"Those of us who argue for improving access to higher education must take seriously the research on who persists and who does not. Even those composition scholars who do not count access as a priority should consider their responsibilities to the students in their classroom who will not graduate" (679).

--Pegeen Reichert Powell, "Retention and Writing Instruction: Implications for Access and Pedagogy"

Posted via web from betajames's posterous

inviting adoxography

One of the three new courses I'm responsible for guiding this fall is ENG 298 Analysis & Criticism of Video Games. With equal focus on playing and research as reading and writing, and Frans Mayra's Introduction to Game Studies as a primary text, I intend the course to be an introduction to the myriad kinds of writing about video games, including commentary, history, news and reviews. An exploration of past, present and future issues within video games, I envision 298 as a course engaging students on multiple levels and one such offering is in the form of achievements.

Academic courses and video games share a similarity here in that rewards and success were once marked by very few, namely the instructor/designer and the student/player. The introduction of achievements, though, with the next-gen consoles made for an enhanced gaming experience, one that could be better acknowledged by and made public to others. Given the focus of 298, I thought it appropriate to create achievements complementary to the course. In no way are these tied to extra credit or anything like that. Just like video-game achievements, ENG 298 achievements are for the purposes of personal pride. All students will earn some achievements, but I'm curious to see if any go the distance.

I should also mention that I cannot take credit for every achievement listed. Those marked with an asterisk were either lifted from here or were suggested by a colleague or friend. With the start of the semester about six weeks away, I welcome any/all additional suggestions, too.

Achievement is My Middle Name: Earn all achievements.

Bloggery: Set up a Blogger account.

Bloggorhea: Make 100 or more quality posts and/or comments on other people's blogs.*

By Any Other Name: Refer to Dr. Schirmer by his gamertag in three different class sessions.

Citation Mastery: Submit a Works Cited page that is 100% correct in MLA format.*

Console Commando: Log at least 20 hours of playtime on at least three current consoles (DS, PS3, PSP, Wii and/or Xbox 360).*

Extremes Annoy Me: Avoid fanatical discourse in all work.

Finish Them!: Complete all assignments on time.

Googly-Eyed: Set up a Google Docs account, including a "Share with Others" invitation.

Plays Well With Others: Log at least 20 hours of playtime with a classmate outside of class.

Rave Reviewer: Make 100 or more helpful comments on a classmate's work.*

Research Renegade: Submit a draft referencing at least 6 peer-reviewed, academic journal articles.*

Seriously Good At This: Earn highest marks for the course.

Sesquipedalian: Write a piece using at least 30 words from this list. Must be used in context and make sense.*

Speaking Centered: Make and keep at least two speaking appointments at the Marian E. Wright Writing Center.

Speedrun!: Submit three pieces at least 24 hours prior to ultimate deadline.

Still Alive: Earn a passing mark for the course.

Stop, Collaborate and Listen: Work with at least one other student on a project.*

The Meatbag Speaks Without Clarity: Submit an incomplete piece for review.

The Status Is That It Sucks: Provide constructive criticism on at least five pieces.

Timing is Everything: Complete an oral presentation in an exact 10 minutes.*

Twitterpated: Set up a Twitter account, including a profile picture and mobile phone access.

Wake Up And Smell The Ashes
: Identify at least five achievement titles with their respective games.

We Are Moved To Tears By The Size Of This Thing: Exceed minimum requirement on a piece by at least 800 words.

Word Counter: Turn in a draft with an exact 1000 words, excluding heading/works cited.*

Writing Centered: Make and keep at least four writing appointments at the Marian E. Wright Writing Center.


"Hospitality therefore encourages a changed view of the teacher: not essentially as an expert offering wisdom to nescients, nor a coach training students to play a game, nor an adept helping students through the gates of the academic or discourse community, nor a proponent or advocate of a postion such as men's or women's rights. The teacher may or may not be any of these things, but will always be a co-sharer with unknown arrivants of an ad-hoc community in which the teacher, as host, offers ease--ease with the unique lives and beliefs of strangers" (716).

--Janis Haswell, Richard Haswell, and Glenn Blalock, "Hospitality in College Composition Courses"


"Those of us who argue for improving access to higher education must take seriously the research on who persists and who does not. Even those composition scholars who do not count access as a priority should consider their responsibilities to the students in their classroom who will not graduate" (679).

--Pegeen Reichert Powell, "Retention and Writing Instruction: Implications for Access and Pedagogy"


"Composition classrooms can provide a context not only for talking about different literacies, but also for practicing different literacies, learning to create texts that combine a range of modalities as communicative resources: exploring their affordances, the special capabilities they offer to authors; identifying what audiences expect of texts that deploy different modalities and how they respond to such texts" (643).

--Cynthia Selfe, "The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing"

music monday: updated fulfillment

A while back, I presented a track list for a five-year-old mixtape, one comprised of artists and bands I had, to that point, experienced live as well as ones missed. Rather self-conscious of how questionable my taste in music was then, the mix I present today is an updated of the 'fulfillment' aspect of that prior offering. As explained below, I waited for years to see some groups live, enduring lost and missed opportunities, having to be content with the latest studio release and my own imagination. I am quite thankful for those years having passed.


"Venus in Furs" - Devotchka
This was one of two bands included on this mix that I saw at the now-defunct Kraftbrau in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a small bar/microbrewery/live music venue wholly appropriate for the performance given. The track beginning this mix was one of the newer (and spookier) songs played that night and, given my appreciation for the Velvet Underground, I appreciated the take.

"Squalor Victoria" - the National
This was one of three bands included on this mix that I saw at the stellar Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac, Michigan. Having had Boxer on the turntable for many months, it was with great anticipation that my girlfriend and I attended the National's performance. What I found most surprising was Matt Berninger's intensity toward the end of this song. The veins popping out on his forehead and neck were visible even from the balcony as he screamed the song's title, staggering about the stage as if possessed.

"Deep Blue Sea" - Grizzly Bear
Daniel Rossen prefaced this song in concert with a few shy words about how his father never saw the ocean, which inspired Rossen to perform and record it for him. And while the performance of "Deep Blue Sea" did not conclude in a fashion similar to how the studio recording ends, the overall show did.

"Batcat" - Mogwai
Ever since I heard "Christmas Steps" on a three-disc compilation celebrating ten years of Matador Records, I've had a burning desire to experience Mogwai live. Not many bands have such emotional and physical impact upon me, and without lyrics no less. They did not disappoint when performing at the Crofoot earlier this year, including a good offering of new and old songs, though not "Christmas Steps." Still, I am a little closer to dying happy.

"Eddie Vedder" - Local H
Scott Lucas looked at me with bewilderment when I explained that I had been waiting to see Local H live since As Good As Dead. "What took you so long?" he asked. I don't recall my response, but the reasons over the years are myriad, including lack of money, time and transportation. No longer lacking in those areas is perhaps one of the greater perks of getting older.

"I Am Goodbye" - Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
While not a live recording, this track is an accurate capture of Will Oldham and friends' performance a couple months back at the Crofoot. Even older, more morose tunes had an upbeat injection, often with Oldham banging his left foot on the floor as he leaned forward to croon into the microphone.

"Let's Not Pretend (To Be New Men)" - Crooked Fingers
Though my preference is for the live, piano version, this remains a favorite, and I recall badgering Eric Bachmann after a solo show about when it would see a studio recording and release.

"John Allyn Smith Sails" - Okkervil River
Whenever I hear this track, I cannot help but think of how the drummer mouthed the entire opening as Will Sheff sang alone. How tension in the song built was evident in the movements of every band member, including the Wrens' Charles Bissell, who was on his toes until the break into "Sloop John B."


"The real problem is this: Students know that professors must read their papers, no matter how poorly they might be written, how irrelevant their cited examples, or how 'uncollegiate' their content. Poor writing persists because students know that professors are obligated to suffer through endless garbage in hopes of finding something salvageable. They are well aware that many professors will highlight their papers' weaknesses and then allow rewrites, and that some professors will accept nonwritten extra-credit projects to improve their final grades. In short, students know there are usually ways to avoid putting forth a gallant effort on a paper."


representations galore

In my inaugural post, I explained this blog as a space for bringing together ideas and interests that might appear divergent, as a kind of online repository for identity characteristics. I also intend it to be a public record of the directions my research interests take, a document detailing the revision of select dissertation chapters into journal article submissions and the composition of conference presentations and book chapters.

However, as perhaps all those visiting here know, this is but one facet of my presence online, for I am also persistent on Facebook, FriendFeed and Twitter. These online spaces allow me to network not only with colleagues at my university but also with those at other institutions. Such networking involves discussion of important issues within our respective fields of interest as well as the sharing of important and/or provocative links. The majority of what I share comes from one of the scores of academic blogs and online news outlets I peruse every day via Google Reader.

Twitter in particular allows me to make new contacts in my fields of interst and provides a new venue for sharing related news and information. By posting articles and links relevant to others interested in education and technology, composition and rhetoric, online research and writing, I support and encourage the work of others. I remain engaged in learning on a level that is both similar to and different from conversing with colleagues in the halls of the English department. Such online engagement is a worthwhile kind of public intellectualism and it continues to impact my pedagogical and publishing interests.

I also view these online activities as important academic work because, like my chapter in The Computer Culture Reader, it puts forth an identity representing the university as well as myself. How I present myself and engage with others online says volumes about me, but it also reveals something about the university. In other words, I'm an online representative of the English department at the University of Michigan-Flint and I remain mindful of this in every online action I take.

music monday: letter written, mix made, neither sent

In a previous entry, I discussed the perusal of a pile of old letters and whether to keep or discard them. Among the pile were some words to someone else that I wrote. The following words not only reveal that I was still making old-school mixtapes five years ago but that I also had yet to experience many of my favorite bands in a live setting. A similar, up-to-date mix along the theme identified below would have a very different appearance, which I shall illustrate next week.

I planned to purchase cigarettes to accompany the night's creation of a mixtape for you. When living alone, everything feels like a major event. However, my plans stand thwarted because not a gas station, liquor store or tattoo parlor on Mustang Island carries American Spirits. This is not a tragedy, of course, though it comes close. Purchasing alcohol was a second consideration but drinking's always been more of an inhibitor than an inspiration when it comes to mixing music. I hold fire and smoke as creative forces, both carrying not just mystery but spontaneity. Many of my older journal entries still have the scent of cigarettes about them. With no such creative edge tonight, the enclosed might not be an altogether pleasant experience. Blame the various stores here in Port Aransas for not carrying the proper stock.

When making a mix like this one, I find it helpful to have a theme, and since I look forward to attending some live shows next month, I offer here a chronicle of my concert experiences thus far. Side A: Wish is a partial list of artists/bands I want to experience live (whether humanly possible or not) and Side B: Fulfillment comprises artists/bands I have experienced. If you have any questions, requests or suggestions, don't hesistate...

Side A: Wish
"You Don't Know Jesus" - Mogwai
Five Scots who create such beauty without singing a word. This song serves as a good explanation as to why they are near the top of my list of to-see bands.

"Happiness Is A Warm Gun" - the Beatles
All-time favorite band and one of their best songs. Of course, almost every song by the Beatles is one of their best.

"Curmudgeon" - Nirvana
I remember watching MTV with two friends and how we moshed when the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video was featured. One friend tripped and fell back into the den wall. Because of a later well-placed chair, his parents didn't discover the ass print in the wall for two months.

"Introduce The Metric System In Time" - the Hives
High-energy Swedes who know what punk is.

"Time" - Pink Floyd
Masters of the concept album, the Floyd knew how to construct songs of absolute truth, and the guitar work ain't half bad either. David Gilmour's one of the most overlooked guitarists in rock.

"Iron Clad Lou" - Hum
Far too many only know this band for their one hit, "Stars." Such a tragedy.

"Bullet In The Head" - Rage Against The Machine
Rather self-explanatory.

"Where Eagles Dare" - the Misfits
This was one of the first songs I learned on the guitar. It also opened the door to combination curse words.

"Easter" - Bill Hicks
We lost this man far too early; we need him all the more right now.

"Sorrowful Wife" - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
This is a brief sampling of the masterful artistry of Nick Cave. I thought about making an all-Cave tape, but figured easing in might be better.

Side B: Fulfillment
"Blueprint" - Fugazi
While not all that familiar with Fugazi, I know that I could not pass up the chance to see such a legendary group. This song was my favorite of the evening. Quite beautiful.

"Toxicity" - System of a Down
This is one of the few better-known bands I respect and like. The video for this song gets regular airplay on MTV and I heard it played live a week before I left for Texas. With Rage Against the Machine gone the way of the dodo, SOAD appears poised to take over that political podium.

"Bitches" - Mindless Self Indulgence
This SOAD opener are perhaps the most offensively fun band I've ever heard.

"You're The One" - the Trip Daddys
A psychobilly band from St. Louis, MO, and one of the best. Guitarist Craig alone was quite the scorcher.

"More Than This" - the cure
This legendary goth band performed as many old songs as new ones during their almost three-hour set (no openers!). For as much as I enjoyed them, I only have one of their songs.

"A Good Woman Is Hard To Find" - Orchestra Morphine
The story behind this group is much too long to recount here, but I'd be happy to do so another time elsewhere.

"Part Of Me" - TOOL
I saw these guys two days after 9/11, which made for a very emotionally charged show. It ended up being the most intense concert experience of my life so far.

"Inside What's Within Behind" - Meshuggah
From Stockholm, Sweden, they opened for TOOL to a chorus of boos, but I liked them. Still do.

"El Nino" - Henry Rollins
This man speaks the truth. Writer, performer and vocalist for the Rollins Band, Henry's a nonstop laborer for the cause of independence in an increasingly corporate world. Check out Solipsist, or one of his many other books.

"Paranoid" - Black Sabbath
These heavy metal gods blew me away on their first reunion tour with a stop at Van Andel Arena. This concert was the highlight of that first failed relationship.

"Let's Hear It For Love" - the Smoking Popes
While I saw the Popes during my first semester at Hope College, I remember them more for being played while Ben, Joe, Tom and I cruised down the mountain into Ashland, Oregon. "This is kickass So-Cal punk!" Ben exclaimed, and I swallowed the urge to explain that the Popes were from Chicago.

"Mouse" - Marzuki
I still have a crush on Shannon Stephens, all because I think she smiled at me once while singing this song. Marzuki was such a great band, a perfect melding of so many different musical styles who managed to still sound so original.

see how they wiggle and squirm

More than twelve hours ago, I posted the following update to Facebook and Twitter: "New whining on WPA-L is so damned annoying. Yes, nobody understands us or what we do; let's go eat some worms already." This was in response to some of the opinions offered on WPA-L about the Chronicle of Higher Education's publication of Rachel Toor's "Writing Like a Doctor," an opinion piece explaining how the writing of doctors and scientists (at least in the author's experience) is rather atrocious. Rather than discuss the potential merit of the piece, some WPA-Lers instead seized the opportunity to engage in self-flagellation ("Rachel Toor finds we have once again failed to teach writing"), petty criticism ("she confuses writing like a doctor and writing like an academic doctor") and even smug self-righteousness about the worth of Toor and the Chronicle itself.

Such engagement is their right, of course, but doing so ignores
Toor's identification of a major problem when it comes to teaching writing: "The assumption is that whoever has gone before you in the teaching has already covered the basics." This cannot be denied as a problem. What should be coupled with this, too, is the lack of reinforcing the basics. Early on in first-year and advanced composition (as well as technical communication) courses, I encourage students to think back to their previous writing experiences, to reflect on how and what they were taught and the justifications provided by past instructors. I offer up my own as points of comparison and then work with students to find commonalities, such as the importance of proper citations, essay structure, grammar/syntax and how to avoid plagiarism. I make it a point throughout the length of the course to frame my comments on their work with these commonalities in mind, even using their own words from that early discussion as support. But, I digress...

None of this is to say that WPA-L is not an overall worthwhile listserv. Many of the discussions there have been quite helpful in not only further illuminating past and present ideas about teaching writing but also introducing new approaches. I am troubled, though, by the collective victimization that rears its ugly head every time some variation of the "Johnny Can't Write" argument appears. I learned in graduate school that such variations are nothing new, but I learned on WPA-L that some responses to those arguments are just as old, and even more annoying, tiresome, unconstructive and pointless.