Category Archives: Uncategorized

Nov. 8, 2016

I’m still working out how to cogently express what I’m feeling. I’m hoping a few days will give me the perspective (and sleep quality) I need to put into words just how profoundly troubling I find the election of Donald Trump.

For now, I’ll subsist with this: this was a mistake that says truly worrisome things about our values. Among many other duties, I’ve always seen our President as our Citizen-in-Chief. We are trading in hope for hate, reason for aggression, and compassion for vileness. Until about 9 pm last night, I was confident we were on a path to improving life for all. It was a rough path that was far from smooth travel, but we were solemnly facing the right way. I no longer feel that confidence.

Advertisements

March 14, 2001 – July 20, 2016

After 15 beautiful years of companionship, we said goodbye to our sweet old man tonight. Through him I know devotion, friendship, and love better than I have any right.

Rest well, Monty. You have surely earned it.

 IMG_3226

10 Years Gone

On May 11th 2006, I received a phone call from my mother. Recalling the moment in an email to a friend a few years later, I explained:

She started getting dizzy and experiencing vision loss in her left eye. She went to an ophthalmologist who determined there was a mass behind her left eye.  She tried to tell me she was sure it was nothing, but my head has never swam like that…  She said the words “mass behind my eye” and I literally had to sit down.  I’ve never been filled with such dread in my life … Deep inside, I knew she was already lost. From there it happened extremely fast. She started getting sicker and we eventually learned she had masses all throughout her body and that it almost certainly started as mass never found in one of her breasts.

She was moved from Johns Hopkins to a hospice at 6:30pm on July 14th. Just before midnight on that same night in 2006, my mother passed away. It stands still as the single most determinant moment of my life thus far.

With the benefit of hindsight, I think now I had a fairly typical reaction to her passing, but it was hard. For a few years, I was angry at the loss, ashamed of my perceived neglect to our relationship, and unable to incorporate it into my experiences as anything other than a capital-T Tragedy. I simultaneously wanted to make everything in my life about her death, but also wanted life to be like the death had never happened. After months of Jessica’s abiding compassion and support, and with a bittersweet poetry, one of Mom’s long-time foundational lessons eventually took hold and righted my ship. I determined that it was fair to let the moment have its due on my life, but that I was to be defined by how I reacted to it – how I grew from it– not just that it happened. Now I’ve come to the point where in the past few years, it has actually been Jessica’s kind check-ins preceding the 14th that have alerted me to its approach and reminded me of its significance.

I’ve come to accept a few truths about living in the wake of Mom’s passing, especially having lost her so early in my life. I know these lessons aren’t revelatory, but they bear repeating for the benefit of those who have recently lost a parent, or who may face that challenge sooner than they expect. I hope these words help someone now, or float to the surface in a future I wished no one would ever again face:

  • You’ll have difficulty going back to regular life. The irrational part of you will want the whole world to register just how significant an event this is. Some people will reach out to you. You’ll find support from unexpected sympathy. Others still will distance themselves from you, uncomfortable with so significant a reminder of their own parents’ mortality. But regular life will resume, mostly because you’ll soon come to a place where you need it to.
  • You will think about them constantly. That is okay. Let that in. You’ll become a bit more used to it eventually, and you will think about them less and less often.
  • You will also have that one day when you will realize you can’t remember the last time you did think about them. That is probably the worst moment of all. You will simultaneously know then that you are moving on, and you will mourn their loss all over again. You’ll hate that you forgot them, and hate that you could be so self-involved.
  • You will regret. Everything. The smallest slight you caused them once years ago will stand equal with your greatest disappointments. Keep in sight that just as you loved them for everything they were, so did they you.
  • You will miss their advice, but remember that you can see the world through their eyes. Use that. Just because you are denied their real-time consul, you still possess the wisdom they spent years imparting to you on all matters great and small. You’ll want more, but it’s enough.
  • You will 1, 5, 10, and I assume 20 years later, dream about them. Sometimes you’ll keep your wits and know it for a dream at first sight. Sometimes you’ll be lost in it almost completely. Those will be worse days when you wake up, but those are also the days you know they still live in your heart as fiercely as they ever did in life.

Above all, I think it may help to think of the process like suffering a badly broken bone. At first you can’t imagine a worse pain is possible in all the world and you’ll wonder how anyone can make it through. You’ll be certain you aren’t strong enough, and yes, acting like it’s not broken is the first step to making the injury worse. It will mend, however, and with attention and mindfulness to what’s happened, you can eventually rebuild it to be just about as strong and resilient to everyday life as it was before. But there will be days where the weather conditions of life are just right, or even for no reason you can identify, that the bone will throb with almost equal pain as the initial break. You won’t be able to put it out of your mind for a little while, but that will pass. You do get better, but you will never actually fully heal. Understand that distinction and you will see within the space between that you can live and be truly happy once again.

I’d like to think these are words my mother would read and find true, resonant with her own experiences having lost her own parents and a sister before she fell ill, but that’s one of the little things I realized too late I was denied by her sudden passing (at 27, I’d not even begun thinking of talking through those losses with her). A decade of July 14ths later, my conclusion is one I draw carefully, both to avoid cliché and to not belie the fact I would of course prefer a different history: I think I would now be somewhere very different if not for Mom’s death in 2006. I emerged from the initial grieving process, ugly as it was, much more focused on getting my until-then directionless life under control. Since then, Mom has been with me in pretty much all I do, even if I do sometimes go weeks without thinking about her. It’s not so simple as living in a way that would make her proud of me, although I think she would be. It’s just about living. She got me far enough, and made me strong enough to be able to truly live when she was gone, even though that day was far earlier than either of us anticipated. That strength of living, even though it coalesced when it did as a direct result of her death, is the most precious gift she ever gave me.

Thank you, Mom. While what happened to us on the 14th at one time haunted me greatly, you also helped me get to a place where now… it’s almost just another day in July.

option 1

Probably Cats: Monty’s Malady

IMG_2236I again have a heavy heart. For the second time since our arrival in Atlanta, one of my feline companions is facing down a major illness, and for the second time, the outlook is grim. Apparently, when I wrote a gushing post on this blog for Monty’s 15th birthday in March, I unknowingly jumped the gun on his eulogy by only a few short months.

Over the past weekend, we took a trip back to Michigan. As always with weekend holiday trips home, we packed everything possible into a few short days, making a point to meet up and spend time with as many friends and family as we possibly could. We left Michigan on Tuesday morning feeling genuinely happy with the great visits we had. Unfortunately, only a couple hours into the drive, we learned from our cat sitter that Monty had withdrawn to a back bedroom in the corner. He’s always been a meek cat around casual acquaintances, but videos of his demeanor showed him looking a bit sad and glassy-eyed. Most importantly, Monty was disinterested in food and cat treats. After 15 years, we know that if Monty doesn’t want treats, something is wrong.

Over the course of the drive we marked increasingly grim updates alongside the miles: just south of Toledo, we learned of his condition and decided to send him off to the vet with our cat sitter, figuring it was a relapse of pancreatitis he had suffered before during a longer vacation; near Dayton, we heard from the vet that he was in, but they were holding off on an exam until he was more comfortable; somewhere around Cincinnati, we learned that he had a substantial mass in his abdomen that measured at least 60 mm wide (I remember sitting behind the steering wheel, conceptualizing it in terms of the eyewear frame measurements I’d take during my years of optical work: it was scantly smaller than the distance between my own pupils, 66 mm). Somewhere in Kentucky, we made arrangements to have the mass biopsied with an ultrasound at a specialist’s office the next afternoon. By the time we reached Tennessee, we were beginning the sober, unavoidable conversations caretakers must have when they hear the words “large mass” and “biopsy.” Yesterday morning back home in Smyrna, when I picked Monty up prior to his specialist visit, we learned he was running a 104° fever.

The ultrasound/biopsy visit did not go well. While we are still waiting on results to confirm exactly what type, the radiologist vet was confident we are looking at cancer. We wait now to learn if it is lymphoma, which has the possible treatment plan of steroids and chemo to shrink the tumor to improve the odds of surgical removal, or if it’s the more likely carcinoma, for which the treatment plan is immediate surgery, but with very poor long-term survival rates and a high likelihood of relapse. Further complicating the carcinoma plan is that the mass is so big; measured at 4 x 6 centimeters, there are very poor surgical margins with several important landmarks in his intestines, like the duodenum and ducts from the pancreas and liver. On top of all of this, this thing is big enough that it’s pressing on his intestines and suppressing his desire to eat, which means that either way, we may need to go right to surgery sooner rather than later.

Jesus. Typing it all out brings the real question into focus: do we even try? Monty’s 15. We always knew with each year that passes after 9 or 10, a cat’s risk of catastrophic illness increased significantly, and of cancer especially. So we’re at a similar crossroads I faced with a 3-year-old Dexter, but with a completely different set of inputs. Before, Dex had already been through so much over the course of 3 months and pressing forward offered poor chance of success with a great chance of pain. Now, we’re barely 3 days into Monty’s ordeal and already at that same question. Even assuming we get the “better” of the two outcomes, lymphoma, I fear the path ahead is more difficult and painful than is fair to ask of Monty.

Right now, Monty’s … okay. He’s not eating still, but we’re hoping the appetite stimulant we started this morning prevents us from moving forward with the force feeding deadline the vet set for this evening. We’re standing by with his preferred cat food, treats, kitten food, tuna, and baby food in hopes that something will tempt him. We’re told the type, location, and involvement of this mass is not painful to cats, but he’s also taking buprenorphine to manage any collateral pain. He’s alert (enough) and engaged (enough) that he’s still responding positively to affection and petting, and he’s seeking Jess out for all the affection and petting he can take. So we’re in a holding pattern until we hear the results of the biopsy tomorrow. I guess we can put the question off a bit longer, but it’s out there. I fear this is going to be another dark weekend in Georgia.

Damn it.

Probably Cats: Monty, Magnificent

IMG_3044Anyone who read this blog in 2012-13 may have encountered posts concerning Dexter: my grief over his impending loss, and my later satisfaction regarding his memorial tattoo. In the former of the two, I remarked that I was regretful that I had neglected to get around to fulfilling the “And probably cats” part of this blog’s tagline before being faced with Dexter’s passing. It’s been quite some time and today I’m in a much better place, and this day marks an event that seems perfect for the next Probably Cats.

So meet Monty, the feline bedrock of our household. Today he turns 15.

Monty was our first kitten, and from day one, he’s been a font of lessons. His first was that the nouveau riche of Okemos, Michigan will actually charge 20 bucks for a plain brown tabby kitten with no vaccinations. The lessons continued after that: one should not arrive to adopt a kitten without an appropriate transport vessel, and thus one should definitely not expect to effectively hold onto the same squirmy, razor-clawed kitten in a car while their girlfriend shops for a litter box and kitten food in Target; internet videos of kittens abruptly falling over into sleep are not staged; kittens are evidently comprised of 85% rubber, being able to drop, flop, smash, and crash into every conceivable surface, in any possible posture, and run off without a second thought; don’t accidentally block the entrance of your three-year-old cat’s kittenhood cardboard house, for he will tell you in a pathetic voiceless meow just how that distresses him; the bold left hook of an 11-year-old cat, even if clawless (something we’ve come to regret), can so startle all 60 pounds of a too-curious greyhound, that she’ll yelp and promptly back off.

Monty has also taught us the value of simply adapting to change, and in knowing very clearly what you can control and what you cannot. Monty’s moved with us through seven different residences, including the 10-hour drive between Michigan and Georgia. Monty’s the first to retreat into a glowering silence during a move, but he’s also the first to emerge back into a purring, contented cuddle only a couple of hours after leaving his carrier.

Monty has been fantastic as a source of these goofy, sweet, and heartwarming lessons about playtime, catnip addiction, the odd neuroses of domesticated cats, and the general uselessness of getting too upset about the small things. But the deepest well of Monty’s lessons lay in the complexity and fulfillment of companion animal bonding. In that, my dear Monty has taught a master’s class.

Monty has had a total of five pet siblings: the elder Thacker when he was first adopted, the kitten Dexter shortly after Thacker’s passing, and now the significantly younger Miles (almost 8), Eve (3), and Penny (5). He learned the great patience of the elder cat from Thacker, who begrudgingly indulged him every day of the eight years they spent as brothers, and he has deployed that same unflappable patience with his juniors ever since. Monty learned the magic tranquilizing powers of grooming uppity kittens, soothing a bitey Dexter or calming a fidgety Eve when he’d rather sleep, creating two snuggly sleep pals in the process.

But it is with Jessica that Monty is himself at his purest. In my life I have known many dogs and cats in the families of friends and relatives, but I have never witnessed a devotion and bond as deep and abiding as Monty’s with Jessica. For about ten years now, Jessica has been Monty’s everything: the sun in his day and the stars in his night. Whenever she sits still, he finds her lap; whenever she’s sad, he purrs in her arms; whenever he’s uncertain, he seeks her comforting hugs; whenever she’s gone, he arranges offerings of numerous cat toys on her side of the bed to barter for her safe return. And when she tries to comprehend just how he can be so magnificently loving, he doubles down with gazes that can only be described as worshipful, and seals it with gently returned pets of his paw upon her cheek.

I’ve long since abandoned any hope of achieving a tenth of Jessica’s standing in Monty’s eyes. I’ve come to accept that any time I begin petting Monty in hopes of negotiating some lap time, it’ll last only a few moments until his purr huffs into a grunt as he heaves to his feet to find Jessica, as if to say, “Ya know, that’s a really great idea! Let me go find Mom.” Yet I never begrudge him when I hear how loud and deep that purr grows when he arrives in her waiting arms. Still, this wonderful old man’s capacity for affection is so great that he tosses me a fantastic, sustaining scrap every now and then.

Whatever his preference, I know we can equally depend on him when we need him most. Monty has accompanied Jess and I through virtually all of our adult lives, amplifying our happiness in our best moments, and consoling us like nothing else as we each have faced our worst challenges or losses. For his part, Monty’s endured ultrasounds during kidney disease scares, extractions of skin growths that left him bare-skinned, radiation treatment for an over-active thyroid, and tooth extractions that have left him with only 75% of his fangs.

At 15, he’s tough, he’s healthy, and he still wants the same things from life he has for years. Some are bare necessities: a water fountain to lap from, a big bowl of dry food to crunch, and a steady supply of high potency catnip toys. Some are intermittent indulgences: tuna to eat (mostly juice from the can), wheat grass to gnaw (and later barf if I let him have it for more than 2 minutes), and a thorough brushing (accompanied, oddly enough, by a silicone dish brush we’ve kept around because he absolutely loves rubbing his face and gums over it during a brushing). Still, I suspect that these are trivialities to Monty, because what endures in between all these small details is a lap to curl up on and a hand to give pets. Over 15 years, Monty’s sweetness endures. Monty’s patience with his siblings endures. Monty’s status as the catriarch of the household endures. Monty’s boundless affection endures.

Monty endures.

Happy birthday, old man. I marvel at the 15 years I’ve known you, and I marvel at you.

Soundscape Analysis: The Best Sleep of My Life

Introduction

This soundcape represents one of my most unexpected auditory experiences in recent memory. While I have lived the majority of my life within 1-2 hour access to oceans (or the ocean-like Great Lakes), and have several times stayed in oceanside towns/resorts on the Atlantic and Carribbean, a trip to Miami in 2011 was an unexpectedly enjoyable aural experience.

The conference that brought me to Miami that November, the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing, reserved rooms at a resort hotel on the beach in the north end of the city. Situated on a narrow isthmus between Dumfoundling Bay and Sunny Isles Beach, I experienced what I now feel to be the perfect balance of nature and man-made ambient noise. From the 9th floor, I was close enough to the waves to hear the Atlantic’s continual ebb and flow, but far enough to only occasionally hear the traffic from Collins Avenue/A1A, the major arterial highway that runs the length of the coast from Ft. Lauderdale to South Beach.

I happily slept each night with my balcony door open, but one evening in particular ensconced me in the most soothing, calming sleep soundscape I have ever experienced: the Atlantic churning implacably in the distance; the almost imperceptible rumble of a distant storm’s thunder; and occasional, unobtrusive and fleeting reminders that I wasn’t alone amidst several hundred thousand of my fellow man.

This soundscape attempts to relate the balanced, connected peace of that night.

Analysis

The keynote sound of the soundscape is clearly the omnipresent Atlantic Ocean, rising and crashing on the beach several hundred feet away. Every other distinguishable sound, even the similarly powerful and natural thunder, must share the stage with the waves. It’s easy to let the ocean waves haze out into a constant hiss, becoming a nearly featureless white noise, but the separate crashes of hundreds of waves can be isolated with focused listening. Admittedly, the imperfect recording hardware used is more to blame for this sound haze than the actual soundscape.

This soundscape isn’t complex, but it is interesting. The signal sounds come principally from three events: a passing car’s horn, the rumble of thunder, and what is possibly a distant heavy truck’s softly squealing brakes. Of those, the passing car’s horn is interesting because of its identifiable pattern of attack and decay. The Doppler effect of the blaring horn approaching, passing, and receding is evocative both of the spatial proximity and because listeners may be able to identify a time when they have either received or dispensed a similar honk.

The thunder is faintly present throughout the recording, but due to the storm’s significant distance, only once steps forward for a few seconds of recognizable low-frequency power of a close rumble. Even then, the thunder isn’t startling or even particularly loud. It recedes once more, again a soft, barely perceptible knocking on the edge of awareness.

The final sound that is identifiably different from its ocean surf background is more enigmatic: a spectral rise and fall of high-pitched whine sounds mechanical and but is simultaneously reminiscent of whale song or another large animal’s call. A listener may find this sound an appropriate fusing of the soundscape’s distinct natural and artificial inputs.

Only the car’s horn and perhaps the thunder stand out as potential soundmarks. Miami, like many large cities, experiences a great degree of traffic and therefore a great potential for aggressive driving. The highway nearby, Collins Avenue/A1A, is essentially the highway that will guide vehicles down to and from South Beach, Miami’s most-visited public beaches, hotels, shopping, and water access to Biscayne Bay, among other destinations. It is therefore easy to imagine this car horn, while superficially identical to any other car horn in the world, may represent a sonic community touchstone. The distant thunderstorms, which are again the same as any other storm in Florida or elsewhere in the world, may again be an authentic soundmark for Miami residents, who experience a fairly active weather system.

I feel fairly confident that this particular evening’s aural performance isn’t abnormal for the southern end of Florida, but I can speak only to how I personally perceived the psychoacoustics of the sounds I experienced. I’ve always found wind and water to be a calming and centering experience, even in the midst of storms or choppy seas. I prefer to sleep with a background of white noise, so this was a no-brainer once I realized just how close my room was to the sea. What I didn’t expect was the comfort I drew, traveling alone as I was, from the reminders of human activity that were just as close as the water.

As a result of my brief few nights in Miami, it has become a personal desire to see that Jessica and I find a similar place to live some day – specifically as close to the sea as I experienced at the hotel. I don’t know if we’ll ever follow the grand Michigan “snowbird” tradition of living out the cold northern months in southern Florida once we retire, but I know I would be an extremely content man to fall asleep to this soundscape every night if we did.

How I produced this soundscape – SPOILERS

During my trip, I didn’t have the foresight to simply turn on my phone’s audio recorder and lay it on my bed to soak in what I personally found so enjoyable. If I had done so, I would almost certainly have had a perfect excerpt of the soundscape in need of little or no editing. As it happens, all I had was the audio from a few short videos I took of the view from my balcony – outside. Anyone who has ever recorded in such an environment knows what dominated the recording: wind. The iPhone 4 was a great video recorder, but like any other phone, had no way to block out the wind noise.

After extracting the audio track, I ended up with about two minutes of sound from two separate recordings at sunset and at night, each peppered with periods of intense wind hammers that blew out the sound levels. I tried several methods to extract or mask the wind, but the result was always noticeable distortion of the waves and ambient noise left behind. My only choice was to simply delete the portions of the audio that featured these wind punches, doing my best to keep the wavelines roughly similar on either end. It was an inelegant kludge, but it worked. I had about 50 seconds of usable, roughly wind-free waves and city ambiance.

The spectral truck sound at the end of the recording is an original part of what I actually recorded one night. I still have no idea what it was for certain, but I am extremely grateful it survived in one of the moments the iPhone’s mic was shielded from the wind. The car horn is an addition, but it is a pitch-perfect match to my memory of the same night I awoke briefly to the sounds of the rumbling storm and traffic outside.

That brings us to the storm. I didn’t want to have to make my own storm sounds, but the recordings were unfortunately from a night when the weather was clear. I had decided I’d leave the sound out because I couldn’t think of how to accurately portray it. I discovered a happy accident of my earlier wind deletion, however: I kinda botched it. The wavelines when I was editing the tracks matched, but I didn’t think to take a few tenths of a second on either side because I was trying to conserve as much usable sound as I could. The result is that each deletion left behind fractions of a second before and after the wind punches that were lower-frequency, but still a bit of a rumble. As a happy accident of novice audio editing, I had my thunder almost perfectly as I recalled it from that night: barely audible and distant. From there, it seemed more acceptable to add a single louder rumble to tie the unintentional editing boon in to the rest of the track, and to accurately portray the occasional breakthrough rumble of the night I was attempting to reproduce.

Before undertaking this reproduction project, I’d though of that night as aurally defined by just the surf. While I gained no great rhetorical insight from the soundscape I chose because it was a passively-experienced event, it made me consider just a little bit more the component sounds of an aural experience.

Visual Rhetoric: Moving forward

I chose the Applications & Pedagogy week for my class presentation because it fits neatly into the larger plan I have for what I’ve hoped to get from this course: better application of visual rhetorical theory for my ENGL 1101 or 1102 students.  And by better, I mean introducing visual rhetoric at all.

Past

I’ve avoided visual composition assignments because I wanted them to have a point. Because so much of my own experience in composition, both as a composer and as a student of its instruction, has been concerned with the verbal, taking on the visual has always seemed out of reach because I lacked the context of why my students should care or how they could benefit. As Brumberger astutely explains, “Most of our students have learned to talk – as we have – in verbal language, not in visual language” (378). I figured I would stick to the territory I knew I could cover and contextualize for them, thus I kept to verbal composition objectives and projects.

This was an especially frustrating compromise for me, having had a brief career in the graphic communications industry as a typographic, layout, and graphic designer. I knew personally the value of effective visual communication, and that there was plenty of theory on how to construct it, but I saw nothing I could use to link it to a composition course. Imagine my enthusiasm when I read Anne Wysocki’s suggestion that the incorporation of visual rhetoric into a writing class should not be undertaken based on the principals of graphic design alone; it is rare that you will locate justification for visual design elements based on rhetorical lines. Indeed, thinking back to the many guides, magazines, and anthologies I perused in my graphics days, I have difficulty recalling anything other than analyses of previously successful designs ever being offered as support of a design decision.

Present

And so I turn to two of this week’s visual rhetoric authors (in a thoroughly verbal fashion), though I intend to cover more in tomorrow’s class. First continuing with Wysocki’s “On Visual Rhetoric,” I’ll expand on the reasons why teaching a solely verbal composition course has never sat well with me. On one hand, I recognize and endorse that FY comp instructors are the first – and too often only – instruction undergraduates will receive in how to write for college. I mean really write for college. Many students will leave the FYC classroom and go on to write more papers for other college instructors, and because those college instructors have no reason to think of writing as anything more than a means to an end, the instruction in writing never advances further. Here’s your term paper assignment, here is what I require it to display, and how you get there is up to you. What FYC instructors teach is how to interpret and negotiate the rhetoric of the college composition assignment. Most of those composition assignments will take the form of a verbal paper. Most, but not all.

On the other hand, Wysocki rightly argues the why of teaching a visual rhetoric: “To be responsible teachers, then, we need to help our students (as well as ourselves) learn how different choices in visual arrangement in all texts (on screen and off) encourage different kinds of meaning making—and encourage us to take up (overtly or no) various values. We need to learn how to analyze and create texts that do not ignore the visual if we are to be responsible and appropriately critical citizens” (4). Wysocki is speaking specifically about teaching writing with computers, but the lesson applies more broadly to the critical consumption we must teach composition students in (cliché time!) an increasingly visual world. It is a cliché, but is as occasionally the case, this cliché has root in truth. Wysocki wasn’t expressly considering the omnipresence of visual writing modes we interface with daily across multiple web-enabled platforms. Our students will continue to be flooded with visually constructed messages at an ever-higher rate. We must teach how to respond to that visual bombardment in their non-academic life, as well as teaching them how to fulfill the handful of visually-situated projects they may tackle as they complete their studies. In either situation, this rhetorical preparation is empowering.

That empowerment can be seen in Dr. Hocks’ 2003 College Composition and Communication article. The deconstruction of Christine Boese’s “Xenaverse” dissertation in Kairos highlights the multi-vectored navigation potential that a natively-visual composition possesses. While, as a fan of science fiction and fantasy, I never fell into the Xena scene, it was easy to overlay my own framework of choice: Star Trek. With that in mind, it was easy to see the broader appeal the Xena project had to the type of die-hard fan Boese’s dissertation assumed, and how appealing the described navigation options would be for a visitor to the webtext. A similar type of user-negotiated learning or text engagement appears also in the Spelman “Colorblind Casting in Shakespeare” project. As Hocks notes, the “hybridity” of the project allowed the creators to exist both as students learning from the contributions of site visitors, but also as “professional” composers of the visual and verbal components of an enriching discussion about a fascinating topic amongst other theatre students and theatre veterans.

The ability to move around these sites/webtexts at will to whatever subtopic interests the individual visitor, and to create a self-negotiated relationship with the content contained within, recalls the now commonplace experience of losing hours chain-clicking through Wikipedia articles. Much like Wysocki suggests, this isn’t a solely design-driven or visual experience. The blending of verbal rhetoric to explain and detail, and the visual to contextualize and situate, represents the best potential one can hope for in visually rhetorical project.

Future

This week is a welcome capstone to the course, as I intend for my final project to be the production of usable visual rhetoric course materials for the first-year composition students I will teach in the future. Over the next few weeks, I will continue to update this space with the accumulating fruits of my efforts. As this week’s class presentation leads into the final project, I’ll post more on the pedagogy of visual rhetoric in the composition classroom. I’ll return to some of the other texts from this week that I couldn’t cover in this blog post as well as other voices as they find their way into my course pedagogy.