to eng101 folks

January 26, 2007

ok, i’m really looking forward to seeing  your blogs. please email me your blog address as soon as you’ve got it set up. thanks!


semester project

January 23, 2007

ack. double ack. ok, i’m feeling scattered. the two writing projects i have are blogs and double-entry journals. i’ve already got a good bit of an article on blogs, but it needs more research. especially field stuff. the double-entry journals fascinate me. i want to find out more about them. sounds like i’m leaning that way. this is a paltry paragraph fulfilling the assignment to discuss our projects. i promise more later. nah…i need to do this now.

ok, double-entry journals: they improve classroom discussion immensely. i mean, hugely. maybe more than any other tool i’ve used. ok. that’s pretty darn impressive. i want to find the research behind it. find some good theoretical articles. also, the sticky part for me is the second side, or the metacognitive side. the reflective side. lots of writers don’t really know what to do there. so is this a how-to article? maybe i should just stick with the research before thinking about the article. but i also want the theory, too. i know there are a lot of how-to articles. but what i’ve seen hasn’t been too helpful. ok, done.

alice walker’s “everyday use”

January 23, 2007

I’ve lived in this home a while, and I still can do my God-given task pretty well. The Mama here doesn’t make as much butter as they used to over at Big Dee and Stash’s house, where the tree I’m made of grew in the back yard.  I’m proud I help folks to make a central part of their meal — rich yellow butter, the same color as the wood that I’m made of. You can tell how folks have worked hard over the years by the way my wood sinks down in places.

But I’m pretty scared about what’s happening now. I’m having a hard time saying anything because this young woman Dee has me all wrapped up in cloth just waiting to take me to some noisy city place, most likely. She had to wipe off the clabbered milk hanging to me. Now how is the Mama supposed to finish making her butter? Doesn’t that young woman understand that I’m made to dash milk, push it and churn it till it turns into that creamy yellow butter, so sweet. What am I supposed to do hanging  on a wall or sitting  in a corner? That girl is so scared to put anything to everyday use, she can only think of displaying her family’s stuff. No more sense than a stuffed raggedy ann doll. And why does the Mama just stand there and let her daughter grab me, wrap me up, and throw me in the car? Doesn’t she have anything to say about the pieces of art she uses every day? Because I am a piece of artwork. All you have to do is look at the way Henry whittled me. Stash surely knew how to make a piece of wood sing. I’m smooth like a well-tanned goat-skin glove and the color of my wood shows up bright and patterned.

Only thing I know, I’m a lot more beatiful when I hang out with the rest of the butter churn doing my job. I sure wish Maggie could speak up and save me from this boring future that’s staring me in the face.

“…this unjust war, this savage, illegal war.”

January 21, 2007

Molly Klopot, 87-year-old grandmother and former Ford factory worker during World War II, was arrested on 17 Oct. 2005 for trying to enlist at the New York City Times Square military recruiting station. Klopot and 17 other grandmothers tried to enlist “to replace grandchildren who had been deployed in Iraq.” Klopot has four grandsons who won’t enlist:

“They won’t enlist,” she said. The 19-year-old once had said he wanted to go into the army, she recalled, “but not now, he doesn’t want to go. Not now in this unjust war, this savage, illegal war.”

I happened on this piece at Common Dreams after going there to find an article by Gail Dines on the Duke rape case. I haven’t gotten to the Dines’ article yet because I was so taken by one of the headlines: “Two US Grandmothers Voice Protest Against Iraq War.” The article is by Jerome Bernard and was orginally published on 20 Jan. 2007 by Agence France Presse. Klopot is featured along with Betty Brassell as two out of the Granny Peace Brigade (which formed after the Oct. 05 arrests) and among several dozen grandmothers who protested before the US Congress against US military in Iraq. Bernard makes a great choice in profiling these two women, because Klopot calls herself an activist (over 60 years worth of activism), while Brassell just started to get involved after she retired.

I also read the most commonly forwarded Common Dreams article: Robert Weitzel’s “Cure for Yellow Ribbon Patriotism.” Powerful piece that says if we had listened to our Vietnam vets instead of silencing them, disappearing them, we may have learned enough to not have invaded Iraq. Here are two paragraphs of poetry about hell:

The “cure” these soldiers brought back from Vietnam was a potion distilled of moments: moments of bravery and sacrifice and sorrow, of bowel-loosening fear, of dehumanizing anger and hostility, of unasked and unanswered questions, moments too damaging to the soul to ever find release in confession.

It was a potion that if used thoughtfully could inoculate the nation against the disease of the god Mars. But it was ignored along with the soldiers. Vietnam vets, like the man I knew, were left to overdose on the potion in their own private hell.

Another Common Dreams headline discussed the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s comments on Bush’s disastrous leadership (oops! it’s another Agence France Presse piece!). Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi founder of Grameen Bank (model of micro-credit lending), said that just as we were reaping the dividends of peace after the cold war, Bush introduced the war on terrorism. Ah, now…the Agence France Presse article is quoting from an article in El Mundo…so let’s see…here’s the El Mundo article.

Hmmm. To get news focused on peace, I have to go to Common Dreams, which gives me articles from Agence France Presse, which quotes from El Mundo. Looks like we’re only a global village outside of the US, eh?


January 15, 2007

the serendipity of the web blows my mind…i love how hyperlinks take me places i could never imagine. so, for instance. i’ve just finished reading edmundo paz soldán’s Turing’s Delirium cuz Paz Soldán is giving a talk at UAH this thursday, and i’ve got two of his novels in english translation. and after i finished Turing’s Delirium, i kept thinking of neal stephenson and mostly of cryptonomicon, which i haven’t read but was pretty sure would be relevant…especially since paz soldán includes an epigraph from stephenson’s snow crash, which i have read. so i went to the novel’s website and read a good portion of the prologue and there’s a great section that includes alan turing as a character. but i also went to stephenson’s website (which has a well address…very cool [The WELL started as one of the earliest online internet communities — almost a decade before the world wide web]) where he links to “Why I am a Bad Correspondent,” a piece that explains why he doesn’t answer readers’ email or usually accept speaking engagments:

The quality of my e-mails and public speaking is, in my view, nowhere near that of my novels. So for me it comes down to the following choice: I can distribute material of bad-to-mediocre quality to a small number of people, or I can distribute material of higher quality to more people. But I can’t do both; the first one obliterates the second.

sage advice for writers — and on his website, stephenson also points to an article by jonathan rauch in The Atlantic Monthly Online that explains stephenson’s personality, that is, as an introvert. “Caring for Your Introvert: The Habits and Needs of a Little-understood Group” was published in march 2003 and still receives more hits than any other article. there’s a follow-up in a feb. 2006 issue (“Introverts of the World, Unite!“) that’s also worth reading. rauch suggests that internet could be re-coined intronet, since it’s such a perfect medium for introverts.

introversy is the term the atlantic monthly online uses for rauch’s article and the ensuing discussion (see the april 2006 piece “The Introversy Continues“).

david kestenbaum’s “how iMet my neighbor on iTunes”

January 13, 2007

Yesterday on NPR, David Kestenbaum had this fine piece of writing about discovering someone else’s iTunes music folder on his desktop. The piece runs like a mystery story as Kestenbaum figures out that the “Anna,” whose folder “Anna’s Music” now resides on his desktop, must be using Kestenbaum’s wireless service; Kestenbaum’s wife has recently taken down the firewall. On realizing that this Anna must reside in the neighborhood, Kestenbaum decides to email her using an address he finds on one of her downloaded songs. He makes a leap — the kind of leap we all want to make when we’re looking for connection and community — he mentions that he and his wife would like to invite Anna over to dinner.

What a blessedly human thing to do — connect. Through music, food, talk. We need government-financed chunks of the day, every day, to do just that. Imagine. If we all had the time, all took the time, to make a meal together every day (or once a week), to sit and talk, to commune. Ah, yes. That’s what communes do.

At any rate, I hate that I knew the email was a bad idea. If I had gotten an email saying, “Hey, we like the same music. Come on over and have dinner with me and the wife!” — I probably would have thought it was spam and dumped it. Or I would have freaked out. Being female in 21st-century U.S.A just means being hyper alert for the next piece of violence, and Kestenbaum tried to circumvent this state of fear by saying he was NOT a stalker. Ah, well.

Kestenbaum’s wife finds out there’s an “Anna” in their building and David reaches out again, after he hasn’t received a response to his email. Sharing music tastes with Anna compels him to hope that there’s a friendship waiting to be built, and David goes to Anna’s door, knocks — and they talk. We hear their voices on the radio, so David had to set up the interview, talk. But his piece ends by saying that they retreated back to their caves, as he called their homes.

An opportunity missed — it’s a sweet, bittersweet piece — and Kestenbaum’s delivery on the radio is a little quirky, as if he’s just talking to us and not reading from a piece of writing he’s polished. The piece reveals as much about how we live as it does about cyberculture — our yearning to connect, our ignorance of those who live just meters away.

I admire my students’ courage

January 11, 2007

OK, so I do this really tricky thing. At least, some of my students have called it tricky. After writers do their first timed writing practice or freewriting, I say, “Now we’ll all read aloud what we wrote.” There’s sound pedagogical rationale for this practice. In Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff’s classic booklet Sharing and Responding, the first kind of response they describe is “Sharing: No Response.” No matter what class it is, after I say we’ll read our writing aloud, I can hear the collective sucking in of breath: “Oh, no. Anything but that!”

But they read. Those who have phobias about public speaking, those who are not sure they want to be that honest, those who worry their language is wrong or will be misunderstood. They read. They stand behind their words. That takes guts. And I admire them.