Friday, June 23, 2006

Well, summer's really pretty uneventful for me. There's lots that I told myself I would do, but I'm not doing it. I'm procrastinating something huge, and I'm gonna be sorry come fall. As I've mentioned before, I'm supposed to be reading roughly a book a day. I'm averaging a book every three or four days. I keep telling myself I'm going to get up at 5AM and read until JD wakes up. That sounds like a really great idea until 5AM.

I've almost made a Mavericks post several times since the end of the finals, but I've really just been too depressed about the whole debacle to think about it. I haven't read the sports page, listened to sports radio, or watched Sportscenter since Monday. Come to think of it, this is the first time I can remember a Texas sports team getting to the Finals and losing (Cowboys 92,93,95; Rockets 94,95; Spurs x 3; Stars '00 (even though hockey doesn't count)). I invested so much time and and enthusiasm in the Mavericks, so it's hard to see them crumble like that. Oh well, next year. I hope they get rid of Stackhouse.

John David and I have been doing some intense playing this morning. We went for a walk with JD in the stroller, then we went for the same walk with JD out of the stroller. We rode his tricycle half way down the side walk, then he got tired of it. We played with Play-Doh in his room, built a farm with Lincoln Logs, and had a shaving cream fight on the porch. Now he's taking a nap. This is a little more than we usually do, but it's becoming increasingly important to make sure John David is actively (and verbally) engaged. So, that means fewer movies (even though he love's them). When he does watch movies, we're going to watch ones that are more educational and age appropriate (like Dora the Explorer rather than Toy Story. He's really too young for Pixar, I think. He doesn't really engage plots or dialogue that well. Or at least it hasn't manifested in improved speech).

Lately, it's come to our attention that JD might be a little behind with his verbal development. Although he knows a lot of words, and can use some sentences, he rarely makes speech his first options for getting what he wants. He will yell, points and say, "that," or try to express himself physically in various ways. When he uses speech, it will often be just one word with a gesture. He's always been strong and capable of maneuvering just about anything he put his mind to, whether on the playground or at home. But, this capability seems to have become a crutch that allowed him to be less dependent on language to get what he needs. I have always thought that the language would just come along, but now it's time to start making a more consistent effort to make him use his language.

So, verbal engagement has lately been at the center of all my interaction with JD. When we walked this morning, we stopped to talk about the flowers, count them, and notice their yellow color. We pointed out birds, the sky, trees, big trucks, and fast and slow paces. In the house, we go about a pretty normal routine (sans TV), but I'm being a lot more assertive and deliberate about language. I'm making JD tell me what he wants in words. I'm constantly asking him to identify pictures and letters, and things around the house. JD does seem little shocked--a bit out of his comfort zone-- but that's good. I want to reacquaint him with his surroundings (his toys, our apartment, his room, etc) in a way that is not watered down by television in the background or by his overly-aggressive physical expression (he likes to wrestle). I don't know if this is the answer, but it we're going to try to shake things up in this way for a while.

Friday, June 09, 2006

John David and I went to see Cars this morning. We've been planning to go for a long time, but as June 9th drew closer, I started to have my doubts about whether this was the right time to take JD to a movie. It's hard to gauge if he's too young to endure all the environmental stimulation of a cinema experience. Although he loves watching movies (especially Pixar), he can usually flop around, play with toys, talk to us, etc. while he's watching. And, at home, we don't have a surround-sound set up. To the contrary, the volume's usually pretty low. Movie's at home don't overload his senses because he's pretty much in control (He could operate the DVD player by the time he was about 15 month. It was really pretty ridiculous.)

As I mentioned before, we tried out the movie thing with Curious George on a whim one afternoon several months ago, and JD just couldn't focus on the movie. Instead he wanted to play in the chairs and on the stairs, so we left after about 20 minutes. But, we thought Cars could be different because he knows all about it. We've been watching previews for over a year, and you could go out in public without seeing some sort of advertisment, which JD always points out. Still, I knew watching the whole movie would be tough, and, this morning, I had about decided to wait a couple months when JD came up to me and said "Cars?" At that point, I knew that he knew that today was the day. So we gave it shot.

We stopped by Krispy Kreme (or "Nummy") on the way. I got JD four donut holes, and handed the little bag back to him in his carseat. Normally, he consumes them ravenously. Today, however, he very deliberately saved them, clutching the little Krispy Bag close to him with both hands. He wanted to take them to the movie, which wasn't a bad idea at all.

The movie experience was definitely better than Curious George. For the first 15 minutes he watched in a trance. Then, when he started getting restless, I reminded him about his nummies. That bought another 15 minutes. We sat on a short row, so it was okay for him to try out all the seats. He went up and down the aisle for a while, taking peeks at the movie while he moved from chair to chair. Soon enough, however, he'd had it. Overstimulation. He was ready to go. With the help of some Skittles and the appearance of Mater (the animated Tow Truck played by Larry the Cable Guy), we stayed for another ten minutes or so. But, then we left.

John David behaved pretty well this time. He's still just too little for the Movie Theater experience. I wasn't disappointed when we left. JD did pretty good, all things considered. He got a good dose of a movie that he and I had both been anticipating for quite some time. He was gratified just to see the characters he recognized. He's not all that into that ancillary "plot" crap.

We'll get Cars when it comes out on DVD, and I'm sure JD will watch it many, many times. This morning, we set our sites on a new Pixar movie, Ratatouille, which will come out next summer. He'll be four, and, hopefully, ready for the movie theatre experience.

After our 45 minutes at Cars, we came home, went swimming, at chicken, and JD went to sleep, while I watched a few episodes of Six Feet Under. (This fifth season is pretty emotional. We'll probably finish the whole series tonight! We only have two or three episodes left. I'm gonna miss the Fisher's and company. Well, everyone except Ruth.)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Does anyone else remember the Freedom Rock commercial from the 80's? It's definitely one of my favorite commercials of all time. Rachel and I had a (non) Freedom Rock moment this morning when she told me to turn my music down.

Anyway, if you don't remember the commercial, here's the gist of Freedom Rock from the urban dictionary:

Guitar-heavy American rock music of the 1970s. The phrase originated in 1987: "Freedom Rock" was the title of a sold-only-on-TV music compilation. The memorably cheezy commercial featured two aging Cheech and Chong-type hippies sitting at the back of their Tour van; as I recall it, Hippy #1 hears what Hippy #2 is playing on his radio and asks, "Hey, man, is that freedom rock?" Hippy #2, says, "Yeah, man!" and Hippy #1 enthusiastically replies, "Well, turn it up, man!"

What made the commercial even better was that it was extremely low-budget. It was made in that glorious time of abundant Time-Life music compilation offers, all for the low price of $19.95. I think you could even get Freedom Rock on vinyl, which just might be the purest way to enjoy something like Freedom Rock. And, I'm sure many bought it on vinyl.

If you don't know WTF vinyl is, don't feel bad, I didn't either until '96 when I was working at Hasting's in Abilene and someone called to ask if we had the Fugee's on Vinyl. I was working music, so they forwarded the phone call to me. I had no idea what the caller meant. All I knew was that vinyl was some sort of upholstery.
"Vinyl?" asked the caller.

"Yeah, vinyl"

"the Fugee's? the hip-hop group?"

"that's the one."

[long pause, waiting for caller to perceive my confusion and clarify]

"what do you mean by vinyl?" I finally asked a bit annoyed.


By this time, the caller was almost angry with me for not knowing that vinyl=record. I probably should have known that, and it's likely that anyone reading this might reasonably call me an idiot. Nevertheless, in my first 19 years on earth, I had never heard the term. But, I bet most connoisseurs of Freedom Rock had.

In the subsequent 10 years, I've developed a great appreciation for the guy who asks for contemporary music on vinyl, just like my appreciation for the cheesy freedom rock commercial has. In fact, when I go into music stores, I'm often tempted to be that guy.

In the last year or so, Rachel and I have had several fun moments remembering something obscure TV moment from childhood. Most of the time we make timely references to Family Ties or The Cosby Show. A few months ago, I wrote a music review (which blogger erased in the publishing process) called "Jammin' on the One!" I'm sure most of you remember that this phrase is taken from the Cosby show episode where they are meet Stevie Wonder and create a mix that they all participate in. Rachel, create a post several months ago entitled "There was a Kangaroo in my Living Room." Anyone remember that episode of Family Ties? We've found that phrase useful in multiple life situations.

So, if anyone still reads this blog, I'd like to know some of you favorite 80's/early 90's TV memories. (Let's take pride in growing old!) Extra points are given for obscurity (You can't talk about "Where's the beef!"). Either leave a comment or, even better, create a post on your own blog. I guess this is kind of like one of those games where we tag each other. But I'm not tagging anyone. I've just enjoyed writing this post, and thought it might be fun for other people too.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

(This is a procrastination post)

So, I'm supposed to be reading a book a day this summer. It's pretty insane, but it's what I need to do if I'm going to make the most of my summer. I realize I can't read closely or completely at this pace, but that's okay. I need to understand arguments and get the gist of about 70 important books/articles that I didn't cover in coursework. When I told my parents that I was just reading "for the argument," my mom said that I oughta be pretty good at that since all I've ever done is argue with her. She doesn't get it.

It's hard to read at this pace. I've never been a quick reader, partly by choice and partly by nature. As an English major, I've always had a tendency to chew on language and read closely, which doesn't lend itself well to speed-reading. Nevertheless, if I concentrate, I can go pretty fast. I learned this mostly by teaching speedreading at Sylvan back in ought-3. I was thrown into teaching this course, and I read out of a workbook to a group of people who had paid an enormous sum of money to learn the speed-reading secrets. As is typical with Sylvan, they had paid a ridiculous amount of money for information and strategies that can be bought at Barnes & Noble for $14.95. Nevertheless, many of those strategies really work. It's amazing how quickly your eye can move and your mind can process if you force yourself to scan the words more quickly. Most readers sub-vocalize, or say the words in their mind, which is a speed bump to efficient reading. But, it's a comfort zone that's hard to break out of, for me at least.

Anyway, so far, I haven't successfully balanced domesticity and uber-reading. I'm not reading for enough hours in the day, and I'm getting wrapped up in the book I'm reading. I gotta find my system.

It's hard to entertain the buddy all day everyday, too, especially since the bastards that run this apartment complex shut down our swimming pool. Nothing burns buddy-energy like swimming. If he doesn't swim, he could probably stay up for 48 hours straight!

On Friday, we're off to see the much anticipated Cars, the new Pixar movie. We've been waiting at least a year for this one, as it's been in previews at least that long. I don't know if this movie experience will be successful. Of course, we had to leave after 30 minutes of Curious George--I mean, seriously, any movie pails in comparison to lighted stairs and several hundred chairs to try out. When you think about it, the cinema is a pretty ridiculous venue for film. But we're going to give it a try anyway. Pixar's out thang. I'm thinking a year of previews and a couple hundred dollars in merchandise has bought at least 45 minutes. That's the over-under, I thinking--anyone want to place a bet?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

On Tuesday I got back from the Rhetoric Society of America conference in Memphis. All in all, it was a good trip, but not as good as I had hoped. For all practical purposes, this was my first real conference. I had gone to a regional Christianity and Literature conference in 2001 when I was a M.A. student, but I was clueless, and I read a horrible paper. Pretty embarassing when I think about it now. Anyway, since Rachel didn't get back from Boston until Friday, I left for RSA on Saturday, even though the conference started on Monday. That was okay with me, but there were some pretty good looking panels that I would have liked to see on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

I got to Memphis midday Saturday, but my luggage didn't. I hadn't even packed a change of clothes or a toothbrush in my carry-on. After filing a report with the airline, I decided to go to my hotel to let them know my luggage would be delivered and, maybe, to check in, even though I knew the check-in time was 3PM. That trip cost me 20 bucks and was totally futile. They wouldn't let me check in early, and my luggage didn't get there until 11PM anyway.

So, after the 20 something dollar cab ride to my hotel, I took a thirty something dollar ride to the Peabody, the conference hotel. I went to one panel, met up with some friends, and went to a tour and lecture at the National Civil Rights Museum. The Museum was definitely the highlight of the trip. If you're ever in Memphis, don't miss it. It's sobering and beautiful.

After the Museum, I made my way back to the Peabody and met up with some more friends. We sat in the lobby and talked. I drank Pinot Noir and tried my first Mint Julep.

As it turned out, the carpool group from school was staying near my hotel, so I was able to ride with them for the rest of the weekend. Saved me at least 200 buck in cab fare. I was already low on cash, and I hadn't anticipated such steep transportation costs, so this was a life saver.

When I got back to my hotel, my bag still hadn't been delivered by the airline, so I was pretty worried. But, 45 minutes later, I got a call from the front desk that my bag was there. I had been pretty nervous all day long, and getting my bag was a pretty big relief.

In the craziness of the day, I realized that I hadn't eaten lunch or dinner, and it all hit me at about 11PM. Luckily IHOP was next door, home of the Big Bacon Omelet. So, I consumed a couple thousand calories right before bed. There's never a bad time for bacon.

Sunday was okay, but I was disappointed in most of the panels. Most seemed half-assed, esoteric, just uninteresting. But, some were good.

Sunday night we ate at B.B. King's, which was a pretty good place, with a great blues band playing, but the food wasn't really that good. If that's Memphis Barbeque, said barbeque is overrated. But I don't think that's the case. I think we just got some bad advice.

Monday was the day of my panel. I was to present at 8AM. Well, that's what time the panel started--I spoke 3rd out of 4. As it turns out, many people went home Sunday night and many more people partied Sunday night. Not good for 8 o'clock panel attendence. We had two audience members. So, counting my panel members and chair, I was reading to an audience of six. Kinda disappointing because I liked my paper. I've actually worked on it off and on for a year.

To add insult to injury, I had to cut my presentation short because one or both of the first two speakers went long, and the chair wasn't paying attention to time until my presentation. So, out of ten pages, I read six, and then summarized and cut to the conclusion. It's not that big of deal really, but I think my discussion in the last few pages was important to my project, and I would have like to read it--or at least to discuss it in more detail.

After the panel, I had planned on either going to some more panels that looked interesting or to explore Memphis. But, I decided I was to tired to enthusiastic about academic stuff. Everything had built up to my presentation, and after I came down, I was done.

I had forty-one dollars left, and eight hours until my flight. Not really enough money to shop or go to Graceland ($35), and not enough brain-power for more panels. That's when I decided F-it: I'm going home. I took the shuttle to the airport and flew standby, and got home about 2PM.

I'm glad I went to the conference, and it really didn't suck that much. In 2008, RSA will be in Seattle. I'll definitely go. Next year, 4C's (the biggest conference in Rhet/Comp--stands for Conference on College Composition and Communication) is in New York, and I'm definitely going there, too.

Now that RSA is over, the real work of summer starts--reading, reading, reading, while taking care of a three year old (JD turns three tomorrow! It's gone by fast!).

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I finally got around to reading Everything Bad is Good for you by Steven Johnson. I really found this book useful for two reasons. One, it's one of the few non-academic books on my new media exam list. But, also because Johnson pursues several questions that are really relevant to the research I'll be doing next year in TCU's new New Media Writing Studio (where I'll be working instead of teaching first or second year comp). Johnson's argument--that video games, television, internet, and film are sources of intellectual stimulation that are perpetually (and empirically) making us smarter people--is a bit shocking. In fact, last year, I sat down in a Barnes and Noble and looked at the book, but after reading the blurb on the back and part of the intro, I called bullshit (as they say in academic circles). Over the last year, however, I kept thinking about the baffling claims that this book unapologetically makes from the outset. I kept wondering if there was anything there. So, when the semester ended, I went and bought it. And I'm glad I did. It was entertaining and intellectual read, and my hesitancy to accept Johnson's ideas is kind of his point. Certain assumptions about about literacy and pop culture (TV and videogames particularly) operate so strongly in our society, giving us a knee-jerk reaction that amounts to reading=good and tv/video games/etc=bad. These assumptions are generally unfounded, and Johnson does a great job showing this. If you watch TV, play video games, blog or just enjoy following pop culture, this is a great (and quick) read.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Summer Time

The semester is now over and it's on to the next thing. I've almost completely abandoned this blog the last six months. In a lot of ways, I seem to have lost my blogging-voice. But, the biggest reason for the lack of activity was time. I was so overcommitted that I was never able to do more take care of the things that had to completed that day, which left little time for blogging. (But, for the record, I did two high-quality posts that were erased when I hit published. After the second time, I learned that you can't begin a post on Monday and minimize it until you finish and publish on Wednesday.) Hopefully, I resurrect this thing, though. We'll see how it goes.

This summer, I've got a lot to do besides blogging. Because I finished my coursework this semester, I have to prepare for my comprehensive exams, which I'll take in late-October/early-November if everything goes as planned. The exam process is a ridiculous exercise in academic hazing, meant to test the limits of human cognition, I think. Basically, after course work, you designate three areas to specialize in and to test in. Then, you work with a faculty member (one for each exam) to develop a "list" that determines the parameters of your exam. Each list is equivalent to thirty books (and five articles equals one book).

So, along with everything else that finishing up a semester entails, I had to get these list together, which was really difficult. Not only did I have to write my last two seminar papers, but I also did web design and layout work for the journal Composition Studies and finished up grading and teaching in my two classes (Intermediate comp and Intro to Lit). In many ways it was a frustrating semester because it seemed like time constraints caused me to everything half-assed.

But anyway, I'll be reading all summer long--juggling that with taking care of John David. That means, I need to discipline myself to read early mornings, late nights, and whenever else I get a chance. I'm reading for exams in Modern Rhetoric, Literacy Studies & Historiography, and New Media Writing/Computers and Composition.

My plan is to podcast my way through this studying process. As I read a book, I convert my notes to mp3 form, so I can organize and pound this stuff into my brain. At the same time, I'll be learning the ins and outs of Audacity, which seems like a pretty cool program.

I'm also trying to get back into my old reading blogs/exploring the web mode that I was in last summer. That's somethings that's been sacrificed lately, to my chagrin. Just this morning I read Cuban's blog for the first time in many months. He's on a role.