My latest gift for posting

WordPress is generously offering quotes every time I post. I’m sure it’s not just for me, though, but I appreciate it like it was a special gift just for my only one self.

Just now, this was my gift:

Gift for posting Jan. 30, 2012!

I like that this has become a routine in my blogging life. I post and BOOM! I get a quote about writing that makes me feel like a writer. I feel good about posting; I want to post more; I want more quotes; I post more… the circle of life and all that. Hakuna matata.

The gift of a quote is not as nice as a steak dinner or a movie, popcorn, and Sour Patch Kids, but I’ll take it, especially if the quotes support my mission as a writing professor.

It’s like WordPress is purposely making it easier for me to create an environment in which writing is central to understanding, sharing, thinking, working, flourishing. Right on, WordPress. I mean, write on.

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Stop the presses! “Visual Rhetoric” fav new phrase for author

Yep. Today, Jon Meacham said his new favorite phrase/idea is “visual rhetoric.” Thanks to this Honors Comp 2 for rocking our class meeting with a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. He thought y’all were fantastic. And I do, too–it’s because you did your homework, asked great questions, and made everyone look good because of all that. Way to make it look easy.

What we think matters in a blog

Today, we had a most interesting discussion about what mattered most in a blog and why and tried to work around with the following questions through a discussion and by looking at a bunch of our blogs and the OCU blogs.

  • What matters the most in a blog?
  • What matters the least?
  • What kinds of visual rhetoric choices do you make and how can that be evaluated?
  • Grammar counts–“correctness”?
  • Should there be a check list of features you need to have in order for it to be a good blog, an “A” blog?
  • What is blog greatness?

The first thing we talked about (and that I wrote on the board–old school style with dry erase markers!) was the “visual decisions” that writers make, or in other words, visual rhetoric.

A moment at the board...

It was amazing how we worked through the above questions and noted down all the things that we could think of that seemed to matter in a very immediate sense (actually things we could see). Many of the things we noted were part of our reading in the Web Writing Style Guide by Writing Spaces.

So. We started with visual decisions and started listing under that:

  • The theme of the blog
  • Background/text
  • Set-up of sidebar (recent posts first or archive first or Tweets or what?)
  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Pictures/images
  • Titles
  • Tag lines

We also talked about overall organization–did it please the eye or make sense to the mind? Was the spacing right–too much “white” space or too little? How can we tell? One person may prefer something over another one. We all agreed there should be a “balance” between text and image or space, so that it’s easy for the reader. Cohesion in design mattered as well–too many wacky colors or different fonts might make most of us a bit nuts. And we all said that overall organization mattered (I’m inferring here that we meant blog posts vs. pages and how easy it is to use the blog space as a reader–how easy it is to navigate–how it “feels”).

All the while we noted that the blog is a conversation between reader and writer that can be interactive but there are some things missing, even if it’s terribly exciting with lots of images and links…

But wait… we realized that no one had really mentioned the actual writing. Whoa. And woe.

I added that at the top along with something we all said mattered: voice.

We have all been reading each others’ blogs with our voices–because we have heard each other talk so much and are in class together. But how are we perceiving the voices in the blogs of our partner students at OCU–whom we’ve never met? And gulp–how are they perceiving our voices? Are we too formal, too flip?

And then it hit us that we really have an audience, and we needed to step up our game–readers are counting on us. Our blogs are the only way our readers will know us–what does that really mean?

We don’t have a finished idea of how to grade blogs yet, but I think we’re making some great progress as we continue to formulate and form and grow what it is that we are doing as writers online in this space at this time for ourselves and our partners at OCU.

As usual–great class, great chat, great thinking. Man, I love my job.

How to lie with words

Doesn’t that title sound silly?

We have always been able to lie with words. Humans have told lies of omission, lies of commission, duplicitous lies, lies of complicity and so on. And we have done it with words. Tall tales, telling tales, spinning yarns, fairy tales–and we could list more names we affix to half-truths that might have come from life but have been twisting in the winds of time until they are, out-n-out, downright, dirty lies. Or stories we tell children.

We have regularly also created fictional worlds with words (technically, fiction in print or on flim are lies according to the Thermians from the Klaatu Nebula). And in fiction, or even nonfiction, we make choices about what we choose to include or not. Omission.

We do it with images, too. Remember the scandals surrounding various starlets who said the camera “lied”? The camera puts on 10 pounds or takes off 25 pounds or whatever. There’s also Photoshop. Sarah Palin in a bikini holding a rifle anyone? And there was photographic “evidence” of fairies (the Cottingley Fairies, they are known) that everyone thought were real, too, once upon a time–only the kids who did it finally confessed it was all a big fat lie.

We lied with paintings, too–the human race, I mean (not sure the painting elephant purposely evades “truth”). Ever see Napoleon I on his horse by David, ascending the Alps to embody the supreme conqueror of all time? It took the artist years to “compose.”

(Lies, Damned Lies, & Statistics–courtesy of Mark Twain, famous 19th century American author, and perhaps before him, Benjamin Disraeli, Victorian Prime Minister).

Napoleon I (bound for glory!) by Jacques-Louis David (1801-1805)

I think it’s gorgeous, don’t you? The red cape is stunning against the dramatic blue skies. Napoleon is so dramatically leader-like, as I imagine he was in real life–look what he did.

But I have a few issues with this particular portrait.

  1. Napoleon is not that big.
  2. Or that’s the smallest horse in the history of the world.

He was only about as tall as I am (5’7″)–not a giant, but this looks massive here and commanding in relation to the powerful horse.

My. Wonder whose idea that was? But it’s not the “truth”–it’s a metaphor for Power.

Soon we’ll be looking at maps through the lens of visual rhetoric. I want to bring the ideas in collision that words and images have ever been used to create feelings, thoughts, evoke responses in readers and viewers throughout our recorded history. This business isn’t new, the visual rhetoric; it’s as old as the cave paintings at Chauvet-Pont-D’Arc. Visual rhetoric is as old as Holy Roman Emperors who used coins for propaganda or created images of themselves as saints in the windows of cathedrals to let people know the order of things: God-King-the rest of you.

The thing about communication is that it’s worthy of investigation and thinking and questioning, always. No communicative moment is entirely perfect (well, not usually–though, you can certainly have a moment when you and your best friend just “know” it’s time for ice cream). We are in a place of higher education to think about communicative moments, and in this particular learning place, in Honors Comp 2, online and blogging to explore and delve deep into how truth and lies are told in words and images (and even through sounds, too–playlists from fall term!).

And that is exactly what we are doing.

My new visual rhetoric self: Just what I needed, a happy blog face

I’m happy with this look–it’s a bit of all the AUM blogs, and it’s my yellow sunshiny self and brighter and more peaceful. I was getting dragged down by William Morris, even though I love him to distraction. He, poor guy, was killing me. He knew it was time to go. And I’m not the first woman to break his heart.

William Morris (1834-1896)

So now I’ve embraced the purpose here and created a blog that IS my class experience as a teacher–a bit of all of us. I’m feeling all full of myself and sassy now. Hope you like it and find it easy to get around in.

I put my four most recent posts in a row at the top to make recent writing the most accessible. I also tinkered around with some other features (widgets), and fixed the blog rolls so there are three: one for OCU, one for AUM, and one for my dearly beloved, Writing Spaces.

So while I’ll miss William Morris and his art, I’m also happier about what this look means to me. I was feeling really constrained and fenced in by the designs that seemed so heavy and hard to deal with eventually. This is a lighter space and I needed that. I was inspired by Mountains of Discovery at OCU for the creative use of the theme–it gave me ideas for what might be possible for my own blog.

And with the sunshiny background, I have a feeling I will be a lighter, happier blogger, more willing to come to this space and write and think and take risks. I have my writing network displayed as my header and a supportive background, and I’ll add in an image or two in the sidebar to support the hero’s journey aspect to the year-long writing adventure.

Now I’m really getting somewhere with this. That feels pretty good!

Reading the revised hyperlink poems: I’m SO totally reflecting

I want to revise my poem. I am inspired by what I’ve read in the AUM and OCU blogs. I have vacillated between: “I love more links because it’s such an exciting journey–it’s like seeing into an author’s head,” to “I need less links because then I get to use my imagination more.” It’s the difference between watching a movie and reading the novel, sort of. I never think of Harry Potter anymore without thinking of Daniel Radcliffe. Before I saw the movies (I mean before they were made), I saw a very different Harry Potter. I like the movies and I like the book, but one changes the other. So do the links change what I could see as a reader, what memory an author created for me as a reader.

Some of the links were so creative that I instantly looked at my poem and thought: I hurried through that, or I didn’t choose the right thing to link, or that was NOT the thing I should have linked to at all. Some writers hyperlinked nouns: people, places, or things. And some writers hyperlinked verbs to images or videos or websites. Wow. Verbs. Crazy-fun.

And I read some poems without clicking a link until the end…these were the ones with the least links. I just wanted to read and then go back to connect to what was beyond, and sometimes it made a huge difference in what I read.

I’ve re-imagined the innovation possible with a poetic form online. And for that–I thank all of you.

I want to revise my poem, but I’m not going to. I might actually write a new one that includes who I am right now–that would be fun–and I could link to the other poems which made me re-figure what’s possible.

 

Aha! moments: So important to who we are

In this TED talk, Tom Wujec talks about how the brain works and really focuses in three parts of the brain.

  • Ventral stream–what something is–the what detector–when you give a word to something.
  • Dorsal stream–locates the object in physical body space–mental map.
  • Limbic system–deep in the brain, very old–the part that feels–reactions to what is being seen.

All of these things (and many more) help us make meaning in various ways.

How does this relate to visual rhetoric? We make meaning by seeing.

  • Use images to clarify.
  • Make images interactive.
  • Augment memory by using visual persistence.

Shared mental models, maps, knowledge, and experience–matters. How do we share through our blogs?

What memories are we making through our writing? How is memory made in a community?

Changing looks, the Victorians, and pirate treasure maps in online writing

On the blog’s new look… and the Victorians

I just had to change the look of this blog. I was sure William Morris was going to be my inspiration for the spring term. And he still is in some ways (and truly as I’ve still used one of his wall paper designs again in the header), but I couldn’t stand the fuzz of my image and the crazy, busy background I went with. I needed something with purple, and wanted something plant-like, but I didn’t like what I had. I’m still not sure I have what I want, because this blog is about how I’m seen and I am not comfortable with what’s here. Isn’t that interesting.

I am really drawn to this image from the mid-Victorian period by painter, Ford Madox Brown, “Work” (below) which depicts all kinds of people from the period, from the youngest to the oldest from the richest to the poorest, in all kinds of professions… I teach British literature classes, too, and Victorian literature in particular on occasion, so that this painting really speaks to my sense of that era, but it’s also beautiful and intriguing and makes me think of many other things than just that time.

Please note the flower girl on the left which reminds me of Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady fame which came from George Bernard Shaw, author of the play, Pygmalion (1912) which came from W.S. Gilbert, a Victorian, Pygmalion and Galatea  (1871)… which came from the myth about Pygmalion–a sculptor falls in love with his creation and she is brought to live by goddess of love, Venus. (By the way, if Wikipedia had been censored or shut down, you’d not be able to follow the map I just traced out for you about how I was thinking and what made me so connected to this painting and the flower girl on the left.)

"Work" (1852-1865) by Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893)

So here’s my dilemma. The theme I’ve chosen doesn’t allow for me to capture the full richness of this image. Hmmmm. Time for a theme change perhaps?

One of the reasons I like this image is that everyone in it is doing “their” job. We are like this painting–doing our various jobs in various departments, with majors and minors, and in various ways on teams, in jobs, in clubs, or whatever, wherever. We work. So this image is more me than a wallpaper design, but what will I do with it?

Anyhow, I’m on the fence about the whole image thing for my blog. It’s because the argument I’m making with my blog’s appearance isn’t the one I’m happy with. I will have to tinker around with it for a couple of weeks. Last term, I was committed and happy with what I had, then I had to go and fool with it.

But can I claim it wasn’t my fault–it was the fault of my knowing about visual rhetoric? And that is:

Visual rhetoric is a form of communication that uses images to create and analyze meaning or to construct an argument.

Images stay in our minds a long time, and I don’t want you to remember what I had/have… so I’ve got some work to do.

In the meantime, I have essentially given you a very messy map to get you where I want you to go as readers of this blog–or at least a messy map for remembering me and who I am and what I mean. My bad. But it’s a good exercise in visual rhetoric which is a fine thing for me–I need to be visually and rhetorically savvy (WWSG says so).

Pirate treasure maps and online writing…

More on this tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Until then, did you notice the way I wove around and added in hyperlinks and took you through a virtual map, a little history, of Pygmalion through one tiny part of the painting as my starting point and then told you why the painting mattered to me and how we all have to work… a pirate treasure map in a way.

My poetic self linked to the world: An experiment in hyperlinking

Modern Me

I am from Hot Wheels, from literary action figures (like Dickens and Poe and Austen), and Star Trek–always Star Trek, everything Star Trek.

I am from Hires Root Beer and Bubble Up: special treats from my Auntie and my Na—always ice cold and tickling our noses on hot summer days in the garden or by the pool.

I am from Looney Tunes and I Love Lucy 
and the World Series.

I am from the Mary Tyler Moore show and M*A*S*H (the novel), from Winston cigarettes, from “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” and from “How do you spell relief?”

I am from the LA Times 
and the Riverside Press-Enterprise and the Idaho Statesman I read for years with a dear friend–sharing the paper each morning over coffee.

From family values and the exact opposite of that.

I’m from the Mediterranean from boats, mountains,
 rocks, and scallops.

I am from the Macaroni Grill, writing on table paper while eating shrimp with pasta, spinach, garlic butter, and pine nuts—and Brooke eating teriyaki salmon.

From the entire run of Farscape I watched in one month because a friend said I’d like it, and I did. Totally.

I am from metal and Frank Sinatra and “Higher Ground” and “Casey Jones” and “Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy?

I am from LPs and 8-tracks and cassettes and CDs and digital music and blasting song after song while I write—two ways: loud and louder.

I am from open and good and wild and sugar and restraint and fear, from kind and hungry and art with black ink on white paper. I am from and for Open. I am open. Always open. Always looking at the view, always in the clouds even before the cloud was someplace we could store our information, our lives.

I am about three ways the game can go: you can win, you can lose, or it can rain.

I am from the hero’s journey and baseball and mythology and the travel, not the destination.

____________

What surprised me through this experiment was how easy it was to decide which things to link and which things I didn’t care about so much, though I would still say they define me.

For instance, I really liked Hires Root Beer much more than Bubble Up, so that was an easy decision. When it came to my literary taste and action figures–I’m teaching a class on Charles Dickens right now, so he was the first for me of the three named above.

I also found that I was partly defining myself in how I “named” each link, too. One example is the link with “Mediterranean” and the web site for tourism in Greece. I have always wanted to go to Greece, and when I think of the Mediterranean Sea and all the many bordering countries, I think of Greece, so I created that link and said why. I never thought of doing that before… I sort of took an additional step in making that line of the poem self-reflective, and perhaps, giving a reader some intriguing and/or deeper insight into what’s important to me.

Where we come from…

Last fall we wrote about where we came from… We’ll add in poetic selves for the new folks over the next couple of weeks (we’ll also be getting all our blogs up and running–see the Blogroll to the right for an updated list of the AUM student blogs and Dr. Hessler’s blog, Topographia).

Welcome to the spring term of Honors Comp II–to all the students (here and at OCU). This will be such fun. Write on.

Maybe at some point, later in the spring, we should write poetic self-portraits with a template that deals with “where we want to go” sort of kind of in keeping with visual rhetoric, mapping… What do you think?

Gym Shorts and Cowboy Boots

Ignite the Underground

Ink Paper Pen

Ink Slingerette

Ink String Writing

Peace, Love, Rock & Roll

Writing Art Life

Writing All Year