Friday, March 30, 2007


This mini musing is not about Jane Austen's novel Persuasion, but about two books I just got.

First, at the CCCC convention in NYC I got a new book called Thank You for Arguing by Jan Heinrichs (Random House) which is subtitled "What Artistotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion." I just started, and it's pretty interesting. It seems to connect nicely with the textbook I will start using again on Monday Everything's An Argument. In fact, I'm surprised that Heinrichs doesn't mention it. He does make clear the difference between an argument and a fight, and also how to "win." I look forward to reading more. It's just the right sort of bed time reading after a day of teaching argument - really!

And then, a colleague recommended Naomi Klein's book No Logo, about the expanding branding of the world. This is a perfect accompaniment for teaching business writing this term. Klein's website shows her activism against brand bullies. Here's a quote:

Naomi criticized branding in No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies not because there's anything intrinsically wrong with logos, but because brands are developed—and their logos are designed—to market products that are produced through the exploitation and impoverishment of workers and communities in the poorest parts of the world. No Logo condemned the cynicism and dishonesty of companies that get wealthy by branding the commodities they market as representative of values like freedom or youthfulness—values that are starkly contradicted by the lived experience of the workers who produce the stuff they sell. When CEOs turn enormous profits by branding a running shoe to represent 'freedom' while they have that same shoe manufactured by 16-year-old women behind the fences and guarded gates of an Export Processing Zone—well, that's hypocritical.
When my business writing students discuss "organizational culture" and which company you would feel good about working for, they need to read this.

ps: I rather like the term "thoughtcast" that Thomas Burkdall used in his talk at CCCC as noted in Michael's post about the session. That seems a fitting term for my little posts. After all, I am not as extensive as the NPR Commentaries on All Things Considered and not as elegantly crafted as Montaigne's essays.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Conference Reflections - part 1

Michael and I had a good time at the recently ended CCCC Convention on the theme of identities in New York, hearing great panels, meeting scholars we have read and know about, getting inspired for teaching next term (me), connecting with others who train graduate student teaching assistants (me), dancing (Michael), seeing family and friends (me), and presenting our talk on graduate teaching assistants & their evolution of a teacherly identity as it appears in blogs (us, together). I found this conference more helpful than the 2005, (I missed 2006) perhaps because I am more deeply situated into my job at Oregon State. I'm already thinking about what I can propose for a panel for next year in New Orleans. The deadline for presentation proposals is so soon.

Meanwhile, I wonder if Michael and I should post our presentation on line as Clancy Ratliff has done on her blog. We enjoyed her talk on blogging & plagiarism. The retort by a blogger who had plagiarized that -- Wikipedia is meant to be plagiarized -- gave a possible insight into our students' attitudes as I return to grading student papers which often have copy/paste "issues." Rebecca Moore Howard's attention to the tropes around plagiarism - are teachers detectives, prosecutors, judge, and jailers? - resonated with me. Neologism - Plagiarologist?

I'll be posting more reflections. Let me know what you want to hear about.


This one is free

Josh Friedman reports in the LA Times that some bloggers get paid for testimonials they publish about products. Apparently a marketing firm called PayPerPost Inc negotiates these paid ads. (check out their pitch). As Friedman reports:
Posties, as PayPerPost calls its crew of 15,500 bloggers, say their posts are sincere, sponsored or not, and that financial incentives are disclosed.
This disclosure may not be in the actual blurb, however. For example, one blogger that Friedman profiles (Colleen Caldwell) uses an indirect (deceitful?) method of notifying her audience:
Like many Posties, Caldwell typically relies on a blue disclaimer button on her home page that, when clicked, informs readers that compensation from marketers "may influence" the entries on her blog, and that posts "may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content."

This sounds pretty weak to me.

Because my blog is not as widely read as Caldwell, PayPerPost may have little interest in placing blurbs here. In any case, I have no interest in selling out. Everything you read here is freely shared.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

CCCC - New York - Internet

Great to be in New York for the CCCC conference (Convention for College Composition and Communication) - many great colleagues, great ideas. Too many great concurrent sesssions to choose from (but at least I have found my site and can track the online searchable catalog). Luckily the NCTE has provided some free internet in the exhibitor hall because the Hilton charges $10/day to use wireless in the rooms and another $10/day to use wireless in the lobby, so that lugging a heavy laptop to NY maybe was not necessary after all.

Michael and I will likely make the final revisions to our paper (being presented tomorrow) by hand rather than try to use the technology on where the paper resides.

One fun surprise - just ran into Mike Lewis, a fellow OSU MA classmate now in a rhet/comp PhD program in University of Wisconsin-Milwaukie. Mike and I shared an office at OSU for our first year as MA's and again for our year as Bridge instructors. Nice to catch up.

More later!


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Writing, Writing

Michael and I have been busy writing our paper for CCCC about GTA's and their online identities. Or more accurately, we are now cutting, as the paper is a bit too long. The question is always, as Bob Seeger sings in "Against the wind" - "what to leave in, what to leave out." Working with Michael is great because he is so smart and insightful. I'm sorry that he has two other papers to write at the same time, though I have complete confidence in him. I am busy too, but my work -- 25 more student essays to read and grade -- doesn't take the same kind of creative skills. Frankly, I would not feel nervous to still be revising our paper once we arrive in New York -- that's the way my writing mind works -- but that is not fair to a collaborator.


Thursday, March 08, 2007


Just to let you know that now that I have the new Blogger version (finally), I have the ability to label posts, which is great. Gradually (don't hold your breath) I will go back and label the former old posts so that you and I can find items. I am hoping this will also generate a tag cloud, a form of organization I find helpful and very cool.


New York, New York

Is this cool, or what. This is the cover for the program for the upcoming rhetoric conference that I will be attending soon. I'm particularly happy with this cover because it was a lifelong dream to design a cover for the New Yorker magazine. For years I collected New Yorker covers with the idea of papering a wall with them. Then, at a restaurant in San Luis Obispo a few years ago, I found the restroom walls covered with old covers. I recognized many from my childhood. Very nice.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

More on Wikipedia

This great article "Knows it All" by Stacy Schiff from The New Yorker just forwarded by my colleague librarian Paula McMillen asks "Can Wikipedia conquer expertise?" According to Schiff, on March 1, Wikipedia's articles hit a million. When I finish reading this article, I will add more.


Friday, March 02, 2007

English Plus

Look at this very cool article about language and identity (especially "What is Espagnol?") in the US written for today's OSU Daily Barometer by Majeed Badizadegan, a student in my WR 222 class. I'm so proud of him and his hard work. This relates to an article in our textbook Everything's An Argument, by Ariel Dorfman called "If Only We All Spoke Two Languages."

The joke I heard once goes like this:
What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks only one language? American.

You are what you speak.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Poetry - Fear - Communism

For my birthday I received a book of poetry by Bonaro Overstreet. Because I was not familiar with her name, I searched Google and found that she is often quoted on the subject of understanding our fears (don't fear) and communism (do fear). A poet, teacher, author, adult education leader, and psychologist from Falls Church, Virginia (a suburb of Washington, DC) (1902-1985) , she and her husband Harry wrote a number of anti-communist books in the 40's and 50's. Their manuscripts are collected at the Lilly Library at the University of Indiana. My first sampling of her poems has been pleasant. In some ways I wish I did not know more about her.

Blog Power (or not)

A busy week conferencing with 50 students has put me behind on my posting (at least that's my excuse this week). Over the weekend two blog news items caught my eye:

Jim Zumbo's astonishingly rapid fall from grace due to his blog comments about hunters who use assault rifles for hunting pocket gophers. Calling these guns "terrorist rifles" provoked an immediate avalanche of protest caused his apology (as posted on a pro-gun blog with critique) and firing from Outdoor Life. The NRA does not tolerate any division in ranks. All guns are good.

As reported by columnist Ellen Goodman, bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan resigned from from their jobs blogging for the John Edwards presidential campaign after opponents searched out critical comments from their past cyber writing. Says Goodman,

This may be the first certifiable staff flameout of the 2008 campaign. But it's also about a clash between two cultures and two languages.

We are living now in both the blogosphere and the mainstream. One is ironic and edgy, challenging and partisan. The other is cautious and modulated. Ms. Marcotte's and Ms. McEwan's fate raises the question about whether it's possible to move from the world of AnkleBitingPundits to presidential politics without every word sticking to your shoe.

We already know that in the digital world, the past is never past. As Simon Rosenberg of NDN, a progressive advocacy group bridging these two worlds, says, "All of us are going to be living every moment of our past lives. People are living with things they did and said in their youths in a way they never did before."

One of our graduate students told me that the reason he never posted his required discussion board comments on OSU's online Blackboard site was that he didn't want any words to haunt him later. His opinion echoes Goodman's comment that Postings come down but never really disappear. They sit, like land mines, in the digital archives. This sense of being watched - well, isn't that what a blog asks for? - can make people (like me, anyway) cautious.

What could be better than Wikipedia?

Word of two new challenges or opportunities for variations on Wikipedia, both found from visiting Michael's Blog. Here is Citizendium, supposedly going to be more expert? And here is Michael's post on the new Conservapedia, which calls itself a Christian alternative. I agree with Michael that Conservapedia's bristling about "anti-Christian" bias in Wikipedia based whether dates are given as CE versus AD is overboard.

More options can be good. I'm not yet convinced that either of these is better. I have not yet bookmarked either site or tagged them in Delicious.