Notes from Virginia
Monday, August 15, 2005
  New to this ...

Okay, I've never "blogged" before and am self-consciously wondering if this is such a good idea. I read a piece just yesterday about some poor schmucks fired for their too-honest blogs. I always wonder where these stories come from and why they are published. In the process of pondering their effect on me, I get my own answer: thought control and speech police. No, I'm not a conspiracy theorist but why would so much attention be given to the cruel fates of three very naive (dumb?) bloggers if not to impart the lesson that talking honestly can only be trouble? First rule: don't trash your boss/teacher/person-who-can-crush-you if there is any way, no matter how remote, that s/he can get ahold of it. Seems like a smart rule of thumb.

The article I read was published in Vanity Fair, I think, or maybe it was Cosmo? No, it was in Esquire, that's right. I was on the stairmaster and thumbing through the only magazine at the rec center I hadn't yet memorized. Our rec center subscribes to strictly gender coded mags. There are the "male" mags (GQ, Esquire, and some sort of Muscle Mag) and then there are "female" mags (Family Circle, well, actually that's about the only female mag they ever have. And I really don't care for Family Circle. Aside from the fact that the pieces are not terribly affirming for a working mother who is also an academic (I should be home cooking, gardening, and obsessing about my chiuld's development, shouldn't I?), I find the prescribed religiosity and casualness with which a Christian point of view is rammed down readers' throats incredibly off putting.) In any case, of the three, Esquire has the most interesting articles and GQ the best ads. Family Cirlce has some good recipes, but that's not usually what I want to read as I sweat my ass off and pray dinner will be ready when I get home. If I were to cook, FC might come in handy. If I were to cook. Not that I don't cook; I do, and I'm pretty good at it. But I hate thinking about food while I'm exercising. It's like rubbing salt in the wound, ya know?

BVack to why I'm here and sharing my writing in this public arena: Looking over a colleague's syllabus, I saw how he used blogspot as a way to connect students and expand their writing opportunities. I strongly believe, as most writing instructors do, that writing should be something more than producing themes (dreadful stuff, themes) for an arbitrary teacher sitting on his/her throne made of red pens. So, why not, I thought, do something similar in my own courses? Students could respond to whatever prompt I provide, but they could also make the space their own: a unique public space from which they could extemporize on the latest Bright Eyes or Black Eyed Peas CD, review or trash a film, share their impressions of an art gallery oping or concert, or whatever else may tickle their fancies. Within reason of course. Strictly PG-13.

We shall see how it works; I imagine it will be a very comfortable space for most students but some will find in intimidating. I know that I do. The only way I could get my motor running for this entry was to first stuff myself with Chinese food (sesame chicken and boiled dumplings, yum!), down 2 cups of coffee, and blast Joni Mitchell through my headphones. If it works, it works, yes?

The rules of the road will be announced in class but students generally will be asked to post at least once a week and to respond to their classmates' writing at least once a week as well. How to provide access to everyone's blogs will be the next trick ...

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