinney and Chiseri-Strater emphasize what is most important:
What seems far more important is for TAs to have an opportunity to invent, try out and perform their new identities as writing teachres on the pages of the journals and course work for the seminar.... But the journal...does not tell the whole was the combination of writings, observations, and clas dialogue that helped us see and understand the struggle that new TAs face in constructing themselves as teachers." (73)
Although the talk that Michael and I are writing for 4C's focuses on online presentation, I have already argued that this includes both visual and textual presentation, which naturally includes online journals, blogs, etc.

This was a great find.

McKinney, Jackie Grutsch and Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater. "Inventing a Teacherly Self: Positioning Journals in the TA Seminar." Writing Program Administration: The Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administrators. Vol. 27.1/2 Fall/Winter 2003. 59-74.

Training Graduate Students to Teach Writing part 1

Yesterday I checked out some issues of the Writing Program Administration WPA journal from 2002-2004. In Fall/Winter 2002 Sally Barr Ebest writes "When Graduate Students Resist" (p.27-43) and offers two main theories for why GTA's resist the training provided.

She writes:
"1. Graduate students resist pedagogical innovations when such changes contradict their personal construct and sense of self-efficacy.
2. Graduate students who initial resist nontraditional pedagogy because it threatens their sense of self-efficacy can overcome their resistance if they have developes a strong personal construct." (27)

Drawing on Henry Giroux, she identifies three categories:
1. accomodation: accept what is taught
2. resistance: refuse to learn "because they believe the classroom ideology infringes upon their personal beliefs"
3. opposition: "fail to learn because they 'refuse to engage in behavior that would enable them to learn' (Chase 15)" (30)
How does this relate to the 4C's topic of graduate student teacherly identity formation/ presentation that Michael Faris and I are working on? Because the way GTA's present themselves depends at least in part on how they view themselves. And that depends on how they imagine their roles as teachers and to what extent they are intentionally striving to enact a teacherly role, as they imagine it.

Eberst says,
"overburdened with teacing and preparing and grading and reading and writing and attending classes, they don't have the time to reflect on their reading, even though the texts they encounter in their pedagogy seminars may be unlike anything they've ever read before. The end result? Too many TAs exit their pedagogy seminars without fully developing an understanding of their writing or their teaching" (40)
She continues:
Despite its ubiquity, the role of writing is rarely discussed in relation to graduate students' professional development. . . Too many graudate students are like those descrived above [in the case studies in her article], fearful, rigid, superstitious, or cynical. We can help them overcome these crippling apprehensions by engagivng them in those strategies our research has found effective -- collaborative learning, reflective practice, and writing as a process." (41)
Which brings me to another point: Why are Michael and I writing this article? In part, from this research and writing into how graduate students imagine their acquisition/invention of a new - teacherly - role, we can learn (and show) ways to help new graduate students understand the process of transformation they are undergoing and ease the way.

Citation: Eberst, Sally Barr. "When Graduate Students Resist." Writing Program Administration: Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administrators. Vol 26.1/2 Fall/Winter 2002. 27-41.

Comp Classroom Blogs

Clancy Ratliff's Culture Cat blog has a great post from Sunday about her experience this month with classroom blogs, in which she says, in part that FaceBook and MySpace have taken over for the "community building" aspect, one of the reasons instructors have chosen to use blogs.

Clancy also points to one of the primary challenges for instructors with classroom blogs -- making time to be involved. This was a problem I found myself with my 50-student blog for WR 222 last winter. According to April's essay on Blogging for Lisa Ede's Literature Technology and Culture class ENG 595, (under 20 students, several grad students) she quotes Lisa saying that she would probably not try a class blog for a large - 65-student - class such as ENG 104 intro to fiction (a class that also has a much higher percentage of underclassmen and no grad students) - which is probably in part due to the numbers of participants involved.

Meanwhile, here's a link to the CCCC SIG (special interest group) on blogging, with our TYCA-PNW friend Bradley Bleck making a call for review of the literature. All of us here at OSU should jump on this, I think. Michael?

Finally, Clancy says she is going to use Moodle sites in the future (something I had not heard of but looks interesting and should explore).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Who's Who" - or "I'm Nobody"

It was very surprising to receive in the mail an invitation to send biographical information to a new edition of Who's Who in America. I'm thinking this must surely be some scam (though I could not see where they wanted money sent) because my career is no where nearly prestigious enough to warrant being added to such a list. Has anyone else received such invitations?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Blogging identities

I was just reading a colleague's essay on "Educational Blogging: A Writer's Place" and appreciating her quotes from James Paul Gee's book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. My conference co-author Michael knows the work of Gee, but I do not yet, and clearly I must because his comments about identity are intriguing for the reseach that Michael and I are doing on creating online identities and projecting oneself into a specific community. I will have to get that book and read what Gee has to say. I'm thinking that the effort to create and then project a teacherly identity, even if / especially if? - a virtual identity -- and see oneself as a real member of a real academic community of teaching colleagues - may indeed be easier online than in front of a classroom or in the halls of a department, though as a "digital immigrant" that wasn't how I did it. More on this soon.

Friday, December 08, 2006

More on Information Literacy - Is that the right title?

A colleague sent this link to a link to a paper on information literacy delivered Rebecca Moore Howard, arguably the top person in Rhetoric and Composition working on information literacy and plagiarism. --Vicki

Here’s something else of interest - an essay I just read by Anne Frances Wysocki and Johndan Johnson-Eilola “Blinded by the Letter: Why are we Using Literacy as a Metaphor for Everything Else?” in

Passions, pedagogies, and 21st century technologies / edited by Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe. NCTE/Utah State Univ Press, 1999, 349-368. PE1404 .P38 1999 2 copies now available again at OSU Valley (I have an Orbis copy)

They argue that we should think closely about using the word literacy for other skills of communication technologies – information literacy, technological literacy, cultural literacy, workplace literacy etc: Their introduction poses two questions:

“What are we likely to carry with us when we ask that our relationship with all other technologies should be like that we have with the technology of printed words?... what other possibilities might we use for expressing our relationships with and within technologies?” (349)

I want to go back and look at Robert Scholes “textual power” to see how this connects.

More on pop culture

A description of a colleague's class last winter commented positively for the way he started class with comments about the recent Superbowl "deomonstrat[ing] a good awareness of student culture.. with the students.. visible connection to the topic." Later in a discussion of ethos, he asked his students who had more credibility - Angelina Jolie or Hans Blix?

This brings me back to my recent post on pop culture - and whether I am doing enough. Or how much is enough.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Now listening to - - -

I see this topic of "now listening to" in popular blogs, MySpace, and Facebook entries, so here is my own offering. This morning on KWAX, the classical music station from the University of Oregon, I listened to excerpts of Edward Elgar's Dream of Gerontius, before the very popular Pomp and Circumstance. Yesterday it was the Enigma Variations, which turn out to be musical portraits of various friends plus a selfportrait. This whole week on Exploring Music, we have heard about Elgar. Last night on the drive home, I heard a Haydn symphony new to me (perhaps #95 or #103?). When I was in Paris on my college "Junior Year in France" with Sweet Briar's program, I took a wonderful class in music history. I would argue that a musical tune is a thesis and that the piece is an argument. Thus, rhetoric can be seen more broadly applied beyond words. In fact, it just now seems to me that paintings, too, must of course be rhetorical, which is not to deny their beauty and grief.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pop Culture: How essential for teachers?

Part of the reason why I am so clueless and unhip is that back in the day (when I was younger), I was not in touch with the pop culture of my day, and that hasn't improved with the passing years.

I wonder when people have time to watch so much TV, download and listen to so much music, play so many video games, see so many movies. Even if they do these simultaneously as I think many do, it still seems like a lot of hours. Because I rarely have any free time right now, I am baffled as to how I would add in these activities.

Most of what I know about hip-hop, Dr. Dre, Grand Theft Auto III, and The Simpsons, comes from my students' papers about causes and effects of violence or cultural critique. [Note: Cross word puzzles also use Dr. Dre and Brian Eno as clues]

So, the question is - how serious is it to my students that I am not as up on all their interests? Do I even want to know about the bands, actors, films, and games that they play?

I hope that my reluctance is not the snobbery of "high culture" even though I listen to more classical music than to Jackson Browne and James Taylor (well, that dates me!) because that's what I grew up listening to - WGMS - Washington's (DC) Good Music Station - while my mother ironed Dad's work shirts (Ok, I admit they were button-down oxford cloth Brooks Brothers shirts).

When I lament that students lack awareness of Rachel Carson and Silent Spring, or that they cannot identify the source of the quotes from Isaiah in Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech even after I sing the parts from Handel's Messiah to them "Every valley shall be exalted, etc" - am I perpetuating a classist notion of what counts and what does not? Perhaps.

I will be interested in whether anyone comments on this. I'm not sure how to track "reads" on this blog - but the usual commenters are about 3! Not a wide audience. As Eugene, Oregon, poet Dorianne Laux once said, "I am known to literally dozens." I'm not sure my audience is even that wide!

When I was young, I went to see the film Gigi with my parents (I could tell you what dress I wore) and heard Maurice Chevalier sing "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore." While his song focuses mostly on romantic relationships, lately, I agree with him broadly.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

National Novel Writing Month

For those so inclined, this is National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo. April is National Poetry Month, but you don't have to wait til then to write a poem!

Grammar handouts? Templates?

I was just happily noticing that the TYCA blog is more active lately after the recent conference at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, OR, and I found this entry on the effectiveness (or perceived effectiveness) of grammar handouts. Because I didn't see any of the actual handouts the blogger refers to, I cannot speak directly to this issue - and she did point out that they were mimeographed - hence much older - but I will say that in my writing classes I do use occasional grammar activities, such as a recent one that worked with transitions between paragraphs and between sentences. Several students said that this was the first time they really saw how necessary/useful it was to use transitition phrases such as "however, therefore, on the other hand," etc between ideas. If anyone wants a copy, just email me at

As for Gary's post about guided navigation, this is interesting, but without the link to the original post by Alexis and therefor without the pdf file he mentions, I'm a bit lost. -- NOTE -- if you are logged in to the TYCA blog with user name and password, then you can find the link to the 19-page PDF. I just printed it and will read it and add comments. It appears to be about locating logical or argumentative fallacies. But I still don't know who Alexis is.

I'm wondering if the templates he mentions resemble the Graff-Birkenstein They Say, I Say templates which we are using at Oregon State.

"Words for Sara" - in Oregon

My friend and prolific poet Pat Wellingham-Jones of Northern California just sent me this link to her poem "Words for Sara" which was published again online at Writer Advice. Pat came on a wonderful day of poetry & nature writing which I led as part of Rogue Community College's community education program at the labyrinth at Earth Teach high above Ashland, Oregon, in about 1998? She even collected a book of the labyrinth poems with photos, published by her imprint PWJ books, in 2001. Check her website for more information. The book may still be available. The book has poems by everyone who attended the workshop plus a few more folks. Nice job!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday evening again in Oregon - last day of classes

The sun has been down for quite a while, the sky is clear, the moon is nearly full, the air is crispy and it definitely seems like winter. I hope tomorrow is clear and nice though I suspect that over on my side of the valley we will have some morning (all day?) fog.

Twice today I visited the annual holiday marketplace of craft vendors in the ballroom of OSU's Memorial Union, full of wonderful smells (if I could have smelled them with my cold) - soaps (I bought 3 as usual - lemongrass, orange spice, etc), sachets (bought 4, I think they are lavender), candles (2 beeswax frog candles made by Birdie), 2 tree ornaments - one cat porcelaine and one silvery metal. Piano, harp, violin music lent a real holiday spirit.

Time to head home with bags full of student papers to start grading over the weekend. For our final day we looked at World War II propaganda posters, deduced claims and appeals, and then tried to create a poster of own. Interesting challenge.

Next week I promise to write more.