The most humorous part of the evening was a tirade against The Davinci Code, lambasting Dan Brown for the many errors in the text and his plot construction. Some of those errors, of a factual or literary sense, were the manner in which the supposedly best code-breaker in France couldn't figure out the writing was done to be read in a mirror and how she couldn't figure out the anagram code scrawled in blood on the floor of the Louvre. What he also found nonsensical was the manner in which a dying man would write a code in blood on the floor, the desire of anyone in their death throes no doubt. There were a good many other errors and falsehoods (but it is fiction, despite the headnote to the accuracy of much of the information) such as the supposed headquarters of Opus Dei being a Jewish girls college. In short, he described it as crap. I didn't think much of it myself, thinking a mediocre mystery, but I don't real a lot of mysteries. The most damning bit of information he passed along was that the whole "God's Blood" from the rearranged "holy grail" is something that only works in romance langauges, not aramaic and the other languages of the time of Christ. Not that I care much one way or the other about The Davinci Code, but it was an intersting rant.
The first of those essays will take that issue, find an onlilne video/ad and a print based document and examine how the two texts tackle the particular issue. The second essay will be a more formal argument, taking an issue and arguing some element of it, backing that up with a bit of research. This is a variation on classes I've taught in the past. It will be interesting to see which issues the students latch on to. I always like it when iedeas and thoughts come together in my mind when I am reading.
Postman makes a number of interesting claims, that I don't necessarily agree with, in the last three chapters (really only two as the final chapter is a something of an appeal, as seen in the title "A Huxleyan Warning." That claim is basically that of the book's title, that we are being duped by amusement and don't even know it when it comes to political, educational, religious and other social discourse. In a number of ways I can't help but agree.
Where I don't agree is when it comes to his, admittedly 20 year old, analysis of computers in the classroom, where he claims we are in danger of doing the same thing there as we did with television. He writes:
"Although I believe the computer to be a vastly overrated technology, I mention it here because, clearly, Americans have accorded it their customary mindless inattention; which means they will use it as they are told, without a whimper. Thus, a central thesis of computer technology--that the principal difficulty we havein solving problems stems from insufficient data--will go unexamined. Until, years from now, when it will be noticed that the massive collection and speed-of-light retrieval of data have been of great value to large scale organizations but have solved very little of importance to most people and have created at least as many problems for them as they may have solved. (161)
What struck me were the folks lined up against Grockster and file sharing: Sheryl Crow (if not for Lance Armstrong, I don't think she'd be as much in the limelight. Her music is a bit too poppy for me, but I listen on occasion), the Dixie Chicks, and Don Henley, late of the Eagles. I won't bother providing links to them, as they don't like file sharing and they probably don't have any files at their site you might want to download.
On the other side of the table were Brian Eno, Heart (I have to admit, growing up in Seattle when they were hot gave me some silly sort of civic pride, plus "Crazy on You" rocked in its day), and Chuck D of Public Enemy. I didn't find any free downloads at these sites, only some samples. What I did notice with Eno and Public Enemy is that they are hawking their own wares, seeming not to rely so much on record labels to do so for them. Certainly the RIAA isn't representing the likes of these folks because they don't make industry executives any money. It would seem those executives are also concerned with their gravy train being derailed. I guess I might be too if I were them, but I'm not them.
As I said, I'm still reading Postman. I finished the first section and while he is focusing on television, and writing in the mid-1980's, I can tie much of his argument, or at least I try, to the internet and blogging. I don't know how much I'll write, but there are a number of passages in the text (Penguin: New York, 1985) that are compelling.
In the first two chapters, which is all I have read, Postman says some interesting things, things that lead me to question what I do.
But what am I going to blog on or about? Well, blogging for one, but I really don't know just what specifically. I'll also, in response to Doug Hesse's challenge in his keynote at CCCC, to take my thoughts on teaching and the teaching of writing public.