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September 27, 2005


Will has an interesting demonstration up at Weblogg-ed: a screencast feedback session on a piece of student writing.

One of the things that strikes me right away about this is how a potentially "overwhelming" amount of teacher markup is made in this process to look not like the proverbial "bleed" but rather itself a process. I've had a couple of different experiences with recorded audio feedback (both receiving and giving) on pieces of writing, but this seems like a different process entirely. The advantage of audio is that it allows a body to present much more nuance than marginal comments generally allow, but pairing it with the actual markup creates almost a "behind the scenes of teacher feedback" effect that I imagine would be very productive.

One of the things that I still struggle with is the whole writer/reader orientation. I know what I think about what I write, but I still sometimes grapple with understanding how a piece of my writing will unfold for a reader, and something like this really gets at that notion--it concretizes the experience of reading a piece of prose that develops over time.

I like it. That's all.

September 25, 2005

NFL Miscellany

I've had football on in the background as I've tended to various and sundry tasks today, and from that experience, I am prepared to draw three entirely separate conclusions:

1. The more I know about football, apparently, the less I know. Predicting winners against the spread seems to be a virtual impossibility for me. It's gotten so bad, in fact, that I'm thinking about pulling the old reverso next week: pick the winners as I think they'll happen, and then reverse each of my picks. Yes, it's gotten to that point.

2. There's a VISA commercial with Tom Brady and his linemen, who follow him everywhere. When he asks why, one of them replies that they're not linemen, but in fact "figurative metaphors," who represent the 5 layers of VISA security. Okay, kind of clever, but wait a sec. "Figurative metaphors" is redundant--all metaphors are figurative.

3. Finally, when Jimmy Smith caught an overtime TD pass in the Jaguars' victory over the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, I had to listen to three different sets of announcers wax enthusiastic over the "timeless," "ageless," "old man" that was Smith. Smith's age? Yeah, it's the same as mine. I've never really been one of those people who worried too much about passing the age of my sports idols, mostly because I never imagined myself playing. But still. Old man? Ugh.

It's clearly getting to the point where even I don't want to watch football with me. That is all.

September 23, 2005

The New Is

This is more a placeholder for me than anything else, but if there are those of you out there who want a nice, concise statement of the value of social tagging, you could do far worse than this talk that David Weinberger just posted online, "The New Is." Among other things, including a detour through Aristotle, David offers three guiding principles that make a great deal of sense:

Links, not containers: A page is what it points to.

Multiple tags, not single meanings: A thing gains more meaning by having multiple local meanings.

Messiness, not clean order: The best definitions are ambiguous.

That's all for the moment on this.

September 22, 2005

Make your own kind of music...

Desmond, who exactly are you? And what's up with those damn numbers (which were on the canister of stuff that he injected himself with, and which were also what he inputs into his computer before hitting the "execute" button)?

Ahhh, this is how I know that it's a "new year": the new season of Lost began last night, and not a moment too soon. I've been turning people on to it left and right, as if winning the Best Drama Emmy weren't enough to do so. I also picked up the Season 1 DVD last week, and have been basking in the mystery ever since. For the most part, I've avoided the spoiler sites as much as possible--no sense in being too hermenuetically greedy.

And honestly, I can't do much here but express appreciation that the show seems poised to continue as my overall favorite. The hatch is now open, and last night's episode intensified some of last season's mysteries (the numbers) and offered some new ones (Desmond, Walt, a big ass magnet, and a circa-1950s fallout shelter). Wednesday is definitely going to be the axis around which my entertainment week rotates this year.

(p.s. I'm getting a fair bit of traffic, thanks to the title of this post. FYI, "Make Your Own Kind of Music" is an old tune from The Mamas and the Papas. Don't know if that's the version that played in the episode, though. It's been covered by Streisand, among others...)

Invasion was not quite the blockbuster that the (admittedly biased) previews promised, but I'll probably hold out for a couple of weeks before I decide on it. One of the problems that occurs to me right away is that the very title of the show basically gives away the opening plot twist, and rather than starting in media res, the way that Lost did, the pilot for Invasion plods along, introducing the characters in what was a pretty slow fashion. Ranger Russ and Dave are basically Scully and Mulder respectively, but unlike X-Files, there's no ambiguity to tease us with. The truth is out there, in the form of shiny lights, and we know that in the very first scene. There's a little tension with Rose, I guess, but otherwise, the characters are all lagging behind the viewers in terms of what they know.

Contrasted with Lost, where we know as little as the characters themselves, the vibe is a lot less mysterious, and minus the tension. In spots, like the one where Russ asks the sheriff how he still had cell service, there's plot convenience rather than character consistency, which is another major difference between the two shows.

But we'll see, I suppose. Compared to at least a couple of other recent "alien" shows (I'm thinking of The 4400 and Battlestar Galactica), Invasion seems pretty weak, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

September 20, 2005

If only

If only I had realized which holiday we'd scheduled our various faculty meetings on yesterday. Can't say that it would have made things more productive, but as you might imagine, it would have been infinitely more entertaining.

Update: And speaking of if onlies...

September 16, 2005

Just so you know...

Not so much with the NYT Select
That is all.

The wheels they keep on turnin

Coupla days ago, GZombie included me in a synthesis post collecting up some of us who have been talking about writing lately, and I've been meaning, since then, to take a crack at the questions with which he closes that post. To wit,

There are a few gaps between academic blogging and academic publishing, though:
  1. The length of your average blog entry is much, much shorter than an article or a book chapter. So how does one translate blogging the research into writing an article or chapter?
  2. Second, the pace of feedback in academic publishing is practically glacial. So how do you ignore the addictive qualities of instant feedback for the delayed gratification of print publication?
  3. Third, blogging does not involve much, if any, revision. Most of my non-blog writing lately is revision and expansion of things I've already written (though much of that expansion is brand! new! stuff!). So how do you simultaneously embrace the discipline of daily writing and the necessity of constant editing and revision?
Dear reader, I welcome--nay, I long for--your thoughts on these questions.

From the Department of Unintended Irony comes the excuse that part of why it's taken me a couple of days to respond is that I've been, yes, working on some writing that will make its way to a journal or book near you. And I suppose that this fact suggests the very gap that George is talking about. Nevertheless...

1. One of my answers to the first question is that I've never been very good at the straight article or chapter. I don't want to exoticize the writing that I do, because I manage just fine at generating the 20-25 page doohickey. But as an example, I'm just about at the point of sending an essay out for review. I've posted a draft of that essay here before, but I've also blogged a number of its constituents--the essay makes use of two different conference presentations, a couple of extended blog entries, and elaborates on some of the themes that I've blogged here and in my graduate course last spring.

A little more background on this: more than three years ago, I gave a conference paper at CCCC that argued that there was a tendency in our field to use that conference's program as a map of the discipline, and I was interested in articulating that argument (and ultimately refuting it). I was operating more on hunch than anything else, though, and in some ways that paper was looking for a theory that I didn't really find until I started reading network studies work almost two years later. Had I been blogging at the time (I didn't start until about 6 months later), I almost certainly would have been posting about the paper (as I did with my CCCC presentation this past year).

So maybe my answer is that the blog is a place where I can loosely join the small pieces, and the articles and chapters that I write are where they get joined more tightly and seamlessly. That's how it feels to me, certainly, with the essay I'm working on at the moment. Without the blog, though, I'd be a lot less conscious of that essay's genesis and the way that I've put together various smaller texts to arrive where I am right now. And in turn, I'd feel a lot less secure in advising the graduate students in my program about how to work.

2. Re feedback cycles, this is an easy one. Other than acceptance letters (which are almost always accompanied by revision suggestions), I don't expect feedback on the things I publish. That doesn't sound quite right--what I mean to say is that the publication process is not where I expect feedback to come from. The feedback I do get is from my friends who are commenting and suggesting (and sometimes praising) during the process, and so in that sense, it's a lot like blogging anyway.

If anything, blogging has made me more comfortable with putting draft materials out there to my network. The feedback that I get on this site is addicting in some ways, and so when I'm doing more "academic" work, I'm more likely to solicit response in-process as a way of simulating that bloggish feedback. Once upon a time, I wouldn't let people see my writing until I believed that it was "finished," an attitude that blogging has by-and-large cured me of. As a result, I get a lot more help while I'm writing (instead of after I've written) and the end-products are stronger, I think.

3. The third question is a little more difficult for me, because writing and revision are so thoroughly intertwined for me. Let me put it this way: when I came across Kathleen's entry last week, it resonated with my own experience, particularly the way that writing on a daily basis makes it easier for me to find things to write about. Not that I won't do it, but I don't like just doing "ditto" posts--usually my take is subtly different, or I've got something to add. And so in some ways, I revised her entry into something that I would say.

Not that her entry needed revision. But revision isn't just the correction of error or lack--sometimes it's just the ability to imagine saying something differently, testing the alternatives, whatever. And so, I find that a fair amount of the blogging that I do is indeed revision. What I am doing here but revising George's questions in a way that matches them up either to my own experiences or hopes?

This feels like a little bit of a stretch to me, but I'm going to stand by it, I think. Often enough, I open up my browser not with the idea of having something original to say, but with the intention of hitting Bloglines and posting about something that catches my eye there. My scholarly process is not all that different in some ways. I've never been good at being exhaustive in my coverage, or working really hard to be right. Often, I just try and work out the implications of a position, sometimes my own, sometimes someone else's. Sort of a "rather be interesting than right" thing. Although right doesn't hurt usually...

It occurs to me that I'm willfully misreading "revision" here, and perhaps that's so. Perhaps someone might look at my writing pre- and post- and say that I appear to be more satisfied with early draft work than I was before I blogged regularly. And perhaps that's true--I don't really know. Perhaps I'm more satisfied with my own voice as a result of blogging or less willing to engage in the kinds of painstaking revision necessary to remove that voice from the essays I send out. And if that's the case, then I don't have as much of an answer for question 3, I suppose.

There's certainly more to say, but that's all I've got for today...

September 13, 2005

How to tell when Collin's feeling punchy

Well, the first sign is that, if you have to ask, then I'm probably not.

When I'm working with minimal sleep over a couple of days, though, what I find is that I get increasingly manic. And while I hate hate hate being tired, one of the things that also happens is that I get increasingly efficient when it comes to managing all the bits and pieces of my life.

And so, little wonder today that, in my graduate course, we spent the first hour or so talking about note-taking strategies. I can feel my energy starting to ebb, now, but for class at least, I was positively chatty. I asked all of the students to sign up for Basecamp, a site whose virtues I've trumpeted here before. And I'd meant to talk about using it last week, but our conversation got away from us (me) a little. So this week. Note taking and organizing.

The big thing that I was pushing in terms of Basecamp was using the Milestones to keep track of deadlines and events, and then using the To-Do lists to manage time. Over the past two days, 43 Folders has re-run their two part feature on "Building a Smarter To-Do List," an article I can't recommend enough. My new mantra?

break Big Nouns into little verbs

It's partly, I'm sure, because I'm a little tired/manic/punchy that this appeals to me so completely today, but actually, it's on all the other days where I need to remind myself of this regularly. One of the things that I emphasized in class today was the need to develop systems that are sustainable, things you can do (and keep doing) after the initial motivation has passed and the glow has faded. And for me, Basecamp has pretty well fit the bill, even though I'm probably not still using it to its fullest potential (or giving it more control over my other projects).

So, organizing. And then note-taking. Again, I pushed developing a system that was sustainable. Derek and I have talked about this some, and here's what I suggested to my students: buy a little notebook/journal from one of the bookchainz, and when you read a book (or a week's set of readings), do this: put the info at the top of the page, and give yourself only 1 page, and only 10 minutes, to take a verbal snapshot of the reading. Some possible categories for this activity:

  • The 1-sentence summary. Obvious enough.
  • Keywords or tags. I'm more and more enchanted with this method of "distant reading" a text.
  • Yes/No. We talked about why we "go back" to texts, and often, it's either because we want some support for a claim, or because we're working against it in some way. So jot down 2-3 fairly central claims with which you agree, and 2-3 with which you either disagree or about which you have doubts or concerns.
  • Passages. Some people copy out key passages, but I've always found it more useful to do a quick transcription: page number, and a quick description. I often do this when I prepare to talk about a text in a course.
  • Top 5. Imagine being able to ask the author, based purely on the text in front of you, who their top 5 suggested sources would be. That is, what are the 5 texts that would help you read this one better?

I'm sure that there are other possibilities, but you get the idea. The idea is to only take 10 minutes and to use categories that are recognizable once the reading itself has faded from memory. Imagine being able to look over a semester's worth of entries, and look for those authors whose names appear most frequently in the Top 5's (this might answer the question "what should I be reading?"). Or being able to see some patterns in the kinds of claims you pay most attention to, or the thing(s) that you have the most skepticism about.

In a lot of ways, and I talked about this too, this has everything to do with what we're trying to do with CCC Online. There are definite advantages to having pages and pages of reading notes (although my own graduate school experience yields depressingly few examples of this...), but there are also advantages to the kind of snapshotting (or what Gladwell in Blink calls thin-slicing) I was advocating today and that we're accomplishing at CCCO. A little one-page slice, multiplied by 10-12 books for a course, by three courses a semester, and by 2 years of course work would give our students a fairly compact, searchable aide-memoire as they move on to exams and dissertations.

Of course, they could blog this stuff, but I think that one of the things that keeps folk wary of doing so, at least when it comes to things like class notes, is the public dimension. In the margins of our books, we don't feel any compunction about drawing angry faces, harshly angled question marks, the occasional "WTF?!" and so on. Not so easy to do when it's possible that a random ego-surf will bring your current or future colleagues to that entry. Maybe another way to describe the conversation I had today in class, then, is to say that I'm encouraging them to blog without blogging?

Or maybe it's that I'm finally warming to the idea of the Hipster PDA.

That's all.


CCC Online is featured today on Inside Higher Ed's Around the Web.

Can I get an Amen?

September 11, 2005

Poetics of the Everyday

Next time someone asks me why I blog or how in the world I have time to post regularly given all of the other things hanging over my head, this is the link I'll give them (to Kathleen):

No one attempting to be a pianist, whether professionally or for personal enjoyment, would assume that practicing once a month, fourteen hours a day, for three days in a row, would be better than practicing an hour a day, every day, rain or shine. Why is it that so many of us think of writing that way, as something that must be put off until there are huge blocks of time available?

The answer is a simple one. Pianists don't spend 3-4 months listening to performances by other pianists, only to find themselves booked for their own performance a week or so later. At least I hope they don't.

One of the things that continues to appeal to me about blogspace is exactly what Kathleen observes:

When I discipline myself to post something every day, or as close to it as I can, I find myself watching the world around me slightly differently, and treating my thoughts slightly differently, as though any occurrence or any idea might be capable of blossoming and bearing fruit. When I’m not posting, nothing seems worth writing about, just a bunch of dried-up seeds that’ll eventually blow away or be eaten by the birds.

And "discipline" is exactly the write rite right word here. The truth of the matter is that we are disciplined to do exactly the wrong thing when it comes to our own writing, and more often than not, I suspect that we replicate it. It's a particularly acute failure for those of us who study writing, because our disciplinary history typically casts as villain the "current-traditional" assumption that one learns to write by reading those who have written. And yet, how much better are we at teaching graduate students to do the kinds of writing they'll need when they leave our programs?

Not much. I've taken to giving an essay to my students, Paul Matsuda's "Coming to Voice: Publishing as a Graduate Student," from Casanave and Vandrick's Writing for Scholarly Publication (Amazon). What's important about the essay is that it narrates a process that's not about acquiring disciplinary content so much as it is learning about the conversations, about seeing publication as an ongoing process:

My goal was no longer just to publish but to respond to the conflicts, gaps, and discrepancies I perceived in the professional literature by contributing my perspective, which is informed by my inquiry--be it philosophical, historical, or empirical. I was no longer simply trying to express my ideas or to present the data I had collected by trying to engage in conversations with people in the field through my writing (49).

Remove the references to the specific disciplinary context, and what you're left with is a pretty sound description of the way that lots of people approach keeping a weblog. We also respond to the insights and wisdom we perceive--the one thing I'd change about that passage is the notion that writing only serves to address a deficiency, but then again, that's another of the ways that academia disciplines us to think about writing.

Maybe one of the things that disturbed me the most about the Tribble flap was that there was no room in his "analysis" for an awareness of the contribution that blogs might make to a person's development as a writer. For all of our consciousness about blogs, both in and out of academia, that's something that still goes largely unremarked. It shouldn't take us until well into our careers as writers to unlearn the implicit assumptions that we take with us from graduate school, and if weblogs can help in that process, more power to 'em.

That is far more than I'd originally intended, and thus, is all.

September 9, 2005

CCC Online goes live

About a year and a half ago (April 04), Ed White started a thread on WPA-L, about the question (and the difficulty) of "keeping up" with all that's published in the discipline. My contribution to the thread was to suggest that any answer to the dispersal of the field was going to need to be equally dispersed, some way to loosely join the small pieces, to paraphrase David Weinberger, that would be sustainable. And I offered a modest proposal in that regard.

Last fall, I decided to put my money where my mouth was, and to apply for the position of CCC Online Editor vacated by Todd Taylor, and the good folk at CCC and NCTE took me up on my offer. The result, as I've talked about a little bit here over the past month, may not compare in scope with a site like arXiv.org, but it's pretty (dare I say?) revolutionary for my field, which has been pretty slow to develop sustainable tools for managing all of the scholarship that we generate.

CCC Online is a small step in that direction, but I think (and hope) that years from now, it will have been an important one. The site uses Movable Type to archive the metadata from every essay published in CCC--we're currently four years deep into the archives, and hope to make steady, "backwards" progress over the course of the next year. Among other things, the site will:

  • make the content of CCC accessible through search engines
  • make the content of CCC available to bookmarking services like del.icio.us, CiteULike, etc.
  • make the works cited of the CCC archives searchable (how many articles have cited X, e.g.)
  • provide easy access to insular citations (the abstracts of CCC articles in the bibliographies will be a link away)
  • allow similarly easy access to what we're calling "works citing"--links to CCC articles that have cited the article in question
  • create annotated table of contents pages for each issue of the journal (using the monthly archive feature on MT, and retroactively timestamping the entries)
  • classify articles according to their various and respective CCCC "area clusters" (each of which will eventually be available as an RSS feed)
  • provide permalinks to the NCTE pages where the pdf's of the articles reside (sorry, subscribers only), tying that portion of the site to a much more focused search engine
  • supply both author-generated and automatically generated keywords for the articles, offering a rough snapshot of each essay
  • link to a del.icio.us account devoted exclusively to building a bottom-up, folksonomic network for describing the journal's content
  • enable different kinds of synoptic, disciplinary research: trends in particular terminologies, vocabularies, and topics, e.g.

Not a bad list of features to start with, if I do say so. I should also add that the space on the front page currently occupied by the "Welcome" message will eventually turn into a rotating "feature" space, providing links to electronic content, relevant discussions in the blogosphere, resources, etc., pretty much whatever we can think of. Also, although it's not yet in place, we'll be housing the electronic content that's already been published in CCC, as well as providing room for such content in the future. My plan, in locating the site externally (from both NCTE and SU), was that, rather than changing the URL for all this stuff every few years, I could simply pass the account on to the next editor, leaving all of the URLs semi-permanent.

I don't have a lot more to add at this point. This has been an exciting project both to envision and to work on, and I think that it'll represent a real contribution to my field, one that carves out a different kind of space from the resources currently available. And given all the work that I've been doing with blogs, networks, social software, KM, etc., it's functioned for me as a concrete application for the more abstract ideas that I tend to focus my attention upon.

I'll be linking to this announcement and putting the word out over listservs in the next few days, but anyone reading this should feel free to beat me to it, or give us a shout out on your blog. And in the meantime, give the site a visit, take a look around, offer us feedback, pass the URL around, etc.

Update: Beth's comment reminds me that, as I should have made clear from the get-go, I wasn't the only person working on this. The team included me, Derek, and Madeline, and we've received timely advice and feedback from several people whom I'll be adding to the "Team" page on the site shortly...

September 8, 2005

It's not magic; it's just shiny

Perhaps the fact that I didn't rush right to my computer this past weekend and throw up a gargantuan review of Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm (IMDB) will give you some hint as to my thoughts about it. The thing about BG is that I really, really wanted to like it, much more than I did. Gilliam is one of my favorite directors--I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt, even for his so-called 'flops.' I have a lot of respect for any filmmaker who can break through the haze of mediocrity where most of Hollywood lives and breathes.

That being said, it's hard for me to be anything other than ambivalent about Brothers Grimm. The concept is a pretty good one--the brothers are, in fact, cynical guys who prey upon the gullibility of their contemporaries, recreating all sorts of witches, monsters, and villains so that they can take money from towns for "banishing" them. Much like "Shakespeare in Love" or even the Shrek franchise, the idea is that the movie is meant to be allusive, rewarding our ability to spot all the various references to well-worn fairy tales that pop up throughout. There are some really clever moments, and some dark moments as well, both of which are hallmarks to my mind of Gilliam's work.

At the same time, the movie felt pretty unsustained to me. I've seen reviews that claim that the plot is spotty, but I didn't find that to be the case at all. What I ended up with was that it felt like there were three or four different directions that the basic premise could have been taken in this movie, and all of them are attempted almost equally, to the overall detriment of the whole picture. Matt Damon is tolerable, and I'm appreciating more and more Peter Stormare's ability and comic timing. Jonathan Pryce and Heath Ledger, though, were both distracting at best (particularly the garble that was Ledger's "accent"), and Lena Headey's performance seemed to veer close to Keira Knightley's turn in Pirates of the Caribbean at times.

I don't know. I'd like to believe that the movie is a good one that's just suffered because of my high expectations, but I think that it's more the case that Gilliam felt those expectations and tried to meet all of them at once. The result is a movie that I have a hard time recommending beyond matinee prices, honestly.

That is all.

September 5, 2005

Feral hypertexts?

I can't guarantee to you that my reason for linking to this entry over at Jill's has anything behind it other than the fact that I like the word "feral."

Okay, there's a little more to it than that. First of all, I almost always find that Jill and I are on the same screen when it comes to things like:

Perhaps it is more useful to think about new kinds of textuality as more akin to performances than to the texts produced in the 19th century.

It doesn't hurt that I'm currently working my belated way through Craig Saper's Networked Art, which makes a similar point. Or that I'm right at a point in my manuscript revisions where I need to elaborate on this idea. No, none of that hurts.

Second, I like that Jill's wrestling with what seems to be a pretty counter-intuitive pair of ideas: feral hypertexts are ones that are out of control, and she's discussing in this entry the prospect of developing critical editions for such texts, critical editions being one of the ways that academia exerts control upon a text. I'd say more about how she works in and out of this paradox, but then, that would spoil the surprise, wouldn't it?

Third, I really really am fond of the word "feral."

That's all for the moment. I still have to throw up my review of the Brothers Grimm, but I'm thinking maybe that'll keep until the morrow.

September 4, 2005


Ahh, yes. Ivan "Not his real name" Tribble is back for Round 2, and one might gather from his extensive and defensive fisking of Round 1 that perhaps his tenured, pseudonymous feelings were hurt. Oh, but in "They Shoot Messengers, Don't They?" IT stands by his basic point. Well, he stands by his basic point if you strip it out of its context and allow him to back away from the claims that he made.

His "basic point" has become, simply, be careful what sort of image you project when you apply for jobs:

If "be careful what you say," is good general advice for the job seeker, why is it so controversial to add the word "online"?

Here's the thing, Ivan. It's not controversial at all. It's redundant. "Be careful what you say" is such a vanilla banality that it applies equally well to each and every single thing that you do in graduate school, from blogging to delivering conference papers to choosing shoes for your interviews to spilling a drink on somebody to whatever. Your original essay was the place where blogs as a medium were identified as something necessarily harmful and controversial. Back when that was your basic point, you were singling out a particular activity and suggesting categorically that, rather than being places where we might exercise care and/or judgment, blogs were necessarily detrimental to the academic job applicant.

The heated response prompted by your column came from those of us who believe that blogs, and the networks they engender, suggest the possibility of a much more open academia, a place where we don't have to spend our lives striving for the goal of becoming inocuous brains on sticks. To those of us who actually practice this type of networking, offering the advice to "be careful what you say" is to treat us as idiots, pouring our lives onto the screen in public without any thought of the consequences. And while there may be those of us who do precisely that, there are plenty of us who have thought carefully about how our blogs construct our identities, and who continue to believe that they do so productively.

As tempting as it would be to fisk your rejoinder, and to point out all of the places where you deserved precisely the range of reactions you received, let me just single out this one:

But of course our committee didn't use blogs as a disqualifier, as my column made clear. Lots of bloggers still misread that and assumed we had.

I stated that several committee members had reservations about hiring a blogger, which many respondents dismissed as irrational. I can't speak for every committee member's reasons, or every blogger's good judgment.

Either you can speak for every committee member's reasons (i.e., can say with certainty that blogs weren't a disqualifier) or you cannot. You don't get to have it both ways. You can't defend the integrity of the search process (blogs weren't a deciding factor) and the integrity of your original argument (blogs may be a deciding factor) at the same time.

The fact of the matter is that you can't really speak to the search process beyond your own experience of it, beyond your own impressions. You can't know whether blogs played much of a factor or not, and as a result, we can't really know whether there's anything to be learned from your original essay, other than your own antipathy--a largely and admittedly uneducated antipathy--towards blogs themselves. But I suspect that CHE isn't paying a whole of money these days to folks writing essays about "How I Hate Blogs." So you've dressed it up as market advice, a column "to help some people land tenure-track jobs." And if your point was "Don't blog; it'll get you in trouble" then even though I disagree, at least there was some point to your essay. Of course, that point, as you seem aware, requires more evidence than a "trend" (?!) identified from a single search in a single discipline at a single school. Originally, you seemed more than willing to make that particular leap in the interests of poking at the blogosphere.

If your basic point is "Be careful what you say," then I'm looking forward to seeing whether or not CHE bothers to pay you for a third column. Because that's not a warning that will help people land jobs--it's a bumper sticker.

That is all.

Except to mention that I refuse to offer IT even the implicit endorsement that comes with a link. Instead, go to The Little Professor and follow the link there. Also with the hat tip to Clancy.

Walking the walk

For as much as I seem to talk about sports, and given that the Carrier Dome is literally about 30 yards from my office, you would think that I had been to countless football games at the Dome. Not so, my friend.

Today's contest between SU and the Mountaineers of West Virginia was in fact the first college football game I've been to in a long long time, and my first ever football game at the Dome. Caught the game with Derek, who offers the following photoset for my nostalgia and your viewing pleasure. Back in the day, my family and I used to run up to Iowa City and tailgate outside Kinnick Stadium on a regular basis, but since then, I've been at four schools without real programs, and then Syracuse. And, to be entirely unfair, it's debatable whether SU has been much of a real program for the past few.

Today's game wouldn't have been especially strong evidence to the contrary. SU racked up an anemic 114 yards of total offense, and while their defense was generally tough (forcing 5 turnovers and setting up their lone touchdown), it wasn't enough. In fact, SU's offense actually outscored themselves, giving WVU eight points on an interception return and a safety, and claiming only seven points for themselves. They were struggggling to move the ball all day long--too many more performances like that, and the Greg Robinson era is going to be a short one.

The offense seemed to be working from an extremely limited playbook--they were running the same plays and the same routes over and over, whether they worked or not, and usually they didn't. SU's QB was remarkably inaccurate, even on fairly simple throws. In short, it was ugly. I'm willing to give the new coach a couple of years to import schemes, personnel, etc., but that's about it. And if their offense is as predictable as it was today, even that's not going to help much. And if not, well, there's always pleasure at a distance to be had following the lads in Iowa City or watching Oklahoma get roughed up by the Horned Frogs...

September 2, 2005

Broken Flowers

It will be interesting, I'm sure, to see the various reviews for Broken Flowers (IMDB)--my guess is that they'll split pretty evenly among people who like Jarmusch's films and those who don't. Since I'm a member of the former group, here's why you should see this movie.

The rhythm of the movie is at times painfully slow, fighting against the same inertia that has overtaken Murray's life in the movie. There are places, many of them, that almost beg for a quicker cut to another scene or angle, and I have to think that Jarmusch is imposing this pace on us. In some ways, it reminds me of Paul Auster's work, the way that it reminds us of our own insistence on locating meaning where none may exist. There are a bunch of narrative connections that the movie allows us (and Murray and Wright) to draw, and the pace of the movie encourages us to "figure it out" in ways that are often misleading.

So yes, it is an unsatisfying movie on some levels. For me, this meant thinking about the very desire for satisfaction, a desire that Wright's character embodies and for which Murray's character almost serves as an antithesis. The movie is less about solving its central mystery and more about all the ways that we build our lives in order to avoid solving mysteries in general. The funny thing about this is that it's a movie that really prefigures its own critique. Someone will tell you, "It's slow. It's boring. Nothing really happens." And when they do, you'll know which of the characters that person identified with.

Me? I liked it quite a bit, and I flatter myself into thinking that it got me thinking about life in precisely the way it was meant to.

That's all.