Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More Anime: Samurai Champloo & Paranoia Agent

I've started watching Samurai Champloo, a new (at least in North America) "hip-hop samurai" anime series shown on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. I'm not sure if I like it yet, but I thought I'd give it a bit of time because it's by the same people as Cowboy Bebop. I missed the first episode, but caught the second and third. New shows play on Saturday night and I believe you can catch a repeat of the third this coming Thursday, which is the first of a two-parter. The Web site's episode guide can fill you in with the basic plot of the first two. But all you really need to know is that there are three characters, a woman Fuu who desperately needs to find the "sunflower samuari" (not sure if we know why), and that she's stumbled upon and has somehow convinced two samuari, Mugen (a self-taught unconvential warrior) and Jin (ideal samurai if samurai were tall, waif thin and looked slighly gothic-nerdy) to help her in her quest. Oh, Mugen and Jin seem to want to kill each other.

Also of note is Paranoia Agent, which started Saturday. I didn't realize it had come to American TV, but the first episode repeats Thursday, after Samurai Champloo. I know little about Paranoia Agent other than what I heard on NPR. It may have been piece run on Feb. 9, but I suspect what I heard was the May 5th review by John Powers on Fresh Air. Adult Swim's description reads: "A mysterious boy on rollerblades has been attacking people in Tokyo. Is he a real boy, a lie to cover up people's crimes, or a sinister phantom?"

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Volcano-Within-A-Volcano, Under Water and with Eels

While browsing the NSF site, I came across the news story of a recently discovered new underwater volcano growing inside an already known underwater volcano off the Samoan Islands. Not only does this discovery allow scientists watch the growth of a new underwater volcano (they know it didn't exist four year ago), it also comes with pre-packaged with a mystery: why has this site produced a "city of eels"?

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Memorial Day...

Hmmm....It's weird that I feel slightly strange even posting this because I guess to do so may suggest über patriotism and I'm not über patriotic (we made the conscious decision not to put up American flags or get flag stickers after Sept. 11, but that may have more to do with the fact that the guy across the street put up not just an American flag but a special forces "Kill them all" flag). Maybe it's because the only veterans in my family that I ever really knew are still alive.

I'm currently listening to NPR's Talk of the Nation, which is, of course, running a show on "Remembering the War Dead." A guy called in upset about the fact that only he and one other house on his block are flying flags today, something that used to be much more common. It got me thinking about the fact that we are flying a flag today, and my own Memorial Day remembrances.

My first Boy Scout Troop used to help with the Memorial Day ceremonies at a local cemetery (in Los Angles rather than CO, so it was a huge cemetery -- huge enough that I could save 10 minutes when riding my bike to a friends house by scaling a wall, pulling my bike up over it, and then riding through the cemetery rather than around it). We not only played the role of Color Guard and led the Pledge of Allegiance on Memorial Day itself, we spent the weekend placing small flags at the graves of every veteran buried in the cemetery. It's hard not to be touched by the solemnity of the occasion when you do that 4 years in a row. There's the soldiers who died in combat, maybe 10 years older than myself. There's the solitary person (always a solitary person for some reason), mourning at a grave of a brother, father, son, friend, or sometimes a mother, wife, or daughter. It was slow going placing those flags, the rows were long and while we had a map that identified the row, plot, and name for each veteran, the physical plots were numbered so it was a mix of counting plots and reading headstones to find where to leave the flags. That meant we had plenty of time to watch a mourner out of the corner of our eye, especially since we didn't want to joke around when there were mourners nearby. Those solitary figures also get to you.

And then there's the Old Man and his Wife. One year there was this old man, a WW II vet visiting his wife's grave. She had been a Red Cross nurse or something like that during the war, but not, technically, a veteran, so we had no instructions to leave a flag at her grave. He told us who he was, who she was, and with tears in his eyes he tried to pay us to place a flag at her grave. We, of course, refused the money and left a flag. He thanked us profusely. He cried harder, but was clearly happy and proud that his wife's grave now flew a flag. A good half-hour later he came and thanked us again and again offered us money. He then tracked down our adult Scout leaders and thanked them and tried to give them money to give to us.

I could write a little essay on Memorial Day as social memory, how Memorial Day is one of our Les Lieux des Mémorie, to use Pierre Nora's term, and discuss the interconnectedness of personal and collective memory, how even personal memories are always socially constructed, and how by reading this my personal memories have now become part of your memories.

But not today. Today is for remembering the people like those at whose graves I placed flags, the solitary mourners at those graves, and, for me at least, the old man and his wife.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Guinness Popsicles

Found at datacloud, a link to instructions on how to make Guinness Popsicles.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Computers and Writing Online 2005 Conference

Posted to TechRhet by Clancy Ratliff on behalf of the Computers and Writing Online 2005 conference organizers:

When Content Is No Longer King: Social Networking, Community, and Collaboration

The 2005 Computers and Writing Online Conference begins on Tuesday, May 31, and runs through Monday, June 13. This is the first-ever online conference in our field to be open-access, Creative Commons-licensed, and hosted on a weblog, and it promises to be innovative and insightful. We set out to perform the concepts and values of the conference theme -- networking, community, and collaboration -- in our review process, which was open to the public and emphasized group interaction and helpful, supportive feedback. The responders have done an excellent job engaging the authors' ideas, and the authors' responses to the feedback they received have really demonstrated how enriching this public, collaborative model can be for scholarly work. The conference organizers would like to extend a big "Thank you!" to the authors and the responders. Included with each abstract in this announcement is the link to the original; we strongly encourage you to read the comments.

As with the abstracts, the presentations are accessible to anyone with an internet connection, and anyone with an account at Kairosnews (registration is free) can leave comments. For more information, visit the CW Online 2005 weblog: http://kairosnews.org/cwonline05/home

Drawing upon the conference's theme of exploring the increasing value of the network and collaborative practices within it, presenters examine the role(s) played by social networking applications and other
technologies that are intended to foster social interaction, community, and collaboration. Alongside studying the technologies themselves, presenters will observe and describe the ways that writers and users are engaging the technologies and how such engagement is changing our ideas about writing and teaching writing, and, more broadly, the concepts of rhetoric and composition themselves. We very much hope you'll get involved by leaving your comments, or, if you prefer, respond on your own weblog and leave a trackback! Or write a response on your wiki! Or tag presentations on your del.icio.us or de.lirio.us list! You get the idea. This conference is meant to be networked.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Practical Muse

Thanks to Rich Rice for point out http://thepracticalmuse.blogspot.com/.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Memory and the Art of Database

One of the projects I've had to put on hold in order to finish my dissertation is "Memory and the Art of Database," a study of database technologies through history and what light these earlier technologies might shed on computerized database design and use. I'm particularly interested in the inventional aspect of databases which Mary Carruthers explores in works such as The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200 and "Inventional Mnemonics and the Ornaments of Style: The Case of Etymology" (Connotations 2.2 (1992): 103-114).

I just found out yesterday that I can attend the Computers and Writing confernece this year, much too late to propose a paper, but not yet too late to participate in the Graduate Research Network. I've just submited my GRN abstract:

"Memory and the Art of Database"

Through the Renaissance, conceptions of memory focused not so much on the distinction between memory stored inside us and outside us but between natural memory, which was always internal, and artificial memory systems, which could be either internal or external. From this perspective, a simple mnemonic rhyme, a stone monument, a memory palace, a book, and a computer database are all equivalent in that they are artificial memory systems. In both the classical and medieval traditions, artificial memory systems were considered an important part of invention. Furthermore, in the medieval memory tradition the real fear was not in forgetting, but in information disorder, which was considered a sin against the virtue of Prudence. Memory system design and practice was, therefore, of no little concern.

This project, which is in its early stages, seeks to place computerized databases in their historical context by examining the practices of early technologies of information storage and retrieval such as topoi, catalogue poems, the Ciceronian “Art of Memory,” medieval florilegia, renaissance commonplace-books, indexes, libraries, card catalogues, and even the research paper note card, and exploring what light these earlier memory technologies may hold for what we might call an “art of database.”

From an Ongian perspective, how we access and store information -- the databases we use -- helps structure and is structured by how we think. My dissertation itself touches upon these issues. For instance, I have a chapter devoted to Anglo-Saxon non chronological presentation of historical narrative, most notably the Geatish-Swedish wars in Beowulf and Alfred's "Preface to Pastoral Care," though I think you can even see it in such poems as "The Wanderer."

It also ties in nicely with , , and , which I've discussed here from time to time.

Finally, if we want to think about culture as memory (and I do, see Connerton, 28, and Petrov 77-78), then culture itself is a type of database, with social memory as the information and the practices of social memory as the interface. Surely someone working on social networks has made this observation before.

Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember. Themes in the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.

Petrov, Krinka Vidakovic. “Memory and Oral Tradition.” Memory: History, Culture and the Mind. Wolfson College Lectures. Ed. Thomas Butler. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989. 77-96.

Cross posted to Notes from the Walter J Ong Archives.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Meyrowitz on Medium Theory

Yesterday, I gave a long preface to this post, a definition of medium theory from Joshua Meyrowitz's "Taking McLuhan and 'Medium Theory' Seriously: Technological Change and the Evolution of Education" (Technology and the Future of Schooling: Ninety-fifth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. Part II. Ed. Stephen T. Kerr. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996. 73-110).

Meyrowitz writes:

"I prefer using the term 'medium theory' to describe it, so that the essence of the argument and the contributions of other theorists become more visible. I use the singular, 'medium theory,' rather than 'media theory,' to describe this philosophical tradition because what makes it different from most other media theories is its focus on the characteristics of each individual medium or of each particular type of media. Medium theorists are interested in differentiating among media. Broadly speaking, media theorists ask: what are the relatively fixed features of each means of communicating and how do these features make the medium physically, psychologically, and socially different from other media and face-to-face interaction?" (79).

Most of the time I'm doing media studies or media ecology or even orality/literacy studies, that's exactly what I'm interested in doing. It is what I'm trying to figure out in my Notes from the Walter J Ong Archives posts of October 16, 2004 and October 19, 2004 posts, and it's why Professional Lurker was interested in those posts, which were first emails to TechRhet.

More from Meyrowitz:

"Medium theory examines such variables as: which and how many senses are required to attend to the medium; whether the communication is bidirectional or unidirectional [or multidirectional]; how quickly messages can be disseminated; the relative degree of 'definition,' 'resolution,' or 'fidelity' involved; how much training is needed to encode and decode in the medium and how many 'levels of skill' are involved; how many people can attend to the same message at the same moment; and so forth. Medium theorists argue that such variables influence the medium's use and its social, political, and psychological impact.

"Medium questions are relevant to both micro-level (individual situations) and macro-level (cultural) changes. On the micro level, medium questions ask how the choice of one medium over another affects a [new page] particular situation or interaction (calling someone on the phone versus writing a letter, for example). On the macro level, medium questions address the ways in which the addition of a new medium to an existing matrix of media may alter social interactions and social structures in general (e.g., how widespread use of the telephone has changed the role of letter writing and influenced the nature of social interactions in general). The most interesting -- and most controversial -- medium theory deals with the macro level.

"The analyses of the medium theorists are often more difficult to test and apply than the results of focused studies of particular media messages, but they are of significance because they suggest that media are not simply channels for conveying information between two or more environments. As McLuhan put it in his often-quoted and usually misunderstood pun, 'the medium is the message.' That is, the subtler and more persuasive societal influences derive from the form of the communication, not from the particular messages that are sent through the medium" (79-80).

Later in the article, Meyrowitz echoes Ong by stating that medium theory does not argue that medium or media cause social change in and of themselves, but rather that there is an interaction between the two:

"The thrust of medium theory is the argument that we want to understand more fully media's contribution to social change, we need to draw heavily on such analysis of the forms of communication, instead of relying exclusively on the more traditional concerns with who controls the media institutions and with the imitative or persuasive impact of media messages. Further, medium theory does not necessarily claim that media, even in their combination with other factors, function in a straight, deterministic manner. The thrust of this perspective is that the features of each media environment encourage certain patterns of thought and experience while discouraging others" (87).

cross posted, in part, at Notes from the Walter J Ong Archives

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Medium Theory and Graduate Student Angst

I particularly fond of the term medium theory as a description of one of my major research interests, though I'm often met by blank stares when I use it. Time and again, I'm told that "media studies" would be a much better term. To me, to say one does media studies is like saying one studies literature or rhetoric. True in and of itself, but not overly useful as a short label used to explain the type of research one is to do. I'm not particularly interested in studying film (as media), television, radio, newspapers, magazines, music, and the like, the things people mean when they say "the media." For the most part, my interest really does lie in the medium. I do study "the message" but that's when I wear either my literature or my rhet/comp hats, though, of course, I strongly believe that I'm rarely wearing one hat at a time.

If I listed "literature" as my research interest, people would want to know more, and rightfully so. They want to know if I study French literature or English literature or Greek literature. And any hiring committee is going to want to know even more than that. They'll want to know that my dissertation is on Old English literature and that I have teaching and research interests in Old English, Middle English, and Old Norse literature, in science fiction and fantasy, and in 18th - 20th century medievalism. They're also likely to know that while I do "do" theory, I'm what Rob Pope calls a new eclecticist: I approach literature not from a theoretical perspective but use whatever theories seem most useful to whatever it is I'm trying to do, and that I'm just as likely to apply orality/literacy studies and medium theory, social memory, rhetorical criticism, and cognitive studies/cognitive poetics than I am to use "traditional" theoretical approaches. My dissertation, which explores Old English literature as the social memory of an oral-chirographic transitional culture draws from all of those, and from psychoanalytic criticism (trauma theory specifically), new historicism, postcolonialism as well.

And if I were to list "rhet/comp," "rhetoric," or even "composition studies" on a CV, anyone who doesn't know me is likely to feely slightly duped. Yes I do all three, but my particular focuses are in medieval rhetoric, rhetorical memory, oral/chirographic/print/digital culture, and computers and writing. I'm not interested in writing program administration or assessment or basic writing, etc. I'll read about these topics and I believe I should (and do) know something about them, but at this time I'm not interested in developing a research agenda around them or in teaching courses on these topics. I am quite interested in composition pedagogy, but that is, again, kind of like saying I'm interested in "medieval English literature" but I have no real desire to do serious work on John Gower or Middle English drama or a whole host of other topics which fall under that rubric. Sure I know something about most of them and I'll teach them, and I may even do research on them if my interests lead me in those directions, but my qualifications as a medieval english literature scholar no more means I'm prepared to do serious work with Middle English drama than my qualfiications as compositionist means I'm prepared to do serious work with assessment or writing program administration.

While there's a desire to declare Rhet/Comp a discipline all to itself (a desire I like to poke at but ultimately don't deny), it elides over the significant differences between rhetoric and composition studies, differences which are, to my mind, as great as the differences among them and linguistics, creative writing, and literary studies. One can specialize in writing studies and know more about literary studies than one knows about the history of rhetoric, and one can specialize in the history of rhetoric or even contemporary rhetorical theory and have no knowledge of current composition pedagogy. I have nothing against those who want to specialize in any particular field of English studies, but I am bothered by the fact that their desire to create narrow specialties often includes the desire to keep others, including those like me who draw from all the branches of English Studies, out of their special field. At least that's how I read people like Gerald Nelms, whose WPA-L post I linked to above.

This long roundabout post serves as a preface to what I'll post next time, a definition of medium theory which has made me want to reclaim the term as my own.

cross posted to Notes from the Walter J Ong Archives

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Notes from Harbus: "The Wanderer" as rumination

From Harbus, Antonina. The Life of the Mind in Old English Poetry. Costerus New Series 143. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002.

Harbus argues that "The Wanderer" is "personal rumination rather than an address to a second person" (133). She argues that "The text as a whole, interpreted in this light, invites the reader to consider the active role of the mental life in the construction of the past, present and future, a complex argument facilitated by verbal repetition and an allusive rather than explicit narrative" (133).

"The Wanderer's remark also places remembered images in a position of importance in relation to emotional stability, and introduces the relevance of Christian ideas which have offset the negative images from the past and destabilized conclusions reached purely cognitively without spiritual input" (142).

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Notes from Harbus: The rhetoric of elegy and memory

From Harbus, Antonina. The Life of the Mind in Old English Poetry. Costerus New Series 143. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002.

"The semantic character of these texts shows clearly that the rhetoric of elegiac expression is idiomatically grounded i the mind, which is explicitly the site of apprehension, revisitation, and reprocessing of experience through memory" (132).

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Notes from Harbus: Wisdom poetry, the development of the self, and memory

From Harbus, Antonina. The Life of the Mind in Old English Poetry. Costerus New Series 143. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002.

"In Old English wisdom poetry, the mind is primarily the faculty whereby experience is ordered, controlled, and recorded. It is not only a storehouse of useful pieces of information, but also the processing unit which interprets that knowledge and applies it to a spiritual programme of self-reform. The constant references to the active mind as the faculty of wisdom communicates the dicta that wisdom is inadequate without thought and that personal responsibility for self-vigilance is grave. In the close association assumed between mental awareness and salvation, these poems articulate their own status as more than lists or passive collections of data: they are rather stimuli to contemplation, not just of precepts and proverbs, but on the need to invigorate the life of the mind. Both knowledge and thought are required in the development of the self, which is variously the explicit or unstated agenda of this kind of literature" (86).

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Notes from Harbus: The Old English elegies, psychology, and memory

From Harbus, Antonina. The Life of the Mind in Old English Poetry. Costerus New Series 143. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002.

"It may be suggested, however, that the most prominent single rhetorical feature of characteristic organising principle of the Old English elegies is their personalized psychological focus. Although an interest in the life of the mind is perceptible in most other sections of the poetic corpus, these poems broach the subject in a unique way: by projecting mental anguish onto the external world; by characterizing the mind itself as an animated entity distinct from and in some tension with the self; and by deploying memory in conscious spiritual development" (129).

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Haunting Photos of Amusement Park

Very cool and somewhat haunting photos from an abandoned amusement park. I found the link on Neil Gaiman's blog.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Ed Dorn, Graphic Novels, and Anime

It's been a week now since I watched the final episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, a 26 episode anime series based on the Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell. Simply put, Ghost in the Shell, which debuted in 1991 as cyberpunk manga (it begins in 2029), follows the activities of Japan's Public Security Section 9, a mostly cyborg, mostly ex-military, law enforcement assault unit, led by Major Motoko Kusanagi.

Stand Alone Complex seems set in an alternate universe to that established in the original Ghost in the Shell (manga and anime), Ghost in Shell: Volume 2: Man-Machine Interface (manga), and Innocence: Ghost in the Shell (flash-heavy anime movie site, IMDB entry, also released in manga form using stills from the movie). The SAC world is one in which they never meet the Puppeteer.

Any way, I've been enthralled by SAC it. Like the other Ghost in the Shell works, it mixes good narrative with philosophical issues, and I am happy to learn that SAC 2nd GIG will start showing on The Cartoon Network this fall. (SAC, I should note is often less philosophical than the others, but I'm still trying to sort out the whole last episode which makes use of a number of philosophers and theorists, including Frederic Jameson.

Reflecting on the last episode of SAC has also got me thinking about my relationship to comics and anime. While I've had many friends who were or are really into comics for much of my life, I've never been what one would call a huge comics fan, but rather one who has been exposed to and become a fan of some great comics. I learned a few years ago that many of my cousins, who range from the late teens to the late 20s, thought that I was some hip manga and anime aficionado. In the early 80s, a friend introduced me to Elf Quest, which I thought was really cool for at the time. My oldest cousin, who's some seven years younger than I, found them one day when he was about 8, and I gave them to him a few years later. His younger brother also fell in love with them, as did some of our other cousins. They're all in Colorado and most of them are in college or just finished, and as they were all growing up the books got passed around. While Elf Quest is American in origins, it's clearly based on manga, and that's how all my cousins see it: me reading and introducing them to manga well before manga and anime hit it big in the States. While I'd read and even collected a few comics (mostly Star Wars related), Elf Quest would be my first exposure to graphic novels.

My next exposure with graphic novels came as an undergrad. About 7-8 years after reading Elf Quest, a friend introduced me to Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Allan Moore's The Watchman and V for Vendetta. Over the years I've read various Dark Knight Batmans, including Miller's Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Strikes Back. While I really liked all three, it wasn't until I started grad school that I began reading other comics/graphic novels, including the other Dark Knight-inspired Batman titles. It was the Black Mountain poet Ed Dorn, my creative writing professor during both semesters my senior year, who pointed me toward them.

During one of our last conversations, what may have been our last conversation, Dorn asked me if I'd ever heard of graphic novels, and I said that I'd had. Dorn told me I needed to keep an eye on them because he thought they were going to become the future of narrative fiction. This would have been during the summer of 1993. I had been given a temporary staff position in the library after graduating to hold me over until I moved to Portland for my first round of grad school, and I walked past Dorn's office every afternoon on my way to the bus stop. Dorn's building, I think it was called Hunter, was an odd one. It's a two-story building, wide enough for a hallway and a row of offices on either side. Dorn was on the first floor, and each office on his side of the building had a door to the outside. Dorn was the only one who ever opened his door, and one day as I was walking by it was open, so I stopped to say hi. We sat out on the grass and talked for a while, and that's when he mentioned graphic novels.

My next round with graphic novels came in Portland. An art student with whom I worked introduced me Frank Miller's Sin City when she saw me reading one of the countless Dark Knight inspired Batmans, and another Portland friend, one who I went to school with, tried to get me to Ghost in the Shell and a number of other Dark Horse titles. I read the Sin City books, and I'm not sure why didn't read any of the others. My grad school freind dropped out of school when Dark Horse hired her as an editor, and it is because of her, more than anyone else, I think, which lead me to read more graphic novels even though her first attempts failed. Every so often, you see, I'd check out the Dark Horse titles to see if I could find her name, and from time to time I still do.

I didn't read Ghost in the Shell until after the anime movie came out. I think it was a time thing, mostly. At that point I was still trying to be a diligent Ph.D. student and "for fun" reading was limited and precious. I loved the movie and finally bought and read the graphic novel. My UFL friends convinced me to read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and think about comics more seriously, though I've not yet tried to do anything overly academic with them yet.

Over the last few years, I've read more, and got obsessive over Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, which I read in the fall of 2003 when both my parents ended up in the hospital while visiting. I'd picked up the first issue late that summer, along with Allan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which I wanted to read before I saw the movie. I'd read Gaiman's Neverwhere and American Gods and I'd first come to Gaiman through Good Omens, which he co-authored with Terry Pratchett. It's because of Terry Prachett that I finally stopped reading as a good grad student should, but it's not all my fault as Shippey ended one Alliterative Poetry class with the words "Everyone should read Terry Pratchett." Like a good graduate student, I take my dissertation director's reading suggestions to heart.

While I read the The League of Extraordinary Gentlemenbefore seeing the movie, it wasn't until late September or so that I read the first volume of Sandman. The first night I had to take my dad to the ER after his quadruple bypass, I was already near a breaking point from exhaustion. I remember thinking and saying that I just needed to crash before I fell apart ,and went to bed at 10:00 pm after returning from the visiting my mom in the hospital. My dad, who'd had his bypass just some 7 or 8 days before, got a nose bleed shortly after I went to bed, but knowing I was at the point of physical and emotional collapse, he waited a few hours before waking me to take him to the ER. I knew I was in for a long night, but I also knew that I was in no condition to do any academic reading or even grading of student papers. So I grabbed that Sandman volume and was hooked. Those helped keep me sane through all the trips to the doctor, ER, hospitals, and nursing homes that fall.

I'm still not a big collector of comics, but since then friends have given me Miller's The Dark Knight Strikes Back, I've picked up the second volume of cite>The League of Extraordinary Men, Sandman spin-offs, and other Gaiman titles including Marvel 1602, which has to be the most brilliant thing to hit the Marvel universe since Miller's Dark Knight. But I'm not an expert and I don't follow the standard superhero comics other than some Batman, so it's likely I don't know what I'm talking about.

But now, watching Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has focused me on manga and anime. SAC is really one 26-episode serial, though some of the episodes break off from the main story arc. As I watched, and usually rewatched, those 26 episodes, I got pulled in more and more. I went back and reread Ghost in the Shell, I picked up Innocence at the video store when I saw it, I bought the soundtrack, and I've begun Ghost in Shell: Volume 2: Man-Machine Interface, which I hadn't read until now because it's not about Section 9 but is about Major Kusanagi post-Puppeteer (though I can't say for sure yet that the members of Section 9 don't get involved. I'm pretty sure Aramaki, the head of Section 9, is part of a group in a meeting at the beginning of the manga but he's not identified as such. But no one in that group is identified.). While Man-Machine Interface follows Kusanagi post-Puppeteer, Innocence follows the post-Puppeteer Section 9, mostly through the characters of Batuo and Togusa. Beautiful movie, and much more like reading one of Masamune Shirow's manga than either the first movie or SAC. Masamune Shirow's part of the heavy-on-alterity school of cyberpunk that sort of leaves you off-center and rewards (or requires) many, many rereadings. I think William Gibbson founded this school of cyberpunk, though if I'm wrong please let me know.

I've also started watching Cowboy Bebop. During the fall of 2003, my friend Graham kept asking if I wanted to watch a few episodes of the show as something to help take my mind off the pressures of my sick parents. I didn't then but finally did catch the Cowboy Bebop movie, before I started watching SAC, and I finally watched the first few episodes with him last January. I've been keeping my eye on The Cartoon Network's offerings since and caught the series as it restarted about a month ago.

And all this has gotten me some manga-anime cred again like I had with my cousins. Last Monday, I was talking to a friend of mine and somehow or other mentioned Ghost in the Shell. Debbie repeated it and her daughter, a high school freshman who's big into manga/anime and helped found a manga/anime club at her school, overheard her mom and went crazy and wanted to know if I'd heard of Samurai Champloo, which is apparently the big new hip show all the kids are excited about (first episode was yesterday, taking SAC's slot. I had seen a commercial for it and said "Yeah, it's by the same people as Cowboy Bebop, right?" and that did it. I was the first adult she or any of her friends had met that knew anything about it. Not sure what that says about me, but it's earned me back the hip adult cred I once held with her for being up on Harry Potter before the movies came out but lost after taking her to the zoo four years ago when her regular day care fell through. Who knew a precocious ten-year old would be so jaded as to not like the zoo? It was even her mother's suggestion!

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

NCTE Statement on Teaching Writing

NCTE's "NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing"

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Friday, May 13, 2005

"All Things Considered" Meets Beer

British beer guru Michael Jackson walks Michele Norris and Robert Siegal through a number of good and beers, including Samuel Adams' Utopias, a 25% alcohol beer. Read and listen.

Hmpf. I just learned that Samuel Adams can't sell Utopias in my state.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Links on Tags, Tagging, and Folksonomy

An article on tagging at The mo'Times.

"Taxonomies and Tags: From Trees to Piles of Leaves" at hyperorg.com.

"Folksonomies - Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata" by Adam Mathes

Folksonomy at wikipedia

Folksonomy defined at Kerim's wiki.

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Definitions of Media Ecology

Media Ecology defined at Hybrid Energy, The Media Ecology Association, medialiteracy.com, Neil Postman, NYU Department of Communication and Culture, and Wikipedia.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Ramism and the Pied Piper

Walter J. Ong on Ramism and rat catching:

"A kind of climax [of Ramist method] was perhaps reached in the eighteenth century when what had once been the crown of logic is put to the service even of rat-catching in The Universal Directory for Taking Alive and Destroying Rats and All Other Kinds of Four-Footed and Winged Vermin in a Method Hitherto Unattempted (1763), published by Robert Smith who identifies himself as 'Rat-Catcher to the Princess Amelia.' This was a far cry from Aristotle and Galen, but it was congenial enough, certainly, to Smith's Hanoverian patroness, in whose ancestral German domaine, thanks to Ramism, 'method' had now usurped the prerogatives of the Pied Piper and outmoded his more vocal arrangements for dealing with vermin" (925-926).

Originally posted at Notes from the Walter J. Ong Archives.

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Goody on Genre and Medium

"Not only do the genres differ, but even some of these that are universal change their characteristics over time. A written work necessarily has a beginning, a middle, and an end. An oral composition may be added to at any time and by different people. The notion of unity, so central to a feature of post-Aristotelian literary criticism, is much less useful in examining an oral product. What one hears on a particular occasion is less likely to be the product of a single human mind at a single point in time than it would be with a literary work. The notion of the individual signature at the bottom of the canvas is out of place when the mural has been touched and retouched by numerous hands in the course of its preparation" (13).

Goody, Jack Power of the Written Tradition. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.

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Havelock on Mnemosyne

"In the history of the Greek written word, the earliest Greek text composed throughout as a text may be that of Hesiod, and this despite the fact that his language is basically Homeric, retaining all the formulaic character of orally preserved verse. it is all the more remarkable that in his verse he seems able to retain a vivid awareness of the orality that preceded the writing of his text, and even to recognize what its basic functions were, namely the preservation of tradition in the living memory. He does this in describing the persons and functions of the Muses for whom he composes his introductory hymn. To begin with, they are the offspring of a union between Zeus and Mnemosune, usually translated as 'memory,' as though the word were equivalent to Mneme (the other Greek word for memory). The fuller form signifies the exercise of memory as an activity, that is, 'remembrance' or recall.

"Parental inheritance, when commemorated genealogically in oral verse, was used to give a person (often a warrior) his own identity, indicating his social status and role in the community. The Muses, through their assigned parentage, are to be perceived as the guardians of the social memory, and since their behavior as described is wholly oral, without any thought of writing, it is a memory as preserved in spoken speech—that is, the storage speech required. The reason for their existence is not inspirational, as it later became, but functional. Appropriately what they utter is summarized as 'the (things) of the present and before' (ta eonta, ta proeonta), and also of 'the to become' (ta essomena) which in its context which the other two particles refers not to novelty to be prophesied but a tradition which will continue and remain predictable (see above, chapter 7).

"It is of interest and relevance that this memory function commemorated by the early poet, but only symbolically and indirectly, achieved more explicit recognition later, after the passage of a century or more, at a time when the extended use of the alphabet had produced a rival means of remembrance in competition with the oral. One of the Promethean gifts to mankind is described as "compositions of grammata, Muse-mother, worker memory of all (things).' The grammata are 'inscriptions'; that is, written letters. In those, the storage memory is now preserved. It has been transformed to their guardianship from the custody of oral language and has become overtly recognizable as a 'memory' precisely because the letters as artifacts have objectified the memory by making it visible. But the fact that this is a transfer which still retains maternal orality, and not a completely new creation, is recognized in the phrase 'Muse-mother,' probably a recollection of Hesiod's genealogy. The term 'worker,' again, slight as it may be, recognizes for the first time that this language, whether oral or written, is something put to work; its role is functional, not inspirational uplift. The products of the alphabet (which included the Aeschyleon play in which these words were written) are something more than just 'literature' in our sense of the word.

"By the beginning of the fourth century, literate intellectuals began to attend to the act of memorization itself, considered as a necessary technique to be learned. The need would only occur to them as the result of delayed recognition of an exercise that was slowly but surely becoming obsolete in their own day, but which in the oral centuries, sustained by social pressure/ which was taken for granted, had itself been taken for granted, without achieved conscious recognition."

"To return to Hesiod: the memory language of his Muses is, of course, rhythmic and in his terms is uttered in epic hexameters. The metaphors applied to their speech dwell on its liquidity; it flows, it gushes in a steady stream. It is also a performance addressed to an audience—the gods in this particular case—on a variety of occasions, as in religious ritual (the hymn, which is what Hesiod is himself composing at the moment) or in a civic chorus (the dance) or as an epic recital, or as a song. The performers are musical, they have their accompanying instruments. The occasions are festive; you had a good time in feast or celebration or procession when the Muses spoke. These combined conditions are symbolically memorialized in the names that the nine are given: Cleio (Celebrator), Euterpe (Delightor), Thaleia (Luxuriator), Melphomene (Song Player), Terpsichore (Dance-Delighter), Erato (Enrapturer), Polyhmnia (Hymnal Player), Urania (Heaven Dweller), Calliope (Fair Speaker)" (79-81).

Havelock, Eric. The Muse Learns to Write: Reflections on Orality and Literacy from Antiquity to the Present. New Haven: Yale UP, 1988.

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Story as Knowledge

One of the great benifits of working on the Walter J. Ong Archives is the things I come across and the time I have to look at them. One such treasure, for me at least, was Kevin M. Bradt, SJ's Story as a Way of Knowing. In the introduction, Bradt writes:

"In story, both listener and teller imaginatively 'leave' the constituted self to enter an alternative story world constructed from different hypotheses, assumptions, presuppositions, and possibilities. This imaginative journey concludes with the return to the self, but now a changed self, a self changed in and through the cocreative interaction of storying with another. This storying and restorying is what ultimately makes healing and hope possible.

"Unlike the language and method of science, story does not claim to 'represent' reality; instead it seeks to explore it, to consider its possible meanings and significances. This is possible in a world where reality is open, unknown, indeterminate, irreducible, where it is always 'more,' 'other,' 'different,' in short, mysterious. Mystery invites inquiry rather than definition, erotic participation rather than geometric proof, relationships rather than reason, pursuit rather than purchase. Therefore, we will also examine storying as that way of knowing which views reality as a coevolving mystery and a dialogue partner in the making and remaking of meaning.

"The technologies of writing and print, however, encouraged other modes of knowing, modes that drastically changed the relationship between the knower and the known. Print-based technologies -- from books to computers and word processing software -- were eventually dubbed 'modern' and accorded normative status. Knowledge was now derived from interacting with a text, not another person. And that text was the product of one person writing in isolation in one particular moment in time. Texts broke loose from their original contexts and from the immediacy of interpersonal relationships. The printed word acquired a primacy and power that the spoken word never had nor could have" (ix-x).

I want to overlook the problematic "product of one person writing in isolation in one particular moment in time" (I'm thinking in particular of Karen Burke Lefevre's Invention as a Social Act) and focus on the idea of stories loosing authority with the advent of print. Reading this, I thought about what T.A. Shippey calls the "Grimmian Revolution" brought about by the Grimm brothers comparative philology and mythology. Jacob Grimm turned to "spinster-women" and "old wives" for stories and dialect speech, and he was attacked for using such non-academic sources. This is, not surprisingly, a minor theme in The Lord of the Rings.

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Teaching the Digitally Conscious

The following is from a larger message regarding the possible inclusion of a technology plank in a revised WPA Outcomes Statement which I sent to the WPA-L discussion list:

"We live in an every increasingly digital culture and many of our students, whether we like it or not, are digital in consciousness. Furthermore, the world in which they (and we) will live and compose in will be a digital one. Digital consciousness does not mean eliminating print based writing. Print based writing becomes part of the larger matrix of digitality, both shaping and being reshaped by digital practices. For me, at least, a technology outcomes statement deals not with tools for composing or discrete sets of skills like cutting and pasting or creating a spreadsheet, but in coming to terms with the potentialities and constraints digital composing tools bring to the table."

In going back through some of my posts on Notes from the Walter J. Ong Archives that I might want to repost here, this one caught my attention because of Jeff Rice's April 29 post to WPA-L on John Udell's "The New Freshman Comp". Jeff also pointed to commentary on the article at Collin vs. Blog and Weblogg-ed. Nick Carbone also pointed to a related Boston Herald article "Metcalf to MIT Geeks: Get to writin'".

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Ong on the Interiorizaton of Technology

"All technologies (the processing of wood and metal, textile work, bridge building, automobile manufacture, chemical industries, and so on) affect man's interior sense of his lifeworld, his sense of himself in relation to the universe, and thus enter into human consciousness to change its structure. But nowhere does technology enter into the structures of consciousness in man's interior life so intimately as when its used to transform the word itself by means of writing, print, and electronics. For the word comes from the interior; to touch it is to touch consciousness directly" (144).

Ong, Walter J., SJ. "Reading, Technology, and the Nature of Man." The Yearbook of English Studies 10 (1980): 132-149.

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