I heart the BUSTies

BUST is my favorite magazine for many reasons, but they've just given me another one: an interview with Sweet Valley High creator Francine Pascal in the Apr/May 2005 issue. As many of you know, I've been into such books for a long time. The interview isn't that great, but here are the high points:

  1. When asked whether or not she is a feminist, Pascal responds with an emphatic yes.
  2. When asked if she feels she's affected her readers, she says, "I think I have. I think I've hit them when they're at their most idealistic moment and I've given them the classic values I believe in: honor, caring, responsibility, love, truth, courage. All those beautiful things. I hope that they'll aspire to them."
  3. And here's the best one:

  4. Pascal is coming out with a new novel, Sweet Valley Heights, slated for publication in late 2005, which "will revisit all the familiar characters, now in their late 20s and early 30s and living in a gated community, and Francine promises it will be outrageous."

Will I read this book? OH yes. I can't wait.

Sheila. She's my wife, you know. And I love her.

Two finds in one day! Exposition:

So, who is this Sheila devotee? A man? A woman? What prompted this public declaration? Why Energy Park Drive, a rundown industrial park area in St. Paul? Did they just get married? Is their marriage in trouble, and was this a way to affirm their commitment? Did the person show it to Sheila proudly? Was she appropriately mortified?

Blogging Conference Presentations, Permission, Ethics

I've been thinking lately about ethical disagreements regarding posting notes from conference presentations. Some bloggers feel guilty or slightly uneasy about posting their notes. Some scholars, citing copyright and/or privacy concerns, might not want responses to their conference presentations online. Fair enough, and I sometimes ask permission to blog conference presentations. I don't ask bloggers for their permission though, usually; I harbor an assumption that they are more comfortable with having their ideas made public. When I do ask, though, you'd think I'd said something like: "May I have permission to give you $100.00?" or "With your permission, I'd like to give you an award for Best Scholar Ever." Point is, the response I've gotten has been overwhelmingly positive. Presenters have said they'd be honored if I posted my notes on their presentations. People have said thanks in comments and over email, and -- I love this -- Shani Orgad even cited my notes on her panel on her professional homepage (under "Research Interests"). I think it's great that people can write reviews of research presented at conferences, and that scholars can, if they choose, include those reviews in dossiers. I hope Orgad will start a trend. Skeptics might argue that reviews of conference presentations on blogs are too cheerleader-y and not critical enough, and sometimes that is the case, but for my part, I wouldn't waste my time composing a blog post from my notes if I didn't think the session was good. It's like letters of recommendation.

My first find

Inspired by Jenny's presentation, here's something I found (probably about a year ago). When I mention this bathroom in conversations with people -- which I do every chance I get! -- I usually find that they've never noticed the sign, even though the bathroom is in the tunnel connecting the student center on the St. Paul campus to one of the big administrative buildings. Without further ado:

Huh huh. See what they did there? They blacked out the "W" so that it looks like "omen." Heh's funny 'cause it's true.

Livin' in the Republic of Gilead

I want to do my part to spread this NARAL Flash movie (via Feministing) about pharmacists' refusal to distribute birth control. As you might expect, I'm outraged at the thought that women are denied access to Plan B, birth control pills, etc. I guess there are always county health departments, but who's to say people in far-right-leaning areas won't rally together and pass local laws against distributing birth control at those? Can they do that?

Also, what about condoms and spermicide? Are the pharmacists seeking to refuse the sale of those as well? In the news stories I've read, I haven't seen that point addressed. My guess would be that the pharmacists' ostensible argument would be that morning-after pills are abortifacients, blah blah blah, but birth control pills? That's where it gets shaky for me. Pharmacists for Life defines oral contraceptives as abortifacients because they supposedly don't always prevent ovulation. If ovulation is not prevented, the pill's thinning of the uterine lining serves as a failsafe to keep the embryo from attaching. Plus the pill causes the Fallopian tubes to "move," which might somehow affect the embryo, but they don't say how. But I mean, if they've got a "totally 100% pro-life philosophy!" as they claim (keep those women barefoot and pregnant! We need to increase this sparse, sparse population we've got!), shouldn't they stop carrying condoms and spermicide too? What would happen if they started denying men access to birth control? That I'd like to see.

Over at Hit & Run, they (predictably) claim that it's obviously not in a business's interest to deny sale of products they can profit from, and the market should punish these pharmacists, not the government. I'll aid in that venture, that's for sure. If they do pass these "conscience clauses," I hope they include an addendum saying that the pharmacies that opt out of selling oral contraceptives will be required to display a designation to this effect, some symbol or message. I mean something BIG, right out on the sign in front, something you can see from the road so you don't even have to go to the trouble of stopping there only to be subjected to the degrading, infantilizing, protectionist experience of being denied your right to birth control. And require them to put the designation in all newspaper ads, phone book listings, etc.

UPDATE: More at Bitch. Ph.D. and a crucial point at Luckyhazel.

CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus

John Logie began the CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus with a tribute to Candace Spigelman, co-chair of the Caucus, who passed away last year. Candace never lost sight of students in the process of talking about rhetoric and intellectual property. Institutions are here for the benefit of students. He set up a Candace Spigelman Memorial Fund, which will benefit the Caucus. Directions on how to contribute to the fund will be on the web site soon. Then he reviewed the MGM v. Grokster case and explained why we, as rhetoricians, should take an interest in it. He held up two sheets of paper, one in each hand, that said, "THE INTERNET IS A PEER-TO-PEER NETWORK." The Grokster case, he argued, represents the threat of suppressing technologies that merely have the potential to be used for copyright infringement. Jeff Galin (I think) posed these questions: Can we engage our students to get active in this as well? Can we imagine ways that free use and fair use might intersect? What roles are we going to play to challenge Congress and the entertainment industry?

Because Charlie ended up not being able to attend the Caucus, I presented on the new CCCC-IP web site (I attached my transparencies to this post). Charlie and I moved the content from the old site to this fancy new Drupal site. Basically, I encouraged everyone to register with the site (looks like three or four people did register since then) and contribute content: posts about IP/copyright news, source annotations for the Resource Guide, etc. After that, I introduced the "Just Ask!" campaign. Prompted by a Kairosnews thread, four journals announced that they'd be offering authors the option to license their articles under Creative Commons licenses:

  1. Computers and Composition Online
  2. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy
  3. The Writing Instructor
  4. Lore: An E-Journal for Teachers of Writing (not official, but nb the CC license here, granted me because I asked.)

All this happened because people asked. I also have it on good authority that Enculturation would very likely let an author CC license a work if he or she asked, as authors who publish there retain the copyrights anyway. So ask! Remember to ask. I think a lot of people tend to forget that there's another way to do this, and that asking doesn't constitute an ultimatum (do this or I won't sign!!). In fact, I think authors should ask for CC licenses, Founder's Copyrights, etc. especially when they're sure the publishers will say "no." That at least lets the publishers know that scholars want this option. I'd like to emphasize the need for senior scholars, who have a wide variety of choices when it comes to publishing venues, to choose these journals, and to note, either in the body of the article or in an endnote, that they published in this particular journal because they support open access and Creative Commons (Logie has also made this point).

Home Words: City Writing

I'm finally winding this CCCC blogging thing up, getting around to Jeff Rice, Jenny Edbauer, and Geoffrey Sirc's panel. I know several of you who couldn't make it to the session have been waiting to read my notes, and I hope I don't disappoint. If I misunderstood anything the presenters said, I'm sure they'll leave comments here to correct me. :-) Jeff started out with his paper, titled "Writing Detroit." He made several intriguing connections, the first one being the rhetoric of the city's parallel with the rhetoric of digital culture. Both are fragmented (and composition studies dismisses "fragment" as error). City writing embraces fragments, the fragment as place, without resorting to representation, problematizing representation. Writing in digital culture usually means taking snippets of sound, images, text, etc. and remixing them to form something new. He brought in Nigel Thrift's concept of "everyday urbanism," remarking that few cities are as "urban" as Detroit. Jeff defined "pedagogy" as he was talking about it as "generalized teaching," not limited to classroom instruction in particular. He called for the discovery of place as rhetoric: writing the city, writing myth. When we write the city, we're writing our own ideologies, not mimicking or re-presenting the city. Jeff then went into a sustained example using the history of Detroit, especially Henry Ford and Eminem, which was really interesting. I couldn't possibly do justice to it here, but maybe Jeff will post something about it. Anyway, he pointed out that when students are asked to invent the university, they are also being asked to segregate themselves from the city. In city writing, rhetors are like flâneurs, and appropriation is the guiding principle. The assembly line, to use a Detroit metaphor, is like composition: the combination and juxtaposition of elements. Making appropriation the guiding principle encourages ambiguity, a "mood-based grammar," attitude and bravado in writing, a pose of boasting, like one Eminem or Henry Ford might assume. (Let me be careful here. I got the impression that Jeff was saying this kind of writing fosters confidence in students and discourages passivity and timidity in student writing, not that he was making some kind of claim for braggart-as-ideal-rhetor.) He closed by saying that in city writing, you articulate positions, not arguments; you re-invent, rather than re-present. Geography inscribes difference, and difference becomes reinscribed in geography. (I had that last sentence in my notes, but I forgot what the connection between it and the previous sentence was...)

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