"Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping." --Virginia Woolf A Room of One's Own

Salman Rushdie speaks in Spokane

I just got home from seeing Salman Rushdie speak. There is so much he said that I want to write about, but I'm also so tired, I don't know if I can do any of it justice, or if I can even remember most of what he had to say that seemed relevant at the time. He was (still is, probably signing books as I type) in Spokane for the Get Lit! literary festival. At the very least he is interesting, funny, provacative and relevant to the world we are in, as readers, writers, thinkers, learners and livers.

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.

Just Because

I've been meaning to write, but haven't felt compelled to write much of anything as of late. Too much work with last week being the first week of the spring quarter. Ideas flit in and out, but nothing seems okay to write about. I don't want to write about students or classes or colleagues or that sort of thing, so I haven't. It's not that those things have been of great interest for me to write about though. I guess if this was anonymous I could write about some of those things, but it isn't anonymous, and I tell my students they can come here, so, I better not be dogging them to the world. I don't think they'd like that.

Baseball, Republicans and Social Security

I got a phone call from Tommy Lasorda, ex-manager of the LA Dodgers, today, and I hung up on the bastard. Okay, it wasn't really him, but his recorded voice, and I didn't really hang up on him, but instead deleted the message from the machine about halfway through. And I'm sure countless others got the call. He was shilling for George Bush and privatization of social security. He used the phrase "personal accounts" rather than privatization, but a rose is a rose is a rose, no matter what we name it.

First Day Blahs!

I'm not normally morose or laconic about the first day of a term, but today I am. It's mostly because one class will likely be cancelled tomorrow, so the work I've done for it will be for naught. It's also the most interesting class I am scheduled to teach this quarter: British Lit from 1780 to the present. If it's cancelled, and tomorrow at the end of the day I'll know, that means I pick up another fyc, which doesn't excite me. All those papers! Twice as many. Well, such is life. While I'll spend more time reading and responding to essays, I'll also spend less time doing prep for classes, and I do have an intern to teach at least half of my other fyc.

April Fool, Recycling and RAMROD?

Today is an odd day. It's garbage day for the neighborhood, so I put out our garabe can, yard waste (chock full of leaves from the garden left over from the winter) and our recycling of newspaper, pop and tin cans, milk jugs and the like. Well, this morning, the recycling bin was gone, old newspapers, old magazines, old pop and soup cans, old milk jugs (flattened of course, as were most of the cans), all gone. Not a trace. Rachel, my wife, thinks it could be someone snooping for identity theft stuff, but there shouldn't be anything of that sort in there. It just made for a weird start of the day to head out to walk the dogs and see it gone.

Amusement Redux, I Think

Just now I finished reading Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves' to Death and found it a worthwhile read, which is good because my students will be writing two essays based on it in the upcoming spring term that begins in a few days. One of the essays will be drawn from an issue (actually, both essays will be drawn from an issue) in the first part of the text that the Postman touches on.

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)

Grockster, Postman and Whatever

Even though I went on about the value of reading the newspaper yesterday, following Postman's lead, I read it this morning, and will read it tomorrow morning too. What I found interesting this morning (and the various online stories I read as well), among other things, was the story about Grockster and file sharing in front of the Supreme Court.

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.

More Amusement

I'm still working my way through Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death and looking out the window, watching the snow fall, and hoping it will stop so I can go for a bike ride. This is spring break for me, and it's snowing! Yes, Spokane is about 2200 feet above sea level, but crimany! I got drenched on Sunday when I rode in a downpour. Today I'm headed for Riverside State Park to ride in the trees, which should keep me a little drier, both from above and below.

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.

Amusing Myself to Death

One of the books I'm using in an upcoming class, one that starts in a week, and one that is also a core-text for SFCC, is Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death. I just started reading it for the first time today and will end up re-reading it with students, but it has given me pause to think about so-called new media and the role is has on teaching and learning, in my classes in particular.

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.

A poseur no more?

After two years of blogging with students (you can see the links to those classes as part of the side-bar) I've finally decided to start blogging myself. I don't know that I was really a poseur these past two years, but the way I was blogging with students is a good bit different than the sort of thing that goes on in the proverbial blogosphere. So, here I am.

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.

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