Penn

Well, Pennsylvania played out pretty much as expected, despite all the drama of the last few weeks. Obama whittled down her lead from 20 to 10 or so and it stayed there. The planned media narrative hasn’t played out as far as I can tell – the papers wanted a blowout, and didn’t get one. Now Clinton’s money woes become the story – note the NYT’s ‘Despite Victory in Pennsylvania, Big Challenges Loom’.

Next is North Carolina, which he can’t lose and should erase any little gains she made in popular vote or delgates – and Indiana, which is a coin flip like Missouri was, and more interesting. A victory by Obama there would end this – a small victory by her would only prolong the madness.

That was a debate?

Seeing George Stephanopoulos as a moderator in last night’s ‘debate’ reminds me of the time our current president assigned the 9/11 commission to Henry Kissinger. Hello, conflict of interest! The man is a former and prominent Clinton operative, and to watch him and that other ‘journalist’ ask Obama the most trivial questions imaginable so Hillary could ‘respond’ was painful. I’m not sure whether to be disappointed in Obama for not calling them to the carpet in the middle of the ‘debate,’ or to be outraged that their first question to Hillary was not, “Why are you still here, when by any reasonable standard, you’ve lost the nomination?”

In fact, why is ABC hosting a ‘debate’ to begin with at this point? Did they host ‘debates’ between McCain and Huckabee after Super Tuesday?

The horse race continues – even with one horse a county back – thanks to media. Someone watching that ‘debate’ could, without other information, get the impression that Obama is NOT the frontrunner, due to the structure of the questions and the camera shots of the audience – or, rather, that this is a 50/50 contested race that Clinton could win. Wow.

After New Orleans CCCC

Overall, my experience at the convention was pretty good. I didn’t see any presentations that rocked my world, but the bulk were interesting and engaging.

Some highlights include falling asleep several times while listening to Peter Elbow (I had been up since 4 am on very little rest), a trip to Bourbon Street on Thursday, being told Friday that the paragraph article may be part of a upcoming anthology on style, and a colossal roast beef sandwich at Mother’s that was either the very worst or the very best that I’ve ever had. Oh, and the bag containing a half-pound of white sugar that I recieved from Cafe Du Monde when ordering doughnuts.

The panel that I took part in on Friday morning (G29, I think?) was well attended and the papers worked well with each other. I timed the presentation at 13 minutes but went closer to 20; combined with the others, we didn’t have much time for questions, but overall it was a good experience.

The mock-Platonic dialogue preceding this entry probably requires some explanation. While dozing on a couch between panels, I heard some people, who I did not know and could not recognize from a lineup today, issue some rather inconsistent and lewd remarks about the quality of a number of unknown presenters. I was too sleepy to interject as I should have, so the dialogue is as much a poke at myself as it is at them.

A Dialogue: Overheard at 4C’s

Scene: A hotel hallway at 4Cs 2008.

Gorgias. There is not enough rhetoric, I say. They read from papers and speak the words of others instead of their own. I have read these works before, and do not need to hear them again. What I heard today was mere self-service.

Callicles. Why, what is the matter with self-service? At least, then, one member of the audience is satisfied!

Gorgias. Indeed, and it was not I.

Socrates. What is this I hear? What is your profession, Gorgias?

Gorgias. I am a teacher of rhetoric.

Socrates. And as a teacher of rhetoric, do you improve your student’s abilities with your attention?

Gorgias. Of course.

Socrates. And you hold that anyone can be taught, correct?

Gorgias. Yes, Socrates, though I don’t see where…

Socrates. And upon witnessing a speaker in difficulty, do you help them to improve?

Callicles. You are really quite annoying, Socrates. Have I told you this before?

Socrates. Many times. Well, do you, Gorgias? I beg you to answer.

Gorgias. Why, of course, Socrates, I am able to train any student.

Socrates. I see. Why, then, do you complain of the quality of speech in these rhetors? Surely they are a chance for you to display your skills at speaking on any subject at length without preparation, and to gain new students.

Gorgias. But these are not my students, Socrates.

Socrates: And how do you find students, Gorgias?

Gorgias: They come to me, after hearing my speeches.

Socrates: Then I am confused, Gorgias, and I hope you can assist me in understanding your actions. You complain that these rhetors are unskilled, and yet you make no move to help them, even though helping students is both your art and your livelihood. Indeed, you stand here, out of their earshot, to make your speeches to Callicles and myself. We are not your new students, certainly? I do not recall paying you for such education. Why do you not tell these words of wisdom to them, directly?

Callicles: Socrates, you are most imprudent. Gorgias can choose his students as he pleases.

Socrates: But does he not advertise that he can teach anyone that is willing, like many others, as he has just said?

Gorgias: True, Socrates.

Socrates: Then I would have you explain why you criticize them in private rather than teach them directly.

Callicles: These are a lower class of students, Socrates, not worthy of attention. Their words and style are hopelessly out of date. They speak like they know no one but the rhetors of twenty years ago and more.

Gorgias: What Callicles says is true.

Socrates: Then, Gorgias, I am afraid that your claim to be able to teach anyone is quite peculiar, as you are unable to teach these speakers at all. Is it only those that already have skill in the art of rhetoric that you can teach successfully?

Gorgias: Talent is required, yes.

Socrates: And how do you detect talent?

Gorgias: Why, I have them speak on some topic, and if I hear potential, something malleable, then I accept them as a student.

Socrates: Really, Gorgias, I am surprised. You have not answered my question. Just how do you tell a talented student from an untalented one?

Gorgias: Originality, freshness, boldness in diction and delivery.

Socrates: Are these not the qualities of a skilled rhetor?

Gorgias: Yes, of course, but…

Socrates: Then I do not see what you teach your students, Gorgias, if you only take students that are skilled to begin with. Perhaps you teach them, with your superior senses, how to recognize and belittle lesser speakers?

Callicles: Now that is quite enough, Socrates, with your word-mongering! If we wish to hurl insults at this motley arrangement we will, for we are the stronger, and they are weak.

Socrates: Callicles, given our last conversation on that particular matter, I advise you to stop while you are ahead.

Gorgias: Socrates, exactly what would you have me do?

Socrates: Why, Gorgias, only that if you wish to hurl insults, as Callicles would have it, then call yourself such an creature; if you want to be a teacher of rhetoric, teach rhetoric.

Gorgias: How, then, with these students? It is impolitic to criticize them to their face during or after their speech; I would rather stay silent than say nothing well.

Socrates: But you have not stayed silent; you have belittled them with the aid of Callicles.

Callicles: Gorgias! Such prudence! You need but take them aside for a moment, praise them for their efforts, then advise them justly and firmly on where they may improve. Not that I would bother with the rabble in such a manner.

Socrates: It seems Callicles is the true teacher in this group, Gorgias. Perhaps you should give your students to him, or, rather, have him teach the students that you cannot.

Gorgias: I fear Callicles is right, Socrates. You are quite annoying.

Socrates: On this point alone, Gorgias, you are correct.

(My apologies to Plato)

New Orleans

In the hotel, very late Wednesday night.

The Memphis-NO train ride was relatively pleasant. It left a half hour late, but got there 10 minutes early. It’s a rocky, bumpy ride, but cheap – $50 each way – and way more comfortable than a plane’s coach cabin. On the way, I read through a 500-page collection of Robert Connors’s essays and about half of J. Hester Amador’s metacritical book/diss on NT rhetorical criticism (which I’d read before but need to reexamine).

NO is hot. As a result, the walk fom the train station to the hotel was a sweaty affair. Registration at the convention was quick, though there was little to do afterward as I didn’t get there until almost 4:30. A search for food commenced, cultimating in pizza, a long nap, and some further reflection on how to organize the Friday presentation.

I think I will keep the ‘seven assumptions of prose rhythm’ structure of the paper for here, to keep it focused on teaching. At RSA I’ll probably walk through the theory differences.

Onward to 4Cs and New Orleans

March’s chapter is done, or at least done for now. Total number of draft pages for the first three chapters is about 170.

I will try to blog from CCCC. I’ll have a reasonable laptop with me, which was not the case in 2006, the first and last time I went, but who knows what the wireless connection will be like. I do want to write summaries of the sessions that I attend, though.

I’m going by train, the City of New Orleans, on Wednesday. I’ve taken short commuter rail trips in Boston, but never a 8-hour three-state ride. I’ll pass through Mississippi without my feet ever touching the ground.