Tuesday, May 24, 2005

What Women Want - New York Times

What Women Want - New York Times

Friday, May 13, 2005

A Quasi-Found-Poem Conclusion

This has been so much fun! I'd like to thank everyone everywhere, but there's not enough space for that, not even in cyberville. I do have to give some specific "Praise Be's!" to all of you who have directly contribut'd to the WCJ blogversation this semester. (The whole "Praise Be!" thing, for me, start'd when I heard Kerouac-ian "Praise Be!" of Allen Ginsberg.)

So, here goes (in no particular order): Praise Be... Tamara, Neal, Dawn (#12), Michele (a.k.a. "M."), Beth, Phil here & Bill here, Roberta (a.k.a. "gigglepuss"), julie, /WCJ/, Mary W., su, Rebecca F., shady, Lisa E., Melissa I., Melissa S., Lauren, Susan M., Nick, gad, Joanna, Clint, spiral, Sherri W., &, of course, Anonymous, for all of those wonderful posts. You rule.

And Praise Be to you, the reader!

Now, to end, my quasi-found-poem conclusion:

WCJ 25.1

Our polyvalent mission...”
time & space,

listen &
& out--



Thursday, May 12, 2005

From Perfect Strangers to Role Players

So, what else does one do during a time when he is writing his dissertation?

He tutors someone who ask’d him for help on a project. Only, this isn’t just any project. This project is what is otherwise known to the layman as a “dissertation.” Yep. & the guy who is writing the dissertation is writing it in English—which is his 2nd language. & he wants to defend this dissertation @ the end of June or early July so… I’m the final line of offense/defense b4 he brings it to his committee.

Flashback: Does anyone remember the board game Stratego? It’s still sold in stores (well, the last time I was in a game store Stratego was there… musta been about ’82.

Oh, please, it wasn’t ’82. Though, if I remember correctly, back then I was going through a mid-life crisis—something about seeing the end of my single-digit years approach’g along the distant horizon—or was that just a booze-cruise on the Atlantic head’g down to Atlantic City? I dunno.)

Well, Stratego is a board game where “each side of the battlefield (composed of ten squares by ten squares) is populated by an army consisting of quasi-European military units circa 1820” (http://boardgamecentral.com/games/stratego.html). Each army had ten types of soldiers, from the lieutenant to scouts. The goal: move the pieces accordingly until you captured the enemy’s flag. (Yes, it was a very original idea.)

Each soldier had a number from 1 to 9, 9 being the least powerful. So, every time two soldiers touch pieces, the lower score won. (You mov’d pieces from square to square, kinda like checkers, but you didn’t have always go diagonal.) And there were bombs! Wow! Only the Miners, #8, could safely remove your opponents bombs. Miners weren’t a “strong” fight’g/attack’g piece, but they were the only ones that could remove bombs that usually surround’d the opponent’s flag. Great team players. Not Jason Giambi.

(At this point, I’m feel’g slightly embarras’d by this: partly because it’s really turn’g into an odd metaphor for tutor’g; 2ndly, because I’ve been in-and-out of read’g “Metaphors We Live By” by Johnson & Lakoff I’m realiz’g this is really, really is a bizarre metaphor [tutor’g as war?]; 3rdly, because… I’m writing about Stratego.)

But this is what I thought about today while I was think’g about the tutor’g session I had this morn’g. You see, I felt like a miner.

I felt like this dude who is writing the dissertation is in this battlefield, trying to move about, get through some difficulties, and capture the flag (er, piece of paper that screams, “PH.D.!!”) & I’m a role player in this process, trying to help remove the “bombs” in his way, & clear his path to the golden highway. (Not a direct reference to Highway 101.) And if I don’t @ least (help him) remove some of the bombs, well… mulligan, anyone?

He’s really a fine writer—especially for writing in a 2nd language, & his study is amazing. & I have the absolute highest respect not only for people who live/study in a country where they speak the language as a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th (oh, c’mon, more than 5th? Talk about put’g others to shame!), but for someone to write a dissertation in a 2nd language—they get major props!

Don’t Be Ridiculous

Speak’g of ridiculousness, I’d like to end today w/ a short slice o’ life.

Ben Rafoth and I were talk’g one time (about a year ago) about how ridiculous something was. It was a fun(ny) conversation & I don’t know how it came about, but we realiz’d that Google is ridiculous. Honestly. It is. In a good way, of course. (Okay, all search engines are ridiculous, but it just so happen'd that we had the internet up & were using Google @ the time. We were probably look’g up Shanti Bruce or someone else we need’d background info on.) :)

But Google is ridiculous. Check this out: I typed in the word “mulligan” & w/in .22 seconds, Google provid’d me w/ more than 1.8 million references. In approximately one-fifth of 1 second, almost 2 million links were made available to me, including the exact one I was hoping for (see it above). Can you imagine say'g "pizza" or "rice, bean, and cheese burrito" & having 22 million made available to yr door in less than 1 second?

That’s ridiculous. & so is (hold on a second... delivery guy's here.)...

& so is think’g of myself as a miner.

One more blog to go!


“made up my mind to make a new start,
going to California with an aching in my heart…”


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Summer Time--Time to Sit Back and Unwind... and Write!

To everyone who is still in the midst of finals, portfolio evals, & other dubious end-of-the-semester activities, think this: it’s almost over!! Woohoo! (No one is around right now, so I can, once again, get away with doing that.)

I’m writing (parts of) my dissertation this week. Actually, I’m writing my dissertation over the course of the entire summer. I don’t expect it to take that long—it’s been a work-in-progress for a while, & all of the information is there, sit’g on my desk, on my bookshelf, in little binders & word documents, just wait’g to be thrust onto a computer screen. Actually, much of it is already written.

But, there are so many other things one can do while writing a dissertation. This shd be obvious though. For example, we can look back at what Beth discuss’d earlier this semester in her blog “19 Things to Do When You Should Be Grading Student Essays.” Dissertations, Grading Papers, Creating Syllabi, Writing Anything (but blogs)… these are a few of my favorite things (to avoid doing until I actually “have” to do them.)

So here’s my new secret obsession: reply’g to blogs. Well, not just any blog, of course, but to the blogs of Jacob Luft, a baseball writer for SportsIllustrated.cnn.com. In the past week, I’ve gone 3 for 6 in get’g my replies post’d to his blog site—that’s a .500 average for you stats people! (Yes, I’m a life-long Yankee fan. If anyone wants to make fun of them, you better do it now while they are still three games below .500, because it’s not going to last for long.)

Here's a link to the latest blog I replied to:

(I had to cut this address after the "may11." part, so, if you choose to go to this site, you will have to copy-and-paste the entire things, from both lines, into the URL box. It took up too much space as one long address & wdn't fit into the blog correctly. Sorry. If you do go, you'll will se my posts; I use either my first or last name--usually latter--but I am always the dude from Indiana, PA.) :)

So, to answer Roberta’s earlier blogs about what is the one best thing, I say it is this: the end of the semester. And I don’t say that b/c it represents a time when our work “stops,” because, as you all know, our work never stops. I like the end of the semester—actually, more like the end of the academic year—because it’s warm again. (And when you are living in Western PA, any day of warmth & sunshine is enthusiastically welcom’d.) It’s warm out, often sunny, & I feel that this “rebirth” parallels a rebirth of the work that I really really want to do. It’s a time when I can get back to my own bookshelf (see Tamara’s blogs) & pull down things w/o feel’g as if I am taking time away from meet’g w/ a student, or plan’g a lesson, or read’g & comment’g on someone else’s writing.

Hmm, as we learn’d from Anne Geller, I am exist’g more in epochal time right now. (Or, a time that suspiciously appears more epochal. Maybe it’s epochal time fram’d by a larger fungible clock than a semester usually permits.)

And, would you believe I still have the infamous roll of TP that Joey B so heroically pack’d into the backseat of The Brown Hornet? It’s hid’g inside an end table in my living room. I remember repack’g it into the Blue Bronco as I prepar’d to drive back across the country, only to stop short this time in PA. I thought it was funny—still do. Someday I’ll mail it to him.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pass'g Kerouac On The Road... or Highway

It was the Spring of Love. It was New Jersey; Brick, New Jersey; the Jersey Shore, just a few dunes away from the beach & I left work, ready to go home &… sit there? I’d been work’g as a forklift operator/truck (un)loader @ a Belmar-based warehouse that sold snack foods to local elementary, middle, & high schools. Sometimes I even got to make deliveries. Sometimes I got to drive the box-trucks down to Jiffy Lube to get their oil chang'd. I even got to shovel snow off the roof of the build’g once (for fear that if it turn’d to ice, the roof might collapse).

Heck, it paid more than my previous job: teach’g English & Art to middle schoolers @ a private school.

I arriv’d home & check’d my email. To my surprise, there was one from Dr. Helen Dunn, director of graduate studies at Sonoma State University. I think it read: “Good News from SSU.”

Yep, I was in! I yelled, “Woohoo!” (There was no one else there, so I felt I could get away w/ that one.) I print’d out the email & went to go tell someone--but no one was around. So I sat there & read it over & over. I was going to get an MA in English and become a Creative Writer!!! Finally, I start’d tell’g people: family, friends, girlfriend, anyone who wd listen. & I don’t think anyone was genuinely very excited. Everyone, for the most part, was like “You’re leaving?” (Sniff.)

I think the only person who was as genuinely thrill’d as I was was my friend Me. (At this time I’d like to give a shout out to Me, for being there @ this exciting time.)

So, a few days later, the big “official” envelope arriv’d in the mail. (A few not-big envelopes had already arriv’d. Not-big envelopes = “not-so-great.”) Inside the big envelope was an application to work as a tutor @ the SSU Writing Center.

“Writing Center?” I thought. “I wonder what that’s like?” My undergrad university had a Learning Center, which was mainly a computer lab everyone avoid’d b/c of the folks who work’d there. Not social, not fun—and most certainly, it was not the on-campus pub. (Yep, that’s where I work’d part-time. I was Mr. Boston.)

So, in just a few weeks, I pack’d the backseat & trunk of my brown ’82 Honda Accord (The Brown Hornet), pick’d up my old roommate Joey B (who was collect’g unemployment), & we were head’d to California. Only we had to pack his things, too, into the Hornet. He was most excited @ the fact that he had plann’d ahead by bring’g an extra roll of toilet paper just in case.

Yeah, in case Texas had a TP shortage, I suppose. Or, if we got stuck in the desert.

We got everything in, includ'g his case of Gatorade (for those all-day jogs we’d be going on while driving) & set out on the NJ Turnpike. First stop, North Carolina.

My dad had decid’d to buy me a new car as a reward for get’g out of NJ. The only thing: it was @ his house in NC. So… Joey B & I head’d South before West. We got there & saw my new Dream Mobile: a blue ’89 Ford Bronco II with two hole-creating rust spots on the driver door, a fad’d paint job on the hood (quickly rust’g, too), two ripp’d seats (around the shoulder areas) & only one work’g seatbelt up front—driver’s side. Cost: $1000.

My dad beam’d proudly while stand’g in his driveway w/ Joey B & me. “This is a great deal, boys,” he chirped.

Yep. A great deal. Watch out California!

Caveat: it was a stick shift. And, yep, good ole Capt. Cross-Country Driver did not know how to drive a stick shift. The Brown Hornet was automatic. But Joey B cd do it! Joey B saved the day!

The next day, Joey B & I spent a few hours stop’g, stall’g, shift’g, pull’g, prod’g, push’g & scream’g, step’g, stop’g, stall’g, shift’g, etc. in a school park’g lot down the road from my Dad’s. I cdn’t do it… yet. We went out for dinner that evening & everything was pleasant.

The follow’g morn’g, Joey B & I pack’d the truck, hopp’d in, waved goodbye & were off on Route 40—a straight highway from NC to CA. Four hours later, around lunch time, we drove through Knoxville, TN… & the truck broke down.

So, a tow truck came & pick’d us up & brought us to a small, independent mechanic’s shop where we encountered our first group of Tennesseans. “So, where are the two of you head’d?” the owner asked.

“California,” I replied. The group of men around him laughed.

“California!? What!?! Nuttin’ out there but fruits an’ nuts! Why’re you goin’ there? Place’s is just gonna fall off into the ocean any day now!”


My first reaction was to (unfortunately) stereotype this group, but I realiz’d something: people in Jersey said the same things to me. (Double Sigh.) These dudes were quality people, though, I learn’d, because they understood my situation & had my truck ready the next morn’g: and it only cost $450. So, the truck was now worth $1450. Great deal getting not-so-great. I call’d my dad just to let him know.

“Okay,” he said, “well, this is only one thing. Everything else is fine, though, right?”

“Well, no, the stereo and cassette player don’t work.” He didn’t know that. Great deal even less-so-great. (please, be assur’d though, that I did—and still do—appreciate his generosity regard’g the truck. I just think it’s comedy.)

Joey B & I drove right along Route 40 for the next few days: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona. I learn’d to drive a stick-shift in Oklahoma & we even made it to the Canyon. Everything was grand.

Until the desert. We broke down for the 2nd time in a matter of 4 days in Needles, CA. If you are not familiar w/ Needles, CA in early July, well, … it’s hot. Very hot. Not the kind of hot that warrants TP as your savior, either. But the TP was there in the back seat, crush’d under a bag of food. Phew!

All was not awful, though. Our destination was Santa Barbara, where my good friend, Boo 409, work’d & lived @ UCSB. We were only a few hours way from there—and our Knoxville buddies had told us a secret about the truck’s “problem.” If the CV shaft broke again, we cd drive the truck in 4-wheel drive—but not for too long, especially on a highway.

So, we drove in 4-wheel drive on the highway for the next 5 hours, inch’g along @ 55 mph. It was Friday, July 2nd, I believe. Joey B’s plane from SF to NJ was Wednesday, July 7th. We got into SB @ 5pm—the Ford dealership was closed—until Tuesday because of the holiday wknd. So, we brought the truck in Tuesday morn’g & it was fix’d by Wednesday morn’g: $770.

Great deal! (Truck now @ $2220 w/ no radio. It would also cost an extra $330 to get it through CA’s “smog inspection,” money I eventually got back for some reason.)

Joey B & I drove up Highway 101 Wednesday morn’g, got to my new “house” in Petaluma late in the afternoon & got him on a bus back down to SFO by 7pm for a red-eye back to Newark. I was now living w/ two people I’d never met. I answer’d their online advertisement that read “roommate need’d, Petaluma area, close to SSU.” They wd turn out to be a nightmare—a story for another day.

The next week, my 1st full week in CA, I stop’d by the SSU Writing Center (after stall’g a few times on Petaluma Hill Road). I met Scott Miller, the director, briefly, fill’d out a new application & went back a few days later for an interview w/ Scott & Drea Moore, his assistant director. I never felt so at-home on a job interview. I was hired (of course) & wd quickly b/c best friends w/ Drea—who is currently try’g to b/c Sonoma County’s premier female jazz drummer. I had also taken a job @ a natural foods store as a cashier. But I was really exict’d about the prospect of tutor’g. That’s what I really want’d to do @ that time. And I did. And I've enjoy'd writing center work ever since.

So, I guess, Route 40 is my road to the Writing Center. Or maybe the Jersey Turnpike. Or Highway 101. I don’t know. Maybe it’s all three. That’s a great deal.


Monday, May 09, 2005

Creativity on the Brain

I think this may be the last week of blog’g for the semester. :( So, what I’m going to try to do is occasionally dip back into this semester’s archives & continue previous blog-versations, while blog’g some of my own thoughts/experiences of the last 14-15 weeks.

Courtroom Rhetoric

Okay, so I’m coffee-caffeinated, in a fabulous mood, done w/ grad’g portfolios, & ready to blog in a giddy way… & then I read Dawn Fels’s blog from Friday & thought… “Wow, that’s a heck of a lot better than any blog I will write today… or any time this week!” :)

If you’ve not read Dawn’s blog yet, please do. It’s just below this one & it’s fantastic.


So… anyone feel’g creative?

Creativity has been on my brain for a while now. A long, long while, but even more so recently. I read through my ENG 101’s final portfolios last week & thought… “Wow!” I was blown away by some of the work these people produced this semester. You see, my ENG 101ers produce multigenre portfolios. Each student @ the start of the semester begins work’g on Writing #1. This Writing lasts for the entire semester. & from this writing, they produce 6 other writings, along w/ a reflective preface to their work. Students are allow’d to choose what they want to write about & the genres they want to explore.

Quick explanation: each of the ensuing six writings are “branches” off their 1st writing. For example, Ryan’s semester-long writing was a story/narrative about his life & music. His next writing was an essay about childhood & music. Writing #3 was a magazine article about “The Corporatization of Music”; Writing #4 was a flyer advertising a concert; Writing #5 was a story about a fictional band; Writing #6 was a four-cd compilation of the music that represent’d his freshman year (complete w/ stories that went along w/ each song); & Writing #7 was an album of music & lyrics he wrote about his freshman year. (For the cyber-lover, think of it this way: each writing is a hyperlink from the original text.)

The question I’m oft ask’d about this: but how does this relate to ENG 101: College Writing?

& I say… “this is College Writing! Woohoo!”

Ok, I might drop the “Woohoo” depending on who is ask’g.

Ryan is a Communications major who is very interest’d in music & creative writing. So, here’s the breakdown of his writings & how they tie to his college writing experience:
#1: it’s narrative/descriptive/expository-ish, (oh, those modes!);
#2: expository essay (another mode!);
#3: journalism students practice writing magazine articles, no?;
#4: marketing! advertising! (ever walk’d around a college campus & not seen a flyer?)
#5: creative writing!
#6: marketing! advertising! (it’s a part of communications studies)
#7: creative writing!
Reflective Preface: a thorough examination of the writing process that went into creating each piece. In this preface, writers discuss how each writing is shaped by the elements of the rhetorical triangle (writer, reader/audience, text/language, & context).

Each of Ryan’s writings not only tie back into his semester-long piece, but also his major. & when someone like Ryan, who was in an ENG 100: Basic Writing course I taught last Fall, produces two 40+ page writings (#1 & #5), I’d like to think that there is an element to multigenre writing that works for everyone. (A surprising number of students produced @ least one writing that exceeded 20 pages; & one student even did a 30-minute documentary to accompany his work).

(& now, my feeble attempt to mirror Dawn’s message)
Sometimes, from my experiences watching students work/write in ways they want to explore, I have thought that this is one way of breaking down the racist rhetoric that exists in so many places on campus. I think this type of genre exposure allows students to see HOW MANY types of writings are out there, & how they may be proficient at one, but not in another—& how it takes practice to be proficient in any of them. I also think that this is more college writing, than, say, a traditional academic essay.

(My eyes burn from the scowls I see from many who oppose this idea!)

Many students this past year have walk'd out of ENG 101 know'g how to create web pages, write essays, design advertisements, construct business letters/proposals, etc. But, most importantly, they’ve learn’d to explore writing from multiple perspectives. And, from what I’ve seen, they’ve had FUN doing this. Writing can be FUN!!?!?!

(I must note one thing: here at IUP, we also have ENG 202: Research Writing that follows ENG 101: College Writing. Therefore, I do not feel obliged to teach quoting, etc. I prefer this class to be entirely about them as adults learn'g different styles of writing.)

The amazing thing is how many genres get explored each semester. I’ve read in various prefaces about how students have enjoyed reading their writing group member’s works because they never thought they’d have to critique “that” kind of writing.

The hardest thing, from my stance, is trying to not only “teach” or “comment about” each of these genres, but evaluate them. One student, Annika, wrote an amazing semester-long essay that explored hearing-loss in children (this is her concentration). Now, I know zero about this—& I admitt'd this to her—but I went along w/ it, believing that what she was writing was “true” &, most importantly, encourag'g her along the way.

I bring this back to writing center work: how do we manage to work w/ students who write in so many different genres? Many of my students would go to the WC & work w/ tutors—& most of the tutors I spoke w/ about this loved it (especially Lindsey H., a journalism major who really got to put her experience to use!). Where is our creative space? Our place where we get to act like kindergarteners once again--& relearn everything we need to know?

Ok. Enough for now. More tomorrow.

Anyone feel’g creative?


Friday, May 06, 2005

Courtroom Rhetoric Fit for a Stage

Pals, Centurions, and Yokels:

My apologies for the late post. Wednesday afternoon, I completed 13 days of jury duty on a federal criminal case that involved conspiracy, intrigue, and more courtroom drama than Judge Judy offers the casual couch potato viewer. Now, I know that jury duty is our responsibility as citizens, and I do not wish to imply at any point during this post that I didn't take my responsibility seriously. In fact, I and my fellow jurors took our roles very seriously; the defendants' lives were going to be greatly affected by the outcome of our deliberations. These men had families who would smile at us from the courtroom pews. Their children took a day off from school to attend one day of testimony. The defendants, themselves -- save for one -- appeared beaten down, tired, resigned to losing.

Amidst the hefty gravity were moments of absolute hilarity caused by the rhetorical choices of a few of the attorneys.
At one point during a cross examination that lasted ... oh, about 7 hours ... the attorney who obviously had a "past" with a particular law enforcement officer -- er, uh, detective -- tried his darndest to discredit the detective's ability to decipher some financial statements. Things got ugly. The attorney hurled questions at the detective faster than a pitching machine gone wild. But the detective was ready. Somehow, he managed to juggle the attorney's questions without losing face or his composure. In fact, he even smiled a couple of times. The attorney didn't appreciate these gestures, and eventually, he lost his stamina to continue the line of questioning, which ended shortly after the attorney pointed to the word "assets" on a tax return and "inadvertently" called the detective "a--h---." 'Twas an accident, n'est-ce pas? Haven't we all, especially in times of great stress, slipped and said a word that sort of sounded like the word we really wanted to use? In any event, the attorney's word choice made us all laugh. It was the only time everyone was on the same side.

Which brings me to a more serious observation about what I saw. As I sat and listened to the cross examinations by both the defense and prosecuting attorneys, I reminded myself that their jobs were to discredit the other side's witnesses. In some cases, I found the dialectic fascinating. But at times, I clearly saw attorneys -- white and black attorneys -- using the language of "privilege and power" to intimidate and mock a few witnesses -- all black -- whose life experiences were never marked by any sort of privilege. I wasn't impressed. In fact, I thought about how illegitimate and illogical the whole process seemed to be. How demeaning and, well, racist it clearly was. I reached my fill of some of the attorney's rhetorical mishmashing before the closing arguments even began. There was so much said that didn't have a thing to do with the evidence of the case.

Colleagues, I have friends who are attorneys, and I value the work they do. All of them do their jobs with integrity, carrying out their responsibilities with respect for the law and their clients. Not all of the attorneys on the case I observed used the courtroom as their stage. But those who did should be ashamed of themselves. I wonder. How many innocent people go to jail because they can't answer the rapid-fire-meant-to-confuse questions asked by prosecutors? How many criminals dodge the bullet because their defense attorneys know how to "talk the talk"? How many jurors draw conclusions based on eloquent or firey (or firey but eloquent) opening and closing arguments rather than the strength of the evidence between them?

For many reasons, I'm glad I did my civic duty, but I'm especially glad I served as a juror because it opened my eyes to a type of rhetoric far different than what I expected in a court of law and far different than the type of argument and philosophical dialectic I enjoy reading and teaching. My job in the writing center or the classroom has, indeed, been enriched by this experience, but if I may borrow a few of the words of one of the attorneys, I'd rather eat a flaming porcupine than witness a criminal trial again.

Dawn Fels
Juror No. 12