Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Let the Conversation Begin

When Hilary Clinton says "Let's Chat" and "Let the conversation begin," she is facing an uphill battle, and frankly, feminist or not (however that might be defined - and that's another whole conversation itself), I am pretty sure that I hope she is not the Democratic candidate. Despite Hillary Clinton's intelligence and experience, many people don't like her, indeed resent her keenly.

Further, Clinton's notion of talk is likely to turn off male voters, as my friend and colleague Vicki and I were saying yesterday. In fact, this makes me wonder how rhetorically savvy Clinton really is if she is addressing voters. Which voters will relate to this approach? Sure, FDR's fireside chats were popular on the radio of the day. Now? Reagan was "The great communicator." But these were metaphors of the kindly father telling the family what to do.

Now, Clinton is looking for a two way dialogue. Is that what Americans want? The Oprah bloc know and value conversation. Others do not. And this split reminds me of a great column I read at the time of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991 when he was accused by his former employee Anita Hill (by then on the law school faculty of the University of Oklahoma of sexual harassment. The columnist (wish I could remember) said tha half the people in America knew exactly what Hill meant - the women. The other half didn't have a clue - the men. [I'm hunting for this reference and will add when I find it. Does anyone out there in the blogosphere remember this article?] According to the Wikipedia article on Hill, public opinion at first supported Thomas but a year later supported Hill. I believe that this same kind of audience split now faces Hillary.

Vicki had seen the recent Daily Show segment on Hilary [I couldn't find a link to that episode to add here - can anyone help?], and the obvious point is that many men run from the opening "We have to talk" and prefer action to words, and if words, then at least a war of words, a debate, the agonistic use of words to attack and win, not to forge communities. This is the point Deborah Tannen makes in her great book The Argument Culture which I think I have posted on recently. This may be why the United Nations has not been entirely successful with diplomacy.

Right now I have to go teach argument, so I will come back later to add to this post -

OK - back now at 9 AM: Here's a great guest editorial printed in today's Barometer, from the USC Daily Trojan on Jan 30" "Will America be ready for a female president?" by Sarah Vita.

Standby for more updates.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bird Activity

During the recent cold spell, a flock of robins ate every single berry off my two holly trees. Now they are gone even though neighbors' trees still have berries. One big bossy mourning dove has taken to patrolling the grassy area beneath the seed feeder, fluffing his feathers and scaring off other doves, but luckily not bothering the juncos, wrens, sparrows, finches, and other little birds busy eating. When the weather is cold they can eat the entire feeder capacity in a day.


My friend Michael tells me that blogging etiquette frowns on bloggers changing posts once they are made - revisionist history?. Instead, bloggers should just make a new post with the new information or add a comment.

I guess mostly I will do that -- however, I am now going back into the Nancy Drew post to situate the context more, as to why I thought of her right now and also into the Bishop Katharine blog to add that the photo pictured was taken from a spot in the Bishop's Garden that I know very well. Minor updates.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nancy Drew, who are you?

Most readers of this blog, as far as I know, know me and know my age. Other readers may already have formed an opinion. If I now post that as a girl I was an avid reader of the original Nancy Drew mysteries, that may confirm my boomerdom.

I was thinking of this the other day because of an article on January 14 in the Albany (OR) Democrat Herald about a new video game called Nancy Drew: Danger by design that is rated for ages 10 and up and has Nancy in Paris working as a gofer for a paranoid deisgner, where players can rack up points "printing replica works of art for tourists." The reviewer John Breeden II of The Washington Post, calls it a "decent adventure[ing] at young girls that keeps you on your toes."

When I was young, Nancy Drew was in books, not games. I enjoyed reading the mysteries, which were not terribly scary. Nancy was a great role model, being independent and a bit of a smart aleck, smart, clever (these are not the same), attractive, stylishly-dressed, and single. I once had quite a full collection of the books, though they were dispersed sometime after I moved to Oregon in 1973 and not in my parents' home when I went back to clean it out for the sale when they had moved West. The way I keep books now, I am surpried that I let them go. They are just the sort of easy reading for an evening, no terrible suspense or adrenalin rush. If I were to reread them now, however, I might be saddened by elements of privilege and hints of prejudice.

It was a long time before I realized that the series author Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym for Mildred Wirt Benson writing for the Stratemeyer syndicate. Once again, as Virginia Woolf said in Mrs. Dalloway, [ Error correction: It is not in Mrs. Dalloway, but in A Room of One's Own which makes much more sense] "For most of history, anonymous was a woman" though according to Wikiquote "[that phrase] appeared as early as 1854 in Anna Jameson's (no relative to me that I know of) Commonplace Book. " [Is this blog my Commonplace book? Wikipedia seems to indicate that this is so. My friend Michael Faris has a separate blog for his Commonplace Book. ]

St. Agnes' Eve

By the way, tonight, January 20, is the eve of St. Agnes, traditionally the coldest night of the year being a month from the winter solstice. Here in Lebanon (OR), I think (I hope) that our coldest night was earlier in the week when we had snow and ice, causing OSU to be closed part of the day. Today, we had 50 degrees and sunshine.

This evening, the night before St. Agnes was martyred in Rome in 304 AD/CE, inspired both the famous poem by John Keats and another that I only just discovered (which I think not as good) by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Both draw on the legends that unmarried girls could have a dream of their future husband on this night if certain rituals were performed. I learned of Keats' poem years ago from my first husband, whose birthday is also today (along with several other people I know) and who was a great fan of Keats' poetry. This article from the Victorian Web points out the Ekphrastic qualities of Keats' writing and makes connections with the Pre-Raphaelite artists and writers. One of these, John Everett Millais, who painted the picture above, is an ancestor of my friend's grandmother, Mrs. Henry Hereford of Newton Ferrers England, whose birthday is (was) also today.

I've always liked the opening lines:

St. Agnes' Eve--Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:

Bishop Katharine

The Episcopal Church in America last fall elected and recently consecrated former OSU professor of Oceanography and Corvallis rector (of Good Samaritan Church, 35th and Harrison Streets), Katharine Jefferts Shori. Understandably, but sadly, some in the world wide Anglican communion
are not thrilled with her election, and some, particularly in the old South, are attempting to "seceed." This is a sad state of affairs.

Growing up in Washington DC just blocks from the Washington National Cathedral and living next door to John Kraus who was Verger at the Cathedral (and his wife a wonderful poet), and with parents who were docents at the cathedral after their retirement, I feel closely akin to the church, its past, present, and future. As a child passing the time while my mother worked in the diocesan office on the cathedral close, I played in the Bishop's Garden and loved to visit the Herb Cottage gift shop that had the most charming and quaint tea items, soaps, sachets, etc. This photo of the cathedral was taken (not by me) from a pavilion in the Bishop's Garden, a place I often sat and day dreamed.

Bishop Katharine is reaching out to bring unity and fellowship, brotherly and sisterly love and communion, to all. My prayer is for peace throughout the world.

Cranky online?

Apparently the marketing buzz is that "aging" (not defined) baby boomers find the vasts numbers of results returned by search engines such as Google and Yahoo overwhelming, so Jeff Taylor of EONS created a new search engine called CRANKY. Visiting today, I found that the topic of blogs was listed among the top five, and that the results page for blogs, listed "learn the lingo". Instead of being overwhelmed or even mildly impressed, I am distinctly underwhelmed. However, for the over 70 less techno folks, maybe this is the easy way to ease in.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

In talking with an instructor just now, he mentioned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which reminded me that I had some fabric with this turtle design from which I made a nightgown for my elderly mother who had Alzheimer's. The fabric was all cotton, very wide (for easy sewing), and inexpensive. Thus, Mom was pretty hip and didn't even know it.

Textbook Help

If anyone knows of a textbook to help GTA's and new adjuncts teach business writing, I would love to hear of it. Our GTA's at Oregon State have a handbook (Wilhoit) for teaching composition or literature, but I have yet to locate a textbook that would help them teach business writing. Of course we will have exam-desk copies of the actual textbook used by the undergraduates in the class, but it would be wonderful to have a book of instructor resources / instructor advice for background preparation.

Happy Birthday, William Stafford

Oregon's former poet laureate William Stafford is honored all over the state during the month of January with readings of favorite Stafford poems, organized by the Friends of William Stafford. A few years ago I was pleased to participate in the Salem reading with Chris Anderson of OSU. Henry Hughes of WOU was also there. These are great events, so click on "Events" to find a reading near you. That list is mostly Portland area, so here's the link for the reading at the Albany pulbic library on Monday, January 22. At the Corvallis Benton County library, the Stafford event is Saturday. January 27.

Here's a Stafford poem that I like.

Search Engines Driving Our Writing?

Today's story from KAIROS NEWS points out that writers, especially journalists, are reconstructing their writing habits to ensure that search engines put theirs near the top of the list. This is done by repeating key words often near the beginning of the text. No more thesis sentences are the end! Of course journalism always uses the inverted pyramid putting the nut graph first with all the key points, so maybe this is just an intensifier of that.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Rhetoric and Math?

When I was a math major originally, I liked the precision and the certainty. Even when I didn't always understand why a formula worked, I just trusted that it would and usually, sometimes as long as two years later, I would understand why. Then I switched to Art History - perhaps a foretaste of my interest in visual rhetoric? Now, I just found a blog that seeks to combine the Two Cultures of science and rhetoric. Naturally, he mentions rhetoric about science, such as Stephen Jay Gould's "Evolution as Fact and Theory" an essay that I ask my students to read in the context of writing their own definition essays. But I am intrigued Thomas Wright's look at the intersections of geometry and rhetoric - such as the Burkean reference. The many science and engineering students at Oregon State who take writing classes sometimes express frustration at the many options in writing, that there might be many right answers (as well as some wrong answers) in the writing of a paper. However, since scientists are conversant with hypotheses, then they could grasp notion of a "working thesis."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Corvallis writers

On Wednesday, amid the lovely snow, I enjoyed a lunch lecture at the Corvallis city library by the OSU English department chair Tracy Daugherty on the subject of Janna Malamud Smith's new memoir My Father is a Book. Although I walk past the Malamud Room, the English department student lounge in Moreland Hall, many times each day, I really didn't know much about Bernard Malamud, OSU professor back when it was still Oregon State College. (This unofficial Malamud page has some information, with some incorrect links, sadly.) Tracy - himself author of a number of novels and short stories, winner of the Oregon Book Award 3 times, and now writing a biography of his mentor, author Donald Barthleme - did a lovely job providing background, evocative glimpses of Malamud, reading some excerpts, and interpreting the intersections between biography, memoir, and fiction.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Snow Day / Sun Day

Many folks would welcome a snow day to stay home, but I chafe at trying to work at home and now that the sun is out and some of the ice is melting, I feel like a wimp for not driving to work. However, I am getting research done without the many interruptions of the office and working on a conference paper, so actually, that's OK I guess.

Lovely blue sky, juncos, finches, robins, doves, flickers, sparrows, and less lovely starlings, all at the feeder and in the lawn.

"I'm Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?"

This fascinating article by Brian Ott from The Journal of Modern Culture 2003 addresses the various ways that characters - us and Bart, Homer, and Lisa - create and present identity. Bart, who appropriates elements of culture to project an oppositional attitude that is more more than appearance; Homer who "merely" consumes culture and has no core identity beyond that; Lisa, who creates identity through a narrative toward meaning "Lisa, the Vegetarian" etc. Blogging meets, matches, and transcends these three modes of identity formation / presentation. The links a blogger chooses can be indicative of Bart's appropriation of pieces from the culture industries; the narrative of a blog entry, or the evolving narrative of a blog over time does appear to lead toward the creation of meaning and purpose, with narrative's traditional expectations of trajectory cause and effect (though as Ott points out hypertext is deconstructing narrative); and the pure pleasure of consuming and producing text is Homeric, in Ott's view.

[Image from 11 January 2007]

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Snow sunshine snow

This day keeps changing from winter to spring and back with sun showers and blue sky alternating with snow and rain. Delightful.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Women creating

It was great to hear a sonata for violin and piano by American composer Amy Beach on the morning commute, some rain in the offing. We so rarely hear works by women composers. Surely the forces at work in Joanna Russ's How to Suppress Women's Writing, are also at work with women composing and conducting, perhaps even more powerfully. After all, one can write with minimum expense (paper, pen) anywhere - even while ironing, though having "A Room of One's Own" is best.

It was so sad to hear of the death of Tillie Olsen recently, as reported by Julie Bosman in the New York Times. I knew her daughter Kathie when I was teaching at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass, some years ago. We were going to have Tillie lecture as a benefit for RCC's literary magazine, The Rogue's Gallery, of which I was faculty advisor at the time. Not sure it's still active - that website looks different now.

Anyway, what Bosman says about Olsen echoes what Russ says: "[Olsen's book] “Silences,” in 1978, [is] an examination of the impediments that writers face because of sex, race or social class."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Why read books?

Really, the question should not use the word "books" which doesn't tell us much about the contents of these books. We should ask: why read poetry, why read fiction, why read memoir? The answer varies, of course. At a university such as Oregon State, the answer might be "because it's assigned, because it will be on the test." But of course we read for pleasure, for guidance, for life. But this reaction I see as a kind of reader response reaction, for which see Wikipedia and Barbara F. McManus who of course refers to the major theorist of reader-response, Louise Rosenblatt -and provides this link to an interesting article:

"The Significance of Louise Rosenblatt on the Field of Teaching Literature "

by Gladdys Westbrook Church from Inquiry, Volume 1, Number 1, Spring 1997, 71-77 © Copyright 1997 Virginia Community College System

Reader response approach is a rebuttal to the notion of affective fallacy. And so, now we have the National Association of Poetry Therapy (which includes bibliotherapy). When McManus states that"according to Louise Rosenblatt, a poem is "what the reader lives through under the guidance of the text," this relates directly to NAPT. NAPT will conference in Portland OR in April, during National Poetry Month (of course) with Oregon's new Poet Laureate Lawson Inada and will feature a presentation on bibliotherapy by my friend and OSU colleague Paula McMillen: Pre Conference Session II Thursday, April 19, from 12:00 - 2:30 PM
The Bibliotherapy Education Project: Collaborating to Build Skills and Share Resources beyond the University Collaboratively teaching graduate counseling students how to evaluate books for potential therapeutic uses has created this inter-disciplinary project that provides a database of evaluated children’s books, a focus for continuing scholarship and Bibliotherapy resources for multiple audiences. Discover how you can use the Bibliotherapy Education Project for yourself.
Presenters: Paula McMillen, Ph.D., Assoc. Professor, Oregon State University Libraries, prepared for her work in research and teaching in the area of bibliotherapy through her former work as a psychologist and her current career as a librarian prepared her well for. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, Ed.D., Assoc. Professor, Teacher and Counselor Education, Oregon State University, has broad-ranging experience that includes nursing, literacy and study skills, and counseling with children and families. Both have been faculty members at Oregon State University since 1999.
My friend and fellow poet, poetry therapist, and instructor/counselor at Rogue Community College will of course attend after organizing the previous week the April conference of the Oregon State Poetry Association (OSPA) in Ashland, also featuring Inada. A busy month!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

IM - ur friend?

Teachers are naturally finding themselves second language learners as they cope with students' use of IM lingo in class, in emails, and in academic papers. This article on IM in schools from The Washington Post (linked in today's NCTE Inbox) discusses the problem. My problem? I need a glossary. Here's a very brief one for teens with directions for burning CD's. Here's another extensive Net Lingo listing which includes an interesting disquisition into the diffferences between acronyms and shorthand (and how they are pronounced) - ex. Radar is pronounced ray-dar whereas LOL is pronounced ell-oh-ell. If you are not already LOL, then BRB.

Best of all Possible Worlds?

Listening to Leonard Bernstein's opera Candide this morning on KWAX, (It's been Leonard Bernstein week on "Exploring Music") reminded me of the most difficult paper I wrote at Bryn Mawr: a critique of Voltaire's Candide in their version of first year composition (FYC). I had no idea what I was doing, and in my innocence I assumed that the instructor would show me what to do, because, after all, this was Bryn Mawr College, "best of all possible worlds." But the instructor, who did not usually teach freshmen, apparently had no idea how to help and clearly no intention of helping either. This was before writing centers became common on college campuses, so I had few resources. What a torment - truly an "auto da fe" a painful act of faith. The vivid memory of this experience is key to my dedication to spend as much time helping students as they want, to give them whatever they need to understand and complete their essays. I would say, however, that since then all has indeed been "for the best."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Welcome to my parlor - are you the 15th visitor?

Blogging as the famous Burkean Parlor: This article from Inside Higher Ed points out how we are now famous for 15 minutes (Warhol) or to 15 people.

Thanks to Anne-Marie for this link!

A new year, a clean desk - "truthiness"

In an effort to clean my desk for the new year, I found an old yellowed clipping from the Albany (OR) Democrat Herald from January 7, 2006: "Truthiness voted 2005 word of the year." I just found Wikipedia's entry on truthiness, so here it is, and that means I can throw away this clipping.

However, a tidy desk is not necessarily the sign of a tidy mind. Or maybe it's a sign of a too-tidy mind: out of sight, out of mind. Keeping my creative projects in sight helps me move forward in all directions at once.

NB: Searching the archives of the Democrat Herald did not produce the orignal article.

Who are you - Identity 2.0?

Dick Hardt presents a fascinating lecture (not too long, easy to follow, with images and text on screen) on the question of evolving identity for the 21st century, how we prove who we are: starting from the notion that identity is what you say about yourself and what others say about you, through verification (such as driver's license) to some sort of coming technology for online digital identity verification.

All of which relates tangentially to my current research with Michael into identity formation / self-presentation. Why do people care about the photo on their driver's license - whether or not it is flattering? Because in some ways that card is "who you are" to the authorities. So, if you live in Oregon and go for a new driver photo, remember that the background is turquoise blue, so wear something that coordinates nicely.

But back to the 2.0 concept - if web 2.0 means writing as well as reading, producing as well as consuming, what does this identity 2.0 concept lead to? The frequent shifting presentation of multiple identities online - which might correspond to the various discourse communities / affinity groups each person belongs to (or wants to belong) insiders/wannabes.

Look before you leap - or link?

Jill Walker's jill/txt blog posts information about a new web tool that will let viewers preview a linked site before they actually click on it. Seems good but I wonder. I'll wait to see if Michael installs it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Private I: Privacy in a Public World

This collection of essays called The Private I was a delightful find from a recommendation by one of the graduate students here at Oregon State. Edited by poet Molly Peacock (How to Read a Poem) and with one of her memoirish essays, the book includes essays by her husbandMichael Groden, and Dorothy Allison plus poet Yusef Komunyakaa.

The grad student plans to use Janna Malamud Smith's essay "Privacy and Private States" in her WR 121 class. The essay explores four categories of privacy -- solitude, anonymity, reserve, and intimacy -- which Smith says she got from Alan Westin (7). This reminded me a bit of Stephanie Ericsson's essay "The Ways We Lie"which is in the reader that we prepared for the first year composition course here at OSU. When students read Smith's essay this will compare nicely with Ericsson.

The whole question of privacy in a public world relates directly to my recent post about "lurking" versus being a good public audience on the web. And this reminds me of Bob Seger's song "Running against the wind" and the line "What to leave in, what to leave out." That is always the dilemma in writing. For writing is an art, not a police report. Choices are made. Just as on this blog.

On my reading list

My friend Linda Barnes and I were talking about science fiction (can't remember now what she doesn't like about Sci-Fi; what I don't like is the dystopic technological space ship future without grass and blue skies and birds) and she recommended that this year I plan to read CS Lewis's space trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, (apparently also called Voyage to Venus) and Hideous Strength especially because the hero is a linguist. I did like Narnia, so maybe I'll like this too. Any thoughts?

All images from Amazon but much difficulty in placing them nicely here. My apologies.