Oh John Carroll

Month: October 2012 (page 1 of 2)

Why Matt? →

If you read my post about Sleepwalk With Me, you’ll recall that I was bugged by the ramifications of Mike Birbiglia’s name change.  Julie Klausner asked him about this on her podcast “How Was Your Week?”  If you want to hear him answer, skip ahead to the 55-minute mark.

Little Apple Football →

Another day, another Grantland piece: Michael Weinreb writes about Bill Snyder and Kansas State, a particularly fascinating story to follow for this new Manhattan, KS resident.

Zombies →

I enjoyed this Bill Simmons piece about the disappointment surrounding the Oklahoma City Thunder trade of James Harden.


If you thought I had lost the blogging bug, I wouldn’t blame you.  I’ve been scarce for the past 10 days, but I’m happy to announce that I didn’t lose interest in blogging.  Nope.  Not at all.  Instead, I simply went on the worst trip in my lifetime.

Rachael and I went to Philadelphia last week.  She needed to take an important test for her job, and figured it would be most comfortable in her hometown.  I got to tag along for moral support and general gallivanting.  Everything about it seemed perfect, but by the time we flew home Monday, I was half-expecting to see Michael Nutter flipping us off from the runway.

The problems began the night before our departing flight, when I felt achey. All of my my colds start this way.  And they often start before trips or anticipated events — I’m not sure if this is an actual fact, or just a narrative I’ve strung together, but I mention it because none of what was happening to me was surprising.  The travel day unfolded with increasing misery, but by the time we reached a comfortable bed, I wasn’t too hung up about it.  I could kick the cold, and still make the most of the trip.

Thus, rather than meeting up with friends or cruising around town, I dedicated myself to getting better.  I hunkered down in our hotel room with pillows and tea and pills.  I stuck to a schedule.  I wanted to be better by the time Rachael’s test was over, for then I could not only salvage half the trip, but we could salvage it together.

But when we woke up on Friday morning, ready to seize our obligation-free weekend, my voice was gone.  And hilariously, our big plans to celebrate that evening involved a private karaoke room with friends.

Undeterred, I stepped up my game.  I became a soup ninja.  I doubled my tea intake.  I gargled salt water.  I downed honey straight from the hotel-issued packets.  My body was feeling better, but my voice was betraying me.  I went into radio silence for the final pre-karaoke hours., frustrating a wife who couldn’t make sense of my improvised sign language.

And it worked.  My voice came back.  We went to karaoke.  And about two hours into the night, Rachael tripped and fell.  We’d find out 12 hours later that she broke her foot.  I woke up with my voice gone for good, sacrificed for the sake of three hours at karaoke (worth it!).

That Saturday night, our family visited us.  Rachael stayed fixed to one chair, while I spent most of the time upstairs in bed, feeling a new misery wash over me.  By the end of the night, I was gasping for breath after the simplest of tasks.  Less than twelve hours later, we’d continue our tour of emergency rooms in the Delaware Valley.  I was diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia.

I could keep piling on.  I haven’t yet mentioned that our dog, Neko, hurt herself before the trip, and is currently recovering from knee surgery at a nearby veterinary clinic.  Her absence from the home this week has given me a lot of time to think about our trip, and how terrible it was.  And it’s tempting to just think about everything bad that has happened, and allow it to make me even more miserable.  And I’m not perfect: I’ve certainly succumbed to such thoughts.

But since moving to Kansas, I’ve made a very conscious effort to look for two sides to everything that’s happened to us.  It would be too easy to dwell on that which we don’t want, and couldn’t choose.  It’s far more difficult — but also more beneficial — to look for the hidden rewards.

There are so many things I wanted to do and people I wanted to see last week.  And I hardly got to tick any of it off of my list.  That’s a shame, and certainly not something to be happy about.  But it certainly made it easy to come home to a place that’s hard to call home.

If every trip goes like this, I won’t be this pragmatic.  But sometimes getting the double bird from your hometown is a good reminder that you can go home again, but you might break some bones and get a lung infection along the way.

Typing Karaoke →

I feel like I’d be a better typist if I this site existed when I was younger.

Stephen Colbert, in an interview with Playboy:

No, it’s completely natural. I’m surprised there aren’t more unbalanced people in the world, because being alive is not easy. We’re just not that nice to one another. We’re all we have, and Jesus, are we shitty to one another. We really are. The only thing that keeps us going back to one another is that we’re all filled with such enormous self-doubt. We have doubts about our ability to be alone, to self-actualize. We’re on such a rocky road all the time. Every moment is new. Every inch of the mountain is fresh snow. If someone said, “I have been out ahead and I know what you’re supposed to do,” if I believed that were true, I would absolutely obey whatever father told me. I would stay on the compound.

Outlawed by Amazon →

Emerging theme on this blog: worrying about e-books — specifically Amazon’s.  What can I say?  They give me plenty of reasons for concern.

“Hyperbolic Headline” →

I am a few weeks late on this (the Instapaper effect!), but I loved Joe Eskenazi’s Bleacher Report piece in San Francisco Weekly.

I could have used this piece in a course I taught last year on argumentative sportswriting.  While it’s not often hard to tell when a student is using Google as his or her only academic research, it was painfully obvious in a sportswriting class.  I only had to look for the Bleacher Report links on the Works Cited page.

Finger Drills

I had the opportunity this week to see Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein give a lecture on “Demystifying Academic Writing,” and even more fortunate to have the chance to ask them a question during a discussion afterwards.

I was interested in an issue they raised during their lecture, as it’s something I’ve encountered in my own teaching.  In They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter In Academic Writing, Graff and Birkenstein provide many templates for argumentative movement.  They encourage student writers to use these templates as needed in their own work — word for word, even.

But in suggesting this, we each run into a number of students who resist even considering such an approach.  They worry that using templates is an affront to their own creativity and individualism.

I asked Graff and Birkenstein why they think students have these negative reactions to very practical and helpful approaches to writing, considering that we, the teachers, are providing a sort of cheat sheet for what we like to see in academic writing.  Is there a problem in the way we teach genius and creativity, or are these conversations natural to have at the University-level?

In replying, Cathy thought it had broader cultural links to our ideas of American exceptionalism.  But in arriving there, I thought she struck on a very simple parallel I hope to use in my own classrooms: Cathy talked about how students, when learning an instrument or sport (among other things), never object to finger drills on a violin, or dribbling drills at a soccer practice.

Frankly, I was disappointed that such a direct and relatable parallel had never occurred to me before.  I don’t think it’s such a stretch to imagine that a majority of students will have some sort of history with a sport, class, hobby or lesson that they consider creative, but is only grasped through the mimicry and interpretation of previous work.

We don’t use templates to avoid creating something new, but to find what it is we wish to build.

Crazy Irish Uncle →

Josh Marshall, in the aftermath of tonight’s Vice Presidential debate:

For reasons that are complicated and juvenile, during his vice presidency a caricature has emerged of Biden as some sort of Crazy Irish Uncle, gaffetastic and corny, a risible figure. That left people unprepared for what they saw tonight. Ryan was unprepared too. Biden’s actually one of sharpest guys in Washington and has been for decades.

I agree — I’ve been surprised for a while about how a good (and certainly fun!) SNL caricature has taken hold in the popular culture.

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