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February 28, 2005

hardy har har

Please allow me to express my sincerest thanks to whomever it was that subscribed me to the electronic mailing list for the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Say what you will about the AAETS, but I was equally thankful that they adhere to the principles of "Responsible Email Marketing."

For the record, though, I don't believe that my stress has quite reached the level of "traumatic." And if it had, chances are that I would have failed to see the joke.

Just so's we're clear.

February 27, 2005

Oscar and Eastwood, sitting in a tree

It was on in the background, but I wasn't really watching. Instead, I was working, and every so often, I'd check in over at Chuck's live-blog of the thing. I didn't see them handing out awards in the aisles, I didn't hear any of Rock's standup, and by and large, I didn't feel as though I missed all that much.

Striking to me was the contrast between the two best actor speeches. Swank sounded like someone who'll never be back (I'd like to thank my lawyers?!) and Foxx sounded like someone "who's been somewhere."

They could have given me 10 minutes of Charlie Kaufman, and it wouldn't have been enough. It would have been a deal-breaker for me had he not won this year for best original screenplay, but only slightly more shameful is the fact that it was only his first Oscar.

Finally, I haven't seen MDB yet, and I'm not likely to see the Aviator anytime soon, so I can't speak to the Director/Picture sweep except to say that it's becoming clearer and clearer that Oscar loves Eastwood.

February 26, 2005

Rhetrickery = Cookery?

Mike caught me in a bit of sloppiness in a comment over at his site this past week, and I thought I'd see if I couldn't redeem myself here. While I can't claim the background in classical rhetoric that Mike has, I'd like to explore my intuition that Booth is making a move toward Platonism in RoR. The original passage where he self-identifies as Platonic is fairly qualified:

The history of philosophy has been full of debates about whether some value judgments deserve to be added to this category of hard, unchangeable fact. Saving that issue for chapter 4, I must confess here, as much of my previous work reveals, that I am strongly on the "Platonic" side: torturing a child to death for the sheer pleasure of it is always wrong, and that fact will never be changed by any form of rhetoric. Slavery will always be wrong, no matter how many cultures practice it. Though rhetoric is needed to change minds about such truths--they're only in effect discovered through centuries of catastrophe and discussion about it--they are still for me part of unchangeable reality (13).

It's fair, I think, to say that, over at vitia, I placed more weight on the word "Platonic" than it was intended to bear. And yet. And yet.

This is only partly facetious:

Booth: Can we agree that rhetoric is "the entire range of resources that human beings share for producing effects on one another" (xi)?

Brookus: Why, surely that is an eminently fair definition.

B: And can we agree further that, even as they are expressions of value, that there are certain of these expressions, such as those about child-abuse or slavery, that are inarguable? That is, can we say that such expressions carry the force of fact?

Br: I cannot imagine someone who would argue for these practices, so it would appear that they do indeed carry such force.

B: Then surely we can agree that, among the "entire range of resources," there are some that produce effects that lead towards these inarguable facts, and yet others that obscure them?

Br: Yes, that makes sense to me, Booth. You yourself say that this "range" spans from effective to sloppy, from ethical to immoral (xi).

B: And yet, far too many consider "rhetoric" indicative only of the more pejorative end of the spectrum, viewing it as "little better than the crippled servant of true thinkers" (ix).

Br: That is certainly the case.

B: Would it not be better, then, to distinguish between that form of rhetoric which obscures and produces misunderstanding, often for unethical ends, and that form which strives instead for the understanding of those ethical truths which we have identified as unchangeable?

Br: That would seem to clarify things mightily.

B: Then let us define that former, more ethically questionable rhetoric as rhetrickery and the latter instead as rhetorology.

* * * * *

There are probably people out there who can do this better than I, but my point, as I hope is clear here, is that, in describing Booth as Platonic, I'm picking up on a vibe and a series of strategies that strike me as more explicitly Platonic than I've experienced in Booth's previous works. Donna left a comment comparing Booth's strategies to those of Habermas, and that really clicked for me. What I see in this book is the elevation and abstraction of the idea of understanding--it becomes Understanding, and listening-rhetoric the route to it. And it's hard for me to see how this differs substantially from Plato's advocacy of Truth and philosophical dialectic as the route.

Of course, one main difference is that, rather than splitting into philosophy and rhetoric, Booth offers us two species of rhetoric, but I'm not certain that this is a difference of kind.

I went back and looked through my notes for Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, and I will say that it's easy for me to see how the rhetoric of assent turns into listening-rhetoric, but as I read through MD, I came across a few places where I think I see a shift in Booth's thought:

Once we give up the limiting notions of language and knowledge willed to us by scientism, we can no longer consider adequate any notion of "language as a means of communication" or as "one of many forms of conditioning." It is, in recent models, the medium in which selves grow, the social invention through which we make each other and the structures that are our world, the shared product of our efforts to cope with experience (135).

The supreme purpose of persuasion in this view could not be to talk someone else in a preconceived view; rather it must be to engage in mutual inquiry or exploration (137).

Now, Booth does "believe" that "rhetorical questions pursued honestly will finally lead to a God-term" (136), but I guess I see a marked difference between this model (which is bottom-up, as he himself notes) and the model offered in RoR, which starts from first principles and reasons top-down. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but it is an approach that privileges certain definitions, and undercuts his discussion of rhetorical contexts (as any discussion of first principles must) later on.

I'll stop there, I think, and hope that I've done a better job of identifying the Platonism that I see in RoR. My only additional note is that the constitutive view of rhetoric in MD bears a strong similarity to Richard Lanham's work, and to my mind, Lanham is one of the most glaring omissions in chapter 4. I can understand how, given Booth's neglect of technology, The Electronic Word might have passed beneath his radar, but Motives of Eloquence? For me, that's pretty glaring.

Internettery addendum

A point that was driven home (for me at least) at the Northern Voice blog conference was that the weblog world is often thought of as “a million voices�, but it is actually a million *listeners*.

Check out Lee LeFever's How the Weblog World Listens. Needless to say, I thought instantly of Booth's book.

February 23, 2005

Jump the Sark

I knew that Jen would be happy, what with the returns of Julian Sark and Anna Espinoza to the roster on Alias tonight. I was pretty pleased, too, but I do have a thought or two.

First, it's pretty clear that the whole Rimbaldi arc is about to fade. For the first couple of seasons, Rimbaldi was an eerily prescient prophet and genius-level inventor, who'd provided the juice for all sorts of wacky quests and subplots. Tonight, they made a big point of treating Rimbaldi as someone that certain "zealots" believe in, and now, apparently, it's all about how the zealots (like Espinoza) will do all in their nefarious powers to make R's visions come true. The agency has shifted from the prophecies to the people who foolishly believe in them. Unless they end up tying this to Sloane somehow, my guess is that this belief is not long for the new-look Alias.

And that's too bad. Because right now, there's no kryptonite on the show. No one can really die--although that's not stopping them from the old gunshot coma, clearly--and so they're going to run into the Superman problem, or perhaps more appropriately, the Superfriends problem. As long as the Superfriends are taking on individual villains, they're pretty much unstoppable. But when you've got a Legion of Doom to match them up with, then there's actually the possibility of loss, and that makes it interesting. SD-6, Covenant, whatever--there's got to be an LOD pretty soon, or they're going to run out of plot.

The common theme here, and the thing that Lost is still doing well, is that there's no larger puzzle that the Alias crew has to figure out. And that role has been played both by LOD-style organizations and by Rimbaldi in seasons past. So while I'm happy to see Sark and Espinoza back, I'm still waiting for the return of the arcs that made me a die-hard fan. And pretty soon, I'm going to start getting impatient.

That is all.

February 21, 2005


I've got several lines of thought I'm looking to trace out, but I'm going to start with what's a relatively minor point, one that allows me to get a little snark out of the way. The listening that Booth advocates is largely undifferentiated in RoR--in other words, there's little account here of the fact that, even in deeply committed listening, we bump against what Burke (following Veblen) calls our "trained incapacities." A kinder way of describing this phenomenon is to say that our radar is more alert to some things than to others.

As for me, well, my radar is always tuned to pick up references to technology, and they are few enough in Booth's book. The first I saw:

Various studies have shown that the average child spends almost as much time watching TV as attending classes. Many spend additional hours receiving half-baked or utterly false information on the Internet. And even among those who finally get hooked into serious reading, too many are barraged with books and articles and pamphlets proclaiming outrageous doctrines and "confirming" hate-ridden myths, with no internal hint of how the assertions might be challenged (96-97).

This is from a section titled "Miseducation Outside the Classroom." And from "Conscious, Deliberate Miseducation,"

Mammon's skill in destroying objectivity is especially clear in the case of CNN...The present competition for ratings between FoxNews and CNN has driven each to "take sides" while radically changing their formats. They now exhibit a much flashier, hipper, more Internet-like style, in order to capture a larger audience. Their objectivity in reporting has certainly declined...(137-138).

This is a minor snark, and it won't be my only contribution. Promise. But in a book that advocates listening, what I see hear is a pattern of treating the word "Internet" as a replacement for the dismissive version of "rhetoric." In this model, the Internet is a vastly inferior version of the library, without standards, without quality control, without ethics, etc. Every time the word appears, I wonder that "Internettery" isn't a synonym for rhetrickery--that's certainly the way it comes across.

Now, I'm fully willing to accept that this is, in part, a generational thing. But I get a lot of good information out here, and a lot more besides. Is there crap? You betcha. Is it universal? Not even close. But it also deserves a heck of a lot better than it gets in RoR.

Without the Internet, I couldn't point you to Jay Rosen, whose blog will tell you that the destruction of objectivity began well before the hip, flashy Internet came a-calling. I can't point you to David Weinberger, who will explain how "the Web, a world of pure connection, free of the arbitrary constraints of matter, distance and time, is showing us who we are - and is undoing some of our deepest misunderstandings about what it means to be human in the real world." If rhetoric is, at its best, the art of removing misunderstanding, then the Internet as a rhetorical site has at least as much potential for doing so as any other medium. In Small Pieces Loosely Joined, Weinberger writes that words are the stuff of the Web, and that means that rhetoric is, too. Without the Internet, I'd have far fewer examples of people listening to each other, and to the culture at large. Sure, there's WR out here, and BR, but there's also plenty of the best kind of LR, and I have yet to see the proof that the ratios among them are any more skewed towards misunderstanding online than they are offline.

So, snarky as it may be for me to say this, I have to work a little harder to take this book seriously, when it treats the Internet so dismissively.

I'll get over it, of course. This book isn't the first and won't be the last to ignore the Internet, or to treat it like the spastic black sheep of the information age. And I'll be back, with some comments that are a little more direct in their address of RoR.

That's all, for the moment.

Good walls make happy directors

And the good news is that my shelves arrived on Friday, which prompted a back-straining afternoon of box-hauling and -excavating.

Pictures soon.

February 18, 2005

When you stare into the abyss...

Chuck has an entry from last night that talks about his current blog block. He mentions in the comments that part of the reason for this is job-search stress, which got me to thinking...

One of the things that's really difficult to explain to those who aren't in academia (or more specifically, perhaps, the humanities) is the stress of the job search. I was lucky myself, partly because I found a position before I'd finished my dissertation, thanks to a good friend. However, because they hadn't done a full search, it was a one-year gig, during which I could apply to turn it into a full-time, tenure-track position. So far, so good.

This meant, however, that I was half a continent away from my support network, at a time when I was teaching 3 courses (2 of them over-ambitiously writing-intensive), revising my 250-page dissertation, and also embarking on a job search for the first time. Each of the three of those is really a full-time pursuit. Through a combination of hubris and compromise, I sent applications to the top 35 programs on my list, and got 2 interviews at MLA, plus a phone "interview" with my home institution. (By way of contrast, 3 years later, when I was qualified to apply to top schools, I had 5 interviews from 9 applications, and took my position at Syracuse before MLA.). MLA interviews are in December and, for the top 2-4 candidates, result in visits to the campuses. Neither of my f2f interviews bore fruit, although I was moved to the next stage at my home institution, and my "visit" took place in March, I think.

Keep in mind, though, that this process begins in the summer and can often push on until April or May. From January to March, I went to school and taught and came home almost every single night, lied in bed, and wondered about what in the world I would do if my home institution didn't pan out. Thankfully, luckily, it did. But over the space of a couple of months, every. single. night. Fear, anxiety, depression--when you've spent anywhere from 6 to 10 years preparing for a single, specialized profession, and have to face the possibility that it's all been a waste of time, that's not a happy place. The interviews, the visits--they're exceptionally high-stakes performances, a version of hazing that's only gotten harder and more cruel as the market for academics has gotten worse.

It's one of the reasons why many people will tell you that persistence is a more important factor for success in academia than intelligence. There are lots of smart people (and maybe this is evidence?) who will not be able (or choose) to put themselves through the emotionally and psychologically crushing process of the job search. When that process works best, it's a little less crushing, I suppose, but there are still too many cases where it's all but a crapshoot, where (unintentionally, I hope) it's unnecessarily hellish.

I know that Chuck doesn't want to blog about it, which is cool. I don't know what his process has been like, but I can say that job searches, particularly the ones where you're trying to "break through" to a tenure-track position, are a time of enormous anxiety and self-doubt. I wish I could say that they make us stronger, but mostly, they leave us more neurotic than we were when we started, and perhaps a little relieved if it ends well. Those of us who have done well tend to block out the pain and anxiety, and so sometimes we forget how tough it is.

All of which is simply to say that I'm pulling for you, Chuck. Good luck.

That is all.


This is the strange effect of getting lost. You become aware not so much of what is absent--all that is familiar and safe--but rather of what that familiarity has been keeping at bay: a world of strange shadows and cruel laughter, of odious companions just waiting for you to come out and play. And they know you will.

I have a crush on that paragraph.

Wednesday, I went up to Borders to catch a cup of coffee, and to drain a little credit from a gift card. As you might gather, this was a week where my mood dictated that I buy a book to which I have no obligation whatsoever, a book about which I could not say, under any circumstances, that I should read it. Typically, in these cases, I go with "quick fic," short books with snappy titles, or interesting authors' names, or intriguing cover art. And so Symptomatic it was, by Danzy Senna.

Our narrator is bi-racial, never named in the novel, and occupies a number of border spaces (race and class are two of the most persistent). Raised in California, she's in New York on a journalism fellowship, working for an upscale magazine. She's maybe a little hypochondriac, and she has a lot of trouble connecting with other people, including her own family. She meets one of her co-workers, Greta, who's much older but is also bi-racial. For the most part, the book traces the arc of their relationship, and I suppose I shouldn't say much more than that.

The writing is fairly minimalist, appropriately enough, for it's told from the perspective of a narrator who doesn't find much in the world or in other people to resonate with. At the same time, while the prose is somewhat surface-y, there's a lot of depth in unexpected moments. I found myself thinking a lot about the title itself, and its reference to the narrator's real and imagined illnesses, as well as the way that she sees the other characters in terms of the symptoms of incompatibility they present to her. Greta is the one character who asserts a connection, even when the narrator doesn't really feel it herself, and there's an interesting line of thought to be traced about whether or not Greta and the narrator are doubles of one another. Greta insists on the narrator doing what she does, liking what she likes. When Greta loses patience with the narrator, she expresses it by mimicking her speech or posture. And a symptom is the external reflection of an internal condition, which raises the question of whether the narrator herself is symptomatic of Greta, or vice versa.

From the get-go, Greta is a little creepy and the narrator a little too passive in their friendship, but both of these "flaws" are written very well. Even when it gets to the point, as one secondary character notes, where "There was only one way that story was gonna end," there's some really interesting characterization taking place. Greta's perhaps not the most sympathetic character around, but she's damn interesting.

The book made me think more than I'd planned, but that's not really a negative (or all that hard to do, truth be told). And it was quick, which was my plan. I should probably come up with a ratings system for books, if I'm going to pop up reviews, yes? Let's see: for movies, I use a 6-point scale: see it twice, full price, matinee, pay per view, HBO, and network tv (with special dispensation occasionally awarded truly horrific movies, usually in the form of "not if you paid me"). Hmm. I'll have to think on an analogous scale for books. Meanwhile, this book, had it been a movie, would have been a solid matinee, I think, which is pretty good.

February 17, 2005

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Collin vs. Blog

No surprises here. Thanks, Derek!

February 16, 2005

In Praise of Sloth

I want to pause for a moment, and express my sincerest thanks to all of those sites whose feeds I've aggregated and who have blogged only lightly in the past week or so.

It used to be that I worked pretty hard to keep my unread feeds in the double digits, which can be challenging when you're subbed to sites in the triple digits. Nevertheless, I managed it. This week, I neglected my Bloglines, and as a result, I'm closing to topping the 1000 mark in unread posts. And unread most of them will remain, I fear, although hopefully not unskimmed. I make no guarantees, however.

Thanks too to all who responded, publicly or privately, to Monday's little slice of toxic. I'm calmer now, although some of the underlying disappointment persists.

That is all.

February 14, 2005

There are days

There are days where I wish with all of me that I kept a pseudonymous blog.
There are days where the rules I set for myself, and not just here, keep me from saying what I should.
There are days where it all just seems uphill and getting steeper.

There are days where I don't have a lot of love in my heart.

And days where being dramatic feels better than being wise.

That's all. And here I thought that cranky was last week.

February 13, 2005

"But the sparrow still falls."

Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. (Matthew 10:29)

No one who knows me would mistake me for a particularly religious person, and perhaps that explains why I missed Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow the first time around. It was first published almost 10 years ago, and has been re-released in trade paperback to coincide with the publication of Russell's latest book. It was one of those books that I picked up at Borders to fill up a gift card, a serendipitous grab based on little more than the cover art.

I finished it a couple of weeks ago, and had been meaning to blog it ever since, because I found it to be one of the better books I've read in recent months. It's sort of science fiction, but only in the sense that it takes place in the near future and involves first contact with an alien culture. Believe me, though, when I say that this is actually a minor, backdrop kind of element. The first two chapters introduce us, in parallel fashion, to a Jesuit priest named Emilio Sandoz. One thread of the story connects us to Sandoz as he gathers around him a network of close friends who eventually form the core crew of a mission to another planet; the second finds Sandoz the physically and psychologically broken, sole survivor of that mission, surrounded by other Jesuits trying to figure out what went wrong. The two threads proceed in parallel, drawing closer and closer until the middle of the story is finally filled in by the end of the book.

Sandoz is of course the sparrow referenced in the title, and really, the sci-fi is a backdrop for fairly detailed characterization, conceptualization of first contact, and perhaps most importantly, speculation on the varied roles that religion plays in the lives of the characters. It's a contemplative sort of book, both in terms of pace and theme, and that worked for me really well. Not all of the other characters are drawn in as much detail, and there were times where the fact that they had been expended made them a little expendable--this wasn't too big of a flaw, although there comes a point where to be "noticed" in the narrative is not a good thing for most of them.

It's hard not to read the book in the shadow of Star Trek, of course, but there are some nice details that point out the narrative convenience of technology like universal translators (Sandoz is a linguistic savant), and their absence here. All in all, it was an excellent read. There's a sequel that I'll be picking up one of these days, once I actually have a spare couple of hours to rub together. In the meantime, if you're looking for a book to add to your bedside table, you could do much worse than The Sparrow.

February 12, 2005

Oye! Oye! Carnival countdown

Thanks to all who have respondly positively to the idea of doing a distributed read&discuss of Wayne Booth's The Rhetoric of Rhetoric. I've been holding off on picking a date, partly because I know that several people have it on order, and partly because I've been too busy myself to start reading it.

I've concluded, however, that this is a recipe for procrastination of the "not until April" variety. So, I'm setting myself a deadline. I'm going to post my initial conversational foray next weekend sometime. I've actually carved out a little reading time for myself this week, and hope to be back down this week to a normal teaching and service load, so it's time to get crackin.

Neither Clancy nor myself really set up any ground rules for this, so I'm going to go with the rule of thumb "my house, my rules." Namely,

  1. My first post will be a quick outline & summary of the book, and this post will be the hub, the best post to link to as an overview of the whole discussion.
  2. No matter where you are, or whose post(s) you are responding to, please trackback the hub. It should make it easier to find each other's posts. If you don't have trackback, either leave a link in the comments, or drop me a note, and I'll add a link.
  3. If you want to post an entry, and have no blog, drop me a note, and I can either add you temporarily as an author on this site, or simply post it here for you. Keeping a blog is not a prerequisite for participating.
  4. My only other rule is to write with the assumption that everyone you write about will be reading you at some point or another. Given Booth's emphasis on Listening-Rhetoric, this one should be a no-brainer.

Anything I've forgotten?

I don't expect that everyone will be ready to go next weekend, but the point of distribution is that we don't all have to be on the same page at the same moment. See you in a week.

February 11, 2005

Apparently Stacy's Mom's daughter has also got it going on...

You may recall that last month I posted a mildly disapproving entry about the new Dr. Pepper commercial. Not being content to just let their creepy commercial rest on its own demerits, the good folks at Dr. Pepper, purveyors of the taste of originality, have decided to enter the spam business as well. To wit, my new friend "Stacy" has contributed her own insight:

I absolutely love this commercial! How funny to do a take-off on the video. You think the boys are looking at the Soccer Mom but are really more interested in the Dr. Pepper. It's finally great to see a well done commercial! I'm off to buy some Dr. Pepper!

Ah yes! I absolutely love this comment! How funny to explain this commercial to us as though we were absolute morons! It's finally great (?!) to see a well done comment!

And yes, "Stacy," I'm stunned by the originality of your fake name, and overwhelmed when I think of just how much Dr. Pepper you'll be able to buy with the checks you're getting from Dr. Pepper! Just think! All you have to do is spam a bunch of blogs with fake comments, and they'll give you money! What a great scheme! All the boys are looking at your comments but will really be more interested in the Dr. Pepper! How clever!

Let me just say that I will be drinking my own urine before I buy Dr. Pepper. Commercials fade from my memory, but crappy, exclamation point ridden spam has just earned Dr. Pepper permanent Nemesis status.

That is all.

Update: Apparently, it's not all. "Stacy" has a friend named "gary," who shares her high opinion of Dr. Pepper:

Wow you guys need to lighten up, the commercial is a spoof intended to be funny. I loved the Stacy's Mom spot and the I Can Do Anything For Love spot as well. I hope they keep playing them, I love to hear the music and the ad makes me laugh. You rock DR Pepper and Stacy's Mom.

Wow, "gary," you're right. Thanks for reminding me of the other commercial--its relevance to the original post is so undeniable that I almost swallowed my tongue. You rock, "gary," you rock. I hope you keep trying to spam that entry, I love to read your fake names and your thinly veiled advertising pander (this time masked with really bad grammar) makes me laugh.

Comments.....off. Go spam somebody else. That is all.

February 8, 2005

Would you like change with that?

I've gotten into the habit lately, whenever I'm at the office late (a phrase which is rapidly approaching the status of self-evident redundancy), of phoning ahead an order to some place on my way home and just picking up take-out. Tonight I stopped at a sandwich place, and grabbed a Sprite to add to my order. So far, so good.

The woman rings me up, and it's the same price quoted to me over the phone. Oops, I say, did you forget to add this on? Oh! So then she subtracts it from my price, invoking the seldom-used Sprite discount, I guess. I've already handed her my money, and she starts to make change.

"No no no, I think you accidentally subtracted my drink. Just add it on twice."

Oh. My. God. Confusion ensues, and I stand there for five minutes, explaining it to her twice, doing the correct math in my head (with sales tax), and assuring her that she shouldn't be giving me as much change as she thinks she should. Finally, she brings over another cashier, who just rings it up right the first time.

It's not like it was a big deal: a few minutes, a couple of bucks, whatevs. But the weird social awkwardness of persuading someone to give me less change? I should have just taken the Sprite discount.

That is all.

February 6, 2005


That's what you get when you cross hyperbole with the Super Bowl. Of course, that's kind of redundant, yes?

There's a part of me that appreciates the fact that Owens and Seymour and others had an extra week to heal up for the Bowl, and yet, that also meant an extra week of:

  • Are the Patriots a dynasty?
  • Is Belicheck the best coach ever?
  • Is Brady the best QB ever?
  • X-factor, X-factor, who will be the X-factor?

X-factor is now on my official Hate List, by the way. It was a good game, better than many had predicted. But the theme of this year's playoffs had to be game management. Philly's clock management in the fourth quarter was horrible. And it extended all the way down to specific players. With 47 seconds to go, Westbrook caught a pass at the line of scrimmage and was promptly tackled, allowing another 25 to drain off the clock. On his own 5 yard line. Bat the damn thing to the ground, please!

The Patriots won the game, fair and square, but the Eagles sure didn't do themselves any favors there late in the game. They looked like a team down by 21, on an end-of-game drive to make the score look a little more respectable, instead of playing like they were down by 10 with a chance to tie or win.

February 4, 2005

This is not my beautiful Onion

It's hard to believe, I know, but apparently this is a Real™ news story:

Melee Erupts at Ala. Girls Basketball Game

Let's see. How can we tell that these aren't people who spend their lives working with reporters?

"Initially, there were 30, then it started spreading like cockroaches," said another parent, J----- H---------.

Umm...okay. I've lived in Texas, so I can see, if only barely, how the first metaphor you might come up with for something spreading would be cockroaches. But then...

"People were screaming and running," Prattville cheerleader C------ C----- said. "Girls lost their cell phones. Keys got lost. It's something I will never forget."

Screaming and running, that's pretty bad I suppose. But the steps to arrive from there to "unforgettable" are girls losing their cell phones? And keys being lost? Oh. The horror. What about, oh, I don't know, the violence?!?! The fact that the parents joined in instead of trying to stop it? The fact that the police were zapping people with Tazers? Nope. Keys were lost.

February 3, 2005

A Very Big Day, Part 3

And on top of all that, I learned today that I've been officially confirmed as the new Associate/Online Editor of our discipline's flagship journal, College Composition and Communication. It's been in the works now since some time last fall, but we're now at the stage of crossing eyes, dotting t's, etc.

Even though I've known about it for a while, I'm still a little awestruck by the whole thing. I'm looking forward to working with Deborah Holdstein--she and I have only spoken a little about it, but there's one thing I know for sure. We're bringing ideas. Lots and lots of ideas. I'm only being a little immodest when I say that I think we can help change the way that our field thinks about the online components of our journals.

So yeah. Not so much with the spare time for me. You'll hear plenty more about this as the days march on.

A Very Big Day, Part 2

Just how big, you ask?

Well, until my colleague Becky has had a chance to recover, I've offered to step in and sub for her graduate course. With proper planning, and by proper I mean largely "not at 3 AM the night before," this isn't much of an issue. It is a little bit of a stretch, though, because the course meets on the same day as my other course.

To be fair, several of the students in my class are also in her class, and so they get to go back-to-back every week. Not exactly a walk in the park. To be fair to me, though, preparing for a course involves a different level of engagement with the material. I tend to be a pretty non-interventionist teacher, but I pride myself on being able to adapt a discussion to student concerns and issues without losing sight of the things I want to accomplish as well. It sounds a little fortune cookie, I suppose, but I prepare very carefully in order to be able to listen as a teacher.

So anyway, today was Week 1 of my temporary stint in back-to-back 3-hour classes. And let me tell you: anyone who thinks that this means that I "only" worked for 6 hours today needs a reverse spinning back kick to the jaw. As rewarding as teaching can be, it's hard work intellectually, psychologically, and yes, physically. Especially when preparation involved working from only a few hours of sleep last night. I'm zonked.

At the risk of patting myself on the back, I think both classes went fairly well today. At least, I hope so, because I'm about to reward myself with 10-12 hours of sleep.

That is all.

Collin vs. A Very Big Day


And this is the just the tip of the iceberg. There's one school of thought that says you're not "official" until you've weathered your first crisis. Me? I like to think that "officiality" comes from the distribution of details: things like nameplates, directory listings, decrees of snack food preferences, and yes, brand spanking new business cards.

However, I am disappointed to report that I still had to officially request that the word "Email:" not appear before my email address. Tempting as it was to play Business Card Exposition (and request that instead of deleting "Email" they add "Name:" in front of my name and "ZIP Code:" in front of 13244), I opted instead for the path of least sarcastance.

The mildly perplexing part: it cost us as much to remove the word "Email" as it would have to add the word "Name." Changes are changes are changes, it would seem.

February 1, 2005

Fa Sosa Ti Do

I know that Cubs Nation has been waiting on the edges of their seats, waiting to hear what I'll have to say about the Sosa trade, which should be finalized sometime soon, if it hasn't been already. On the one hand, I agree with Phil Rogers, who calls it an "unceremonious dump job" over at ESPN. And for once I wish I were paying for ESPN Insider so that I could read Rob Neyer's take on it. My own sense of things is that it's deceptive to cite stats like Rogers does:

Can they really be better without Sosa, who averaged 41 homers and 97 RBI over the last three years -- not bad numbers for a guy in decline.

Well, yes and no. Those are Sosa's 3-year numbers, but they don't really get at the trends of Sosa's career, and this is where Neyer is gold. Check Sammy's walks: from 96 to 01, he drew more bases on balls each year than the year previous. He dropped a little in 02, okay, but plummeted in the last two years. His pitch selection at the plate has peaked, period. Until 98, he was stealing around 20 bases a season, and had 3 seasons with more than 30. In the last four years combined, 2 stolen bases. 35 homers is a comedown, yes, but he's had two other seasons with 36; the big number there is that last year, he batted in 40 less runs than those other two seasons. It was pretty clear that he was getting better pitches to hit when the bases were empty--he got a rep for hitting the 1-run homer. His OPS and his average with runners in scoring position have dropped for four straight seasons.

So, yeah, it's the end of an era. It was bad enough for him to walk during the final game and then lie about it, but that was symptomatic of a one-man-band sort of selfishness that's been going on since before the NLCS. When you hit your 30's, your talent starts to fade. Guys like Bonds and Gwynn made up for it with skill--Sammy hasn't. He no longer has the bat speed to stand as far off the plate as he does and hit the outside pitches and/or sinkers. I'll miss him, but I won't miss watching him strike out with men on base--and last season, it felt like that happened a lot more than it was supposed to.

I hope hope hope that Sammy will go to Baltimore, work with a hitting coach, and both relearn the strike zone and how to hit for contact. If he can reverse some of these trends, he'll be a contributor for several more years yet. But it won't happen if he doesn't stop resting on talent. And it won't break my heart if he doesn't, not like it would if he were still in a Cubs jersey...