“To Foothill, Fondly” is a working title to a “Plastic Alto (wordpress, or markweiss86.wordpress)” post on which I am ruminating. (which sounds like I’m lifting my leg on a physical post; 5,000 words-worth like after a very long night at the pub, or we’ve kept Frida cooped up all day, although she is female so that doesn’t quite work either;)
Foothill in this case if Foothill College, a local and nationally-regarded community educational asset, from which I have taken several clusters of courses over the last couple decades, since graduating from my actual Alma Mater. “Fondly” meaning, roughly speaking, with care, affection, regard, of a positive nature. (Which reminds me, as I sit here with MY NEW COMPUTER, at Peet’s Coffee in Palo Alto, on University –different University — Foothill is on El Monte — but continuing a “learning” theme, semantically, yet subtly– that yesterday I worked on this from my desk — kitchen table — at my home office — one br apartment — I glossed actual meanings — etymology, comparative uses — from my trusty Webster’s Ninth, yet here I am traveling bare-back, and without my typical book-bag, well, there’s always NOW the search-injuns…)
Since the subject is at least indirectly or secondarily prurience — obscenity, morality, “morals” compared to “ethics”, and I am being slightly provocative — for a guy with close to no readers sitting by himself in the corner of a cafe on a warm quasi-spring Sunday early afternoon — I should add that “To Foothill, Fondly” is a revision of the previous thought: “Fondled at Foothill”. If I said that, and I am trying not to, at least not in the headline, I am speaking metaphorically, of course. I would mean intellectual “fondling”, which I would guess, until continued rumination modifies, means to be touched but in an inappropriate way. Let me be clear: I was never actually physically abused or sexually abused in a physical way by any person, not by staff, or fellow students nor by strangers stalking the open and somewhat remote campus. I’m just toying with the phrase, and the pun on fondness with fondle. Fondly v. fondle. (Fondle can still have a non-pejorative sense, but it seems it is more often nowadays used as a pejorative). A previous idea I had was something about “College Try” a version of “the old college try” which Websters notes has something to do with “zeal”. And I am trying to distinguish “zeal” from “over-eagerness”. I also have something in my notes, on my stupid cell phone (i.e., not a smart-phone) “why we fig” wherein I was contemplating how to reference “why we fight” with the fig left in Milton’s “Paradise Lost” which I read and wrote about in Chauncey Loomis’ English 5 class (the same class, I believe, made legendary by the Donald Sutherland character in Harold Ramis’ “Animal House” — SAT AN — although I was a generation later — although come tot hunk of it (“to think”> tot hink> tot hunk thanks to supersmart NEW COMPUTER). STET — I thought on that while riding an intellectual horse of a completely different color: I was writing about Palo Alto’s “Photo Release” form, which I took as a overly broad waiver of Constitutional Rights, 1 and 4 I think. Maybe 1 in 5. I do mull words a lot, which probably pisses of the anti-Semantics.
Somewhere I am getting to a letter, perhaps to Dean of said school, perhaps to “(Moses Waxes) Hot (in Anger For)” Teacher (which is from Exodus, which reminds me this is my stop, nearing — and I am also via Webster my Webster trying to discern “anger” from, say dissidence ) perhaps here, open letter, to the billions of non-readers of Plastic Alto, wherein whirring I describe, hopefully emulating L. Brandeis more than R. Firefly, speak plainly man, the argument: is this defamation? is this libel? Is this slander? Is this age discrimination? Beyond just being ludicrous and a faulty memoir and bad reporting.
Here is the allegedly offensive passage (again, distinct from my overall experience which I had thought of as worthwhile). I may be doing a “close reading” of below, line by line or word by word and overall:
My most pressing concern about blogs, however, has to do with the question of audience and voice. Benson and Reyman note that many students “reported that online writing is more like talking to a ‘best friend’ than talking to a public audience” (20). This point touches upon an experience I had a couple of years ago with a student who was an avid blogger. This startling experience effectually discouraged me from exploring blogs as a pedagogical tool until now. This student was a middle-aged man from Palo Alto, a political activist who maintained a blog to express his views of politics, literature, music, art, and other interests. He was taking my English 1B class because he was interested in the class theme of “Inequality and the American Dream,” but not because he needed credit for the class. As the class read Jeannette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle –usually a popular book with students–, this student became enraged by what he saw as the immoral and fabricated story told by Walls, and he posted a rant on his blog about the memoir. The rant was not based on close textual analysis, but rather on the student’s speculations about Walls’ psychological condition, none of which could be corroborated by evidence in the text itself. Something about this text deeply irked the student, and he used his blog as a forum to air his many grievances.
While under other circumstances I would not be concerned with a students’ writing on his own blog, the fact that this post discussed me by name and revealed details of my course to the general public made me distinctly uncomfortable. I had a tense discussion with this student after reading the blog post (which he had voluntarily shared with me), and although he seemed to understand my concerns, he professed that he could write whatever he wanted on his own blog, and he would not delete this post. This experience exposed me to the murky and sometimes unclear boundaries between public and private writing, and between academic and personal viewpoints. It also showed me what might happen when a student discusses academic material in the informal space of the blogosphere, a space that this student used to express his views in an angry, unfiltered, and unrestrained way. So, as I keep this week’s readings about blogging in mind and prepare to assign a course blog in my own classes, I wonder how we as instructors should address those students who might use their writing on a class blog to create unruly, even angry posts based on speculation rather than textual analysis. How do we strike a balance between creativity and freedom on the one hand, and adherence to academic conventions and propriety on the other? How do we keep freedom of self-expression from devolving into uncritical ranting? I hope our discussion in class can shed light on these questions.
(notwithstanding copyright rules and mores about lifting, in this case, exactly 482 words–I had tried to re-blog previously, but the other bloggers disabled that feature. I am also not mentioning by name the teacher, although I am conceivably arguing that her post might defame me even without mentioning me by name, because I am easily identifiable — and had mentioned her in my comments — add to the list above the advisability of a teacher revealing in blog the content of a student’s work, as she did. At least get your facts right, lady. And saying “I did not intend for you to see the post, I intended to make it private or restricted or password protected” is like saying “I didn’t know the gun was loaded”.
There’s also correspondence between self and teacher, which I will keep as deep background, for now. And the actual coursework, as distinct from the blog posts, which are searchable below, or I’ll link to as necessary.
In some ways I would rather be writing about New Orleans (“Hey PA_ A-Way”, a play on Meters song “Hey Pocky A-Way”, about the lack of a cultural clave here in Palo Alto, or the effect of the corporate monoculture here, especially all the 1s and 0s types — compared to my 1 and 4 or 1 and 5 — and something I was thinking about Turing: Are we becoming more like machines as we strive to create a machine more like us? ).
I want to at least, with trusty W9 in hand (that’s a book, not a tax form or weapon), revisit the various etymologies from yesterday (literally, from Saturday, March 15, 2014, although my English I am trying to keep hovering around 1986 and W9 not the corrupted evolving Tenth or Eleventh or whatNOT.)
Angry Young Men, British, 1950s. Kingsly Amis et al
“Look Back in Anger” 1956 or so
middle age vs. Middle Ages
full-fledged (“To Foothill, Fondly full-fledged”???)
indiscrete vs. indiscreet (as in teacher was indiscreet if not illegal in revealing publicly what her student wrote privately and indiscrete in lumping the classwork with the blogwork in her faulty memoir)
(edita, from after the Fabricoh riffs, but I am adding it here: 1)Chuck Palahniuk, in his 2007 book of the same name, suggests that “Rant” is onomatopoeic, that the word sounds like “vomit” the act; great!
It’s also true that 2) my K thru 4 elementary school is called Foothill, in Saratoga, Calif, about 15 miles south of Palo Alto, if that somehow features in my contempt for Wall’s childhood stories themselves, and I’m somehow projecting an overreaction on the junior college years later, I doubt).
from Charles Isherwood long review in Feb. 2012 i.e. simultaneous to Foothill class in New York Times, Broadway revival of John Osborn’s 1956 play: The economic malaise smothering the globe today, leaving a generation of young men gloomy over their diminished prospects, might seem a viable occasion for another bruising few ro
edita-anita (edita, part two, an hour later, after a break to read sports section, Sporting Green):
I hope to see the documentary film “Anita” by Freida Mock about Anita Hill — news of which I surfeited to (surfed to) after reading Times ($15/month) about “Tim’s Vermeer” which plays tonight at 6:15 in nearby Menlo Park Guild, trumping “Casablanca/Indemnity” here on Uni — for the record: I remember catching bits of the Anita Hill / Clarence Thomas hearing while touring North Carolina in 1991, and that I believed her but not him. Not sure how snugly this graph fits up here in Plastic Alto 2014 “to foothill fondly full-fledged” et al. Link.
Her memoir, noted in passing in Times:
Regarding Walls, I had argued that it was below par relative to two other texts in the 2011 course (itself a first-time offering): Steinbeck, “Tortilla Flat” and Boyle, “Tortilla Curtain”. Maybe I was just tiring of the course, but I argued that among its other flaws, I questioned it’s use of too personal detail, and the author’s alleged sexual misadventures, as relevant or not relevant. In fact-checking all the above, I searched “jeannette walls” and “fondle” to see how frequently other critics raised this point. I was certainly not shocked or offended by the passages, just questioning their necessity. That it provoked such a remembrance from the instructor, I am surprised, and disappointed that she took such liberties with her version of our experience. It seems that the passage or post has been deleted from blog, Teaching Writing in a Digital Age, not just having the reblog feature disabled. I would have argued for (and still may) not that it be taken down, just that I be given a fair chance to respond, which is the nature of the internet or blogging, as I see it. And although this exercise is “To Foothill…” I note the blog is headquartered at SF State.
Or maybe I was disturbed by Walls claiming that her brother Brian was fondled by their grandmother.
New York Times about a year ago on recent Walls:
Weird, Weissian and web-like digression to factoid/footnote: searching “paradise lost” and “fig leaf” reminds that Dartmouth’s David Scott Kastan — who I don’t recall actually studying with, although that might have been difficult to avoid — edits a version of Milton and has notes on the fig leaf thing. The tree with the leafs distinct from their fruit-bearing cousins; in parts of India (“Indian” which always gets my red blood boiling and waxing hot); and like “targes” shields from “Amazonia” which is loaded in this age. It did say, shields, right? No, “shield” singular, in 2005 edition from a Hackett Press of Indianapolis (!), “fig” highlighted on line 1101.
Moses waxing hot: I’d say, superficially, since my stop was a whiles back, save for another day other than Exodus 32:19 or so in King James but I would want to compare Robert Alter on the topic, balancing my Webster Ninth fundamentalism (weird as it is) with my Alter alterations. His “anger” waxes hot, sometimes it is his “wrath”. Compared to my contempt for Walls. This is a hot mess, even for a self-labeled “draft”; the last 1,000 or so words (and 20 or so ideas) just falling out like dirt from the ball of roots of a garden plant, messy. Which reminds me of Nellie McKay talking to Ian MacKaye in Austin SXSW 2009 and then saying she is “mucking” it up. Or am I making it up? How can I make it up to you?
The snake me beguiled and I did eat, Eve say, or Jeannette or whoever. (it’s actually “serpent” who does the “me-beguiling” trick..n.b.) line 162 or so.
edita 3: I guess I could return to this some day and put about 10 or fewer footnotes in the actual rip from TWIDA and then refute or rebut in short little essays her usage or implications or call out the assertions of truth that are not provable, and where she is wrong, or I am wronged. (distinct from demand letter or “dear dean” — in our recent correspondence, it quickly went sour and she declared an impasse).
edit to add, next day:
This point (touches upon)1 an experience I had (a couple of years ago)2 with a student who was an (avid blogger)3. This (startling experience)4 (effectually discouraged me)5 from exploring blogs as a (pedagogical)5 tool until now. (This student was a middle-aged man from Palo Alto)6, (a political activist)7 who (maintained a blog)8 to express his (views of)9 (politics, literature, music, art, and other interests)10. He was taking my English 1B class because he was interested in the class theme of “Inequality and the American Dream,” (but not because he needed credit for the class)11. As the class read Jeannette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle –(usually a popular book with students)12–, this student (became enraged)13 by what he saw as the (immoral)14 and (fabricated)15 story told by Walls, and he (posted a rant )16(on his blog)17 about the memoir. The (rant)17 was not based on (close textual analysis)18, but (rather)19 on the (student’s speculations)20 about (Walls’ psychological condition)21, (none of which could be corroborated by evidence in the text itself)22. (Something about this text)23 (deeply irked)24 the student, and (he used his blog)25 as a forum to air his (many grievances)26.
While under (other circumstances)27 I would not be concerned with a students’ writing on his own blog, the fact that this post discussed me by name and revealed details of my course to the general public made me distinctly uncomfortable. I had a tense discussion with this student after reading the blog post (which he had voluntarily shared with me), and although he seemed to understand my concerns, he professed that he could write whatever he wanted on his own blog, and he would not delete this post. This experience exposed me to the murky and sometimes unclear boundaries between public and private writing, and between academic and personal viewpoints. It also showed me what might happen when a student discusses academic material in the informal space of the blogosphere, a space that this student used to express his views in an angry, unfiltered, and unrestrained way. So, as I keep this week’s readings about blogging in mind and prepare to assign a course blog in my own classes, I wonder how we as instructors should address those students who might use their writing on a class blog to create unruly, even angry posts based on speculation rather than textual analysis. How do we strike a balance between creativity and freedom on the one hand, and adherence to academic conventions and propriety on the other? How do we keep freedom of self-expression from devolving into uncritical ranting? I hope our discussion in class can shed light on these questions.
Well, ok, I have to stop at 26 or so comments, in order, and not prioritized, because my girlfriend called just as I started getting into this and it is now — a couple days later — St. Patrick’s Day — and we have some corned beef to rant at, I mean eat. Like the serpent beguiling Eve and the Apple. But I will have to get back at my thoughts before I forget those 26 reactions, which would be a lot better if I prioritized them. At (22) I started thinking of Rosanne Rosannadanna, a Gilda Radner (not Rant-ner) character on the original SNL who would start a news commentary and they would stop to correct her and she would say “never mind”. When the teacher claimed in her post that I said things in my post “none of which could be corroborated by the text itself”. Huh? None of what I said came from reading the text itself? As distinct from what I actually said in my so-called “rant”, that I recommend people could stop at page 144 of 288 — she was not claiming that I was quoting from parts of the book I claimed not to have read, or that I was making up, the parts about when flying elephants perhaps Dumbo come to life and escape from Anaheim and chasing them down in the Arizona desert, traumatized her, young semi-fictional future MSNBC gossip columnist and spokesperson for the world’s dispossessed, I did not claim in my post that perhaps what actually happened was it was not her uncle in the front room with dagger but a flying elephant come to life and escaped from Disneyland; she does not accuse me of being on acid just of perhaps quoting from the wrong text entirely — oh, are we still on Walls? I thought we were back on Boyle and his magic coyotes? Nevermind. But actually my point was to question (is that allowed, ? question mark, questions Mark) her credibility, how do we know this actually happened — it is marked “memoir” or non fiction, and she is claiming therefore to not be fabricating or embellishing or using what Twain would call ‘stretchers’ (but of course he did this in a preface to a work of fiction), so why would I claim that the things she may be making up — specifically about whether her brother was sexually assaulted by her grandmother — had to be supported by other things in the text? I was suggesting some editing, elision –do we really have to accuse grandma of this? If it did happen, why should we care? But do we really have to hear about it? I was certainly not arguing that Walls’ work would be improved if she added more details, like a foreshadowing in a previous chapter (“I had started to notice my little brother’s quaint habit of not pulling up his snuggies all the way, exposing his four year old butt crack, like in those old suntan lotion ads, and worried that someday, before he became a cop, that people, perhaps even our own family, might take too strong an interest in both his physical appearance, and his trusting non-Rex-like nature, here in Arizona, before we got to West Virgina” — NOT). But none of which could be corroborated by evidence in the text itself)22 would be as if I would be eating my own hand, as Shakespeare would say, and thank god for that.
This student was a middle-aged man from Palo Alto)6, (a political activist)7 who (maintained a blog)8 to express his (views of)9 (politics, literature, music, art, and other interests)10 So to the extent that Terry does come home with a co-worker and they have poured me wine but are otherwise content to rehash their events of the day and leave me be with my debauchery (writing, not roaming the streets in a green hat and bumping into people and burping and getting rid of snakes — shit, I’m getting riffs on snakes — which reminds that Jeremy Postaer, the famous art director — WHEN I WORKED AND ASPIRED FOR ONGOING WORK AS A PROFESSIONAL WRITER, YES WRITER, PART OF MY EXPERIENCE BROUGHT TO BEAR IN WINTER, 2012 TWO YEARS AGO, IN THE REMEDIAL ENGLISH COURSE AT THE LOCAL JUNIOR COLLEGE, IS BEING A PROFESSIONAL WRITER, HELLO?!-showed me a doodle from his idea book — this was before there were blogs — the notebook, as I recall, was comprised of thin sheets of paper bound together closely between two thicker pieces of paper, or card-board, a special type of paper, perhaps bound by spiral thin metal — that was a pictogram of my name, a “W”, and eyeball and two snakes hissing, and I recall at least once trying to claim my last name was Two Snakes, again this was a couple years after reading and writing on Milton at an Ivy League college but well before starting a blog. Any hoo, my problem, not that I am angry, at the git-go of her memoir is (6) her reference to me as “middle aged”. Or actually, a middle-aged man and (7)”political activist” (I will get to the 8, 9 10 in a minute). So my first question, as I ponder all this, and wonder about issues and terms like libel, slander, defamation is, is it fair comment for teacher to write about me and refer to me as “middle aged” “political activist”? Strictly speaking I guess it is fair comment and not an assertion of fact, nor a provably true statement that she cannot prove — the basic test for libel, I recall from both undergraduate studies of journalism, professional experience and recent reviewing of such based on Anthony Lewis’s book about Sullivan v. New York Times (“Make No Law”), but is it accurate enough? I would say, and do say, for instance, and its that time of year, when I pay taxes I call myself, and my accountant reminds me, when he pre-prepares my dossier, “concert promoter and arts administrator”. More specifically, my trades are concert promoter and artist manager, in the music business; since 1994 and ongoing, as an “ongoing concern” as they say, I am the sole proprietor of an entity called Earthwise Productions, that has produced about 300 concerts or so over the years and has managed (or I have) about 20 acts or acts — I sometimes say that I had a business to consumer model then added or emphasized a business-to-business model, so my basic trade is like a marketing executive or entrepreneur who uses his marketing and communications training to help the arts or artists (and in fact in recent years, although I have curtailed most of my work in music per se I have added at least one visual arts client– I am or was like his agent –actually a lot of this stuff you can find reference to here, at the blog, “Plastic Alto”, which maybe started perhaps to generate leads for my business. I mean, yes I do put a lot of energy into local politics and ran for office, for Palo Alto City Council twice, in 2009 and 2012, but I would say it is more accurate to say I am a small business owner or arts professional than “political activist”. I have been called an “activist” before — the then-Mayor of Palo Alto Yiaway Yeh, at a public hearing, — I was being interviewed by council for potential membership on the planning commission, he said “You are an activist — will you be able to work on a commission?” the context was that relative to some other candidates, my tactics and profile, writing letters, speaking at meetings, was of a dissident or someone speaking up — I did not take it as a slur (but in fact downplayed it and said my training was journalism which entails and requires a certain amount of listening and processing information, as compared to speaking out). But I would say in a classroom environment, a writing lab, it is more accurate to say I am a business person who writes or wants to learn to write better, interested in continuing education AND DABBLES IN LOCAL POLITICS than to say that is my primary occupation. I would question her usage of middle aged political activist is rather contrived to make me sound like an extreme rara avis rare bird and meant to belittle and dismiss my opinions rather than the more obvious point that as someone who had completed his formal education and achieved a b.a. (in English, no less) and had numerous life experiences (in arts and communications and rhetoric-related fields) that I should be given benefit of the doubt not increased skepticism to the extent that I have novel ideas or approach the task at hand from a different perspective. It is not untrue to call me a “political activist” but truly more accurate and appropriate for the discussion to think of me as something more mainstream, like my actual job title (even if that is a pretty obscure career, and that I am a small fish in those realms — there is a revenue stream and set of establish tactics for making money, in music and art, as compared to being a “activist” which sounds like, who knows? It sounds pejorative. Not to mention that my background also includes professional experiences at two daily newspapers, several ad agencies and pr firms et cetera. It would be more true for the teacher to have said “My class of winter 2012 was interesting because in the mix was a former professional journalism and advertising writer who wanted to hone his political skills and bring a literary perspective to local politics, and he brought a lot of life experiences to his views of the texts, their authors and the topics we explore, in ‘inequality and Americana'”. Or just call me the old weird guy, whatever, if that fits your purpose. But not in print!
The 8-9-10 is that by close-reading here her note the distinction between what my blog actually is and how she describes it. I say “your source for jazz, rock art and local politics” compared to her procrustean and twisted “politics literature music and art”. Point of fact I do discuss authors: Alden van Buskirk, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Hirschman, Sylvia Brownrigg, Wallace Stegner, Dao Strom, Rachel Kushner, but I guess I am slightly less-conscious of it; nonetheless it should augment my credentials in Foothill’s English 1B, the fact of my blog or my actual experience.
There’s the issue of whether it is appropriate at all or legal for a teacher to discuss her student’s work in a public forum, even a blog. Is it discriminatory, a type of age-discrimination, for her to reveal my age or call me “middle aged”? If Southwest Airlines calls their flight attendants “middle aged” and then dismisses them, they get sued big time. How is this different? (I do feel “dismissed” in a sense). Why does she start with the term “middle aged”?
The obvious flaw in her memoir is that it is not true that my posts both mention her by name and criticize Walls. There were two posts, one that described the class, flatteringly favorably and mentioned the teacher by name and a separate post, six weeks later that described the work by Walls but barely referenced the class and did not mention the teacher at all. Certainly her 500-word argument does not give any textual evidence to back up her claims. So to the extent that it is not provably true — it is actually false — and seems to be pejorative — she says I am old and out of it and my writing she claims sucks, is a “rant” is “angry” apparently does not depict the work I am claiming to comment on, I’m lost or fumbling in the dark, intellectually, critically, by her estimation –and I’m paraphrasing obviously, despite the 26 objections I could get to in a close -reading — is it slanderous and libelous? I would say it is at least fair to ask. To ask her, or her editor (the blog-leader, a teacher at San Francisco State), or her Dean or even if needs be a court.
It is not true her statement that I did not need the credit. I paid the same fees to register as everyone else so I would expect the same in the exchange as anyone else, even if I already have a degree. But to the extent her recollection of the experience of teaching me is so negative and seemingly biased, I wonder if she was able to keep such bias out of her grading process. Were my grades indicative of my work, or did she mark me down accordingly? (I actually never learned my grade; she had said towards the end of the quarter that I may have been mathematically eliminated from passing, based on certain tasks I never turned in or completed; I did continue the course and turned in a few more papers and the in-class final exam, and by my standards did decent work).
I said to her in an email, after I discovered her memoir, which she later apparently had taken down, that I thought the subject of blogging per se was a red herring, that perhaps her problem with me was something more fundamental, like a discomfort with having such an experienced writer or person in her class. She basically stone-walled me, and here I am 5,000 words later, still processing it.
Obviously I could write a more direct demand letter to her or her dean.
But I could lead twenty lives before I’d come up with anything (and this is like comic relief in the classic sense) as poetic as this old Archers of Loaf chestnut)
Yes it’s the spit on his chin that makes us nervous
Yes it’s the spit on our chins that makes us numb
It’s the high price from the crowd that’s gathering
Cutting off the false communication
Song is called “Fabricoh” I have no idea other than it rocks and probably still reverberates
Girlfriend and her co-worker finish their drink and co-worker is about to leave and I ask her her relatively objective and sage wisdom on all this: short of reading from the teacher’s memoir or my response she suggests the breach of privacy is the salient point, the identifying me by my (middle) age(dness), the invasiveness. I suggest that “Middle age starts when you stop riding horses or painting or writing” or “rocking out”: