Friday, August 31, 2007


in the fabulous Wes Anderson film The Royal Tennenbaums, the character Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow in her best work) uses a lighter over which i have developed a pretty intense obsession (possibly, my obsession emerges from my experience of Margot's coolly-blasé smoking mode; is this simply about Paltrow's fine performance ?).

i managed to find the "flambeau," which is very beautiful but doesn't feature the same lighting mechanism as Margot's fab, slim, sleek, silver, minimalist-designed-single-action lighter (the flambeau's "lid" must first be raised . . . oh the torture!). i am simply obsessed with finding this lighter. anyone who can help will be rewarded (i don't know how, but i'll think of something).

so now i'm probably supposed to say something about the influence of film on certain "behaviors." it's no secret that film-smoking is seductive and that when i watch certain films, i want to smoke more than ever before (i smoke so rarely i don't even smoke). i actually remember the days when you could smoke in a movie theater; those were some pretty heady days for film spectation, health issues notwithstanding.

Slate recently ran a pretty good piece on the "jihad" against public smoking; i am using it in my class to demonstrate the "suprising reversal" move writers often make. it's interesting because in Utah, it's very, very challenging-to-nearly-impossible to imagine my students considering smoking and anything associated with it as beyond simple "evil." Let's see what we think about William Saletan's informative Slate piece in which he explains that tobacco can be used to grow an anthrax vaccine and another to fight diabetes but that the stigma associated with tobacco disallows development of this work.

but my point is this: i want that lighter. help me find it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Warhol's best

curator Alison Gingeras is ". . . co-organizing a symposium at the Guggenheim this fall called The Worst of Warhol, . . . It's this idea that everything classical-art historians think of as Warhol's worst legacy is actually his best. The self-exploiting, ubiquitous, has-no-problem-lending-his-image-to-a-TV-commercial, I'll-paint-anyone-with-$20,000 type of artist -- that's what's stuck around." (Vogue, Sept. 2007, 638) (sic).

i love this. i hope it's up by November;
i'll be in NYC for NCTE. fingers crossed.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

help interpret these dreams? . . .

so the universe is trying to tell me something. i'm sorry. i'm not cool enough to think that very strong-seeming coincidences are simple coincidences.

i was taking a Serious Afternoon Nap and had many vivid dreams, among them, one about Amy (my sister) and i trapped in a room (by some Bad Guys) with a VERY giant black panther or sabre tooth tiger-type thing (i say STT because it was so massive that it couldn't have been a "real" panther). it jumped and gnarled about, intending clearly to eat or at least kill us, for quite some time. i got pretty good at evading it . . . used the door to fend it off, . . . there were some bunk beds, so there was jumping about from one level to the next (hmmmmmmmm), and eventually, i got away (Amy had already gotten away, somehow -- i hadn't seen it -- before me). there were dreams about my secret passageways through New York City (like, moving between levels of the street as if they were not there, magic flight-like leaping . . .), and i dreamed that Mike and i attended a concert we thought might be good but was instead some horrible Western singer. a storm was brewing outside, but we left anyhow. and i called a LOT of attention to our leaving as i flung over my shoulders my full-length white leopard cloak (wha? oh wait. my dream. no questions). finally, iwas in a film doing a scene together with the fabulous Margo Martindale, and we were heading off to the Met in our finery, and it was snowing, and the shot was supposed to hang on MM and i as we wandered toward the venue, but i did something, some little, unscripted thing (said something? laughed? skipped? . . . i can't remember), and i thought that maybe Margo would call to end the scene and want to do it again, or the director would "cut!" . . . but instead, Margo let out a tinylittlelaugh and kept on walking in her fabulous ball gown toward the Met.

save for sharing a scene with Margo Martindale (which would be beyond divine), i woke feeling thankful to have woken when i did. the dreams of the earlier variety (doomed to be eaten by a monstrous beast, making a scene where you are unwanted . . . ) are exhausting.

so i go outside to get the mail, see that it's STUFFED full because of my Extra Large Fall Issue of Vogue Magazine (long time subscriber), and one of the very first pages features an image of a long-haired blonde, Veronica Lake'ish, and she's decked out in some serious lux-wear, extra serious leather bag (extra large, too, just like i like them . . . i've developed a bit of a handbag fetish since i bought my first expensive handbag about 3 years ago -- let me warn you should you fancy yourself ready for that leap: you. can't. go. back). so but this luxurious woman is sitting quietly, pouting downward at the floor, seemingly unaware of the Giant Black Panther hunched over her, poised to EAT HER WHOLE. i mean, like, on page 3 . . . right after that dream . . .

so, your challenge is to answer the following question : what is the universe trying to tell me (about this or any of the other dream-bits i've shared)????

be as creative and nonsensical as you like, but the one requirement is that you respond freely and don't edit yourself; say -- with abadon -- what comes first to mind.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

from my book . . .

in the spirit of Jenny's book blog, i offer this, a bit of rough prose from the introduction to my book on film discourses in Composition (working title, Beyond Words: Film-Composition's 'Invisible Galleries'):

Years ago, I had felt confident that I knew what I could reasonably and responsibly do with film in my classrooms (although, from today’s vantage, I see my early enthusiasm as somewhat less-than-ideally-informed). Back then, I was afraid. Others were not. And when I learned that there were TAs in our program working with film, something moved deep within the sensorium. I sensed an intensive and profoundly visceral shift in, on, and through the body, and it seemed nearly capable of escaping consciousness (but no, I did not pass out like a groupie; i may, however, have been close). I am hoping to recapture this intensity for the purpose of articulating what it’s about, this affective intensity, and I hope that in doing so I am able to provide us with a sense of shared scenery, a sense of history for our film work in Composition. Back then, it was simply a feeling.

Back then, word had it that there was a TA in our program – I’ll call him John – who "just shows movies"' in his First Year Composition classes. "He shows a movie, and they talk about it. They do a little writing," I was told, matter-of-factly, when I asked about this bold, mythical being and his abilities as well as his audacity in pressing so successfully against our tradtionally text-bound borders. Naturally, I wanted in on the scam; I wondered how a TA could get away with such a curriculum. I was jealous. Could I do it? Who would find out? And if so, what could/would they do?

Over the years, I became emboldened to "use" film in my writing classrooms (I mean, we all know how little supervision TAs ultimately get; I had finally figured that out). I would screen a film that addressed some content-concern we had been discussing, and in this way, I reasoned, I provided additional motivation for critical thought/work on the essays students were writing on the matter. They could, I would say, use the film as one of their typical "3-5 sources." Often, introducing film into the process was a way of invigorating the classroom; students seemed able to express their perceptions of a film with ease. When asked to repsond to written discourse, the matter seemed far more complicated. And while we as writing teachers are certainly prepared to teach and fairly beholden to dealing with existing written discourse and practices in critical reading as we help our students enhance their rhetorical knowledge and skill, who was/is to say that a filmic text was/is/could be any less serious or engaging or problematic or academically valid than a print text? It seemed to me that some of the very best disucssions and some of the most seemingly authentic engagment on the part of my students emerged from within a classroom context where film was "used" or even central to the textual work we did together.

Over time, I came to see that some of the films I "used" were not ideally effective at advancing particular kinds of writing (writing as inquiry, for example, as opposed to writing as assertion, which, in a writing class using film often registered in the form of simple plot summaries, nods of pleasure or discontent, and surface-level analyses). So, I began to develop a more discerning practice when it came to choosing films for use in the First Year Composition classroom.

12 Angry Men became standard. I recall with a tinge of embarrassment an interview at Cal Arts. I was applying for a position as their Writing Program Coordinator and Director of their Writing Center, and I would be working directly with the fabulous Dick Hebdige. During the weeks leading up to the interview, I had been reading M. Scott Peck’s landmark self-help book The Road Less Travelled. Inspired by Peck’s insistence that most mental illness derives from dishonesty, I decided to bring more “authenticity” to the interview process, to avoid the stiff but rhetorically-informed posturing I had previously drawn upon as I suited up and headed into the traditionally awkward hotel suite-scenario. The Cal Arts interview was held on the Valencia campus – all 60’s minimalism and concrete and Dick Hebdige’s office with, as I remember it, a bright and incredibly powerful (aggressive and unexpected) red wall behind the desk (Hebdige himself, however, remarkably elegant, divine, really). I wore a fairly short black dress with a casual brown sweater, low-heeled loafers, black tights, and I was comfortable if not a little chic in my own minimal aesthetic (I dare say). I had prepared a paper in which I would discuss my approaches to teaching, inclusive of my highest hopes. Naturally, I cited Paolo Freire and bell hooks, and, eventually, I talked of film. I thought, the job is in Los Angeles, so why not? And, well, there was that honesty-work I had been doing. So, here is the point . . . I was beginning to talk of my 'magical find,' this most useful of films for First Year Composition, "12 Angry Men," . . . I said, . . . "the 1957, Henry Fonda version," . . . I said, . . . and here is the soul-cringing-memory part, . . . "do you know it?" . . . [oh, Lord] . . . heads shaking in agreement, stifled laughter as everyone sort of realized that I must be insane to wonder such a thing, nearly insulting it was . . . but they generously recognized that I must have been nervous. And I was offered the job, to my great honor, but for a variety of sad reasons, I could not accept it.

My departure here is meant to suggest that my work with film wanted to be about rhetoric, seeking alternative perspectives, and the visual (the black and white, lighting, and costuming in 12 Angry Men offer very simple and basic concepts for discussion of rhetorically effective visual choices), but despite my sense of the validity of the work, I was so frightened of moving beyond the traditional boundaries of what First Year Composition was supposed to be (written discourse) that I ended up asking a bunch of scholars who work in LA if they'd ever seen Lumet's classic film. That is to say, I as I spoke, I found myself not thinking, just as many of our students write things that make little sense because they are simply responding to expectations (this is what a student paper does) and not thinking.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


raise your hand if you're tired of seeing this image at my webspace. i. am. not.

i recall the moment of my discovery in the bathroom at the MoMA and the intense affective registers vibrating pleasurably on the skin of this robot (little shoutout to Beck).

so, i’ll be submitting my most recent film - remove to dispense - which was inspired by this cardboard scrap, to Kairos for publication as my “manifesto.” i guess i’m some kind of New Media scholar now? it’s weird to take the label. a friend called me “the queen of New Media,” which is beyond absurd (although i blushed to hear it). what i don’t know about New Media is legion (like, why do we capitalize it? it feels somehow wrong to me), but i do *work* as a digital filmmaker, and i work in Composition, in Rhetoric, and that’s where we find ”New Media.” so i’ll go w/ it, my new label. it’s fine, although in the spirit of my film/manifesto, it’s probably best to continue to evade it, if possible. i am a “digital filmmaker” - that is easy and clear and doesn’t exert as much pressure as does “New Media Scholar,” especially as i’m really more a “practitioner,” but then we have, again, some nasty theory/practice issues, and i do have some theory . . . and it functions within my practice . . . and now i’m rambling. maybe labels identity should be easier. maybe i should simply accept it.

Friday, August 17, 2007

inland empire

people, seriously. got the dvd yesterday. started watching late last night, knowing i would not be able to watch it all because i needed to get up early this morning for adjunct orientation. agony to hit pause.

but seriously. i. am. in. love.

i'll watch the rest tonight. in the meantime, please share your Inland Empire experience.

celebrity moment: i met Grace Zabriskie in the bathroom at Sundance a few years ago.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

self-deprecation as iteration

i appreciate that various colleagues want me to stop making statements, especially in public, that are self-deprecating. i hear them, and i am honored that they see me in ways that compel them to urge me to avoid doubt. it's always such good adivce, it seems, at the time.

so i'm thinking about why i do it, especially given that i am fairly confident in the work that i do. i love my writing. i seriously love my writing -- labrynthine and rambling and full of pauses and ellipses and questions and doubts and lack of clarity (although i like some of the more polished stuff too). i LOVE my presentations (and agonize over them, seeing the live performance as Serious Intellectual Work for a rhetor). I am in love with mylittlefilms (and the whole process of imagining, discovering, making and delivering them). I am more than pleased with my teaching style, my mentoring work, and lots of other aspects of my (professional) self. BUT i don't believe that i could/can say any of that with any sincerity or confidence without also articulating (not just recognizing, but articulating) the various forces -- even, or especially the negative or uncertain ones -- that drive me and coalesce in ways that sometimes, often maybe, end up as confirmation or validation.

that is, to aritculate one's doubts about one's work is an important part of it; don't we sort of teach this when we ask students to publicly and in social networks share their doubts, assumptions, biases, preconceived and emerging ideas about their own work? isn't this what our own peer review process is at least in part about? isn't this at least part of what it means to engage intellectually?

yes, it's performance. yes. and so we must finally articulate with confidence. but. really? always? speaking only for myself, i'd much rather read a piece of writing or see a film or hear an artist admit to its own pomposity or weakness than to experience one that consistently asserts with absolute and unwavering authority (like the white paper recently released at my institution . . . seriously - our administration is now using "white papers" to share with us their sense of our intellectual work. help!).

and still. i'm the one who sits watching film awards shows just begging the winners to say something pithy and neat and inspiring (Helen Mirren is very good at this) and not, ala Halle Berry, to thank one's lawyers (omg) when accepting for a moving performance on a complex cultural plane of experience (participation, performance, spectation . . . moves made as a film actor representing a complicated human drama).

i continue to think about/worry this matter. at the same time, i'm negotiating my stance with regard to self-deprecation, still seeing it as part of (the) iterative processes of emergence and becoming. and i think it's p-r-i-t-t-y groovy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

new media

i'm working on my book and am inspired by Jenny Edbauer's recently-rolled-out book blog concept/practice (Jenny so often inspires me). i'm not sure i'll be posting stuff every day (as she wants to do), but i am motivated to a more profoundly hopeful and productive schedule. radical concept: write every day. so easy to forget or bypass it.

so my question about the book. i keep coming back to this: "New Media" is so often capitalized. i'm having trouble with the label, with the capitalization, and with how i should or should not be attending to convention when i use the term.

maybe i've missed some key piece of writing that complexifies or even clarifies (gasp!) the matter. if so, maybe someone could point me to it? or, more simply, give feedback on my near solid decision to write New Media in caps once and create an endnote to explain that i will do so only once and in every other instance simply write "new media," (w/out the quotation marks) which i'll be defining through several sources but mostly using to talk about digital filmmaking potential for Composition classrooms.

please post your thoughts! please (but be nice; if i'm an idiot for missing or forgetting some obvious resource, please be gentle).

also, maybe you'd like to post thoughts on the book blog idea. is this something one (I) should do? i'm not sure it's for me, but i like the idea of frequent feedback from the cool people who read and post in the circles i am wandering in to . . . but at the same time, it's a little frightening.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


i'm reading a self-help book on inspiration. at times, it feels hokey, but i often need to read stuff like this. it helps. last night, i came upon a passage the author had quoted from a book that takes the same title as my past 2-3 conference papers (my titles, all variations on a theme).

it may seem spacy to admit that i see this as some kind of confirmation, but i do. clearly, my mind agreed; last night, i had a dream in which David Lynch appeared to validate my ideas about inspiration (i had recently been reading his book on meditation, which speaks of inspiration and how we can get in touch with it). i woke feeling happy.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

now i'm just being lazy . . .

. . . i'll just keep posting these brilliantly funny bits from The Flight of the Conchords. i'd seen this one via YouTube, just Bret and Jemaine performing w/out the sets and whatnot. first, here's that:

and now, from the HBO show, all geared up and still p-r-i-t-t-y cool, man:


yesterday was the 11th anniversary of my wedding (the 13th is the 18th anniversary that marks our relationship). we went to Inn on the Creek, which was lovely, and after dinner, walking around, a beautiful, vibrant deer came very near to us for a brief moment. i love to see deer. like magical confirmation of something good. so, very nice for the anniversary date.

i'll be embracing rather than apologizing for my romanticism from now on. i'll make a shirt: "romantic" (front) "deal with it" (back). i've spent maybe a bit too much time at The Write Snark, i guess. one shirt there says "is it wrong to like the fact that my research books scare people?" clever that. rhetorical question. i'm seriously considering buying it, as motivation.

writing that scares me in earnest? as in, cartoon-scared-that-borders-on-wtf? Stephen King's Christine (when i read it in the early 80's, i would put the book outside my room at night, because, clearly, inanimate objects carrying the tiniest whiff of King's ideas were poised to haunt or otherwise "get me" in the night). really scary? mainstream news, our college's student newspaper. a recent edition featured a list of "10 Things America Doesn't need Right Now." it listed "Democrats" (massive sigh). truly embarrassing, #1 was "A President Whose Name Rhymes w/ 'Osama'" . . . now there's some sophisticated logic (and political saavy). i realize that we are not unique in this, that bad student newspapers with ill-conceived ideas are published in the name of "we have the right to our opinion" (yes, but what about the weakness of your position, your "argument"??) elsewhere and often. but oh, this is really quite awful.

oh no. i need to head back to the creek . . . to the deer . . . to my magic moment . . .

Friday, August 3, 2007


yesterday was my first day off the 2 week antibiotic regimen that had me sleeping something like 16 hours/day. i had thought it would take a while for the sleepiness to wear off, but no, yesterday morning, i wrote for 2-3 hours straight (adding and revising for my Comp Studies revision of the "1963" paper i gave at C's). i wrote with that Bhabha-esque disregard for clarity (so watch out), but i love what happened, how it validated what i write and, maybe more importantly, how i write (and this how also helps me to understand why i like, why i prefer, filmwriting).

so i realize that i am presumuptuously-to-the-point-of-narcissism identifying w/ Homi Bhabha, but, to be honest, i have done so since i read the piece, "Postcolonial Authority and Postmodern Guilt" in the Grossberg collection for a Cultural Studies class i took in grad school. "nonsententious." i just hung on that word, that concept, and i've been vibing out on it ever since. it doesn't make publishing easy for me, but, well, here's Bhabha talking about a "lack" of clarity in an interview w/ W.J.T. Mitchell :

I take the question of accessibility very seriously. That a book should be impaired by a lack of clarity, so that people cannot respond to it and meditate on it and use it, must be a major indictment of anybody who wants to do serious work. But I also feel that the more difficult bits of my work are in many cases the places where I am trying to think hardest, and in a futuristic kind of way -- not always, I'm afraid, there may be many examples of simple stylistic failure, but generally I find that the passages pointed out to me as difficult are places where I am trying to fight a battle with myself. That moment of obscurity contains, in some enigmatic way, the limit of what I have thought, the horizon that has not as yet been reached, yet it brings with it an emergent move in the development of a concept that must be marked, even if it can't be elegantly or adequately realized.

so the projects i want to take on are about this investigatory form of meditation that moves in "a futuristic sort of way," with a gesture toward some future hope or ideal. In his Senses of Cinema entry, Craig Keller identifies Jean-Luc Godard in this intellectual camp:

This was Godard's line of inquiry—one which grants, certainly, the existence of a metaphysics specific to the cinema (e.g., the power of the film-image and the edit, the ritual of spectacle, the temporality/ephemerality of the movie-watching experience), but which also seeks to develop and pursue a higher Truth that is no more immediately apprehensible in our lives and histories than it is in an even-tempered recounting of cinema's “highs and lows,” that is, an unscrutinized hierarchy of aesthetic mores and moments of supposed cinematic privilege. Thus, Godard's method of writing about films involves elliptical, round-about argument, the concatenation of seemingly unrelated disparities, and frequently coming down on the side of films deemed by critical establishmentarians as too vulgar or unpolished.

Godard’s writings were considered the most deeply theoretical of those published within the pages of Cahiers du Cinema (the cinema journal, you must keep in mind). Keller insists that

This role has served Godard, and the history of film criticism itself, rather well. For when we review the collective body of Godard's output as film critic, we find that through the practice of his uniquely rarefied, poetic approach, Godard was in effect carving out a new “assessment” of cinema that, while alternative, could essentially stand in for the mainstream or definitive history and conception of the medium. The cinema as put forth by Godard was therefore a “cinema that might have been,” a canon (or anti-canon) that existed only as an ideal . . .

refreshing . . .

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

in honor of filmmakers booed at Cannes or otherwise rejected

made after my submission was rejected,
this is actual copy from the letter.

i wear it today.

filmmakers pass on . . .

ingmar bergman, 89
michelangelo antonioni, 94

full stories found (at least) at The New York Times

i have seen only a few of the masterful films of these two filmmakers. i did not, as The New York Times stories suggest has been the case with many viewers, always see their films as coherent or abundantly clear, but then i tend to enjoy ambiguity in film; in many ways it's what allows us to discuss -- sometimes over coffee and cigarettes (please forgive the cliche) -- just what is going on in, sayWild Strawberries or L'Avventura, both of which i found confounding but also brilliant in many ways. L'Avventura was initially booed and hissed at Cannes, but as Gary Morris explains in an Images article, "[f]ortunately, a small band of critics recognized the film’s ravishing pictorialism in the service of a vision of modern life as a quiet hell of ennui." "a quiet hell of ennui"(QHOE, which i'm going to normalize within my discourse). that 's good. and it's applicable, as i recall the film. and it's true that i a shared a vision of these characters (on the island) as "shallow," i admit that i sensed, at times, greatness, especially in its bleak pictorialism, which so clearly reflected that QHOE.

i imagine lots of Berman and Antonioni will be appearing on TNN, IFC, Sundance Channel, and so on. i plan to wallow in the various takes on homage.

stand up straight & let me get a look at you

It's awards show Sunday, so i'm giving Margot. I'm through with the wishfulness and angst and regret, and Margot, more than an...