The prosecutor in the Ferguson case, Robert McCulloch, gave a very interesting speech last night while announcing the grand jury’s decision. I am particularly interested in it because of the extensive use of moderating language, given that I have published a piece recently on moderation.
Over and over again, McCulloch stressed that the grand jury had worked extremely hard and that every piece of possible evidence had been extensively weighed and considered, and that the process was fair and impartial and had considered every angle. This must have been 90% of his prepared remarks and much of it predicated the actual announcement of the grand jury’s decision. The other 10% was criticizing the media. The announcement of the decision was almost anticlimactic given the amount of apology that preceded it.
Needless to say, all this moderating language as an apology for the decision could not have possibly succeeded. Ultimately the speech could do little more than reinforce the beliefs those who believed the shooting was justified, and anger those that thought the incident was some form of murder. In short, McCulloch was in a no-win situation, rhetorically – there is literally nothing he could have said that would change anyone’s reaction to the news. About the only way he could have done worse is to not give the speech at all.
I had to wipe my iPad yesterday and lost about six months worth of diary entries as a result. For some mysterious reason, it stopped recognizing my passcode. I think it may have been hacked when I connected it to the wireless at work that day, which I’d never done before – even though I’ve never heard of that happening.
I suppose I have learned my lesson and will start backing up documents either to the cloud or to my desktop. I didn’t lose too much, but it hurt.
Our article (Adam Ellwanger and I) “The Rhetoric of Moderation in Deliberative Discourse: Barack Obama’s December 1, 2009 Speech at West Point,” is online in the journal Cogency. I really thought our collaboration worked well in this article, and that it says several valuable things about how political discourse is formulated.
H and I learned recently that the baby is a boy. While I was going to be fine with it either way, I have to say that this is exciting, now that we know for sure.
Now I have a sort of general concern about being a dad, which veers from mild worry to abstract terror. It seems like there are a lot of things I could screw up, but none of these is anything in particular. People seem to learn as they go.
Female hostage-taking and male would-be rescuing is pretty common in films, which leads me to one of my pet peeves in fiction – the scene where the hero or the hero’s friend or love interest is captured.
In the hands of a halfway competent villain, this means the story is over. Said captive(s) will be killed/maimed/broken in some permanent fashion.
But heroes typically avoid this. There is a big damn rescue scene where the villain is thwarted, enabling the story to continue, and completely draining the story of any real terror or consequence. The stories that do use capturing characters at all that interest me are the ones where the hero does NOT rescue his or her friends or dies or is broken in some fundamental way.
In short, we’re looking at a preponderance of super-competent heroes and moronic villains.
Yesterday was the due date for my tenure file. Now that it’s in, I can concentrate on teaching and on other projects.
I haven’t been writing here much lately, partially because I have starting keeping a private journal on my iPad where I can let loose about whatever, whereas here I am more circumspect.
One thing I would like to share today, though, is that over the summer when I wasn’t teaching, I wrote a novel. I would loosely characterize it as a post-apocalyptic adventure. The idea for it has been in my head for a few years, but I didn’t make the time for writing it until very recently. I haven’t marketed it to agents or publishers yet, as I have some friends reading it over and I would like their input first, but I plan to do so soon.
So that’s exciting, and I’m thinking that since I was able to crank one out relatively quickly during the summer break, writing several thousand words a day, I could conceivably write another next summer. It wouldn’t affect my scholarly output because I use the long semesters, regardless of teaching load, to write that stuff, anyway.
Also, an important date is coming up tomorrow. H and I will have our tenth anniversary together. We had our first date on Oct. 8, 2004.
Additionally, I would like to announce (though it was already announced on Facebook some time ago) that H and I are expecting our first child next spring.
There is a new review out of my co-edited (with Star Vanguri) book, The Centrality of Style, in the journal Pedagogy. It is very flattering about the contents and the authors. It is written by Gretchen Dietz.
I can’t link directly to it as it requires a subscription, but I can link to the journal, and suggest accessing it through a library.
I moved offices at work. The new office was just fine until the ceiling started leaking sometime today before I got to work, soaking through stacks of current student papers and a pile of papers that I’d just scanned for my tenure file. Oh well. You can’t win every day. Aside from the leak, which is still dripping, I’m fairly cozy here with my new window (which also leaks, unfortunately).
Putting together my tenure file has gotten me into a quiet and reflective mood concerning the last five years. I’ve taught ten different courses (two graduate) and forty overall, published five articles, one book chapter and an edited collection, with two articles forthcoming, and served on quite a few university and departmental committees, all on a 4/2/3 teaching schedule (the first year was 4/2/4). For the unfamiliar, these numbers refer to courses taught per semester, so 4/2/3 means 4 courses in the fall, 2 in the summer, and 3 in the spring. I always teach in the summer, through June, by choice.
So I’ve been busy and I think the tenure file, as it currently stands, reflects that. So far, it’s been an easier job of assembling the necessary files than I thought. Keeping everything is a minor obsession of mine – I have an overstuffed office full of papers to show for it – so I’m not missing anything crucial.
Well, the title here is misleading. I have a new article forthcoming on moderation (see the About page) but I co-wrote it four years ago.
It has been quite the journey to get it published. For a long time I considered it an example of how peer review occasionally doesn’t work, because I and my co-author are at that point in our careers when we can smell whether something is publishable or not. And this piece has always had that distinctive smell, but no one was biting. I’m glad that it will have an audience now.
So I have four classes to teach this fall. Three are my bread and butter – ENG 3302 Business and Technical Report Writing – and the loner is ENG 3318 – Studies in English Grammar.
While I teach 3302 virtually every semester, I haven’t taught 3318 since 2010. It is a welcome return. It is a very meaty course, in the sense that there is a lot of material to cover in a very brief time, and it is a general delight for me to teach grammar.
I’m going to concentrate on teaching this semester, so some writing projects are going to have to rest on the back burner, as they say. But, you never know. Some of my most productive writing has been during semesters when I was managing a heavy teaching load and the mounds of grading that accumulate. It’s odd how that happens.
I hinted in my last post that I had done a lot of writing over the summer. That is true. I’m not yet ready to share what I did, though, so I’ll continue to be enigmatic.