This Week’s (Holiday) Music

    Now in my CD player:

  1. The Nutcracker Suite
  2. Swing N’ Jive Christmas
  3. Celtic Christmas III: A Windham Hill Sampler

Collages are more Blog-ish

In my Composition I course ( Mapping the Self), students are in the late stages of their third paper, a textual collage documenting a memory of an Entertainment text. (The students use collage techniques from Elbow‘s Being a Writer to conduct an experiment loosely based on Chapter 5 of Ulmer‘s Internet Invention.) The other day, we had a discussion about the characteristics and techniques used to create collages as opposed to essays or other more traditional writing forms. One of my more technologically savvy students commented that “collages are more blog-ish.”

I’m intrigued by a couple things there:
1. That my student is so familiar with blogs that they become a descriptive form–he conceives collages as a sort-of remediated blog. Of course, the characteristics of the network culture that blogs propegate don’t work so well on ink-and-paper assignments, but the same rhetorical moves occur. Nonetheless, my electracytometer (measures how strongly electracy appears in a context) buzzed high. I like that he sees the digital as the primary mode for this kind of work.
2. That many others in the class had no idea what he was talking about. I had to explain what blogs are, and where they might have seen them. Does this constitute another kind of “digital divide”? One based less in access (most of these students have the same opportunities for access) and more in education and appetite?

Miracle on 34th Street

Watched my favorite holiday movie again last night. Things that struck me this time:

  • “Madam! I’m not in the habit of substituting for spurious Santa Clauses.”
  • It sucks that Mrs. Walker makes Cleo work on Thanksgiving: what does Cleo’s family do? And why don’t we use shoelaces to tie up turkeys anymore?
  • “I speak French, but that doesn’t make me Joan of Arc!”
  • Fred Gailey cooks. What an awesome modern guy.
  • Macy’s banner over Kris’ chair says “santa claus” instead of “Santa Claus.”

The Song of Roland

More ruminations inspired by the train. I noticed a Borders books price sticker stuck on the wall of my Green line train this morning. The sticker was from my favorite medieval poem, The Song of Roland. I read it for a class as an undergrad, and enjoyed the story. Roland, Charlemagne’s number one fella, is ambushed by a bunch of Basques and killed at Roncesvalles pass. Charlemagne comes back and slaughters everyone. A nice story.

A buddy and I decided that the temporary Basque victory over the French money train deserves some sort of commemoration. Thus, we designed (but never made) this T-shirt:


We drew on Gary Larson’s cartoon about the Alamo, of course. Alas, I’ve never had the gumption to make the T-shirt because I’d never wear it. I just can’t bring myself to wear rude shirts. Even pseudo-rude shirts. I never wear my “Make 7-up Yours” T-shirt either. Sigh.

This week’s music

Goin’ mainstream this week.

    In the CD player:

  1. Five for Fighting, The Battle for Everything
  2. David Gray, White Ladder
  3. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells

Music, serendipity

1. As the train pulled into the Clark and Lake station yesterday morning, I was pulled out of my reading-trance by someone’s earphones. The music was just loud enough that I could make it out; the song blended the speedy first notes of “Chorus of the Bells” with a hip-hop rhythm that I found pretty fascinating. The sounds blended pretty well. Glancing to see who was listening to the music, I realized that it was not, as I’d thought, a clever hip-hop Christmas song, but rather two separate passengers, each listening to his own music.

My musical interlude brought to the surface my PCA proposal for this Spring. The idea of randomness producing interesting/useful meanings seems like a key way to understand electronic media and the logic of the internet.

2. I’m listening to Crash Test Dummies’ Give Yourself a Hand this week. It took me a while to like this album, in part because it’s different than CTD’s other albums. I’ve come to appreciate the album for its different approach to lyrics, which seem to be more about how they sound than what they say. Reminds me of Soul Coughing.

My favorite line is from “A Cigarette Is All You Get” Brad Roberts growls:

I want to listen to EL-VIS
I want to shake my PEL-VIS

Reminds me of Ulmer’s Internet Invention and of Jeff Rice.

Kress and Semiotics

From Literacy in the New Media Age:

It is no longer responsible to let children experience school without basing schooling on an understanding of the shift from competent performance to design as the foundational fact of contemporary social and economic life.(37)

Give the governor a ‘harrumph!’ When Kress writes passages like this, my inner choir he’s preaching to stands up and cheers. He supports this statement with many of the same kinds of arguments I’ve heard elsewhere. His particular take is that the move from page to screen accompanies/affords a move from alphabetic writing (which is based on speech in its temporal glory) to design-as-writing (based on image). Of course, these are useful formulations of ideas I already like.


…[S]ings are always meaningful conjunctions of signifiers and signifieds; it means that we can look at the signifiers and make hypotheses about what they might be signifying in any one instance, because we know that the form chosen was the most apt expression of that which was to be signified. . . . It entails that all aspects of form are meaningful, and that all aspects of form must be read with equal care: nothing can be disregarded.(44)

I can see why this distinction is useful/necessary for an image-based writing system, but I get stuck making the leap (back?) to speech. Pierce’s notion that the sign is arbitrary reigns so strongly in the semiotics I’m familiar with that I can’t get my head around the notion that spoken signs are significant in their form. A colleague suggested that Kress doesn’t refer here to the sign in its inception, but its use at a given time–when I say tree, it’s the most apt way to express ‘tree’ in a given situation. That helps, but I still don’t see why “all aspects of form are meaningful” in that situation. How does the single syllable become meaningful in itself? Is there something in the combination of ‘tr’ and a long ‘e’ that embodies ‘tree-ness?’

Gave Thanks

Mmm. Fun trip home.

Most interesting food: Rum-baked yams.

Four kinds of pie: Pumpkin, Pecan, Apple, and Mexican Chocolate. My cousin’s fiancee said the pumpkin was the “best pumpkin pie she’d ever had.” It was pretty damn good.

Started Gunther Kress’ Literacy in the New Media Age. Comments on it soon.