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What Do You Do When Your Mouth Won't Open?

Should I assign this book to my speech students?

Just one of many cool old books I was able to find at a used bookstore around here. More cover art to come. :-)

Texts for a first-year rhetoric or composition course

Inspired by a discussion at the Blogora on dream curricula and by Kieran Healy's nod toward an interesting-sounding essay by Harry Frankfurt released as a book*, I'm wondering what books (or films, music, etc.) you'd assign in a first-year rhetoric or composition course, assuming you have total freedom to choose. I say a composition or rhetoric approach because I do think there's some difference between the two in that they're not completely interchangeable (not that you can't do both in the same course, though), a difference that the latest issue of Enculturation explores. Especially provocative is Sharon Crowley's Composition Is Not Rhetoric, which you should read if you haven't yet. Consider this claim:

The fact is that the situation of the first-year composition course, inside a universal requirement, staffed by a scandalously low-paid and contingently-hired faculty (no matter how capable and well qualified), renders intellectual sophistication a luxury. Furthermore, intellectual sophistication that immerses students and teachers in political and social critique, as a full-blown course in rhetoric would do, is dangerous for contingently-employed teachers, particularly in times like the present, when the prevailing regime of truth carefully monitors teachers to insure their intellectual conformity.

But back to my question: What texts would you assign in a first-year rhetoric and/or composition course? I'm thinking maybe A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid, which I've assigned several times before, George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant! along with several of the articles that criticize Lakoff's argument, and if applicable, perhaps Frankfurt's book.

* I realize the essay isn't new, but I hadn't heard of it before and am now curious.

Blog Post Online Readers, CC Licensed

There's a good discussion on Kairosnews about free, collaboratively authored, online, Creative Commons-licensed, open-access composition textbooks. As you might guess, I like the idea, but the planning and execution are going to be very tricky if a group actually gets together and does this thing. But as I was writing my comment, it occurred to me how easy it would be to assemble an online reader for a first-year composition course. There's so much writing talent in the blogosphere, and many bloggers have Creative Commons licenses. I might just do it: Find great, essay-style posts that model qualities of good writing style and argumentation, group them into themes, and copy them into my course site. I could use Drupal's collaborative book module. I'm excited! I'm already thinking of posts I might want to use, like for a unit on the war, I'm thinking of Mike's post titled The Photos and Jeanne's And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink: A scattered and contradictory post on responsibility and Abu Ghraib (To be sure, Jeanne doesn't have a CC license, but maybe she'd give permission for her work to be reproduced for educational, noncommercial purposes.). I'm also thinking of Jeanne's recent post titled Democrats, Aristocrats, and the Torturer's Assistants.

Such a reader could be assembled for any class; I'm thinking too of an intro to Gender Studies class. I might use something along the lines of Dr. Crazy's "Why Women's Studies Sucks" series (Part I and Part II, and hat tip to Jonathan for those), and the responses from The Little Professor and others. Ummmm, yeah, my argument would be stronger if these blogs actually had CC licenses, I know (heh), but again, they might allow their work to be used for this purpose. If not, there are many with CC licenses who have excellent work on their blogs, like Rad Geek, Lauren, and many more. The more I think about this idea, the more I like it. Reduced cost to students, more freedom for the instructor to design the course around themes, and more opportunity for the students to be an active audience, conversing with the authors of the work if the students also blog, or even if they don't, as most bloggers have an email address displayed.

Hugh Hewitt's _Blog_

HOW did I miss this book until now?! I'm disgusted with myself for being so behind the curve. Today I picked up Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World at the bookstore after, as I perused a display table, it jumped out at me amidst such fare as The Neocon Reader and Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant! I can already tell I'm probably not going to be that impressed with the book; the blurb on the inner flap of the dust jacket reads strikingly like just another technological conquest narrative:

Since was launched in early 2002, more than ten million people have visited his site (seven million just since the beginning of 2004). "Why does this visitor traffic matter?" asks Hewitt. "People's attention is up for grabs. If you depend on the steady trust of others, suddenly you have an audience waiting to hear from you." The race is underway, though, to gain mindspace and to be part of readers' habits. If your organization has not established itself in the blogosphere, now is the time to move ahead, but quickly!

From a business standpoint, your organization can benefit from developing a two-pronged approach to blogging by creating offensive and defensive plans. Not only do you need to blog internally to promote ideas and foster better communication among colleagues, but your company also should take advantage of the advertising and publicity benefits of blogging. Put yourself at the front of people's minds, and make sure you stay there. As for a defensive strategy, create a plan for addressing immediately even one negative blog, because in just a click of a mouse it will spread like wildfire, and you'll soon have one hundred negative blog references out there, and then a thousand or more. Blog shows you how to develop both.

With 4.5 million blogs in existence as of November 2004 -- and with that number expected to double in 2005 -- almost everyone will soon feel this phenomenon impacting their lives or organizations. With Hugh Hewitt's help, you can make sure that you advance in the blogosphere rather than retreat and lose ground in this information movement.

While I see the value of intranet blogging as organizational/business communication, I'll maintain in my dissertation that there are many bloggers who do it out of a genuine desire to engage in discussion with others rather than to "gain mindspace" as though it were a commodity (but hey, I suppose it is, actually. Plus, I'm sure Hewitt isn't trying to say that gaining mindspace is the only motivation.). Ugh, I shouldn't even say that having not yet read the book. At any rate, Hewitt seems willing to make strong claims about blogging's effect on general culture; the sub-subtitle is "Why you must know how the blogosphere is smashing the old media monopoly and giving individuals power in the marketplace of ideas." And Glenn Reynolds gives it high praise: "This is the best book on blogs yet, which isn't surprising since it's by a successful blogger who also knows a lot about communications and the world in general." Definitely a must-read for my dissertation research.


Years ago, my mom had a yard sale. We got rid of a lot of stuff, including many of my old books, but I kept Emily because it was my favorite of the Sunfire romances. When I was about eleven years old, I devoured these things. Each was about 400 pages of historical romance fiction, set at various times and locations, all in the U.S., if I recall correctly. One was on the Titanic, one was in the early 1940s, one was in the California Gold Rush, one was in the 1840s, etc. The title was always the heroine's name, and she was always torn between two men, each of whom was perfect, but the heroine had to follow her heart. Did anyone else read these? I'm thinking Wolfangel is the most likely to have, heh. (Click thumbnails for larger images.)

A lengthy excerpt follows. Read it!


A book I read as a child on how to breakdance, found in my bedroom last night (click thumbnails for larger images):

More than just a how-to book with silhouette diagrams of how to do the dance moves, Breakdancing has a lot of other information about hip hop culture, including detailed descriptions of breakdancers' clothing and a glossary of terms. There's even a bit of history of hip hop. From p. 10-11:

To fully appreciate the Breakdancing you see, the kids doing it, and their dedication and belief, then you should see Breakdancing in the larger context of Hip Hop.

Hip Hop is a social and cultural movement that began in the Bronx. It includes Breakdancing, graffiti art, and rapping and scratching. In case you don't know, rapping is the rhyming jive talk of D.J.'s, and scratching is when these D.J.'s turn the record they're getting ready to play under the needle to create amplified scratching-type rhythms. The records don't actually get scratched. Hip Hop is the cultural movement of the Zulu Nation in the Bronx. Zulu Nation means to kids that they will get more from their dancing, singing, and painting than from fighting. It means believing in yourself so much that in spite of all odds against you, you can achieve something worthwhile and get somewhere -- if you stick with it.

The physical and spiritual presence of Afrika Bambaataa of the Soul Sonic Force is at the heart of Hip Hop. It was Bam who got kids to stick to their perfections and believe in themselves. Bam convinced them that they would get more from their creativity than from their fighting.

The Wakefield Twins

Jenny and I were giggling knowingly about this the other night, and I thought I'd share. The following is from Sweet Valley High #4, Power Play, p. 7, but a similar physical description can be found in nearly every book in the series.

Though Elizabeth and Jessica certainly didn't have Robin's figure problems, they still watched their diets carefully. Slim, five foot six, the sisters were both beautiful: shoulder-length, sun-streaked blond hair, flashing blue-green eyes, and perfect skin. Elizabeth was four minutes older, but they were identical right down to the tiny dimple each had in her left cheek. Although they wore the same size clothes [that would be a size six, as in "their perfect size-six figures"], they never dressed alike, except for identical lavalieres that they wore on gold chains around their necks. The lavalieres had been presents from their parents on the twins' sixteenth birthday.

Also, in this post I'm trying out one of the new Drupal 4.5 features, which allows me to upload files to posts. I want to see how it displays. The file is a scan of the cover of Power Play.
UPDATE: Okay, so you have to click on the title of the post in order to see the attachment.

100 More Things About Me

I want to start the sequel meme! I mean, after the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, they released "More Dirty Dancing." After "Songs from Ally McBeal," they released Heart And Soul: New Songs From Ally McBeal Featuring Vonda Shepard. If they can do it, why can't I? :P Here are 100 more things about me:

  1. I have never bought or sold anything on eBay.
  2. My least favorite household chore is cleaning out the microwave.
  3. My second least favorite household chore is ironing. For years I bought only clothes that didn't require ironing.
  4. About twelve years ago, I wanted to be a writer for Soap Opera Digest. I mean it was my dream job. Ugh.
  5. I love almond butter and jam and honey sandwiches on stone ground wheat bread.
  6. I prepare and eat such sandwiches in a ritualistic manner. I put the honey on the bread first, so that it can absorb into the nooks and crannies. Then I apply thick layers of almond butter and jam. When I take a bite, the almond butter and jam ooze out from the crusts of the bread, so in between bites, I constantly run my tongue around the crusts of the bread to catch the excess, like I'm eating an ice cream cone on a hot, windy day.
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