Monday, May 26, 2003

Still, On The Radio

I'd like to say that each show leaves us like dew in the morning sun by preference. That the deliberate esoteric impermanence of each show is medium-appropriate, air being inherently unarchivable. Sound, after all, must determine its own pace, its own place and space in the world. Stopping sound to take a closer look only creates silence.

Mostly, though, we've just been too lazy to record our shows. And then here we are at the end of the year with the long drought upon us: the school year is over before next Monday; no shows for months ahead. A real shame, that. After all, it's all my favorite music, a moving mood, up and down and up again over an hour or two every week. It rearranges me 'till I'm sane, you might say; time to put me back in my head.

We could, I suppose, come in each summer week and broadcast to an empty campus.

Anyway. Here's tonight's playlist, retroactively blogged [UPDATE 12:28 p.m. 5/27/03] to create the illusion that we knew what we were still to play 21 minutes before the show actually ended. Listen in your head, if you can.

Beck -- Devil's Haircut
Trout Fishing In America -- Happy That You're Here
Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Spacehog -- Senses Working Overtime
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Aquaman
Cake -- Manah Manah
They Might Be Giants -- Nightgown of the Sullen Moon
Keller Williams -- Anyhow Anyway
Ben Harper -- Steal My Kisses
Ani Difranco -- Angry Anymore
Trey Anastasio -- Cayman Review
Peter Gabriel -- Blood of Eden
Be Good Tanyas -- House of the Rising Sun
Alison Brown -- Banjo Mambo
Something by The Poets of Rhythm
Patty Larkin -- Different World
Mo' Horizons -- Hit The Road Jack
The Story -- Perfect Crime
John Gorka -- Oh Abraham
Aimee Mann and Michael Penn -- Two of Us
Deb Talan -- Forgiven
Sarah McLachlan -- Rainbow Connection
David Wilcox -- Burgundy Heart-Shaped Medallion
Marc Cohn -- She's Becoming Gold
Nikki Boyer -- Brain Damage
Maura O'Connell -- Long Ride Home
Mark Erelli -- Take My Ashes to the River
Emmylou Harris -- Red Dirt Girl
Sarah Harmer -- Open Window

posted by boyhowdy | 11:39 PM | 0 comments


Radio BLOG

After an entire year of coming home every week tired at midnight and staying up until the wee hours of the morning transcribing our radio show playlist into the blog, it turns out that this ancient Konqueror-enabled computer in the radio station is web-enabled after all.

It'd be too annoying to blog while we go for a number of reasons, including the distraction factor and the fact that blogger prompts me for a password after a waiting while. But, geez, it would have been nice to know.

And what do you mean you haven't done your Monday Mosh yet?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:51 PM | 0 comments


Monday Mosh

Today's Monday Mosh accomplished early morning after falling alseep with the baby at 6:30 p.m. Sunday and sleeping until 9:00 Monday morning. It's about time...

What song did you mosh to?
The theme song to the Muppet Show

What did you step on / bump into? (bonus points for breakage)
Stepped on some already-chewed pretzel pieces, which smushed rather than break, so I don't think that counts. Also bumped into the TV/stereo cabinet; the lamp atop it shuddered but luckily didn't fall, as I was carrying the baby and wouldn't have been able to catch it -- now that would have netted some major bonus points.

Why did you stop?
Honey, the baby really needs a nap....


The meme continues: after you've done your own Monday Mosh, either blog it and leave a link in the comments below, or go ahead and put your mosh stats in the comments directly. Have fun, kids!

posted by boyhowdy | 9:49 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Hang Out, Hang On, Hangover

Big dinner and DJ party at Clay's uber-rural farmstead last night for Virginia's birthday. Arrived just before 8 to find a close-knit group of Virigina's coffeeshop coworkers making vegetarian lasagna and baked brie with pears in the main house's tiny kitchen; as the pickups and Volvos began to arrive over the subsequent hour we moved to the post-and-beam renovated sugarhouse, now the best raw-wood two room apartment in the history of the universe, to dance to the DJ and, when it got too loud, huddle under the entranceway suntent in the beginnings of a weekend drizzle. Managed to drink enough Wolaver's India Pale Ale before 9 to have a wonderful drunk old time chatting with old college friends and make a few new ones and still sober up to drive home in the rain at 1 a.m.

Am now watching an ever-more-cranky baby until at least noon while Darcie does prom set-up. Willow would like to say something:

f bimj i fvft hhtv v v i jnm .

Back as soon as things calm down. May be late tonight.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:17 AM | 0 comments

Friday, May 23, 2003

People With Too Much "Law and Order" On Their Hands

Found at TVtattle.com: L.A. Times mediawatcher Brian Lowry says that popu-drama Law & Order is tailor-made for the modern TV viewer:
At a time when research shows that people miss episodes of even their favorite series because of hectic lives, the program allows them to watch whenever, paying no price for missing a week. Its rhythms and tight format have been so well established that viewers can join in while the show is in progress without too much confusion.

TVtattle.com also passes along this namedropping gem about an art exhibit that pays homage to "Law & Order:"
This weekend, 30-40 artists from around the country will gather in Santa Cruz to show off their "Law & Order"-inspired work. After all 'Law & Order' has done for us, I feel it's the least I can do for 'Law & Order,' says Brandon Bird, a "conceptual art activist/entrepreneur" who developed the idea after watching five straight hours of "L&O."
The show celebrated its 300th episode tonight.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:50 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, May 22, 2003

More Calm, More Storm



The double-deck magic ice cream bus!


On the schoolyear's penultimate Thursday, Hoggerfair closes the dining halls and turns the lawn outside Crossley, the largest coed prep school dormitory in the country, into a tented wonderland of grillsmoke and finger food, of ballons and inflatable obstacle courses. It's fun, and Darcie's mom and I did do a runaround for a halfhour or so with the baby while Darcie dealt with an emergent but resolvable crisis of prom-night proportions (if it rains, should we move everything into the dining hall?) but we didn't stay long: Darcie's never liked crowds; neither does her mother; I grew up in mall culture, and they grew up in cow country, but after years living the rural existence the human mass isn't as comfortable as it once was, nor as real anymore. Could discomfort in crowds be contagious? Or have I just learned to appreciate intimacy?

Still, it was worth going. Can you believe I never had kettle corn until a few years ago? Man, that's good stuff. Herrell's burnt sugar and butter ice cream, too, served out the wondow of the double-decker magic bus you see above. Willow ummmed some raspberry sorbet. I won a half-sized plastic gumball machine.

Back home mostly full, found Darcie eager to avoid the same lines, so we waved goodbye to grandma and wandered out to The People's Pint. Invited school farmer spouse Sarah and her yearling son Jack to join us when we spotted them; Sarah used to work with Darcie at uber-rural Newfane Elementary School up north in Vermont, so the connection's comfortable. The kids shared an organic turkey burger and some pub bread and seemed happy, if a bit shy each in their own way. Darcie doesn't drink anything with bubbles, so it was nice to tap beer glasses with someone for a change.

Back home, Darcie gave me some time of my own after the baby's bath, so back out to Greenfield I went, this time to Cafe Koko for a cozy armchair latte and a startlingly good literary magazine someone left behind. Lost a good 45 minutes or so halfwatching the counter girl wrap up the dayold pastries and organic salads in the counter case; drove home.

It's easy to blame the baby for a total lack of time on my own this year, but the truth is, I'm still afraid to wander off lest I start snagging cigarettes once out from the watchful family eye. It was really hard not to cap the day off with a smoke and a second latte out there on the Cafe Koko streetside tables. You know what I miss most about smoking? Tamping the cigarette pack against the fat of the palm. The scratch-hiss of the match, the sweet blurry butane hiss of the lighter. Catching a flipped lit cigarette between my lips without burning my beard. That moment in the dark in the rearview mirror when the cigarette strikes the pavement, explodes into fire. Everything.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:31 PM | 0 comments


I Want This




Bonus: It functions as a public disclaimer (thanks, Alex) .

posted by boyhowdy | 12:36 AM | 0 comments


American Who?



Some guy. I think he sings or something


According to the news, some guy won some contest on TV (sorry, Ms. Bumptious) tonight. Over 20 million people watched. I don't know any of them, though.

I know it's the end of the school year and I just got off another 14 hour day, but, man, I really gotta get out less. I'm missing out on so much fine culture.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:10 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Proof

It's called Gemini, this yearbook for a twin campus school, this behemoth I proofread over the long winter nights on duty. The lavender-and-black book has a turning-of-the-seasons theme prompted by the senior class song this year, the utterly impossible-to-sing-right "Turn, Turn, Turn," and is 312 pages large, the size a necessary evil for the biggest coed prep school in the country. And it's not bad, and it has four pictures of me and two of my tiny daughter: it's good to be married to the yearbook queen.

Although due to Darcie's advisorship we've had one at home since Thursday last, the school yearbook came out officially this week. After a spate of private validation finding the self in the black-and-white crowd, the campus is thick with kids everywhere on the warm grass, in small groups and singly, bowing their heads over the heavy texts, signing and looking for typos. My favorite so far:
The Information Technology department supports the technology needs of our school. These faculty members who help sever our community are:...
Sorry, guys. It's neither deliberate nor a subconscious subterfuge, I swear.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:55 PM | 0 comments


Spam Vs. Media Literacy: Machiavelli's Choice

Dropped into our school student discussion folder this afternoon:
Please tell ten friends to tell ten today! The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily to meet their quota of getting free food donated every day to abused animals neglected animals....This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate food to abandoned/neglected animals in exchange for advertising.

My response:

In other words, it DOES cost you something to visit the site -- you're paying with your time, your attention, your subconscious recognition of products and corporate signals, and your willingness to be exposed to advertising. Some might even say your "cost" here is a little tiny bit of your soul. Or your independence in a mass media culture. Or your integrity.

Then, by telling ten people to tell ten people, you're also doing the work OF those advertisers -- shilling for them, bringing your friends in to see their ads knowingly. Do the ends (animal rights orgs get little tiny donations) justify the means (advertisers get you, and you give them your friends)?

I'm not suggesting people shouldn't go to these sites. I am suggesting, however, that when you go, you know the stakes of going. It is important to remember that advertisers don't give money away out of the goodness of their hearts, and that it is in advertisers' best interests to get you to think that anything with no MONETARY cost has no COST/VALUE, which isn't at all true.

Personally, I feel more secure about myself (and feel more sure that I was not being suckered in by advertisers) when I make an actual cash donation to the organizations in question. At least then I'm not selling off my integrity, piecemeal -- I'm actually choosing to support an organization I trust with my own time and money rather than perpetuating the overwhelming blanket of signals and cues of a corporate culture. I like myself better this way -- and isn't that what counts?

posted by boyhowdy | 3:40 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Its (sic) official, you no longer work for JNI Traffic Control and u (sic) have forfided (sic) any arrangements made

Employee sues over text message firing. The message was sent to him via mobile phone. To be fair, the company claims that traffic controller John Eid resigned angrily the day before, and that the message was merely a confirmation, and I think the message's syntax -- albeit grammatically garbled -- bears out their explanation much better than his case that this was an inappropriate way to find out one had been canned. What sucks for them is that there's no evidence of his (claimed) verbal tirade, so it remains hearsay, less legit in court than the preserved text message itself.

1. Memo to self: When writing is necessary to my professional life, always give the other party the first move.

2. It's like I was saying over at webraw today: you don't need to set up a Vending Machine Blog to track workplace candy/soda problems. What could have been so urgent about reminding this guy that his employment had been terminated that they couldn't call him into an office somewhere to say it out loud, or write a formal note? If something was that imminent, they could have just had security tell him, right? I think an Andy Rooney quote I picked up for a while as an email signature file says it best: computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don't need to be done.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:41 PM | 0 comments


More Memes:


This-or-that Tuesday!


1. Large or small family?
Small -- most of my relatives-to-be died in the holocaust. My mother has one sister, now estranged; my father is an only child.

2. Potato chips or pretzels?
Usually chips.

3. House or apartment?
I'd prefer a house, but at least this end-of-dorm apartment has a yard, a driveway, a private entrance.

4. Zebras or giraffes?
Giraffes, of course. Unless we're talking about riding one.

5. Candles or potpourri?
Ew. Candles.

6. Flowers or trees?
Flowers are hard to sit under. I live in rural new England. I named my daughter Willow. What do you think?

7. Right or left-handed?
I wish I were left-handed.

8. Model trains or dolls/stuffed animals?
Silly Putty.

9. Comedy or drama?
Ohh...ER or South Park? I can't decide...

10. Thought-provoking question of the week: The city of Boston has recently banned smoking in all restaurants and bars. Would you want to see such a law passed in your city/town/country, or not?
Damn, no. I don't think it's necessary in these rural-type parts. Plus, I like light secondhand smoke, it reminds me of smoking.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:57 AM | 0 comments


On Air

This afternoon Virginia and I brought Willow for a walk. The sun was hot and strong like good coffee. We stopped at the school Chapel, a New England granite edifice looming over the football field, its stone carried and set by the hands of the school's first students over a hundred years ago. The cavernous space was still and cool in the late afternoon; it enveloped us.

Willow startled at the stained glass window, a gold jewel in the late afternoon sun. She played with the echo, calling it, the look in her eyes like wonder personified. She played the piano, first with her hands, then, more satisfyingly, with her be-socked heels, and walked on the tips of my fingers down the burgundy aisle between the oldwood pews.

It is these moments in the midst of madness that make everything worthwhile. That, and the light at the end of the schoolyear tunnel.

Twelve more days 'till graduation, and the seniors are counting down the hours; tomorrow is their annual now-school-sanctioned-and-thus-commodified skip day, and the kids in my class today were beyond distracted. After attending the ritzy off-campus Senior Reception tonight to tech the senior video showing, the least we could do was play as many songs as we could about once-forbidden-fruit things the seniors will suddenly, finally be free to do at the end of next week. That, and a jamband set for those needing a study break. Here, as always, tonight's Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH:

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Habib Koité -- Cigarette Abana
The Biscuit Boys -- Coming Into L.A.
Ween -- Bananas and Blow
The Dixie Chicks -- Landslide
Matchbox 20 -- Crutch
Eddie From Ohio -- Stupid American
Acoustic Syndicate -- Crazy Town
The Waifs -- Lighthouse
Alison Brown -- Leaving Cottondale
Kasey Chambers -- Little Bit Lonesome
Dolly Parton -- I Get A Kick Out Of You
Jorma Kaukanen -- Big River Blues
The Be Good Tanyas -- Rain And Snow
Donna The Buffalo -- Seems To Want To Hurt This Time
Galactic -- Tiger Roll
Tony Furtado Band -- Fat Fry On The Hog Farm
String Cheese Incident -- Lost
Alison Krauss -- Forget About It
Brooks Williams -- Yellow Hummingbird
Clif Eberhardt -- Back Of My Mind
Nenes -- No Woman No Cry
Hot Rise -- Shady Grove
Patty Larkin -- Have A Little Faith In Me
Nickel Creek -- Out Of The Woods

posted by boyhowdy | 12:48 AM | 0 comments

Monday, May 19, 2003

The Monday Mosh

Today's Monday Mosh done during babycare -- we moshed together!


What song did you mosh to?
Batoumambe -- Habib Koité.

What did you step on / bump into? (bonus points for breakage)
Stepped on a couple of baby-dropped Toastie-Os (health-brand Cheerios) and smushed 'em into the carpet, so bonus points for breakage do technically count. Also bumped into the ottoman a couple of times, like last week. We really need to get a bigger place.

Why did you stop?
Baby was getting heavy and cranky, so we decided to watch the half an episode of the Muppet Show instead.


Remember: we're trying to start a meme, here, so, just like with other day-specific memes, after you've done your own Monday Mosh either blog it and leave a link in the comments below, or, like Shaw did last night, go ahead and put your mosh stats in the comments directly.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:24 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 18, 2003

My Life In A Dozen Ears

1. When I was little we had to wear pink molded earplugs smeared with vaseline in our ears when we took a bath. Much later it was discovered that getting water in your ears doesn't cause earaches like that.

2. Turns out, we just have small eustacian tubes or something. My brother even had to have his ear reconstructed after it got infected.

3. Remember that song My Mother Said Don't You Put Beans In Your Ears? Trust me, don't.

4. The first time I pierced my left ear it was in Faneuil Hall in Boston on a summer camp field trip. I called my parents from a payphone and waited until I had ten seconds left and then said I'm running out of time so I have to go oh I pierced my ear love you bye. My parents were sure my ear would get infected hiking in Colorado for a month later that summer, but it didn't. Back then, local phone calls cost a dime.

5. I can't remember where and when I got my left ear pierced for the second and third time.

6. The first time I pierced my right ear was on stage at the Colonial Theatre in Boston for my graduation from City Year because it was really boring on stage. I did it with a rolled metal ring which would have looked like a silver joint if it were stretched out. The ring belonged to some girl names Rachel who I was dating but not seriously.

7. Another thing that runs in my father's side of the family is tiny pinholes at the top of the ear, where the ear meets the skull behind the temple. These aren't dimples, but real holes, useless and occasionally leaking something clear and odd. You can stick a stud earring all the way in and gross people out pretending you pierced your skull.

8. I figure I lost about 15% of my hearing being the lightning guy at the Boston Museum of Science for three years. It was worth it.

9. When my daughter was born, I looked to see if she had little tiny holes at the place where the top of her ear meets her skull just behind the temple, like my sister, my brother, and my father before us. She didn't.

10. When the light hits my ears just right the baby likes to pull at the tiny silver dots I wear in the three holes in my left ear.

11. When the baby sleeps we watch TV with the captions turned on. Sometimes the people who write the captions mess up, especially when it's live and they're trying to keep up. Sometimes commercials aren't captioned but run behind the last residual textphrase of the previous program, or are captioned poorly and spew character-heavy gibberish. It's funny but we can't laugh or we'll wake the baby.

12. My right ear is blocked up again, all the way down towards my sinuses. It has been for days. I think it's my my eustacian tubes.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:36 PM | 0 comments


Recommended Blogreading

Darcie's been on duty all weekend, so I've spent most of the time I usually devote to this space with a tiny person clinging to my fingers; apologies if the blogging's been consequently a bit thin, but I was afraid to start anything substantive while looking after baby. If you want proof I've been alive, see Alex Halavais' blog, where I've been commenting heavily on a few threads about blogging as a phenomenon of social development, along with Alex' School of Informatics colleague Barbara, a blogger herself. While I was at it I also dropped an overnight comment on meme-fulfillment at one girl's life. Check out the barbie skin; it's my favorite.

Oh, and speaking of memes, while you're browsing tonight, don't forget to plan for your Monday Mosh -- leave a comment below if you decide to go for it!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:47 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Pleas and Thank You

Colin and Bram have started a message board to explore web-based asynchronous communication; visits and participation from some of the wise and verbose visitors who frequent THIS space would be appreciated, as time for this project is relatively short.

In the same vein, thanks to those who have already visited Blogistics, especially Alex, whose professional expertise lends credence both to the assignment under which Blogistics is being produced and to the very fabric of the idea of blog-as-learning-space.

And while we're on the subject, thanks and kudos go out to Alex as well for giving away his hard-earned blogshares because "if the web is a gift economy, then a potlatch seemed in order" -- thus setting a high standard for bloggers to give each other more than just links and winks and, more generally, gently nudging the web evermore towards the communal.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:44 PM | 0 comments


The New Gender Gap: Second Thoughts About The Second Sex?

I grew up a child of the eighties, back when the muticulti/diversity/sensitivity curriculae had not yet been commodified by our Huxleyan PC culture. But I've always had trouble believing the party line that girls were given the short shrift in educational settings, a concern that comes up even today in tech conference post-lecture debates. My own primary subject -- Media Literacy -- is one often considered "soft" by math and technology teachers who claim a dearth of female voices in their classrooms, so the generally equal gender ratio I attract is no strong defense of gender equality, but both my intro and advanced web design classes tend to be more female than male, despite the common citation of coding as one of those things adults want to see as "not seen by girls as for girls, and why not, dammit?"

That's why I found this article in Business Week to be so refreshing. It makes a powerful case that boys are actually much less well served by our modern educational institutions than girls, which takes guts in the minefield of the politically correct culture:
...From kindergarten to graduate school, boys are fast becoming the second sex. "Girls are on a tear through the educational system," says Thomas G. Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education in Washington. "In the past 30 years, nearly every inch of educational progress has gone to them."
...At one exclusive private day school in the Midwest, administrators have even gone so far as to mandate that all awards and student-government positions be divvied equally between the sexes. "It's not just that boys are falling behind girls," says William S. Pollock, author of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "It's that boys themselves are falling behind their own functioning and doing worse than they did before."

At the risk of sounding unlike the feminist I claim to be, after over twenty years of increasingly sacred and ultimately inequality-perpetuating assumptions about the way social and learning differences between boys and girls play out, it's great to see some solid and wide-ranging evidence say out loud what I have to believe that many of us -- more, I daresay, than will ever be willing to speak up -- have long suspected.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:01 AM | 0 comments

Friday, May 16, 2003

Geeks With Too Much Time On Their Hands



Whose face would you put on the 18 cent piece?


Remember Science News, the Reader's Digest of...um...science news? This week's web-issue includes the totally useless conclusions of one Jeffrey Shallit, Computer Scientist, who has concluded that what the U.S. needs is an 18-cent piece. Also a 32 cent piece.

That is, if we assume that having less coins change hands per transaction is desirable, and as long as we assume that every amount of change between 0 and 99 cents is equally likely to come up in a given transaction. And surely we should assume that, because if there's anything I can't stand, it's change.

Oh, wait, I'm sorry. I didn't mean change. What I meant to say was, if there's anything I can't stand, it's smug people who think they know what the U.S. needs. Especially more different denominations of coins, because there certainly aren't enough random pieces of metal in the average American's pocket most days.

Bonus #1: Shallit's conclusions were first published in the Mathematical Intelligencer. What the heck is an intelligencer?

Bonus #2: The Science News website sells pangaea mugs.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 PM | 0 comments


Instructions From Darcie For What To Do If The Baby Wakes Up While She Is Gone Running Tonight's Student Activities Programs

If the baby wakes up, she might go back to sleep. Let her.

If she keeps making noise and starts moving around, take this toy flashlight kaleidescope and wave it over her face. She will stop crying and say "ohhhhh."

Then page me, and I will come home to nurse her back to sleep.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:46 PM | 0 comments


Fry-day Five

I'm being lazy this, next, and the subsequent week until school ends and my brain returns to normal. Hence, this week's Friday Five:

1. What drinking water do you prefer -- tap, bottle, purifier, etc.?
The well water that comes out of the tap at my in-law's house. Welcome to rural living.

2. What are your favourite flavor of chips?
Um...potato flavor? I like Cheddar and Sour Cream ripples, but only with french onion dip.

3. Of all the things you can cook, what dish do you like the most?
Toast. That's about all I can cook, and I like it.

4. How do you have your eggs?
Three over easy, corned beef hash, hash browns, white toast, double latte.

5. Who was the last person who cooked you a meal? How did it turn out?
Do restaurant meals count? 'cause they tend to turn out swell, and we had excellent Chinese food yesterday for lunch...if not, the dining hall food two nights ago here at school wasn't bad at all -- breaded pork chops and applesauce, prepared with love by workjob students and their professional adult supervisors.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:18 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Poem Of The Month-And-A-Half

Haven't written anything 'cept blog itself in a long, long time. But I did use this old binary double pantoum in media literacy today to discuss digital/hypertextual forms of creative work, as a companion and comparison to the formal academic hypertexts my students are working on. For what it's worth, the second half is actually the same as the first half, except upside-down.


Reflection

1.

There's so much of everything:
I am talking about media again.
The baby says "da da da"
to his father in the telephone.

I am talking about media again
on the low couch in the living room
to his father on the telephone.
I say "hasn't he arrived?"

On the low couch in the living room
he is there, traveling inward.
I say "hasn't he arrived"
when he is theoretically still:

He is there, traveling inward
toward the unreachable center
when he is theoretically still.
Ripples travel outward as fast as

toward the unreachable center
there's so much of everything;
ripples travel outward as fast as
the baby says "da da da."


0.

The baby says "da da da."
Ripples travel outward, as fast as
there's so much of everything,
toward the unreachable center;

ripples travel outward as fast as
when he is theoretically still.
Toward the unreachable center
he is there, traveling inward:

when he is theoretically still
I say: "hasn't he arrived?"
He is there, traveling inward
on the low couch in the living room.

I say "hasn't he arrived?"
to his father on the telephone
on the low couch in the living room.
I am talking about media again

to his father on the telephone.
The baby says "da da da:
I am talking about media again;
there's so much of everything."

posted by boyhowdy | 11:47 PM | 0 comments


It's Only Natural

It was one of those perfect almost-cloudy spring days today.

After class Darcie and I skipped the faculty meeting and took my advisees out for chinese and sushi; the school gives us ten bucks per kid each trimester, and my boys had decided to save up for a major feast. Dustin, finally off disciplinary probation but under the stress of not knowing whether his grandparents will pay for him to come back next year, cooed at the baby and laughed at everything and had a grand old time and kept saying so; his roommate, Jerry, a Hong Kong native, helped us order. Sam had never seen wasabi in real life; we managed to convince him to eat ate a whole cube of the stuff a laJackass: The Movie, and then he and Alex M. dared each other to eat the octopus, deciding ultimately to split it, but Sam had no success convincing either Alex M. or Alex F. to take him up on a similar challenge to eat the giant hot red peppers in the General Tso's. The leftovers will be gone tomorrow, but the memories will sustain us all summer.

Bellies still mostlyfull, instead of supper we went out to the newly-rebuilt Creamie for chocolate malteds and bright rasberry sorbet for the baby which turned her lips and tongue a flaming, glowing lipstick red. There and back the deepening breeze scattered pink and purple treepetals over the car like a blizzard of bright birthday tissue paper. The baby said moo to the cows we passed on the way back, and played quietly with me in bed for almost an hour after her bath before finally rubbing her eyes, a signal for lights and daddy out. There are no words for the way she is becoming deliberate about her movements, her attention, her choices -- a real person.

And now in the yard just behind the tennis courts I can hear the mother killdeer screaming her shrill cries at the darkening baseball game as it encroaches upon her inopportunely chosen nest up against the court fence at the top of the ballfield spectator hill. Last year she laid her eggs on the sandy lawn outside the administration building; this year's four tiny beige-and-speckled-grey eggs stand out no better in the dark gravel than they did in the sand. Kids threaten her with carelessness and ungentle curiosity. Yet she persists, because she, too, holds spring's hope.

Bonus points, as always, to anyone who can correctly identify the song used for today's blogtitle.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:40 PM | 0 comments


Digital Student, CyberClassroom:
Writing What You Are, How You Are, And Why You Are


The penultimate assignent in my Media Literacy class is simply presented: create, I tell them, a hypertext on identity in a digital age...In pairs, develop a natively non-linear document, both structurally and content-wise consistent with knowledge-sharing and knowledge-creation values of the new digital age -- among them communality, democratization, delinearity, collaboration, and fragmentation -- which addresses as subject some aspect of modern individual identity...Speak subjectively and objectively, thus embracing fluidity between yourselves and your readers; promise engagement and interaction, and deliver.

In the past, the assignment has resulted in all sorts of wild and wonderful things: wire-and-paper mobiles on the emerging sexual self of the adolescent; board games and choose your own adventures exploring the new ways we make and evaluate choices in our daily lives; webtexts and almost-papers on everything from the leisure hobbyist self to the self as community member, once geographically grounded, now fragmented and multiple and phase-shifted. Primary sources, including the environments and sometimes even the humans under discussion, link by blue-and-underline or umbillical tape-and-string to the body of work. In their final form these projects take their places around the classroom, and the vast school body is invited in to visit and explore our Museum of Hypertext, where visitor comments can be addedon to the permanently open and unfinished body of work that we have made.

This term, as in the Fall, a pair of students are writing a blog on blogging, and in their early stages they are asking for comments and ideas; please visit them, and leave your kindness and critique. Interestingly, as with the first blogproject, I find that the blog begins with a short testing...are-you-there blogentry, followed quite shortly by a complaint that blogger keeps "eating" their entries; perhaps this commonality is unsurprising given the narrow course-specific approach coupled with the common newness of the blog itself in each case.

Other projects this term include:
- an exploration of video games and the phenomenon of avatar self-identification,
- a look at the new possibilities and norms of various forms of online dating, as compared to "traditional" dating,
- an analysis of the spectrum web-based identity opportunities, including static (web pages), mostly one-way (blogs) and interactive (web boards) examples, and
- a close dissection of AIM as an identity-sharing space, with attention to the ways in which identity is both self-determined and peer-determined.

Of course, the best part of the project is asking students to rethink the idea of "project" or "document" at the end of the process -- for, ultimately, the finished museum can be seen as a single hypertext, much as Bolter suggests that one might envision the entire Internet as a single hypertext. That, and the way in which we show how the digital age destroys the subjective/objective dichotomy, once so stilted and formal in the written wor(l)d, by thinking about whose experience the museum ultimately was as an afterthought.

Man, I'm going to miss teaching this class.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:06 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

More Memes!

This-or-that Tuesday: yet another meme for people who want to blog but have nothing to say. Why do I always pick these on the lame weeks?

1. Packrat or minimalist?
Packrat to the extreme. Minimalist thinker, though.

2. Computer: desktop or laptop?
Laptops at home; desktops at work: what do you think?

3. Seashore or mountains?
Seashores are easier to climb, but can't I have both?

4. Carpeting or bare floors?
Hardwood, except in the bedroom.

5. Drinking water: bottled or tap?
Well.

6. Shopping websites: eBay or Amazon?
Amazon. New stuff is more trustworthy.

7. Cute little kitties or big scary tigers?
Cute little kitties that turn on you when you least expect it.

8. Front door or back door?
Well, since the front door leads into a high school dorm...

9. Lots of jewelry, or little/none?
My hair is all the jewelry I need.

10. Thought-provoking question of the week: At the last minute, you obtain tickets to an event you're dying to attend. However, you have to work that day! Do you ask the boss for the time off, or just call in sick?
That's not very thought-provoking -- all the events I'd ever be dying to attend happen in the summer, when teachers are all on hiatus. Do what you love and the events will follow, baby! Yeah!

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 PM | 0 comments


Belated Monday Mosh

Geoffrey wrote to remind me about the Monday Mosh. Happily, although I forgot about my own meme, I moshed last night at the radio station anyway. I just forgot to blog it.

1. What song did you mosh to?
Como Ves -- Ozomatle. Recorded live, and funky like a mardi gras party.

2. What did you step on or bump into? (bonus points will be awarded for breakage)
I did roll my chair over the sleeve of my leather jacket as I got up to dance, but I don't think that counts.

3. Why did you stop?
Ginny was looking at me funny, and I had to pick a poem to read at the station break.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:10 PM | 0 comments


The New Twenty: Now With 50% More Ugly!



Well, that's gonna take some getting used to. Luckily, the other side isn't as bad.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:11 PM | 0 comments


Second Spring

Second spring brings a change-in-the-seasons smaller than a C-change but larger than life. It's not a moment -- it's more of a short period of time, when the newness fades, and suddenly you look up and realize that spring has become a way of life again. Most people notice spring; the point of second spring is that you have to squint and turn your head just right to see it. And it's here now:

The green world renewed is spring. Coming home to a freshly mowed prep school lawn is second spring.

If robins are a sign of spring, sweat gnats are a sign of second spring. Or ladybugs.

Babies without hats -- definitely second spring.

And forgetting to close the windows at night.

And trees falling in a heavy rain. Deer in the evenings on the fields. Tiny fresh asparagus.

And dandelions, everywhere.


How do you know it's second spring?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:55 PM | 0 comments


I'm Feeling Lucky!

Wondering why I got a hit today direct from the google home page? Because typing Not All Who Wander Are Lost into the search engine and hitting "I Feel Lucky!" takes you here. Go on, try it.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:30 AM | 0 comments


Trains In The Air

Virginia and my weekly radio show Tributary tonight started with Nora stopping by to announce I'm not wearing my pants! (she was wearing pants, but from a fellow student by way of the dorm free box). It ended with a whole tree across the end of the road, blocking the long way home, mandating an even longer k-turn on the edges of the close, soft woods and an even longer detour back again. In between, bedtime stories on the hour and the half hour -- tonight, poems from some anthology -- and the following musical madness. Note the world music set from 10:30 - 11, and the long train set (pun intended) at the end of the evening. Playlist follows:

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
The Biscuit Boys -- Ramblin' Fever
Bonnie Raitt -- Love Me Like A Man
Cake -- Manah Manah
Bjork -- It's Oh So Quiet
The Strokes -- Is This It
Erin McKeown -- Blackbirds
The Rembrants -- Making Plans For Nigel
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
Habib Koite -- Batoumambe
Zap Mama -- Telephone
Cesaria Evora -- Sangre De Berona
Ozomatle -- Como Ves
Chris Ardoin -- Your Love Keeps Lifting Me
String Cheese Incident -- Joyful Noise
Patty Griffin -- Sweet Lorraine
Emmylou Harris -- One Big Love
Salamander Crossing -- Passion Train
Mark Erelli -- Midnight Train
Kasey Chambers -- Not Pretty Enough
Jourma Kaukonen -- Waiting For A Train
Indigo Girls -- This Train Revised
(aborted due to scratch)
Los Lobos -- That Train Don't Stop Here Anymore
Nancy Griffith -- Last Train Home
Susan Werner -- Time Between Trains
Bare Naked Ladies -- Am I The Only One

posted by boyhowdy | 1:24 AM | 0 comments

Monday, May 12, 2003

Our Politically Correct Schools

Down the road a piece in Springfield, a teacher was suspended this week for asking students to write a list of words they were not to say in class as part of a follow-up discussion after the school Principal announced that abusive and inappropriate language directed towards others would not be tolerated. The students quoted are all 13 -- the same age as our freshmen here at NMH -- so trust me when I tell you, as an experienced teacher of this age group, that the teacher did nothing wrong and everything right.

Most kids this age have never heard the word "kike." All hear the words ass and bitch on network television all the time. That doesn't mean these words aren't hurtful to those who have heard it before, but because standards for classroom language are almost always more conservative than standards for cultural language, and because language standards and language itself change all the time, how else are students supposed to know what words are taboo or hurtful to others in a specific context if they can't discuss them? The teacher did nothing wrong; it's the inherent impossibility of Political Correctness -- that you can't talk about some topics, which leaves holes in the cultural sensitivity of a rising generation -- which is at fault here. Most adults can't see it; they already know which words are taboo, and have conveniently forgotten how they learned the list.

Note, too, the bias in the article: the first line states that the teacher "forced" the students to write these lists. Last I checked, pretty much everything that happens in a classroom is expected of everyone; that doesn't make it okay to use bias-heavy words to describe it. For forgetting the difference between reporting and editorializing, and for kowtowing to the PC culture in which we live, Mary Ellen O'Shea, staff writer for (no surprise here) The Republican, deserves jeers here; the teacher-in-question does not. Why not tell her so yourself?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:35 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 11, 2003

The Foot Sand Crab Bladder Wild Hugged Gang

Feelin' stupid; thought I had come up with a killer app, but apparently I was not the first to think of a random band name generator. Meet GORBY, Generator Of Random Bandnames (and Y? Because we like you, apparently). Sorry, Molly; I'm sure something else will come up. But check out the cool bandname it spit out for me.

[UPDATE 10:28 p.m. If nothing else, GORBY's a good dadist poetry generator. How about:

Technological Bumblebees
A Scum Aerodynamic
The Mocha The Orangutan Fetched
The Dairy Farm The Union Ran
Bob Marley's Extreme Gat
Los Porcelain Concubines
Sleek and Shriveled ]

posted by boyhowdy | 9:47 PM | 0 comments


All I Want Is Loving You And Music, Music, Music



The days blur in the heat and the constant acceleration towards graduation day. Threads stand out more than chronology: mother's day, trustee weekend, a low note of coffee. Throughout, a soundtrack, a musical motif. We'll start there; it's as good a way as any to get at things past.

Found two CDs my parents had given us last time we went to Newton: something sweet and encompassing Alison Brown: Best Of The Lighthouse Years and the Waifs' Up All Night. Both turn out to be excellent. Cleaned the house to them this morning while Darcie and Willow napped. Lighthouse -- track 4 on the Waifs' disk -- is worth it all. My parents have such good taste in music; I'm glad it's genetic.

Found it hard to focus on cleaning, though. I really depend on weekend sleep -- that magical banked time on Saturday or Sunday morning can make up for a whole week of down at 2, up at 7 -- but this weekend was actually less restful than, say, an average Tuesday/Wednesday workweek shift. Breakfast with the trustees and other faculty governance chairs, in suits on a Saturday morning, after a late but quiet Friday night of dorm duty sifting through the songs on the school radio station's auto-playlist...which led to Saturday morning's farmer's market, a stop-by on Darcie's grandmother with Willow and flowers, and a full afternoon mostly-hopelessly shopping for Mother's Day gifts with Ginny.

Then, after an even later duty last night (dorms close at 11:30, and hour later than usual, on Saturdays), up at 6 this morning to watch Willow while her mother, on her first Mother's Day ever, got to sleep late. Between their naps I gave Darcie the light world-funk Habib Koite CD she had asked for with a bunch of cards "from" me and Willow. After Brown and the Waifs I turned the Koite on, the house almost clean, to re-don charcoal slacks and blue silk blazer for Sacred Concert, sure I would fall asleep in the warmth of the auditorium but willing to give it the old prepschool try.

Sacred Concert started a hundred years ago when D. L. Moody, NMH school founder and evangelist, decided to have his students serenade his own mother. Today, it is a required, special-dress event -- suits and ties or dresses and heels -- for all students, with mothers encouraged to attend, although many instead just get frustrated that their students aren't supposed to be able to come home for, say, a traditional family dinner at a fancy restaurant. Today I went solo as Darcie went off with her parents and sister for a nice Mother's Day supper, sat with the dorm and had my own supper of bacon-wrapped scallops and honeystung chicken afterwards at the dining hall with librarian Pam and her late teenage local son. The school chorus and orchestra sound like professionals, not high school students, and the music itself, from hymns to Handel, was exquisite. Bummer I had to go alone. Didn't sleep though.

Tonight from 6-8 Acoustic Cafe, a nationally syndicated you-probably-get-it acoustic folk, rock, and country featured a set of five Patty Griffin covers by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Melissa Ferrick, Maura OConnell, and the Dixie Chicks. Ginny and I, out on an excursion after soapmaking with Darcie and her Mom in the student center kitchen, found it just as the coverset started. We drove the long ride home to listen. [a hypertextually semiotic pun!] O, heaven is a set of diverse interpretations of the work of my favorite songwriter, a friend and sister-in-law, being married to a mother -- so much, really, is right with the world; even in the midst of exhaustion, it's wonderful to hear the ozone rain on the flat roof.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:02 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Bugs



Gaah! Is it on me? Get it!


It's beginning to look a lot like summer around here, and among other warm summery things that means bugs. Sweat gnats and no-see-ums swarm us like planes on King Kong when we take Willow out to the swings; mosquitoes in the dorm lounge; biting flies in the house.

I like bugs -- they're fascinating, and not just from afar. Ladybugs may take over the screen door in their weird vertical mating rituals, but I don't mind much; houseflies leave their droppings everywhere, but their entrance to the house panics the dog more than it panics me.

But I don't like being itchy, and I don't like knowing that there's an itch-maker buzzing around just under the radar somewhere that I can't yet see. Just seeing a mosquito makes me break out in psychosomatic hives. Is that weird?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:23 AM | 0 comments

Friday, May 09, 2003

Engrish As A Second Language

I'm on duty, but had a moment free at the dorm's lounge computer to check email and listen to some tunes (Sheryl Crow covering Guns 'n Roses fave Sweet Child O' Mine, if you must know) off the who-needs-KaZaA-when-you-live-in-a-lan-and-share-your-music-files network. I had to get up for a moment to let some locked-out kid into his room, and when I came back, I found a book on the chair I had vacated.

The title? The Grean Gatsby.

Yes, I said Grean. The rest of the book is in some sort of pictographic language: Korean's most likely, given our dorm population. Odds are good some ESL kid's trying to get a jump on his english course by reading Fitzgerald's classic in his native language first. But, seriously and ominously, how can you trust the translation of a book if they can't even get the title correct? This kid's in for a world of trouble, with a capital N.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:34 PM | 0 comments


Remaindered Thoughts

With a tip of the hat to webraw. Those remaindered links never cease to amuse.


Here is how I occupy my mind: I subscribe to two weekly magazines -- Newsweek and the New Yorker -- and regularly read McSweeney's, The Onion, Customers Suck, and a small handful of blogs. For meditation, I do the shockwave.com jigsaw puzzle ever day, and the Boston Globe sunday crossword every week.

I like ham and cheese croissants. And Bakery Arts in Brattleboro, Vermont, makes the best ham and cheese croissants ever, so I bought three.

Darcie won't buy herself CDs she wants because I end up leaving them in the car all week after I borrow them for my radio show, and she doesn't like the radio on in the car. Who doesn't like the radio on in the car? She also won't let me in a record store for a two-week period immediately following any CD or music purchase, but that's probably for my own good -- I already have far too many CDs.

If it were up to me, I'd wear jeans every day. And why can't I find a good soft light-weave chambray dress shirt that doesn't have button-down collars?

Dorie, the about-to-retire math teacher who coordinates student prizes, called tonight asking me to be the presenter for some award for overcoming obstacles. I'm a natural choice as presenter because the recipient is Sam, a wheelchair-bound senior with mid-to-late-stage-Ataxia who's been an advisee of mine since he arrived as a Sophomore. I think Sam will appreciate the cash, but I hope he feels okay about being singled out as somehow worthy of praise for how he handles his illness.

I haven't seen the deer in a couple of weeks because I haven't been going out at dusk, and because they probably don't come out of the deep woods so much now that the trees are budding. Also, it's raining, and who wants to stand out in a field when it's raining?

I prefer local coffee and microbrew beer, but not that flavored crap.

My daughter as a porcelain doll. I figure you only get one perfect shot like this, so the pressure's off.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:24 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Zen Blog

There will be no more blogging today because everything in my life has happened already.

For the moment, anyway.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:03 PM | 0 comments


I'd Sure Like To See That

Reuters reports that Villagers in southern Taiwan are strapping bras to their faces to guard against the deadly SARS virus due to a shortage of surgical masks, and I'm really disappointed with them for not including a picture of this fun phenomenon to accompany their story.

Cause, hey, I wanna know what you do with the other cup.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:14 PM | 0 comments


Lazy Thursday Three

Since I'm trying to start one of those "answer the question on the right day" memes myself (see my Monday Mosh post below), I figured it was only fair to try answering a few. That, and I'm feeling a bit lazy today after a nice afternoon on the couch in Mocha Joes with the wife and baby, drinking free vanilla lattes and watching the world go by. So here's today's Thursday Three:

1. Have you ever had a nightmare?
Surely, but not for a long time; ever since I started drinking way too much coffee and not getting enough sleep, I seem to be sleeping right through my nightmares. Most of my memories of early nightmares are about not being able to get away in time from something vague and undefined but intrinsically evil and horrible, or not being able to get "there" in time to save something beloved but equally vague in its definition.

2. What was the last dream you can remember having?
As I said above, it's been a VERY long time. In my early childhood for some reason I used to have nightmares that I was trapped inside the clothing rack at a store and my mother was going to leave without me. I also used to wake up with no memory of my nightmare except that of moving as if through water, trying to get away from something, unable to make my legs move faster. I guess I must fear the unknown, or fear that I am unequal to my fears or something. This is much less interesting than my brother's nightmares -- he used to wake me up screaming "No, Spiderman, stay away! He's going to get me! Aaah!" Fear of Spiderman seems much worse than fear of the unknown, I think, but we all have our fears, however irrational.

3. Do you think it is possible for two people to have the exact same dream?
No. I think, though, that it is possible for two people to have a dream similar enough that, in the harsh light of day and concrete language, it could end up being described identically.

Hmm. Well, to be honest, that wasn't very successful, but there you go -- at least I tried. Don't forget to come back on Monday and let us all know about your Monday Mosh!

posted by boyhowdy | 6:50 PM | 0 comments


My New Job

For the last five years I've been a Media Specialist here at NMH, running a media center, teaching classes (first in Video Production and Theater, later in Media Literacy, Mass Media Messages, and Web Design), and working with faculty in and out of their classrooms to help them think about best practice pedagogy in the context of digital tools and technologies -- in addition, of course, to all the usual dorm residency and advising responsibilities commensurate with prep school teaching at its finest and most exhausting.

Next year, things are going to be different. I still get to teach my favorite courses -- media literacy, mass media messages, and an advanced web designer's workshop -- in the afternoons, but as seminars with no homework to grade; more importantly, my mandate has become much higher-end, my expected audience has broadened to include the entire curriculum, and I will actually be expected to produce the kinds of position papers and case studies that I love to write and publish but haven't had time for in a year or two. Check out the job description I was handed today, note that information literacy is interpreted broadly here at NMH to be inclusive of media literacy, epistemology, semiotics, and other constructivist approaches that make explicit the nature of knowledge-sharing and knowledge-creation in a variety of settings and with a variety of tools, and then congratulate me, because this is my dream job, and I seem to have earned it without even realizing it.


Northfield Mount Hermon School
Position Description:

Information Literacy/Academic Technology Coordinator


The coordinator works closely with the Directors of Academic Resources and Information Technology to help teachers integrate principles of information literacy and best technology practices into their classroom activity planning. This work involves a combination of faculty development, training, curriculum planning, assessment, teaching, and departmental planning.

Responsibilities
1. Assist teachers to develop lesson plans that achieve curricular goals associated with information literacy.
2. Work with instructional librarians to develop instructional modules that achieve curricualr goals associated with information literacy.
3. Assist teachers and administration using educational technology resources and media resources.
4. Assist the directors of academic resources and information technology to set goals and to allocate information and electronic resources to teachers and facilities.
5. Be present in assigned media and library facilities on a regular basis to assist with effective use of those facilities and create connections that promote the integration of information literacy into the school's curriculum. A portion of this work will be on evenings and weekends.
6. Assess the effectiveness of teachers' classroom activities that incorporate information literacy components or educational technology.
7. Serve as a member of the educational technology group.
8. Teach minor courses in relevant topics as needed.
9. Assist librarians in collection development.
10. Perform house and advising duties as assigned.
11. Report progress towards information literacy and technology integration goals regularly.
12. Other tasks as assigned by supervisor.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:10 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Quote Of The Day

Donnie: I am too Turkish!
Me: Oh yeah? What's the capital of Turkey?
Donnie: That's easy. Thanksgiving!

posted by boyhowdy | 11:40 PM | 0 comments


For Best Lucky Wash, Use Mr. Sparkle

Another hilarious Engrish lesson from Fark:

Photographstore you this advertisement English, then you are star Fark now!

posted by boyhowdy | 2:03 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Think Globally, Eat Locally

It's three and a half weeks until the end of the school year, a hardly insignificant time period when one teaches and lives at a prep school. As graduation nears the pomp and circumstance grows to a feverish pitch, cubing overandabove the usual bustle of the ordinary 70-hour residential workweek. To do lists get longer each day; weekends and evenings fill like Mondays. To turn a phrase presidential, the pie grows higher -- only this pie isn't the fat economic goodie Bush envisions, it's the horrible, horrible soylent green kind, all sticky with people and workplace stress.

Mostly, we've been eating in the dining hall, both to save money and because the meetings and tutoring sessions which fill our evenings are always planned around dining hall hours -- a necessity, most students having neither the wherewithal nor the inclination to procure their own food. But tonight we found ourselves uncommonly free by 4:00, wallets still mostly flush from the sale of the hardly respectable, sadly uninspectable bed-in-the-back camper van and the arrival of a startlingly large check from the IRS. Partially a celebration of free time in the midst of chaos and mandates, and partially a desperate attempt to flee the pace-of-life for a few, we ended up with the baby at The People's Pint, a local microbrewpub.

Although downtown Greenfield, home of "The Pint," isn't exactly a sprawling mecca of health conscious neohippies, its downtown area, centered around a small intersection park complete with cannon and christmas creche, has a nice cozy feel to it; The Pint is joined on the street by a Cooperative grocery store, a new funkycouch cafe, a verysolid record-and-CD store and a huge clothing-and-crystal store with the best in hemp and valour, and this local hangout fits right in. Oak and open, counterculture trancejazz emanates from above the fastmoving ceiling fans. A bright BreadandPuppet paper mache sun grins cheekily from the far wall, and two smaller goatish purple beasts leer at you over the bar.

Ultimately, The Peoples Pint is what would happen if a brewpub grew up around a farmer's market. The food is fresh and local, what the best of bar food must have been like in an older utopian gourmet's vision: simple handmade sausages stuffed in localcheese quesadillas, fat burritos with real grilled sirloin, pulled pork sandwiches in season. Pickled eggs and a rough bread and coarse cheese platter are available at the bar, along with peanuts boiled in their now-dusty-grey shells. The menu is written in stylized chalk on a series of chalkboards that cover the back wall of the ample bar.

And the beers! Lined up on the bar waiting for the waitresses they look like an earth-toned rainbow, the sun shining through them from behind as it sets. Their descriptions use colorful adjectives only the true beerpub fanatic truly understands: chocolate, hoppy, wit. For fifty cents you can get a cherry in your beer, an intriguing novelty I've yet to try. I had something amber tonight, rich and malty with a hint of bitter IPA bite to it; I cannot remember its name, but I'll always remember its glow.

We left reluctantly, Willow's no-sauce ziti and plain grilled chicken in a take-out box for a morning stroller snack. In three and a half weeks we'll have these wide open spaces practically all to ourselves, save for our fellow resident faculty, sparse and reclusive families and bachelors at the ends of their own finally-empty dormitories. We'll have fried chicken and supermarket potato salad and lemonade picnics on the shaded lawn, under the maple tree; maybe this year we'll get a real gas grill, and sit on a blanket outside with the dog and the cat and the baby blowing soap bubbles at each other. Here's a pic our school webmaster Craig took of us on the lawn last week on a warm day, dreaming of summer to come.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 0 comments


Tiny Planet; Big Red Sun

According to a Reuters press release, The planet Mercury will pass between Earth and the sun this Wednesday in a rare astronomic event that occurs only a dozen times in a century.

Of course, Mercury is too small to see with the naked eye, and looking directly at the sun will burn your retinas to a crisp. However, if for some reason your life is so entirely meaningless that you'd like to see tiny, pixelated, slow-to-refresh images of a small, perfectly round, black dot slowly moving across the surface of a digitized sun, NASA will broadcast the event online.

Or, if you are willing to forego the whole see-it-online thing, you could just hold your breath until you're about to pass out and then look up reallyquick. It looks about the same, and it even works inside.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:14 PM | 0 comments


We're Not Making Hay

It's been a meta-day, full of self-referent and navel-gazing: a Media Literacy class on hypertext which used hypertexts about hypertext to discuss hypertextuality for an upcoming hypertext assignment on the digital individual; a long evening faculty meeting at which the Northfield Mount Hermon school faculty voted to approve four new requirements -- a health course, a writing course, a history course, and a 1-term competitive sports requirement -- for next year's 9th graders, and then heard a mostlyfiscal report on the state of the school from the Head. Throughout, a surprising discussion with Darcie and the faculty housing director about a slight possibility for a housing upgrade next year, about which I will report more if and when something actually comes of it. Basically, I spent all my time today thinking about what I do and how, rather than doing, or even just thinking about what I am supposed to do, if you catch my redundancy.

The double-layered life continued into the evening and tonight's radio show, where, due to a very exciting buying spree this weekend in Harvard Square, I played much new music, mostly covers (metamusic?), including several XTC covers from an entire album of the same. I was too busy to get coffee before the show, but we said so on-air and were rewarded by a fellow faculty member tapping at the window with two big ol' cups of joe a few minutes later -- seems he was driving home and heard our plight. Playlist follows; as always, cover songs are starred, and anyone who can correctly identify more than half of the original artists wins, oh, I dunno, a free plug and a cup of coffee.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Barenaked Ladies -- Hello City
*The Verve Pipe -- Wake Up
Juliana Hatfield -- Slow Motion
Eddie From Ohio -- Let's Get Mesolithic
*Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin' -- Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Higher and Higher)
Lizzie West -- Sometime
Keller Williams -- Best Feeling
*Freedy Johnston -- Earn Enough For Us
*Cry, Cry, Cry -- Fall On Me
*The Dixie Chicks -- Landslide
Trey Anastasio -- At The Gazebo
Salamander Crossing -- Trip Me Up
*Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Bli-Blip
Robert Randolph and the Family Band -- The March
*Sarah McLachlan -- Dear God
*Timbuk 3 -- Born To Be Wild
Doug Matsch -- Dream
Norah Jones -- Turn Me On
Patty Larkin -- Different World
*Maura O'Connell -- Crazy Love
Great Big Sea -- Ordinary Day
*Brooks Williams -- May You Never
*C.J. Chenier -- Falling Up
Alison Krauss -- Forget About It
Warren Zevon -- Don't Let Us Get Sick

posted by boyhowdy | 1:04 AM | 0 comments

Monday, May 05, 2003

Monday Mosh

There's a quizlet for almost every day of the week, near as I can tell: the Thursday Three, the Friday Five, the Saturday Six, and more. They're useful for some, I suppose, as a generative exercise, and I read a few each week, although I've never really taken to them enough to try my own.

Note, though, that these tend to cluster around the end of the week, as things wind down. Mondays being Mondays, there's no equivalent quizlet to start the week off. And maybe there shouldn't be. But Mondays still being Mondays, we need something, I think, to drag the dredge up, to overspill the brain. So I propose we start a meme, just you and I and all our friends and all their friends. We'll call it...

Monday Mosh

All you have to do is, every Monday, put on some music -- nice, loud, dancing music -- on near the computer, and then, in the privacy of your own home, with a partner or alone, thrash around the room to it. Then, post the following three things in your blog under the title Monday Mosh:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on or bump into? (bonus points will be awarded for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?


That's it. No website or cool graphics necessary, just a nice low-stakes way to start the week with a bang. Here's mine for today:

1. Pocket Full of Kryptonite, Spin Doctors.
2. The ottoman, the baby's play enclosure. No breakage today.
3. Hurt knee on baby play enclosure (it's made of metal), woke up baby.

When you've done your Monday Mosh, post your blog address in the comments below, so we can at least offer sympathy for any broken bones or horrible music choices.

Ready? Go.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:44 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 04, 2003

But Can It Play Guitar, Too?

Twice in the last two days, someone has found their way here via a Yahoo search for the keywords computerize traffic sings.

Surely a typo -- it's easy to imagine someone searching for computerized traffic signs, after all, although the word "computerize" is a bit unusual -- but heck, if I could harness the world's search engines to make poetry from this sort of stuff...well, according to a recent opinion piece in Newsweek proclaiming poetry dead I'd still be broke, but I might be even happier than I am right now, remembering the soft sigh of traffic singing in the distance through the open apartment window on a hot Somerville summer night.

I love rural life, and maybe everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance, but every once in a while, I miss the traffic singing.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:29 PM | 0 comments


No More Munchies

Anti-drug protesters pelted pro-marijuana protesters with eggs and tomatoes at Budapest's first pro-drug rally and rock concert earlier today; although the food-throwing caused the rally to end early, low-blood-pressure stoners thankful for the Western omelets.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:55 PM | 0 comments


Old Man Down



NH landmark Old Man of the Mountain before and after the fall.


Living less than ten miles from the NH border, one sees the familiar outline everywhere. On road signs and license plates, postcards and flags since as long as anyone can remember, his rocky visage has been a useful symbol for the fierce, craggy independent spirit which gave rise to a state willing to actually use "Live Free or Die" as their motto.

And then yesterday, Franconia Notch park rangers looked up after several days of fog to see a crumbled rockface where once the proud lines and beaked nose of the Old Man of the Mountain once stood.

The Old Man will surely live on for a while through its ubiquitous iconography. ''The Great Stone Face'' immortalized by Nathaniel Hawthorne was surely not an unknown quanitity. But unlike the images on other state quarters -- like the Massachusetts Minuteman, or Helen Keller on the back of the Alabama Quarter -- the Old Man was not taught in history books, and an icon with no referent cannot last forever. New Hampshire will probably keep his image around for a while out of loyalty and rememberance, but one day something new will arise, and people will be ready to move on. Road signs will wear out and get replaced; license plates, too. Imagine if Old Faithful stopped spouting one day: how long until it faded from the cultural memory -- ten, twenty years? One day, the NH quarter will go out of circulation, and the Old Man of the Mountain will become but a historical footnote, a once-proud national landmark.

We'll miss you, old man. Somehow, The Old Pile of Rocks of the Mountain doesn't have the same ring to it.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:41 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, May 03, 2003

To Grandmother's House We Go

Once Darcie, Willow and I finish, respectively, cleaning the car, napping, and printing pictures and emptying the hard drive of the digital camera, we're off to break into my parents house in Newton, ten miles outside Boston and 100 miles away from here. My parents have been in New Orleans, at the Jazz and Heritage festival and then another music festival deeper in the heart of Louisiana; tonight, after we figure out how to get into the house, I'll pick them up at the airport, and then tomorrow we'll all have lunch together at Henrietta's Table at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. My brother's coming up from Rutgers, possibly with as-yet-unseen girlfriend. My sister lives two towns over, and will probably show up as well.

Cleaning out the camera has been well worth it. Here's a rather late Easter shot with Willow and her aunt Virginia, Darcie's sister and my weekly radio show cohost. A full sized pic is also available. Aren't they cute?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:43 PM | 0 comments


It Takes A Train To Cry



Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole's haunting version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow showed up twice in my life this week, once on some TV show I cannot now remember, once again at the end of Finding Forrester on cable tonight. If you're an ER-head like Darcie and me, it's also the song they played in the episode where Mark Greene finally succumbs to his brain tumor.

A giant of a man both musically and literally -- at his top weight, the 6' 2" Kamakawiwo'ole weighed in at 757 pounds -- Iz would have been just 44 this year, but he died in 1997 of complications brought on by his severe weight problem.

This song makes me cry. And sometimes you need just the right song to cry to. So download this song, and save it for a day when you need it. Trust me. You won't be sorry.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:01 AM | 0 comments

Friday, May 02, 2003

Eagle Eye Channel

Its about a fifteen minute drive through the middle of nowhere, past farms and old stone commune buildings, through the one-church, one-library, one-store-and-nothing-else town of Gill, MA to Turners Falls from here. At the end of the long winding road one comes to a crossroads, Route 2: a Mobil station, a motorcycle outlet, a hot dog stand. Ahead, the long bridge over the falls themselves stretches across the surprisingly close water, rising slightly over its span.

The unharnessed water roils under and around this once-flourishing milltown, now run down and bereft of industry. Further in there's a Salvation Army and a slightly run down supermarket, a diner and a couple of secondhand stores; by the water's edge a strip park with no slides or goalposts waits for civic projects to renew it. But here before the town begins it is separated from the passthrough of a thousand thousand tourists by a long cliffside bridgespan over this once-mighty industry driver, the river itself. Below the bridge, a small island, really a rock with a few verytall narrow trees holding a few dozen yards of dirt together. And in the tallest, center-most tree of that island, at the very, very top, a pair of bald eagles have made their nest for as long as we've lived here and probably much longer.

And you can see it all on channel 17.

Bald eagles are a big deal, an endangered symbol of a beleagured nation more often seen on old quarters than aflight, and the environment and education, funded at a state level or by competitive grant, have room to grow in dead milltowns still a-bulge with blue collar families. Too, where no money exists for maintenance of a real community access station, the town, by state law, has a cable channel all their own. So from the time the last ice melts on the edges of the river, the local environmental group turns on the camera above their rooftop by the river's edge.

The grant-funded telephoto lens is an unblinking eye that never wavers, even in the worst of windstorms, even from such a distance. The tight directional microphone picks up the brazen screech of the nesting pair and, if it's a good year, the baby. This year there's a single unhatched egg, dead white and unnoticed in the center of the screen, the 800 pound nest dwarfing its unhatching speckles; a second unhatched egg disappeared from the nest a couple of weeks ago. But this is, nonetheless, a good year, as over the egg, tiny in the two-eagle nest, rocks the fluffandstuff of another eagle baby, born grey and more grey on April 17th of this year, like most newborn chicks hardly different from a baby any-kind-of-bird in looks and demeanor.

Here's the mother now, beak to beak with her fuzzy new chick. It's drizzling here, it's drizzling there: the chick shakes off the mist a tiny half-extended miniature of its mothers broad white-tipped span. The mother pulls something small and stringy from in amongst the side of the nest, as if there were a nest in the nest, cultivated like a skytop garden, and carefully, delicate with the razor sharpest of curved protuberances, offers her open maw to the grey ball that is this year's single offspring. Look how the sun goes down outside the window, and the screen dims to the verysame purple twilight; how the father returns to pace the periphery; how the mother nudges the tattered nest floor up and around the now-softly-singing eaglet.

Forget the angry countercultural, the late-night tax law specialist, the city council meeting on your usual local news. Turners Falls, for all its faults and poverty, puts them all to shame: TV never got more local, nor more real, than the sun going down here and there together, the baby singing herself to sleep as the mother covers her in turf and her own warm breast, just like my own daughter sings herself to sleep every night, similarly singsong, equally full of promise.

Want to see for yourself? The Turners Falls eagle's nest is online courtesy of Northeastern Utilities, with facts about eagles and a detailed history of this particlar nest. A captured image from the TV feed is posted on the site every five to fifteen minutes during daylight hours.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:35 PM | 0 comments


The Eye Tree



A birch by the Northfield Music Building. Background shows the Admissions Building, the entrance to the Northfield campus of this two-campus school. Upon close inspection the eye appears to be naturally occurring (cf. eyetree2.jpg). Photos taken by and from NMH student Elizabeth Wyman with no permission whatsoever.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:02 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Happy Law Day!

Yes, May 1st is Law Day here in the U.S.A., and Dubya, who is not only pushing forward extraordinarily conservative judges for court appointment, but who will also surely go down in history as the wartime president who spearheaded both the Patriot Act and a sacrifice of civil liberties otherwise unheard of in modern times, has declared this year's Law Day theme "Independent Courts Protect Our Liberties:"

[The theme] focuses on one of the foundations of our constitutional system: judicial independence, provided in the Federal system by life tenure and an assured level of compensation. In order to ensure equality for all citizens and fairness in the judicial process, our judges must serve as impartial arbiters who do not have a stake in their decisions or seek to achieve a biased outcome or particular result in the cases they oversee. (Bush)

I guess the whole point of a blog is not to be speechless, but this one's just too easy, isn't it? Especially given that, as I write this, Bush is on TV declaring Operation Iraqi Freedom over, and the Iraqi people officially free...from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln...

No, way too easy. Let the punditry begin elsewhere; I'm too busy celebrating. Happy Law Day, everybloggy.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:03 PM | 0 comments


To Do

  1. Grade last week's Media Literacy midterm exams.

  2. Grade this week's rough drafts for paper due Monday exploring tensions between community standards and the epistemology/ecology of cyberspace at NMH.

  3. Get graded rough drafts back to students so they can use them to write the paper for Monday.

  4. Meet with school webmaster to discuss publication of, consistency issues in Ed Tech Group webpage

  5. Begin content-gathering, design for Ed Tech Group webpage.

  6. Contact Andover International Programs office, co-teachers re: curriculum modules for Bangladesh trip this summer.

  7. Develop curriculum modules on PowerPoint, blogging, and digital writing for Bangladesh trip this summer.

  8. Send three-week media literacy-driven health curriculum to Director of Health Education for inclusion in next year's required 9th grade Health class.

  9. Write three week media literacy / health curriculum.

  10. Attend Faculty Meeting next week to vote for inclusion of new Health course in 9th grade required curriculum.

  11. Prepare discussion on Flash for Advanced Web Design class tomorrow at 2:00.

  12. Call dentist, cancel 2:00 appointment to have cap made to replace current temporary filling.

  13. Make new appointment with dentist. This time, check calendar first.

  14. Set up meeting with Director of Curriculum to discuss my new leadership role guiding the schoolwide curricular integration of media ecology, epistemology, and media literacy studies next year .

  15. Meet with Dir. of Academic Resources and Dir. of Ed Tech to discuss my job for next year.

  16. Update Blog design, navigation, sidebar content.

  17. Sleep

  18. Blog

Welcome to the wonderful world of procrastination. ER comes on at 10 o'clock.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:26 PM | 0 comments


Ebayification

Bidding now closed for I Will Link You on My Blog. Final bid: $36.

Heck, I'll link to you for free. Just ask nicely.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:07 AM | 0 comments


If I was nuts, I'd be $369.80


Macadamia nuts, that is.


With a tip o' the hat to some random supermarket wageslave poster at Customers Suck who was appropriately flippant-but-light when asked about her weight.

To calculate your own weight in macadamias, I recommend Bono Macs of Hawaii -- sack size goes up to 70 pounds. For the sake of consistency, buy in bulk to save money, and don't bother with shipping and handling.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:02 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Shallow Thoughts

Still pretty sick. The wrists are better but the headache is worse. I've also developed a new symptom: every time I sneeze, I get a nosebleed. Now, instead of worrying about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, I can worry about losing too much blood. Is there a word for a hypochondriac who only gets symptomatic when actually ill?

One of the benefits of living where you work is that you can, when under the weather, sleep in among the unavoidable responsibilities, and in your own bed, too, with your mother-in-law in the next room watching the baby. I managed to teach class today (What habits of mind does the computer engender? How do these habits affect and recreate the epistemology of computer-mediated communication?) and attend a quick-and-dirty Ed Tech Department meeting, but otherwise slept much and accomplished little. Duty was a blurry mess. Only five more weeks until summer vacation.

I've decided that sick sucks. In my delirium, this seems like a new and scintillating thought, so that'll be all for now, thanks.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:26 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Hi, My Name Is...Scott

As of today, Scott has been wearing one of those "Hello, My Name is ____" nametags for 909 days. Scott, also known as "that guy who wears the nametag," has even written a book on the subject: buy it or just browse his philosophy at the Hello, my name is Scott website.

What a great idea. Dude, I suck with names.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 PM | 0 comments


Hurts Like Burning

Sick. Fuzzy brain, achy nose, stuffy head, cranky demeanor. Worse, my wrist hurts, a low-grade burn. All day, paranoid thoughts about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome swim through the fog. I'd post a pic to illuminate the horror film melting in my head, but I'm trying to keep the typing light.

Felt a little bit better spending an hour with Willow in the summery sun this afternoon while Darcie was in a staff meeting. I spread out a blanket; we lay on the grass on the hill outside the dorm in the midst of a busy school day with a new pinwheel and some bubbles, pointing at the trees. Willow chewed on my watch and said "tree," which makes about two dozen words so far. Students waved and smiled. The world buzzed by. If only life was always thus, lying in the shade on a warm day in spring, blond angel singing to you in a language all her own.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:36 PM | 0 comments


Are You Out There? Can You Hear This?

For the uninitiated, my sister-in-law Ginny and I have a radio show here at the lovely Northfield Mount Hermon school, where I teach and live as a dorm parent. It's called Tributary, partially in homage to local commercial fave The River; Monday nights from ten to midnight for the past few years, we've sat around in the basement of Stone Hall, a hundred-year-old grey building of classical granite, playing music from funk to folk, bluegrass to blues, and jazz to jambands, reading bedtime stories on the hour and the half-hour while the fluorescent lights flicker on and off at odd intervals.

Students call and make requests, far too often for something I just don't have. We try to ask a musically-relevant trivia question each week, and give away a weeks worth of free coffee at an NMH snackbar to the correct caller, if there is one. Some nights no one calls. When we come back from the show past midnight -- Tuesday according to the way blogger reckons time -- I post the playlists and mention the contest we had. That's how it works. Now you know.

Tonight's contest question: identify the original source of the name Steely Dan. (Basically a test to see if anyone not only knew, but also had the guts to call and talk to a teacher about an embarassing subject, as Steely Dan gets their name from a vibrator in William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch. Interestingly, the term heavy metal comes from the same book, not from Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild as I had previously thought.)

Tonight's playlist:

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee man
The Poets of Rhythm -- ?
(something off one of Ginny's burned CDs)
Rusted Root -- Rising Sun
Stevie Ray Vaughn -- Close To You
Jane's Addiction -- Jane Says
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Blood Red Sky
Trey Anastasio -- Alive Again
Dave Matthews Band -- Jimi Thing
Guster -- Fall In Two
Alana Davis -- 32 Flavors
Moxy Fruvous -- Green Eggs and Ham
Steely Dan -- Peg
Yusef Lateef -- Chang, Chang, Chang
Velvet Underground -- All Tomorrow's Parties
Eddie From Ohio -- #6 Driver
Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks -- The Piano Has Been Drinking
Kasey Chambers -- Little Bit Lonesome
Sting -- Spread A Little Happiness
The Bobs -- Helter Skelter
Grateful Dead -- Franklin's Tower
Jourma Kaukonen -- Tom Cat Blues
Dar Williams -- Are You Out There
Sarah Harmer -- Coffee Stains
Keller Williams -- Overdub
Phish -- The Inlaw Josie Wales
Paul Simon -- Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War
Miles David -- Summertime

posted by boyhowdy | 12:59 AM | 0 comments

Monday, April 28, 2003

A Steak By Any Other Name

Just when you thought PETA couldn't stoop any lower, the rabidly anti-meat organization has offered the German port city of Hamburg 10,000 euros worth of veggie burgers to change its name to "Veggieburg." Seriously.

Tell you what, PETA. If you'll change your name to "stupid people who are willing to destroy everything sacred and good about culture to get people to stop eating meat," I'll change MY name to Carrot McTofu. Whaddya say?

Note, of course, that people from Hamburg are actually called Hamburgers. If PETA had their way, they'd be Veggieburgers...which in turn would make them cannibals for eating the veggieburgers PETA is offering them if they'll change their name. Nice work, PETA!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:18 PM | 0 comments


Friar Cappucchino, I Presume

The Pope this week beatified Marco d'Aviano, a 17th-century friar credited with halting a Muslim invasion of Europe and in the process discovering the frothy coffee drink cappuccino. d'Aviano, now only one papal decree away from becoming the patron saint of coffee, had no comment.

No word yet from the Vatican on the possibility of sainthood for the Fish Friar, or his compatriot the Chip Monk.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:28 AM | 0 comments


Quote Vote Redux

So far, the top three contenders for a new Not All Who Wander Are Lost quote or catchphrase* are:

29% "If I'm not back in five minutes, wait longer."
21% "Without deviation, progress is not possible."
21% "When it gets dark enough you can see the stars."

I've thought about using two quotes as if they were one catchphrase, just one right into the other, or maybe all three as one, but...hmm. What if I told you the above quotes are from, in order, Ace Ventura, Frank Zappa, and Lee Salk? Would that make a difference?

Please vote if you have not yet done so. Hilatron's looking for one, too.

*The catchphrase, known as subtitle to the uninitiated, is the thingie that lives under the title above; the Voltaire quote currently in use is unsatisfying and not-exactly-right.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:11 AM | 0 comments


The Death Of English: More Narrow-Mindedness in Education

Writing teachers everywhere are extolling the merits of this New York Times article about how writing is under-taught and under-valued in US education; my own colleagues are no exception. But I submit that the state of writing instruction is no surprise and, in and of itself, no reason for concern. Instead, I propose that the motives behind English teachers' use and dissemination of this article are suspect and narrow, and, further, may in fact be the reason writing instruction writhes painfully as it slowly leeches out of the education system. Consider this:

“If students are to make knowledge their own, they must struggle with the details, wrestle with the facts and rework raw information and dimly understood concepts into language they can communicate to someone else,” the report said. “In short, if students are to learn, they must write.”

The problem of defending one's discipline is evident: the above quote makes plenty of sense until the last word. Why WRITING? Do not the other myriad forms of knowledge-sharing and knowledge-creation which our students are expected to develop for an increasingly digital age fit this model equally well? Maybe it's my bias as a media literacy pedagogue, but to me, the report does not show why writing itself must be the best and primary way to reach the stated goals. It merely assumes it -- and that assumption is going to be the death of writing, a horror story for public discourse, if we're not careful.

Although the field of Computers and Communication was one of the first to address the rhetorical and epistemological ramifications of our new media tools, its members remain a misunderstood subset of the vast curricular behemoth that is English. Instead, what most writing teachers cannot see beyond their pencils is this: writing is but one technology, and the technology which one uses to make knowledge one's own is moot. So why are we teaching one technology when we claim to be teaching communication? We should instead begin focusing more on rhetorics and literacies, which are symptomatically different for all modes of communication, but which, taken together, are fundamentally a single and most powerful field of study. Where writing teaches a student to write about fishing, the epistemological approach allows a student to comment upon, instruct about, or merely share ideas on fishing anywhere, at any time, in any medium. Where writing instruction does indeed reach the stated goals, albeit in a limited way, the study of knowledge-sharing and knowledge-creation skills writ much larger creates a medium-independent study of and explicit development in exactly those goals stated above.

In other words, for most teachers most of the time, writing instruction fails because, to turn a phrase on its ear, it puts the art before the course: it seems to imply, with no proof that I can see, that WRITING IS COMMUNICATION. This is close to true (and, to their credit, a few McLuhanesque writing teachers do actually and consciously teach communication, rather than just writing, although such an approach is sadly rare at the secondary school level). But, significantly, it is not true enough. Moreso, it is dangerous to be this close to the truth and still be in error, as the writing lobby can happily defend their position from a position of curricular power with an almost-truth much easier than with an obviously flawed And the stakes are high: to pretend it is true may well continue to alienate real adolescent communication, and thus real adolescents, from a study increasingly esoteric to their real life needs.

The report fails no more and no less than English is beginning to fail, and for the same reasons. It's a shame someone put it in the New York Times, though -- its high-culture vantagepoint is seen as vanguard, which fools so many of us into seeing its underlying assumptions as valid that the truth becomes that much harder to explain and defend.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:28 AM | 0 comments
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