Where in the World?

That's sport and me up in a balloon over the Mesilla Valley. Oh yeah...that's my mom.

It was her idea.

We got to 10,000 feet and I didn't scream... much



The Little Things

Another nice thing about Fargo--free wireless internet access at the airport. As in, that's what enabled this almost-contentless post.


Interesting "Take"

A group of friends and I went to see a local theater company's production of Charles Mee's Wintertime. It was a pretty high-quality production (especially for a local blackbox theater). I just stumbled upon this interesting backstage blog one of the actors is using to document her journey to the local stage.

I wonder what Kenneth Burke would make of blogs...


Puts Me to Shame

Surfn' Poetry? These guys live it (New York Times. Free Registration Req'd).


Conversation in one of my Grad Classes

student: I think a lot of things depend upon the suspension of disbelief.
me: Wow! I just blogged about that yesterday.
student: I don't read your blog. Sorry.
me: Oh.


Chuck Klosterman

Chuck Klosterman has a great take on some of the connections between contemporary sports publicity and hip-hop culture at ESPN. Klosterman (who penned the bestseller, Fargo Rock City) meditates on these connections and whether or not the iconic Muhammad Ali invented rap. Klosterman's column takes an interesting turn when he describes the critics of both music and sport.

Sports columnists and rock critics have a lot of qualities in common (more than most readers realize, I suspect). Chief among these similarities is a sense of arbitrary righteousness: Sportswriters and music writers are appalled anytime they get what they once pretended to want. In the '80s, tennis writers complained John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were obnoxious and undignified; today, tennis writers3 inevitably insist men's tennis is boring and that we need a new Super Brat. Whenever musical acts become obsessed with import and authenticity (i.e., U2 during the "Rattle and Hum" era), pop critics find them egocentric and ridiculous; the moment those same musical acts embrace artifice and grandiosity (i.e., U2 on the 1997 "Popmart" tour), those same critics question their integrity. Whenever you deliver anything to a sports columnist or a rock critic, they will want its opposite. And this is especially true when the (mainly) white media covers the (mainly) black worlds of football, basketball and mainstream hip-hop.4 In both instances, journalists remain simultaneously fixated on two paradoxical positions:

(1.) Most athletes/artists are boring because all they do is repeat safe, meaningless clichés.
(2.) The few individuals within these idioms who do say provocative, controversial things are ill-informed media whores who should be more grateful that they are rich.

da*n straight, Chuck.


Is a Game an Argument?

Tiny asks a good question in a comment to my last post. (Go ahead and read the comment. I'll wait).

Ready? O.K. I suppose if a novelist's only argument is "buy my book," then yes, that is the main argument for a game designer (and I think that, at some level, that is part of the thinking. Otherwise, they would probably stick to drawing on their walls, or something more obscure). I don't really accept that reason in toto, though, because there are much more lucerative things talented creative people can do. Moreover, the aspersion that if "filthy lucre" is involved it taints the artifice/argument would have to be applied across the board. Rhetors and artists are involved in things that generate money. Richard Lanham calls this the "fluff" necessarily attached to "stuff" in his book The Economics of Attention. Rhetors/artists create attention-capturing configurations of words/images/textiles/sounds/etc. in order to generate particular creative changes in larger contexts. Art may be for sale, and may even generate sales, but they also change things in the larger culture not immediately connected to points of sale.

Beyond this argument that has been made by other, far more articulate, scholars and theorists, I think that game designers and artists involve themselves in two important, and different aspects of the gaming complex.

1.) These designers are materially interested in continuing, and extending, extant aesthetic regiemes. The recent release of the PS3 and the Wii exemplify the two dominant sides of the debate. The PS3 appeals to those who want to extend the realism/naturalism paradigm further--the same regieme that was extended by Halo 3 (if you haven't seen the new commercial for Halo 3, I would recommend watching it for a quick synopsis of the realist/naturalist theme. It really captures the flavor of the "evil is inevitable, so we should give in and immerse ourselves in its aesthetic (all the while, removed from it as a representational cyborg). The other regieme is represented by the more optimistically ludic Wii. The non-photorealistic representation of the game offerings, as well as the embodied sociability (with all of the ridiculous movements you have to make in a social setting) emphasize a particular optimism. Because we are basically "good," it's O.K. to be ridiculous. Whearas the realism/naturalism isolates the individual in a mythic-heroic figuration, the optimistic/embodied-sociable emphasizes connection through silliness.

So, when game designers and artists give nods to particular game precedents, they are at least acknowledging who pays the bills. Moreover, they are acknowledging that they at least "buy in" to the culture they are building upon--the culture of lan parties, couches, sleepovers, online death matches, finals week steam-blowing tournaments, etc. Many of these designers met significant others and friends this way, so I would be surprised if many of them did NOT believe in game culture in some deep and significant way.

The "suspension of disbelief" genre conventions reinforce and reify cultural conventions about sociability (much the same way detective novels still reinforces Edgar Allen Poe's "following the trail" narrator sifts through narratological details to "reveal" [create, really] individual responsibility).

2.) One of the rhetor's main tasks is to reinforce cultural conventions through reification. The epideictic rhetor praises and blames in order to craft the public role of hero or villain ("Helen is not to be blamed for the Trojan war" reinforces the heroism of those who would launch the ships as more than "silly boys"). The forensic lawyer struggles to find the point of argumentation in order to reify his defendant as a not guilty person. Long after each game is sold, hours and hours are spent with each game copy constituting and arranging groups of people around the roles that are allowed within and around the game. As Q-Olin notes, the social configurations these games allow, reinforce, and reify are bleeding into other genres, like talk shows and mashups.


Genre Theory

Clive Thompson, over at Wired Magazine has a reasonably good discussion of the importance of genre embedded in his review of the new first-person shooter video game Gears of War. Thompson has an instrumentalist ham-fistedness with passages like this:
Consider the sonnet. It's been around ever since Italian poets invented it in the 13th century, and it's deeply formulaic. But it's never gotten boring, because poets keep on finding surprising new ways to hack it. The Earl of Surrey remixed the sonnet's 14 lines into a new stanzaic structure, turning it into a four-part argument and spurring Shakespeare into an orgy of creativity. Then e e cummings tore the sonnet into tiny shreds, splaying the words across the page while using the rhyming structure to hold each poem together.
Still, he is on to something important about Ciceronian eloquence residing in the familiar. While New Media practitioners and theorists stretch to find the theoretical increments that matter (the mode? the medium? the metaphor?), the rhetors who manage to convince large numbers of people that THEY have something different will end up being the ones who define the important conventions and variations. Game designers are some of the most important rhetors of our time, IMHO.


Weird, Magical Ride

The Bison basketball team is continuing its magic carpet ride. Even though they cannot go to the NCAA tournament for a few years, this mostly sophomore team fearlessly enters lions' dens and wrestles these beasts to the ground. This same group did the same thing to a ranked Wisconsin team last year, almost took town Texas Tech in Lubbock, and came back on Princeton two days ago.

I would say that I'm surprised, but every time I move to a school, this same scene unfolds.
-My first year of High School, the football team goes to the State Championship Game.
-My first year of Undergraduate school, the football team makes the playoffs for the first time in memory. My tennis team also starts its ascent back to the NCAAs.
-I started going to Penn State in 1994 (Not unprecedented, but I have yet to see as good of an offense in college football).
-The year I started the University of New Mexico, Dennis Francione took UNM football to a bowl game--the first since the 1960s.
-When I started teaching at Bowling Green State University, Urban Meyer had just turned around what used to be one of the worst football teams in the country. I got to see them go to a bowl game.

Frankly, I'm a bigger basketball fan than I am a football fan (I played organized football in high school and tennis in high school and college, but I always loved playground basketball the best), so I'm enjoying the scrappy Bison roundballers most of all.

Nice work gentlemen.


Marcel Marceau of Memes

Scott Eric Kaufman is conducting an experiment on the propagation of memes, the results of which will be part of his talk at said panel. He's asking people to post entries about his entry, link back to the original entry, and then ping Technorati (if your blogging platform doesn't already do so automatically). That's all. And to make it easy, all you really need do is to copy and paste this very paragraph, formatting in the links to Scott's entry and to Technorati, then visit Technorati and enter the URL for your own entry. That sounds like more work than it actually is. And the reward is that you'll be contributing to Science™.

From Wired Magazine

Absolutely chilling:

The bill, SB1666, was written by state Sen. Debra Bowen, and would have barred investigators from making "false, fictitious or fraudulent" statements or representations to obtain private information about an individual, including telephone calling records, Social Security numbers and financial information. Victims would have had the right to sue for damages.

The bill won approval in three committees and sailed through the state Senate with a 30-0 vote. Then, according to Lenny Goldberg, a lobbyist for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the measure encountered unexpected, last-minute resistance from the Motion Picture Association of America.

"The MPAA has a tremendous amount of clout and they told legislators, 'We need to pose as someone other than who we are to stop illegal downloading,'" Goldberg said.


Fringe Benefits

As the daylight window here gets ridiculously short, and I attempt to hold onto my almost-winter sanity, I am noticing one fringe benefit. The bleakness drives me past my usual hesitation to cold-email old friends ("THIS will cheer me up!"). That isn't the main benefit, though. The benefit is the fre-e-e-z-z-ing weather that I can bravely dismiss as I strike up new conversations with old friends ("it's not SO bad once you get the gear."). I used to think that Garrison Keillor was being folksy and (as the NY Times has stated on multiple occasions) perhaps a bit condescending. I mean it doesn't REALLY get to 20 below...right?

No, he's not a storyteller as much as he is just reporting what he sees. Every other person really is Lutheran and Scandinavian. Hell, sport and I walk by the Kringen Lodge every time we go downtown.

Yeah, not having to rely on glossy fictions for conversational detail and having conversational inhibitions beaten out of you by the weather helps the old writing process. Just ask Mr. Keillor.


Did Someone Not Send Me the Memo?

Seems like every sportsmedia sycophant (at least college football types) are trying to distract fans from the current BeeCeeeSs pileup. No change there. Lots of avoidance of asking why a non "major" conference unbeaten like Boise State deserves to be shut out of the championship ("wrong pedigree Chaz!"). Not so much questioning how to sort out the haves from the almost-haves (unless, of course, lazy couchmanship counts).

What REALLY puzzles me in this mess is how the great majority of the sports-pundocracy agrees that the University of Florida in no way deserves a shot at the BCS title game. In understand lining up behind Ohio State U (kind of) with a few impressive, barely-eked home victories. What I find puzzling about the Florida exclusion is how a late-season home spanking of a middle-of-the road team like Notre Dame outweighs a loss to Oregon State and a boatload of near-miss comebacks against a pretty weak Pac-10 conference. Nevermind the fact that Boise spanked Oregon State (lots of spanking to go around, apparently). I also can't figure out why people didn't put a big fat * next to the Auburn "loss," when an officiating flub contributed so mightily to the game outcome (boo hoo for Oklahoma, but *cough* for Florida, apparently).

Michigan can make a case for the championship game, but late losses traditionally count more than early losses...unless you are talking about THIS year...and talking about Florida.

Did I miss the memo that told sportscophants they must. avoid. discussion. of. Florida's. merits? I think that the *usual* rules that apply to artibrary football rankings (late losses, strong conferences, more victories, close rivalry games not counting for style points, etc.) have been summarily changed. They are so well known that conferences reschedule potential early losses (Florida State vs. Miami, for example) in order to maximize their conference's chances to get two BCS bids.

Who got the memo?

Nice Take over at Collin vs. Blog

Collin does a great job tying some threads together on the temporal and epistemological transformation of a folksonomy to a taxonomy.


Wisdom of Crowds?

From the Time Magazine cover story:


It's not impossible for us to become sharper risk handicappers. For one thing, we can take the time to learn more about the real odds. Baruch Fischhoff, professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, recently asked a panel of 20 communications and finance experts what they thought the likelihood of human-to-human transmission of avian flu would be in the next three years. They put the figure at 60%. He then asked a panel of 20 medical experts the same question. Their answer: 10%. "There's reason to be critical of experts," Fischhoff says, "but not to replace their judgment with laypeople's opinions."

A former student of mine (hat tip to Angel) wrote her thesis on this gap between risk perception and risk analysis. Her recommendations look a LOT like the ones offered in this article.

And don't even get me started on the role that fear-mongering and caricature contrarian (a.k.a. John Stossel) journalism play in semiotically wrecking our sense of risk...


"The" Problem with Dissoi Logoi

The New York Times has a pretty decent article (free subscription required) on the competition to attract talented young professionals to American cities.

Richard Florida's (author of Rise of the Creative Class) is prominently cited in this article, as he is the most visible proponent of the idea that attracting creatives to a region can help that region's economy. One of Florida's most vocal critics, Joel Kotkin, points out that amenities are not a particularly effective way of attracting these creatives. To be fair, Richard Florida does not call for amenities in either his research OR his popular books. Instead, he correlates creative class density to the three "Ts" of talent, techology, and tolerance. This final "tolerance" is where critics like Kotkin seize upon Mr. Florida's thesis (usually only hinting at "teh gays" meme in order to inflame while insisting on oblique ad hominem attacks and never quite laying out the logic of his argument). I have called Kotkin on this argument in his blog and in correspondence, but I think there is a deeper structural problem with the entire Creative Class Regional Economic development argument.

This excerpt from the NY Times article gets a little closer to the heart of the problematic either/or argument:

Still, what works in one city will not work in others, Mr. Cortright said, and not all young people are looking for the same things. He cites Portland’s bike paths, which many point to as an amenity that has helped the city attract young people.

“I think that confuses a result with a cause,” Mr. Cortright said. Portland happened to have a group who wanted concessions for cyclists and was able to get them, he said.

“The real issue was, is your city open to a set of ideas from young people, and their wish to realize their dream or objective in your city,” he said. “You could go out and build bike paths, but if that’s not what your young people want, it’s not going to work.”

While the sophists were definitely onto something with their dissoi logoi method of argumentation (splitting any argument into two, opposed sides), a method that works well in an agonistic arena, it does some serious violence in situations where people must come together around a solution. The correlation/causation argument might be resolved in a vacuum, but when Richard Florida trots off to cities across the globe and gives the veneer of respectability to amenities projects and lifestyle solutions (like gay-friendly developments, etc.) it makes it tough to argue the "face value" of his stated premises of the three Ts. Furthermore, the correlation/causation argument hides the multiple issues that connect and divide cities. Some people want access to bike trails without having to deal with the dizzying display of non-normative behaviors and sexualities. Some urban professionals don't care about bicycles. The distortion of dissoi logoi is that somehow the opposition to a position (the "Creative Class" argument, say, or the amenity argument) can be usefully resolved. Kotkin's non-argument of the merits of the premises and Florida's willingness to endorse (at least in appearances) the amenities solutions he writes against in his book suggests that the major agons in this contest do not believe that the argument can be usefully resolved--a sort of cynical version of Gerald Graff's "teach that argument" (profit from the argument, really)

While there is a lot of money to be made with these endlessly proliferated "Fair and Balanced" arguments (see Democrat/Republican, conservative/liberal, red/green, Ren/Stimpy), it polarizes communities. Which brings us back to the NY Times article, which posits what Michael Bérubé identifies as procedural liberalism as the way out of the binary opposition of dissoi logoi argumentation.

The NY Times article gives the last word to Mr. Kortner who emphasizes that a city must be "open to a set of ideas from young people, and their wish to realize their dream or objective in your city." That wish that citizens can not only dream unfettered, but also that these dreams can be discerned, discussed, culled, and ordered presupposes a forum (or more accurately, fora) that allows for this type of debate. Newspapers, talk radio, and television all opt for the horse-race description dependent upon dissoi logoi (a method, which the Kotkin and Florida reportage demostrates, destroys most of the dream/objective options available at a particular time).

More telling than the "last word" in the NY Times article is the discussion of the "winner" in the American talent contest, Atlanta. While it is certainly a model of tolerance that Florida discusses, it contains 25 universities, which, as Bérubé (and Florida) points out, provides a powerful set of fora for discussing dreams and objectives.

I think that New Media like blogs and podcasts could provide more distributed, organic, and incremental fora for capturing and working out the dreams of the community, but it will take more affectional ties to notions of geographic and spatial identity. More on that later...


Happy Thanksgiving

Mashed potatoes, onion gravy, bourbon pumpkin pie, whole wheat rolls, arugula and candied walnut salad, and, of course, cranberry-chipotle chutney.

Happy Thanksgiving, blogosphere!


Fargo or...

Today, it is supposed to be warmer in Fargo (59 degrees) than Jacksonville (56 degrees). Reminds me of an earlier trip sport and I made with some friends. Bonus points if you guess the city that appears over our shoulders.



We are all posthuman, but we are not all Kortney Clemons.


Curling Sunday

Up here Fargo way, we do things a bit differently. Turns out a morning at the sheet is a sacred ritual.

First, we started with a cup of bean water at the new Atomic Coffee.

Once we get to the sheet, it's time to work on our form. As you can see, sport's training in ballet really paid off.

Marshall and Gryffindor are working hard for Team Canada.

Incidentally, sport and I curled with department members during the interviewing process. While it didn't give us any "in" during our on-campus interviews (we weren't, and aren't very skillful), I would highly recommend trying to spend time with your potential future colleagues doing "native" things. Breaking out of the interview box and performing local activities makes it much easier to demonstrate that you are a good fit (not to mention, helping you figure out if you really want to be a part of that particular ecology). Sliding around on ice in the middle of Janauary may not sound like fun to some people, but doing this (rather than, say, obsessing how easy it is to simulate living somewhere coastal) really clarified our job priorities.


Just a small question

Anyone else wonder what happened to the Foley "Investigation"? Just askin'...


Bowling Greener Pastures

I had an anonymous commenter a few months back question whether Bowling Green State University had ANY affect on me (of course it did, but this raw blog likes to focus on the....NOW...er...NOW of things). Unless you have been in a post-election coma, you know that tOSU is playing Michigan in football this weekend. Besides the fact that I liked spending my time in Ann Arbor much more than circling around Columbus, (and THIS should illustrate why I never approached tOSU's campus within a week of game "day"), I generally resented the state of Ohio for shunting the $$ from non-tOSU schools to offer things like THIS. That is why this post on the OSU/Michigan game is so darn satisfying. Who am I cheering for this game? Why the Falcons, naturally.


Winter Checklist

Snow dusting last night. Gotta go through my new snow gear.

Yaktrax? Check!
Jacket? Check!
Boots? Check! (thanks Dr. Drew)
Music for long winter nights? Check! (thanks sport)
Beverage for long winter nights? Check!
Food for the long cold darkness? Check! (thanks D-dawg and M-dawg)


Not Me(me)--Sport's Guest Blog Entry

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree

10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea - from the shore
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper

21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity

25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends

43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach

50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love

53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero

58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater

66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites

70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas

86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone (if you count Belfast)
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently well enough to have a decent conversation
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over

101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery (see below)
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived

105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school

131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life (Well, I have a friend who claims so, but I leave it to the universe to decide)

Thanks Doc


Who Is That?

In an earlier incarnation, I was a "Communications Specialist" at a National Lab. That guy with the plaid shirt on looking at my foamcore presentation (my former Manager/Director is giving the talk--it's really her show) is Harry Reid. That's the new Senate Majority Leader. Who sez tech writers have no say?


Every Once in a While

Bitch, Ph.D. has a great post on what good democracy looks like in everyday practice. I won't get wonky here, but she perfectly describes what I try to teach and investigate in my research--embodied practice of good principles.


Today is Democracy Day

I celebrated by voting, but can't find any individuals (outside of the usual political suspects) blogging about it. First blog I find with a post about the election gets onto my blogroll (only applies to those not on my blogroll).
Saw Jenny's post on the election first. Already on the blogroll.
We have a "winner" folks.
Neither Necessary Nor Sufficient (with no caps, really). Thanks for the great post.



What a University Web Page SHOULD look like

In an earlier professional incarnation, I was a web designer. One of the things I got sick of were wannabe cartoon artists trying to impose their aesthetics on others. Almost inevitably, web design proposals tended towards the "sci fi" and "intimidating," rather than the "friendly." It was more an expression of the web designer's ambition than a desire to connect people.

Fortunately, web sites are getting friendlier all the time. One really good example is MIT's homepage. Accessible (hat tip to Clay), friendly, and useful.

No dancing baloney.


Pointless Blog Entry

Not such a good idea to make people blog every day, is it?


Presidential Tag Cloud

Very. Illuminating. Application.

It's got a kick-arse slider so that you can look at Presidential speeches from 1776-2006.

That's Gonna Leave a Mark

O.K., I know that Ne-oponte badly wants to find SOMETHING that the U.S. Executive Branch can, in good conscience, call WMDs, BUT...

open-sourcing the job of combing possibly top-secret nuclear research to anyone and everyone with access to the internet strikes me as almost psychopatically reckless.

Not the kind of thing you want to do IF you claim that you are trying to protect Americans.

But that could be just me...


Is it Just Me?

Or does the media tennis game between Democratic pseudo-snafus and the "Inevitable Democratic Wave" mantra really irritate. You would think we have no issues to discuss.

Smells and tastes like the state fair these days.

It's November Already?


O.K., I started a day late. So what?


Surfing the Red River

Lance humorously asked why I was not getting surf lessons in Fargo. I replied that you simply can't surf the Red River. Turns out I was wrong.

The caption can be found here.


Best. Partner. Ever.

Sport got me surf lessons for my birthday. Gotta get to the beach this summer to take advantage of these lessons.

The gift and the travel it precipitates are two of the reasons I'm glad I swapped vows with Sport.


Rollin' Rollin' Rollin' (c'mon!)

During the VR@RL conference, Benden Riley presented a paper on the Katamari Interface (If you don't know what it is, I can't explain it as well as he does). Well, now there is a television commercial that picks up on the theme of aggregation as invention. Popular culture is catching up with...uh...popular culture.


Voices Carry

Looks like the FBI knew a bit about this for months. My feeling is this is going to get much worse. The Washington Post has a pretty dramatic lineup of information that shows some serious dysfunctional stuff going down across the Potomac. Illustrates the inside-out nature of Ciceronian sympathy. When you think you have black boxed the discourse (Liberals=Democrats=Bad for All Time), you are subject to the enthymematic assumptions (liberal=sexual libertine, etc.). The migration to electrate practices allows a new level of speed, but does NOT evaporate as quickly as speech. Electracy is NOT secondary orality.

FBI Knew in July About Foley E-Mails to Teen...
Also yesterday, ABC News posted on its Web site instant messages -- reportedly between Foley and another former House page -- in which the lawmaker repeatedly tried to set up a dinner date and indicated that the boy had spent time with him in San Diego. Previously disclosed messages had not indicated that Foley was trying to make personal contact with the boys, who had served as runners and helpers for a year in Washington

...An FBI official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the field office concluded that the e-mails "did not rise to the level of criminal activity." The bureau announced Sunday that it would begin a preliminary investigation into Foley's more explicit electronic exchanges with teenagers.

...Hastert noted that the 2005 e-mails to the Louisiana teenager were ambiguous. In one, Foley asked the boy to send a picture of himself, which reportedly alarmed the youth and his parents. Hastert agreed yesterday that an adult's request for a teenager's photo "would raise a red flag." But he said he would not second-guess his party's handling of the situation.

The boy's parents approached the office of Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) in late 2005, asking that Foley stop contacting their son and that the matter be kept quiet, according to House accounts.

Reynolds, who chairs his party's House campaign committee, and Majority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) were among prominent Republicans who also knew of the parents' concerns earlier this year. But the matter was left to Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.), who chairs the House Page Board, and then-House clerk Jeff Trandahl, also a board member.

Hush hush...


Extimacy Laid "Bare"

Extimacy has been around for quite a while, but Internet innovations like IMing and chat reveal electrate consequences. From the GOP page-gate headlines
Many more, and much seamier, message exchanges began to pour in to ABC. Some were mildly crude. "Do I make you a little horny?" Foley is said to have asked one page. Others show Foley, under the signer Maf54, engaged in graphic Internet sex with minors, ABC reported. During one session a page instant-messages Maf54, "brb [be right back] ... my mom is yelling."


Weird conincidence

Sport looks over her shoulder while she's doing research on cancer and gender and mentions that "pap smears are called non-invasive."

As she's telling me this, my iTunes starts playing Fiona Apple's "Criminal."

These weird coincidences have happened around ten times today. Ghost in the machine?


There are Heroes Everywhere

Although the news snippets focus upon her death, the real story resides in the way she connected lives through story:

Martinez was honored along with 11 other folk and traditional artists as a 2006 National Heritage Fellow, the NEA said in a news release. The fellowship includes an award of $20,000.

She received a standing ovation in the nation's capital for her stories and life's work preserving her native Tewa language and traditions...

Martinez was born and raised in northern New Mexico, the NEA said in a biography. Her American Indian name is P'oe Tswa, or Blue Water, but she was known by many as Ko'oe Esther, or Aunt Esther.

She spent much of her childhood living with her grandparents and visited her parents by traveling in a covered wagon.

She was a major conservator of the Tewa language, teaching her native tongue from 1974 to 1989 at schools in Ohkay Owingeh, formerly known as San Juan Pueblo.

She also helped translate the New Testament of the Bible into Tewa and compiled Tewa dictionaries for pueblos, which have distinct dialects, the NEA said.

Since 1988, Martinez told her stories in English to non-Tewa audiences through Storytelling International.


Dog Days of Summer

An English 120 class (Freshling Comp--second semester) enjoying the weather here in Fargo. It's not my class, but, yes, the students here are pretty much the ones you see in the pictures.


Going to a Charette

As some of you know, I'm a big fan of hybrid civic-participation/professional genres. I am especially interested in how charettes seem to construct a paralogic (negotiated, temporary), while reifying some role distinction (public/professional, expert/needy).

I'll be going to an affordable low-income housing charette today at the Plains Art Museum. It's a two-hour design session with "architects, designers, builders, students, and community leaders and creatives." I am worried about them not including actual low-income residents as participants (after all, they are the ones who might actually live in these houses). What intrigues me about this session is where it is being held. The Plains Art Museum has had a display of affordable/modular housing--really more of a design exhibit. The idea of living space as spectacle has gained quite a bit of currency, and the notion that the "double-wide" shares space with Mary Cassatt and Luis Jiminez is quite a shift (not unprecedented, as shown by Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian, and similar displays in other museums).

I'll try to take some pics and blog about it later.


Good Luck

You crazy kids. Good luck with the wedding, the honeymoon, (the run?), and the beer.



Parlor, database, or....

Collin has a great post on the metaphor of Burke's parlor, and some of the nuances of championing this metaphor in front of graduate students (who generally need to publish to even be considered for a job). Burke's metaphor:

Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.

Nice, romantic metaphor (and redolent of a Viennese coffeehouse or Czech wine cellar). Collin problematizes the notion "writing" as "dipping oars" quite nicely:

My concern is with the ease with which "putting in one's oar" is translated into the nominalism of "publication." As in, I need a publication, or to get a publication, or I don't have enough publications. I'm being somewhat specific here: I'm objecting to "publication" as a thing you have as opposed to "publishing" as an activity you engage in. And thus my concern is also with how we translate "listen for a while," because I think that's key for publishing (and perhaps less of an emphasis in publication).

Collin's point's to Jeff's djing (shades of Johndan Johnson-Eilola's chapter on turntablism in datacloud), and Brenden's katamari presentation at VR@RL as two examples of "collection." One thing I think worth further exploration that neither the Parlor, nor the database collection cover is virtuosity. Somewhere between the rhetorical canons of invention and collection, and the canons of style and delivery lies the ability of knowing what might belong where. The database (with it's connotations of nearly-unlimited memory) and the Parlor (with it's organicist emphasis upon the semi-intoxicated speaker as both collection and performer--a very Burkean bifurcation) push aside the question of how to cut and/or arrange. The mechanistic muscularity of the database and the gentility of the parlor conversation obscure some very real power relations that "dipping oars" and "collection" are attempting to subvert, or at least change. And lest you think I'm slipping into a mechanistic Marxist read of the situation as an easy way out, I am not. I think that Collin's corrective is a good one, but I also want to re-imagine the process as more agonistic and/or dramatistic. I think that the "listening" or "collecting" phases can be also read as "training" or "practicing" for a future performance that is to be evaluated. The slippage between semi-drunk BS grad-school bar conversations and Burke's parlor are a bit too easy. Seeing these conversations and collections as a pathway to virtuosity (certainly someone well-versed in turntablism would understand) could help salve some of the frustration of teachers who goad grad students to take their studies "seriously" by remaining mindful of the collection phase, rather than speeding straight to evaluation/argument (the cayenne "heat" that supposedly generates publication--the talented Mr. Ripley shows up at the Parlor?).


I too was there!


I loved the movie Finding Forrester (yes, even for some of its extremely problematic ways of dealing with race and class), but this is just too, too funny.

Smart mobs?

Stupid mobs.


Happy Birthday, Little Brother

Thirty four trips around the sun. Here's hoping for 34 more!



Crisis in Publishing and Peer Review

Adam Rogers has a good article at Wired.com on the use of wikis and web communications to mod peer review. The author is a bit glib comparing the journal Nature to the physics and mathematics "prepublication paper" publication outlet (!?) arXiv (archive), Biology Direct, and PLoS ONE, but he does a pretty good job showing the future of peer review. If academics want to preserve peer-review (a mechanism that ensures professional status AND serves as a check to the corrupting influence of corporatist and government interest), then we should take a serious look at shifting to this version (we actually are doing this at journals like Computers and Composition Online and Kairos, although much of this has to do with using the visual and aural possibilities of the medium, rather than the structural and speed advantages of online communication). Much of the academic "crisis in publishing" has to do with a technological shell game that has now caught up with Libraries (causing inordinate price inflation for journals and books and forcing University Presses to close). While it is imperative for tenured faculty and administrators to recognize online venues as legitimate, it is even more important for us to separate issues of professional accreditation from technological issues. One of the biggest and most easily leveled arguments against peer-review (read: tenure), is the sheer expense of the process. In order for academics to scrupulously defend professional accreditation as a social good, we have to nullify this argument. Putting research online will also allow us to share more of our own work with those who may benefit from our work. So it may help solve the "crisis in publication" and the "crisis in de-professionalization" at the same time. Genius.


Funny thing about snakes on a plane

I'm not afraid of snakes. I'm afraid of flying. As far as I'm concerned, this year's Blair Witch Project could have been called You. On a Plane.


Sunday BakeBlogging

My hyper-mediating colleague Marshall wanted me to blog about the 5k "Run Through State U" on Saturday (in case you want to know, it was pretty uneventful, outside of the fact that the nice young woman who toured me around campus during my on-campus interview came up and re-introduced herself).

No dice, Marshall. Today I clear the deck to bring you these beautiful LOAVES O' LOVE. The recipe for these multi-multi grain loaves came from one of Sport's former colleagues (appropriately enough, a medievalist). They have cracked wheat, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, all purpose flour, whole wheat flour (North Dakota stone ground, incidentally), wheat germ, yeast, a little shortening, water, honey, and molasses. Oh, and we used an egg and milk wash with sesame seeds on the outside. We've already had some of the bread with some local honey. Low carb is for the insane, my friends.


Radar Obsession

I share an obsession with my colleague Marion Mahony. We both like to look at the weather online while we are sitting inside. There is something so satisfying about watching the colored spray of doppler rader exploding across a map of your town. Marion likens it to the sublime.

Yes, we also both love the Weather Channel.


Kewl Mapping Tool

If you are a runner like I am (or, a much better runner), you know that finding distances on running courses can be tough.

Web2.0 to the rescue, my friends. The U.S. Track and Field website has a mapping function where you can map and store your particular running route with a wicked kewl mapping tool (vraiment easy to use). You can store your own routes and even look up stored routes and plan new running routes in cities you plan to visit.

The only drawback? You can't lie to yourself about your distance or pace. My regular run is about 1/2 mile shorter than I had thought.


Great Tech Comm Website

Instructables is a great resource for showing students technical communication as a calling.

My favorite? Instructions on how to make five foot tall Jacob's Ladder.


Minneapolis To Do List

Buy gift at Mall of America for cousin's 10 year birthday: check
Swank tapas at Solera: check
Run around Lake of the Isles: check
Brunch at French Meadow Bakery: check
Testing the strength of the cantilever forming the Guthrie's new "endless bridge": check

I just knew I should have put finishing my syllabus on that list.


Happy Camper

Me. At Babbs. Using my new Macbook Pro.



I thought I had Collin Vs. Blog on my blogroll (I read his posts at least once or twice a week).

Problem rectified (!).


Nets and Jets

Bruce Sterling has a deep-thinking post at Wired today. Chris reports on Chris Parry's speech at the Royal United Service Institute--the oldest military think tank in the world. In the speech, rear admiral Perry reports on some of the counterintuitive results of neoliberal policies--cheap airfare and ubiquitious/easy communication.

The technological drivers of globalization have enabled stateless barbarians to seize the initiative. You can’t keep them out by blocking the border, and the harder you smash the failed states that nurture them, the more they thrive. At the first sign of weakness, these new-wave Vandals will log on to urge their diasporic compatriots to attack you on your own soil. Failing that, they’ll hop on the next flight, pick up their baggage, and sidle into Starbucks to download the latest instructions from Abu Ayyub al Masri...Nets and jets are never a one-way street, and even Parry’s reverse colonization can reverse itself. Consider Somalia, which, for 15 years, has been a running sore of new world disorder. Jets have evacuated everyone who could buy a ticket and have flown in battalions of jihadists. As for nets, this lawless maelstrom is one of the most heavily wired regions of Africa; free of licensing, taxes, and state-owned monopolies, entrepreneurs have been building out cell capacity and Net nodes like Silicon Valley whiz kids. To complicate matters, counter-terrorist warlords said to be financed by the US recently lost the country to a loose association of Islamic militias. This makes Somalia a prime case study for the darkest nets-and-jets forecast.

I'm not sure I totally buy Mr. Sterling's silver lining of hope that neoliberal economic and political policies and neoconservative military enforcement of neoliberal policies can get ahead of technologically-enabled smart mobs. Still, I really hope he is right.


Syncretism in action

In an earlier post about Dr. Sharon Crowley's book, Toward a Civil Discourse, I pointed to the the religious syncretism I witnessed during earlier evangelical Christian experiences. The New York Times has a nice story today documenting how Rev. Gregory A. Boyd in St. Paul, Minnesota embodies this syncretism. Conservative by most measures of the word, Reverend Boyd is radically separating Apocalyptsm from his congregation's evangelical practices:

Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

Mr. Boyd says he is no liberal.

Perhaps this is a version of the invention Dr. Crowley calls for. I saw this (and participated in this) this kind of religious invention throughout my spiritual life (I still do, to a certain extent). Looking for these kinds of articulations in the everchanging streams of politics, thought, and religion will, I think, provide those interested in building bridges a few more places to build. Heraclitus was right.


Why do we meet at conferences?

My experience as part of the VR@RL has been somewhat diffuse. There has been a bit of a cool vibe, but mostly I have felt a bit detached from the proceedings. This could be partly because of the false start that occurred when the meatspace winter conference was cancelled, and probably has something to do with the fact that many of us are making the transition from vacation to "oh-my-goodness-I-need-to-finish-prepping-my-scholarship/classes."

Still, I feel a little detached from these proceedings. It is a little TOO easy to catch glimpses here and there and go right back to my own course/scholarship prepping. Meatspace synchronous conferences isolate you and then force you to dress up and try to act cool on the off chance that you might make a lasting impression on SOMEBODY. I think these social events are mostly good for us. English folks are notoriously introverted, and it is good to air us out in public spaces near restaurants and bars that require some sort of dressing up.

Of course, Alex and Alex helped us out by filming themselves in their presentations (and even putting pretty cool soundtracks together). Maybe next year's call should include the requirement of some sort of avatar and cool music. Just sayin...


Congratulations Eclipse

For those of you unfamiliar with my work, Eclipse is one of the companies I have been studying. They may have just won the race to the starting line (!) for the Very Light Jet market. Unsurprisingly, the announcement was made at an airshow:

Complete article here
FAA clearing the way for mini jets

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new light, cheap and fast jet is expected to be certified for flight Thursday.

Eclipse Aviation's E500 will be the first "very light jet," or VLJ, to receive a provisional certification by the Federal Aviation Administration. Thousands more are expected to take wing over the next decade.

The announcement, at the annual AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is one of the biggest things to happen to general aviation in years. Acting Transportation Secretary Maria Cino traveled to the show to make the announcement....

The big question surrounding VLJs is who will use them and where they will fly.

Vern Raburn, the founder of Albuquerque-based Eclipse Aviation Corp., predicts VLJs will be used as air taxis: for-hire limousines-with-wings that will take off and land at thousands of small airports. Businesspeople, he says, will be attracted to them because they will get where they need to go faster and with less hassle than on a commercial flight -- and cheaper than on a chartered business jet.

VLJs can land on runways as short as 3,000 feet (900 meters), compared with the 4,000 (1,200 meters) or 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) required by the smallest jets now being flown. The FAA says there are more than 5,000 small, underused airports in the United States.



Alex commented that:

I think you strike upon something important here in the notion of these bloggers as ghostly figures, both virtual and material (in the way Derrida remarks about the spectral). They haunt Rt. 66, visiting their haunts. And as you note in another post, it is their haunting (their frequent, periodic inhabitation) that establishes their ethos, their identities, both within the blogosphere and the "505."

I couldn't agree more. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but as you mention Derrida discusses this. A major influence on my thoughts is Steve Pile's book Real Cities. He does a nice job looking at the spectral (he uses the term phantasmagoria for its historical and performative connotations), AND does a nice job of connecting it with "on the ground" experience. I think this was what I am reaching for more generally in my own perspective (and one of the reasons I am looking at epideictic ethos, rather than, say deliberative, or forensic ethos. It's about those we share share space with, celebrate with, warn, etc. rather than just argumentation).

I also like the way that the Route 66 combines an abstract sense of movement and speed (something Baudrilled noted was key to understanding Americanness in this travelogue America) with the material realities of the automobile. Route 66 is celebrated (it is the most covered American song), and is famous for its nostalgia, but it was a BLOODY and dangerous road. There are probably more than a few ghosts, both happy and angry on this road.


VR@RL starts today

My piece is over at Tech Toledo, a domain that was going to host the CityBlog that my second student charette team created (don't ask, go over there and explore). If you want to see what other new media-types are creating for the virtual conference, there should be are links at the conference front page soon.

Please feel free to leave a comment at Tech Toledo, as I'll be cross-posting about the project (here and) there all week.


Sunday BakeBlogging

Sport and I made a strawberry and rhubarb tart (from Once Upon a Tart, using Shamie's crust), using rhubarb from the local Farmer's market.

We also spent our time making these two monsters:

We used the Cooking Light 2006 compilation for this recipe (and substituted zante currants for raisins). We hoped they would rise well, but LORDY!


So last night...

Sport and a few friends of ours were walking back from the Fargo Street Fair (and some pretty woot desserts and Nicole's Fine Pasteries), when we walked by a building that usually has a bunch of older men sitting out front. Earlier, I had observed that this probably signified subsidized housing and that a lot of those guys were probably vets. Sport seemed a little surprised, at which point I ribbed her inability to ascertain veterans without their uniforms. When we walked by, I remarked that these men might also be disabled vets (my father is a disabled Korean War veteran, so "disabled vet" is a category I use fairly frequently, and with a great deal of respect). As we were all walking by and looking at the building and the men standing out front, I remarked (no lie) "there are the epaulet-less epileptic vets."

Say that three times fast.


Wednesday Fargoblogging

Been here for about a month (off and on), so I thought I might want to give you all a bit more of a glimpse of Fargo life than just the garden in front of my building. So...

Sport and I went to this place called The Red Raven Espresso Parlor. Yes this place is in a basement (hence the elevated signage).

It's the sort of establishment that definitely does NOT see many perfessers of my ilk frequenting the place. In fact, the only thing non-edgy about the Red Raven was me taking photos with my digital camera.

The cappuccino was pretty darn good (and the only place that I have ever been that has an 8 oz. serving outside of Italy [and the milk was properly steamed--not hot milk and not beaten egg whites]).

I definitely appreciate a coffee place that opens after noon and closes well after midnight (and is next door to a comix store to boot).


Long Run Today

After a breakfast of coffee and Moosewood puffy pancake (with carmelized apples and fresh blueberries), sport and I struck out for our long run.

Under overcast skies and 60 degree temperatures, we ran to downtown, south on Broadway, to the river, past the rapids, over the pontoon pedestrian bridge, into Moorhead, through the river neighborhood, to Concordia College...

and back. It was beautiful, even if we didn't like squeezing out the miles.

Next on the agenda:

Catch PHC
Make and freeze pizza dough
Cook big batch of ribolitta


Blog On Demand

Last night, sport and I went with about half of my department to the local Red Hawks minor league baseball game (complete with midwestern "O Canada," "God Bless America," "Star Spangled Banner," AND musically-accompanied fireworks). After the extremely pleasant evening watching baseball players get ejected and random crowd members getting beaned with merchandise and baseballs, my colleague Marshall turns to me and asks "so, you're going to blog about this tommorow. Right?"

I don't blog on demand, my friend.


Huzzah for my peeps

Glad to see my peeps getting together with government and industry to do what Martha Stewart might call "a good thing":

Tech Project Builds Peace

By Charles D. Brunt
Journal Staff Writer
U.S. efforts to employ former Soviet Union weapons scientists in peaceful research projects is creating new technologies and products for worldwide markets, ranging from temperature-resistant batteries to robots that detect land mines.
Seven technologies and related products were on display Thursday at Sandia National Laboratories for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. He is chairman of a Senate subcommittee that helps secure funding for such projects through the Department of Energy.
The U.S. Industry Coalition, a nonprofit association of U.S. companies engaged in commercializing technologies developed with former Soviet weapons scientists, sponsored the event.

If you want to read the whole story, you'll have to sit through a short ad.



Sport and I ran our typical over-river route, but added an extension past the Broken Axe Metal Bar and stopped by Scan Design to see about getting a cheap bistro table for my office (I'm going deskless...how metro of me).


Of Tornadoes

I don't know if Dr. Hawhee figured the ultimate significance of her tornado dreams, but I know some colleagues in Ohio who wish their recent brush with tornadoes was only a dream.

Sport's former colleagues at Ohio Northern University crowded into her old office (settling the debate of who has the worst, most subterranean office). One of my earlier "Friday Blog Teacher" awardees managed to keep teaching his summer class during the storm, even with faculty and the dean crowded in the tiny cubicle of a basement office. That may propel Dr. Scott to his second blogaward. He's definitely a finalist now.

Stay safe, residents of Tornado Alley.


Back to the Grind

If there any of you "I want to be a professor so that I can get summers off" crowd out there, vacation is officially over (if you can call a 1,000 mile move followed by a week of fun and a week of grading over 1,000 Advanced Placement Rhetoric and Composition exams "vacation").

It's back to course prep and scholarship (and yes, this blog post counts as one of my "breaks").

Chop chop!


Life is Good

People don't often count their blessings in public. Let me just describe three:

1. My morning run with sport over the Red River (and, believe it or not, through the "woods" of Island Park) was followed by a nice cappuccino at Babb's.
2. We found some nice spring onions at the downtown Fargo farmer's market yesterday.

and lest you believe that my only concerns are gastrointestinal

3. I have seen more beautiful and colorful thrushes here than in my entire stay in Ohio (although I'm still looking out for raptors!).

Hope you all get a chance to get outside and enjoy the summer.


North Dakota

The view from my window looks like Yavin IV (geeky Star Wars reference: look it up if you must).

HOW cold does it get here in winter?


Pay no attention to the gremlin on the wing

I'm home and just a little disturbed. During my 21 hour trip home from Florida, I was fortunate to hear a very loud "BANG" right outside my airline window. This jarring noise was followed by the magic words one longs to hear from your pilot:

"This is the captain. We seem to be experiencing engine failure."

Now we were reassured that we still had "ONE good engine," but the passengers were warned about the emergency vehicles and emergency positions one might need to assume SHOULD the flight attendants scream out "BRACE YOURSELVES" right at landing. Definitely soothing. Needless to say, we made it back safely (right back to the same gate, actually). We all took the same trek (with a different plane, we were assured).

Is Amtrak still running?


Moments of Grace

Two moments of grace during vacation.

For sport: seeing the dolphins swimming by on her childhood beach.

For me: flying over Monument Valley at 33,000 feet and immediately recognizing the monoliths that watched over my childhood (especially "Old Man").

You can't go home, but sometimes home waves to you in the distance.


Not-So-Secret Garden

The herb garden in front of our new apartment. Pretty much the opposite of everything I previously thought about Fargo.


Inside the Door

When sport and I got to our new abode, our box of summer reading was right inside the door:

Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Eco--I'm a little past half done)
Cooking Light 2006 Recipes
Finnegan's Wake (duh)
The Human Stain (Philip Roth--finished)
A Thousand Plateaus (Deluze and Guttari)
Oh. Play That Thing (Roddy Doyle)
The Birth of the Clinic (Michel Foucault)
The Archaeology of Knowledge (Michel Foucault--O.K., so I have a Foucault theme here. I've already read this one)
Breakfast on Plut0 (Patrick McCabe)
Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates
The Space Planner

It's not much, but it should keep us distracted as we finish unpacking.


The Long Goodbye

Most of you in the blogosphere don't know that sport (she's the the muddy one in the center--ruminate on whatever metaphor you like) and I will be taking our show to Fargo at North Dakota State University this Friday. We appreciate what our two institutions did for us, but the pull of working at the same institution, with graduate students, and within walking distance of the office (we can sell our second car--yay!), was just too tempting.

I'll get a chance to work with Kevin Brooks, Amy Rupier-Taggert, Betsy Birmingham, and Dale Sullivan (yes, THAT Dale Sullivan), and get to work in an arts-friendly place with a burgeoning downtown scene that has the still-rough edges that makes me feel at home.

To all of you who are STILL giving sport and I a mind-blowing victory lap (parties for pretty much two weeks straight): Thank You! It's incredibly gracious of two departments who invested as much as they have in us. Thank you truly.

Final (for now) thoughts on Crowley's Toward a Civil Discourse

A few more thoughts on Sharon Crowley's Toward a Civil Discourse:

1. This is an important text, if only for the reason that Stanley Fish is right. Rhetoricians NEED to engage in what is an ontological and epistemological battle (although I believe that the two sides that Crowley describes--the fundamentialist and the liberal--see this as two different battles. For the liberals it is always epistemological, and for fundamentalists, it's ontological). I appreciate what Dr. Crowley is opening herself up to in writing this.

2. In some ways, I think of this book in the same way I read and understand Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead. It reads a little like a fin-de-siecle border drama, a lot like a Jeremiad, with a type of mystical gesture towards hope. The inexorable march northward in Silko's text (a march of prophesy) is parallelled by Sharon's gesture towards invention that might bring two warring factions closer (an enraged fundamentalism and a reluctant liberalism).

3. In her latest post, Dr. Edbauer notices the difficulty of formulating this debate as one that might revolve the idea of the irredemable. I'm extremely hesitant to call it that because of #4.

4. One thing that struck me about Dr. Crowley's book was the threat that is sketched out in her narrative. She is correct in looking at the Apocalyptic nature of fundamentalist Christian rhetoric and the importance of delineating clear inside/outside binaries based mostly upon patriarchal structures (patriarchal structures maintained semiotically with pulpits, diases, and "big bibles" held aloft during long and stylized sermons. Structures maintained discursively with distorted Biblical emphases on direct descent [a bizarre Gentile practice when perceived outside of its patriarchal function], fetus-centrism, and "Old Testament" justice). What she misses in her threading together of the Left Behind narratives and a solid historicizing of the Apocalyptist movements is the syncretism of the congregations. When I attended the churches and bible-studies that popularized the texts that Dr. Crowley studies, most of my fellow attendees didn't actually live most of what they publicly attested to. It was a sort of salmon faith. Most of the folks I went there with wanted to swim with a particular school of fish, direct their feelings towards some sort of larger and coherent goal (getting to heaven), and maybe eventually return towards the spawning ground of actually living their faith when they, well, spawn. I was one of the few kids in these groups that took it seriously (the thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning was more of an indictment of my boring Saturday nights than an indication that I went to church hung over). Did this sort of "preacher-kid syndrome" mean that my pentacostal/patriarchal/fundamentalist peeps didn't believe in this stuff. Kind of. We were embarassed by a lot of what Dr. Crowley delineates. There were even more bizarre parasites like exorcism call-in shows (the main guy, Bob Larsen, has had a re-surgence lately). We all pretty much rolled our eyes, but were too polite to confront our elders, who seemed pretty bewildered at modernity in general. We just sort of absorbed these beliefs and maintained pretty normal kid behavior. While there is a mental split between professing and living, it isn't all that unusual in nearly any belief system. My now-discarded fundamentalism has proven exceedingly useful when teaching freshman composition and rhetoric. Profess ideals and practice the real.

5. I especially agree with Jeff Rice's assertion that turning the fundamentalist rhetoric against itself seems a bit weak. I think that the strength of fundamentalist rhetoric is something that liberal rhetoric can appropriate successfully--that is, take language theorists seriously when using language. Meaning-making consists of both grouping and differentiation (differance). Fundamentalists can be deconstructed, but that misses the point of rhetoricians needing to craft appeals that reconfigure the "us" upon important differences. Yes, people will differentiate themselves, but take some sort of stand (and I think Crowley's book is doing this). Take Gerald Graff's "Teach the Conflict" approach one step farther. Get in there and believe in something. The writers of America's founding documents knew that Liberal Rhetoric could shape a country. They also knew that it could help keep us from killing one another. Our job isn't just one of co-optation of scary foundations (and, yes, Berube's antifoundational approach is itself a type of foundation that he defends more than adequately). A rhetor's job includes contending with and believing in all sorts of slippery and scary things like arete, phronesis, and even, gulp, agape.


Second Point on Crowley's Text

I am re-slogging through the invention section of the book, and I'm trying to locate the moments where Dr. Crowley locates important moments of habitus formation. I like the way she tries to construct a coherence between written, spoken, performed, and lived expression (the two-part definition of Hall's articulation--utterances and connectivity [like an articulated bus]--creates a nice unity). Reading an article on eco-fashion in Wired magazine brings up some of the difficult layering that contemporary rhetoric has a hard time addressing (I think because of our continued emphasis on the one-at-a-time-ness of linear argumentation). To wit:
We had a hard time explaining why people bought hybrids," Kurani says. If consumers calculated the cost of the car and how much gas money a newfangled engine would save, the numbers wouldn't add up. But few actually did the math - and those who did didn't care. "We have yet to find anyone for whom saving money was the most important factor."

Instead, as Kurani (an engineer) and his partners (an anthropologist and a PhD student) interviewed hybrid owners, they discovered that the cars were "symbols of identity." Buying a Prius or Honda Civic hybrid was less about careful economic reasoning than about self-expression and self-understanding. "People construct their identities as a narrative. The project of our lives is to tell a more interesting story about ourselves," says Kurani. "In large part that's what we see happening with hybrids."
* end snip*

*disclosure*Sport and I own a Honda Civic Hybrid*/disclosure*. The first premise is that "few actually did the math - and those who did, didn't care," may well be true for those interviewed (we did the math, and we definitely cared), but the contrarian or disinterested (read: liberal) stance that the writer (and presumably the researchers) take(s) towards hybrid owners reveals an interestedness in finding an archetypical or mythologic behavior in the objectified "other" of what the sub-head describes as "today's eco-radicals." There is a distinct separation of "self-expression" and "economic reasoning" in the second paragraph. This "self-expression and self-understanding" then gets comfortably elided with "identities as narrative." So far, not a huge problem from one of the ostensible objects (that is, me). Later on, though, the division becomes an unbridgable chasm--as in, "Limousine Liberals." Funny thing happens in these paragraphs that happens in nearly every narrative. The othering erases the relational quality to language (Derrida's observations in action). So, the fact that I actually ended up paying less for the car has been effectively erased (the "ojective economic" analysis measures cars for only about 80,000 miles [a ridiculously short lifespan for a Honda] and elides the differences between the conspicuously alternate Prius and the almost-identical Civic Hybrid).

While there are some generalizable propositions to this article ("people tell stories about their identity"; "cars are incredibly expressive"), these qualities are particularized to specific groups for the purpose of creating the very moral heirarchy the article accuses its objects of creating ("silly liberal elites"). Lest the reader think I am defending the straw liberal elites, this parallel argument is being used to bring down potential Presidential candidate George Allen ("did you know he drove around in a car with a Confederate Flag???" kinds of blog entries, stories, etc.). These careless (or, more accurately, carefully unfair) textual, visual, audio, and multi-medic elisions are what drive readers. Create a tension (the world is too complicated) and appear to resolve it ("save us from terrorists and liberals" and "Christian fundies are crazy").

These moves that end up re-creating (and reinforcing) particular habitus heirarchies and arrays travel through texts, through environments, and even through neurochemical and neuroelectrical fields. I can see the heirarchizing and erasure on the page, and I understand the sorts of terministic screens that people use to construct, select, and deflect particular aspects of their perception (and Dr. Crowley covers this nicely). Still, I am looking for more theories of ritual to help explain some of the habitus that still seems murky, submerged, and unparticular.


Joining the Carnival

Guess, I'm going to have to catch up with some of the others.

First Impressions:

1. ) Looks like Sharon Crowley is taking up the gauntlet thrown down by Stanley Fish. I know this book was likely a long time in the making, so I don't attribute it to any particular cause but her curiosity (and I say this as one of the guys who helped her situate her innumerable books and computer accessories during her brief tenure at Penn State). Still, I welcome this foray into a field ripe for study.
2.) I don't detect the anger towards fundamentalists that some of the other bloggers detect. She is alarmed by the very real efforts of apocalyptic fundamentalists to change the very grounds of civic argumentation and political deliberation. She states her affinity for liberal democratic traditions, so I don't translate her critique of fundamentalism as hatred, or even extreme distaste, as much as a sober realization that it threatens something dear. That she is offering "Civil Discourse" as the third way, seems measured and even haltingly gracious.
3.) I wanted to see much more work on her sense of how different civic arenas work (p. 18). I have worked for years to supplement Aristotle's dismissal of the epideictic to the private sphere with other types of rhetoric (Augustine, etc.). Crowley's mention of Hall's articulation theory seems fruitful, but it could have used a lot more detail (especially in genre or in situ ethnography). As a former leader of a Bible study, and a sometimes-participant in things like "Magic Chef" and "Tupperware" parties (and avoider of "Landmark" and "Amway" events), I think that exploration of the fora and genres of the living room, the bible study, etc. is key to understanding how different kinds of articulations survive and grow. I agree with Jeff Rice when he writes "to turn the argument back on the fundamentalists (”if you are against murder, how can you be for capital punishment”) feels weak." Finding instances to lodge resistance and to inscribe civil discourse into the repetitive fabric of the oikos is key.

More later. Gotta go teach.


Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Carnival

Bought the book. Amazon insists it will arrive "any day now." I'll post when it is recieved and read. No university in Ohio has this book, and I haven't had the time to get to a big enough city to get a copy from a meatspace bookstore.

I will post shortly. I promise.


New Orleans Design Contest

If you know any students in Architecture or Urban design, Global Green is sponsoring a contest "to put forward a creative yet practical vision for New Orleans neighborhoods. Participants will be asked to put forth designs using green principles for the reconstruction of several New Orleans neighborhoods including a multi-use community center, single family home and multi-family housing."

Don't laugh. The Vietnam Memorial was a project that Ohioan Maya Lin whipped up as an undergraduate at Yale.

Oh, and save the "Bradgelina" snark for your own sassy blog.


Wikipedia Politics

Amusing short piece on Wikipedia politics (it is actually a good meditation on rhetoric in general and the speed of online rhetorics in particular). My favorite part:

For some reason people who spend 40 years learning everything they can about, say, the Peloponnesian War -- and indeed, advancing the body of human knowledge -- get all pissy when their contributions are edited away by Randy in Boise who heard somewhere that sword-wielding skeletons were involved. And they get downright irate when asked politely to engage in discourse with Randy until the sword-skeleton theory can be incorporated into the article without passing judgment.


Methodological Question

What kind of theoretical/research stance enables one to accurately perceive the connections between private/home/leisure and private/workplace/work without having to create the kind of binary that I just used to describe it?

Cultural Studies has some interesting tools (i.e. the cultural circuit), but seems to constitute a mostly critical stance.

Marketing sees the personal/home/leisure site as critical, but does not seem to have a well-developed discourse for locating and differentiating activities that "produce," wherever they occur. Preserves the consumption/production binary that occludes the important work that "consumers" do in a distributed economy.