Boycott Douglas Coupland--Or Not

Here's another opportunity to use social media to get something right. Douglas Coupland recently taped a YouTube promotion for an upcoming book. In the promotion, he blatantly rips off an idea from ZeFrank's The Show called "The Earth Sandwich." Now, ZeFrank isn't necessarily the first person to generate the idea of an Earth sandwich, but Coupland uses locations and terms almost word for word from ZeFrank's project, videos, and user-comments. On his blog, ZeFrank admits that Coupland does give a small attribution in the video, but also explains that Coupland emailed him about using the project in his book. ZeFrank requested a footnote accreditation. He did not receive it. Seriously. Boo. You can find Coupland's video on ZeFrank's site.

To be honest, I hadn't heard of Douglas Coupland before today. And I know that any amount of controversy this generates will only serve to provide him attention. So, don't think of an asshole here. Seriously. Don't even think of that asshole Douglas Coupland. Go watch ZeFrank to help prevent any such thinking.


Two Bad Ideas from the Guardian

I'm not sure about this story on computers grading standardized tests, because I don't know about the sophistication of the software or the levels of the students. My gut is to agree with Tim Oates, director of Cambridge Assessment:"Some approaches look like technology in search of a test, rather than assessment designed to accurately report attainment."

We've started a rather successful rhet comp reading group this semester--our first two readings have dealt with the "image" of teaching grammar and "correctness." This push toward automated software will exacerbate the problem rhet/comp has explaining why teaching grammar is often antithetical to teaching writing. Grammar is a matter of a-contextual order and precision, writing is a matter of highly contextualized and nuanced choices and experiment. That's why the medieval trivium included bothgrammar and rhetoric. And medieval universities assumed that a student needed four years of both subjects (along with logic--hence the 3) to gain proficiency.

Mistake Two: Terence Kealy provides an attempt at humor gone horribly wrong. "Let male professors sexually fantasize about their female students." Yeeeesh. Might as well make a monkey joke. Oops, that's on us.


A Few Resources for Class

Here's some cut and paste on my part from comments on the first two weeks of blogging.

First, a few notes on linking.

  1. When you link to another blog or publication, try to link to a specific article, not the general site. This makes navigation much easier.
  2. Make sure link text is detailed. Writing detailed link text is an accessibility issue, particularly for blind readers. While you might not think that many blind people will find your site, this is something you need to be aware of and should be practicing now to develop good habits.
  3. Treat links like greetings at a party. "Marsha, here's my friend Bill--he's a biochem major from Texas." Who knows, maybe you will facilitate a hook-up.

Second, and more importantly, a discussion/example of heuristic:

Here's my general advice for those of you who have developed a review-oriented blog project. Make sure you have a list of criteria (what in writing we call a heuristic) to get through every week. What are the important parts of a bar? What makes a place "the hot spot"? I can think of: atmosphere [lighting, decor, cleanliness], spacing [seating, dance floor, position of the bar, overcrowding], service [line to get in, wait for service, line at the bar, line at the bathroom], affordability [cover charge, bar prices], and entertainment [assuming there are live acts, dancing, pool tables or darts, televisions if it is a sports bar, etc]. By inventing a set of categories you will apply to every engagement, you will not only provide yourself with a helpful rubric for generating ideas, but also help organize your drafts.

Third, some brief notes on visual rhetoric:

  1. Basically, there are four elementary aspects to visual rhetoric, referred to as the basic C.R.A.P. (contrast, alignment, repetition, proximity). I only really care about contrast--make sure your font-color and background color contrast enough to make things readable.
  2. Using changes in color can be very effective, but be sure to maintain a consistent color palette. Color palette generators are available all over the web, here's a few: Degraeve Color Palette Generator works from a picture, Color Schemer provides a very basic palette, and CSS Juice has a list of 25 palette generators for people who like to play with such toys.


Santos on Hall on Kanye, Wilson, America, and Television

While I agree with Michael Hale's general critique that Americans pay more attention to "artificial" dramas--be it Wilson's outburst on the floor of Congress or Kanye's usurpation of Taylor Swift's moment, I resist his implication that such attention can be traced back to network's desire for increased ratings. Certainly, Americans like to deal with simpler issues, and either exhorting or (in these cases) largely condemning the behavior of public figures makes for polite discussion. It also helps that these actions are by and large judicial, and have no bearing on our future. They lie comfortably in our past. However, the larger decisions, such as America's health care, are deliberative and deal with the future. There is much more at stake, and much less certainty as to what will/could be better for us all. Such decisions take a complexity of thought and depth of attention that many people, dealing with the daily struggle of family, school, work, and/or life, cannot afford to give. Television could, perhaps, nudge us toward a more involved civic life--but in giving us artifice, it is not acting against our desires, but with them.

They Say, I Say -- Kanye West Assignment

Today I want to practice using the They Say, I Say bridges you read this weekend in reference to the recent Kanye West debacle. Take ten minutes or so to explore the following links and reactions to both Kanye's interruption of Taylor Swift and his apologies for the incident. Then, in a paragraph, use one of the bridges from pages 55-61 to formulate a meta-commentary on the situation [that is, your primary assignment isn't to comment on Kanye's actions, but to position yourself relative to an interpretation of those actions].

  1. Kanye West’s Blog Apology
  2. Of the apology, Michelle Collins of BestWeekEver writes “Only a few hours after the incident, Kanye blogged a sort of non-pology, saying that he’s sorry for what he did, but still believing that the action was completely and totally necessary BECAUSE BEYONCE DESERVED IT YEEZY.”
  3. LA Times writer Ann Powers contextualizes Kanye's outburst with the Joe Wilson and Serena Williams incidents, noting that all three share elements of "racial conflict."
  4. New York Times Op-Ed writer Maureen Dowd interprets Joe Wilson's rudeness as a primarily racial slur. While it does not directly address the Kanye situation, a number of other writers have drawn parallels.
  5. Columbia Free Times writer Kevin Fisher questions racist interpretations of the Joe Wilson affair--his comments could also be interpreted to the Kanye incident (he opens his argument addressing Kanye and then transitions into Dowd's interpretation of Wilson's statement).
  6. New York Times writer Mike Hale suggests that the attention paid to the incident says more about contemporary America's addiction to "artificial drama" (and our aversion to matters of actual importance).
  7. Pop Culture Blog The A.V. Club shares a number of "theories" (ranging from serious to sarcastic) regarding the incident. A number of these perspectives claim the VMA incident as either self-promotion on the part of Kanye or staged promotion on the part of MTV.

I'll also want to take a look at recent articles on apology as a way of thinking about what Kanye might have said and to prepare you for this coming weekend's blog post.