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Showing posts from 2011

School House Rock: Verbs

Let's get funky with verbs!




Verbs are for when you're feeling active. Verbs express action, being, or a state of being. A verb tells you what's happening!

The University of Ottawa Writing Center asks:

What is a verb?

The verb is perhaps the most important part of the sentence. A verb or compound verb asserts something about the subject of the sentence and expresses actions, events, or states of being.

In the following sentence, the verb appears highlighted:

Dracula bites his victims on the neck.

The verb "bites" describes the action Dracula takes.

Verbs in workplace writing and your resume.

According to the OWL at Purdue:
An action verb expresses achievements or something a person does in a concise, persuasive manner.

Why is it Important to Use Action Verbs in Workplace Writing?

You should use action verbs in workplace writing because they make sentences and statements more concise. Since concise writing is easier for readers to understand, it is more reader-center…

Rhetoric: Logos

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The rhetoric of logos is based on what it sounds like: logic. According to Aristotle it is supported by "proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech [or text] itself." It is the use of argumentation and rational appeals based on facts, case studies, statistics, anecdotes, experiments, logical reasoning, and analogies. Think of toothpaste commercials that claim "Nine out of ten dentists recommend Crust because studies show it prevents cavities."

Strong arguments should have a balance of ethos (ethical appeals), pathos (emotional appeals), and logos (rational appeals). Logic often seems like the most convincing element of an argument, but many times the listener has to depend on the ethos of the speaker in order to believe the logos of his or her argument. In other words, you have to take the writer's word for it, whatever "it" may be.

McDonald's is not immune to rational appeals. There has to be some logic in our choice t…

Rhetoric: Pathos

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Pathos refers to the emotion or passion a writer evokes in a reader. It involves stirring people up enough to get them to do or believe something. Aristotle didn't much like this form of persuasion. "The arousing of prejudice, pity, anger, and similar emotions has nothing to do with the essential facts, but is merely a personal appeal to the [wo]man who is judging the case." Advertisers and politicians often revert to pathos because it is the only way you will get somebody to put down the remote, get up of the coach, and do something.

Advertisers or writers can appeal to higher emotions like our belief in fairness and justice, love, or pity; or they can appeal to our lower emotions like greed, lust, revenge, avarice, and jealousy.

Even if you're not a politician or advertiser, think about how you might use pathos in your everyday career to persuade your boss or coworkers to believe or do something you think is important. When is it appropriate to use emotion …

Rhetoric: Ethos

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"We believe good men more fully and more readily than others," at least that's how Aristotle defined ethos.

Ethos is just one point on the rhetorical triangle and has to do with how people perceive you. As an author, are you competent, fair, and/or an authority on your subject matter? If you want people to believe your premise, or message, you better be.

An August 2011 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education asserts that "ethos is the primary mode of persuasion, and one which we neglect at our peril. Reflect for a moment on how you have been persuaded. When you were a student, which teacher influenced you the most? Probably the one whose character and interaction with students you found most appealing. Which publications do you trust the most? Probably the ones with the best brand (branding being our impoverished substitute for ethos)."

Branding? Yes, branding, as in advertising. And advertisers are experts at manipulating people using ethos, pat…

The Trouble with "I"

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Students often say their high school teachers told them to never use "I" in their papers. I'm not sure I agree, but the problem for high school teachers may be an annoying inundation of "I" constructions, "I think this" and "I believe that" coupled with the uninformed "I" analysis written by teenagers who have been told that they are "entitled to their own opinion." Well, that's just fine, as long as it is an informed opinion and not just an opinion based on some tingling nerve ending.

But is using "I" really bad?

In the Spring 2011 issue of Inside English Charles Hood of Antelope Valley College asks "Why do Students use "I" Appropriately in Speech and Yet so Badly in Papers?" Here are four kinds of student "I" uses that he found ineffective:

The Invisible Man I. That is, there is no human agency in the paper; instead sentences (often fragments) appear out of the ether, …

School House Rock: Nouns

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Here's the next installment of School House Rock--this time in a country western song about nouns. For the rest of the day you'll be singing "Every person, place, or thing that you can know, ya know their nouns."



But there is a lot more to nouns than just concrete people, animals, places, or things. It is also abstract ideas. Here's a larger explanation of nouns from the University of Ottawa.
Proper Nouns
You always write a proper noun with a capital letter, since the noun represents the name of a specific person, place, or thing. The names of days of the week, months, historical documents, institutions, organizations, religions, their holy texts and their adherents are proper nouns.
Last year, Jaime had a Baptist and a Buddhist as roommates.

Common Nouns
A common noun is a noun referring to a person, place, or thing in a general sense -- usually, you should write it with a capital letter only when it begins a sentence. A common noun is the opposite of a proper n…

Top Five Résumé Mistakes

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Your résumé is your first impression. It should be tailored to fit every potential employer. It says, "This is my best work," which won't get you far if you make these mistakes.

1. Typos/Grammar mistakes
Many companies cull the résumé herd by round filing those with misspelled words or blatant grammar mistakes. So double check it, better yet, get someone to proofread it.

2. Weird Blog or Social Networking site
For some industries, a blog presence is a must. So if you are listing your blog on your résumé, make sure it isn't called, "IH8MyBoss.com". While most people don't list their Facebook page on their résumé, most companies will Google you. It is a cheap way to check on potential employees (and, no, it is not illegal). If you don't want your parents or siblings to see your Facebook page, you need to update it ASAP!

3. Lying
Why isn't this number 1? Because first you'll be Googled, and then it will take some phone calls to verify you…

School House Rock: Subjects and Predicates

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As a kid, Saturday morning included not only Scooby Doo cartoons, but also School House Rock, cartoons with catchy phrases to help kids learn grammar, U.S. History, math, and science. What better way to learn grammar than to get some crazy tune stuck in your head?

First, watch The Tale of Mr. Morton. Believe me, you'll be humming this until bedtime.


Next, an explanation of Subjects and Predicates from the University of Ottawa.
"Every complete sentence contains two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about, while the predicate tells something about the subject. In the following sentences, the predicate is enclosed in brackets { }.

     Judy {runs}.
     Judy and her dog {run on the beach every morning}.

To determine the subject of a sentence, first isolate the verb and then make a question by placing "who?" or "what?" before it -- the answer is the subject.

     The audience littered the t…

Formatting College Papers

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What should your professor notice about your paper format? NOTHING!

The only time your professor will notice something about your paper's format is when you don't bother following standard college level formatting, or you do something creative--teachers interpret this as strange or just plain wrong. This tells the professor you cannot follow instructions and leaves them wondering what other instructions you didn't bother following. The last thing you want to do is get your professor in a bad mood when he or she has a red pen in their hand.

There are two basic styles of papers used in college classrooms; one is the APA style (American Psychological Association), and the other is MLA (Modern Language Association). The APA style is used in science classrooms, so if you're going for a Bachelor of Science degree, you'll most likely being using this format (click here for a sample APA paper). If you plan on receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree, you'll most li…

CSEUB - We're Broke, So Let's Keep Hiring

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According to a CSUEB December 2011 Communique, the following positions were filled:

July 2011
Student services professional I, Planning and Enrollment Management
Administrative support coordinator, University Advancement
Lieutenant, University Police Department
Interim president, President’s Office
Interim vice president, Administration and Finance

August 2011
Information technology consultant, User Support Services
Head track coach, Intercollegiate Athletics
Student services professional III, Student life and Leadership
Student services professional III, Accessibility Services
Interim associate vice president, Human Resources

September 2011
Instructional support tech, Nursing
Assistant water polo coach, Intercollegiate Athletics
Interim director, Center for STEM Education
Track coaching assistant, Intercollegiate Athletics
Administrative analyst, Academic Senate
Registered nurse, Student Health Services
Assistant baseball coach, Intercollegiate Athletics
Director, Server Operations Se…

The Grinch who Sells Christmas

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I received the cutest Holiday e-card, reminding me there isn't a child alive (not even a puppy) who can stay awake long enough to greet Santa.



Unfortunately, it reminded me of this year's Best Buy commercials dissing Santa--who it seems is only good enough to leave presents for dogs!?



Today, we can understand Scrooge's "Bah! Humbug!" due to the dread everyone feels by the prospect of being mauled at the mall. We forget Scrooge's visitations by the ghosts of Christmas, ghosts who defrosted his cold heart with visions of those less fortunate.

Christmas is a time of innocent awe - children waking their parents at the crack of dawn to see what presents Santa left. When giving is better than receiving and thoughtful gifts are better than $1000 flat screen TVs. Christmas is about families getting together to make ornaments and cookies or working at the local food bank and being thankful. It is not supposed to be a stress-ridden orgy of shopping where children…

CSU Budget Woes Redux

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From the Chancellor's Office:

Your tuition is going up again!

That's right. At the board meeting, held the week before Thanksgiving 2011, the CSU Board of Trustees approved a $498 per year undergraduate tuition increase, effective fall 2012.

Here's some of the other highlights from the CSUEB University Communique: *The CSU Board of Trustees adopted the 2012-13 budget

*The CSU Board requests state lawmakers provide an additional $333 million in funding.

*Approximately $64 million in revenue would come from tuition fee revenues associated with enrollment growth of 5 percent (approx 20,000 students)

*Tuition for full time undergraduates would rise to $5,970 from $5472 in fall 2012.

*Approximately 45 percent of the CSU's undergraduates would not pay the tuition fee increase due to grants or aid. According to cappex.com 63 percent of CSUEB students receive financial aid.

*Households earning $70,000 or less qualify for financial aid.

It has been rep…

RateMyProfessor.com Research Study

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The Chronicle of Higher Ed published an article entitled, "Researchers RateMyProfessors, and Find It Useful, if not Chili-Pepper Hot." The research "suggests the popular service is a more useful barometer of instructor quality than you might think, at least in the aggregate. And the study, the latest of several indicating RateMyProfessors should not be dismissed, raises questions about how universities should deal with a site whose ratings have been factored into Forbes magazine's college rankings and apparently even into some universities' personnel evaluations."

Another study cited in the article, "concluded that the site's evaluations 'closely matched students' real-life concerns about the quality of instruction in the classroom. The paper added, 'While issues such as personality and appearance did enter into the postings, these were secondary motivators compared to more salient issues such as competence, knowledge, clarity, and …

CSU Budget Woes

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Students at CSU don't have to be told that their dollar isn't going as far as it used to when it comes to obtaining a college education.


For a larger image click here.

According to this graphic, student tuition has risen 106 percent since 1998. Full-time faculty salaries are down 10 percent while administration pay is up 20 to 23 percent.

Full-time versus Part-time

Most would assume an institution of higher learning would be made up of full-time teachers, but according to the CSU, in 2010 only 35 percent of full-time employees are faculty. In raw numbers the CSU employs 11,227 full-time faculty (teachers) and 20,459 full-time executives/administrators, secretaries, paraprofessionals, skilled crafts persons, and maintenance workers.

But the CSU also employs 11,198 part-time employees and most of them are your teachers: in fact, 9,701. Just 1,497 part-timers make up the ranks of the administration and support staff.

In other words, part-time instructors make up 23 per…

Top 5 Grammar and Spelling Mistakes that Make you Look DUMB

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Every life has its bmups, errr, I mean bumps, but don't let these basic grammar and spelling mistakes be one of them.

One of these errors on a resume can cost you a job. Already have a job? Well, these blunders used often enough in emails or other interoffice communications will keep you on the bottom rung of the ladder.
Leslie Ayers at Free Republic offers seven grammar and spelling mistakes that will make you looks stupid.

Here is Leslie's top 4:

You're / Your
The apostrophe means it's a contraction of two words; "you're" is the short version of "you are" (the "a" is dropped), so if your sentence makes sense if you say "you are," then you're good to use you're. "Your" means it belongs to you, it's yours.

* You're = if you mean "you are" then use the apostrophe
* Your = belonging to you
Correct Example: You're going to love your new job!

It's / Its
This one is confusing, becaus…

2nd Annual O'Keefe Prize for Graphic Literature

The English and Art Departments of Diablo Valley College are accepting entries for the 2nd Annual O'Keefe Prize for Graphic Literature--a contest highlighting the best in comics art and writing.

Prizes include $$$$$, a comics prize pack, and publication for the DVC student body.

To enter submit a draft of your graphic essay by November 21, 2011. If you are creating a comic for class, this is the perfect opportunity to not only get a great grade, but also get some recognition and professional feedback. After submitting a draft, you will receive advice from professional writers and artists about how to make your graphic essay even better.

So let your creativity soar and pull out those colored pencils, crayons, paints, and cameras. For more information go to: jamesokeefeprize.blogspot.com.

For a peek at the last year's winner, check out "A Prayer for Uganda" by Lizbeth Brown.

Five Ways to Screw up Your Life with the Internet

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I used to announce to students that they had to do a social networking project where they had to publish something relevant to whatever we were studying on their Facebook page and then share it with the class.

Wait for it . . .

About 30 seconds after this announcement, some students would go white, others would start to fidget, while still others looked like their head was about to blow off. Here's what they were thinking, "I have to show my Facebook page to my professor?!@#$"

So think about that. If you wouldn't want your parents or siblings looking at your Facebook page, you need to do some adjusting ASAP!

What? You don't care what your professor or relatives think?

Think about this. When you apply for your dream job, your prospective employer is going to Google you and if your latest post features you in a sexually explicit pose chugging a bottle of tequila, well, guess who isn't going to get the job?


Pajamas media just published a list of the Five …

Quit Procrastinating!

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Instead of correcting that stack of rough drafts, or doing my lesson plans, or updating my roll sheets, I decided I really need to do a blog post about New School Year's Resolutions. Suddenly, I discovered I have a tendency to procrastinate and then began scouring YouTube for procrastination videos. After a few Google searches and twenty minutes, I decided the following YouTube video is my favorite:


Then, I spent another twenty minutes Googling "procrastination strategies" and these two seemed like good ideas.

1. Get organized - make a list of what you have to do and prioritize it. I know when I feel overwhelmed by work if I figure out what I should get done first, then second, and third, it helps me feel a little less stressed and actually get something done. However, only do this once because listing can also be a great procrastinating technique.

2. Fear of failure leads to procrastination. Face it, everybody fails sometime. Just take the plunge and get it ove…

Extraordinary Analysis

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Writing a critical analysis is often tricky for college freshman. Instead of writing high school book reports filled with plot summary and description, they are now compelled to write beyond the text -- to "stick his or her neck out." John Trimble reminds writers that "The critic's job is to explain and evaluate--that is, to bring his readers to a better understanding of his subject". But what does that mean?

It means you need a top notch thesis statement. Sometimes it's easier to understand what a critical analysis is by looking at examples of good topic questions.

Here again Trimble gives some good examples:
"How is Hamlet like Horatio--and unlike him?"
or "How does King Claudius win over the enraged Laertes?"

If you think of comic books like any other piece of literature including Hamlet, you can come up with good topic questions that will lead to a great thesis statement.

If we look at Trimble's examples and apply them to…

Remembering 9/11

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9/11 is a time to reflect.

9/11 was the worst terrorist attack inflicted on civilians of the United States of America. Innocent men, women, and children died when the Twin Towers fell.

9/11 remembrances can be personal like those who got tattoos, tattoos ranging from remembrances of that terrible day, to remembrances of family and co-workers killed.

9/11 leads some to their local fire departments to leave flowers or attend candlelight vigils. Others go to religious services.

9/11 led our nation to build a national memorial on ground zero where so many lost their lives. Two 7-story waterfalls spill into the base of each missing Twin Tower and "nearly 3,000 names of the men, women, and children killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 are inscribed in bronze on parapets surrounding the twin Memorial pools."
How do you remember those who died on 9/11?

Extraordinary Rhetoric

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Writers, politicians, advertisers and graphic novelists all use rhetoric in the same way--to persuade you to do something, believe something, or buy something. To bring readers and/or viewers, around to their way of thinking.

Creators can rely on ethos (or authority) to get their message across. When the president gives a speech we listen - he is an authority. In the same way, advertisers often use celebrities to sell products. If I buy Kim Kardashian's makeup, I'll look as great as she does because she's an expert at looking good. There are also experts In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where a "menagerie" has been brought together to save the British Empire--all because they have some ethos, as strange as it may be.

Often times you will see advertisements that offer proof that a product works, or statistics that report customer satisfaction. These are appeals to logic or logos. If studies show that 99 percent of people using XYZ toothpaste have whi…

Visualizing The Price of Pot

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Inforporn: The Price of Pot by Cameron Bird at Wired (September 2011).


Click here for the full graphic and article.

Read Think b4 u Write is always attracted to articles and essays with pretty pictures, and while this graphic is nice looking it accompanies an article about the disparities of marijuana laws in the United States.

The graphic displays fluctuations in pricing: the darker the green the cheaper the marijuana ($92 per ounce), while yellow tips the scale at $526 per ounce. The red and purple bars record fines and jail time, and the red cross indicates a medical marijuana state.

In part the article reads, "The US is still of two minds on marijuana: While 16 states now consider it a medicine, others continue to hand down heavy sentences—including jail time—for simple possession."

Do you think this is an effective graphic? Why or why not? Where do you stand on this issue? Should marijuana be legalized? Or should it be illegal? Or is there some compromise? What a…

Video Essay: Defining Hipsters

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An approved topic for the Regent's exam is to "discuss a stereotype that you once believed but that later proved inaccurate." Stereotyping is defined as "a generalization about a group of people whereby we attribute a defined set of characteristics to this group based on their appearance or our assumptions."

Stereotypes are definitions - we define a certain group by their "group" actions, or perceived group actions by using extended definitions. But are stereotypes always bad? Sometimes we use stereotypes to help us quickly identify and make sense of the world around us. They allow us to make predictions about what to expect from those stereotypes. It costs us relatively little psychologically, we don't have to deal with, or don't have to modify our behavior, because we know how those stereotyped are going to act. But most of all, they are beliefs that are shared, otherwise we wouldn't stereotype in the first place. So stereotypes ar…

Video Essay: Classifying and Dividing College Roomates

Students are often asked to write Classification/Division essays that either break apart a whole into parts (Division), or sort items into categories (Classification). A popular prompt for this assignment is to classify roommates into categories - as does this video from www.collegehumor.com.

See all the CollegeHumor Original Videos here. The video essay takes the broad category of Roommates and then subdivides it into Monsters. From there it divides monstrous roommates into six different kinds from "The Robot" to "The Zombie."

How would you classify your former or current roommates? Can you think of a broad category of roommates (like monsters) and then subdivide it further?

Debt, Red Herrings, and the Church of Global Warming

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James Taranto wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal on the Anti-debt ceiling Republicans that wound up at the global warming issue, an issue that has divided people. An issue that has removed the lens from such environmental disasters as drought-driven famine in Somalia to indigenous cooking fires which "Kill a million and a half people and nobody gives a damn. But become a part of this big climate thing and everyone comes knocking on your door," at least that's what Burkhard Bilger reports in "Hearth Surgery" from The New Yorker, but I digress . . .

James Taranto, a conservative writer, reports that liberals believe, “Some of the congressional Republicans who are preventing action to help the economy are simply intellectual primitives who reject modern economics on the same basis that they reject Darwin and climate science.

"Darwin is a red herring here. Although disparaging people for holding harmless religious beliefs as 'intellectual primit…

Visualizing Debt

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Visuals are the way most of us receive information and good visuals can be very powerful.

U.S. Debt Problem Visualized


That's $100,000,000, yep, One Hundred Million Dollars in $100 dollar bills (the most counterfeited currency in the world) and it fits nicely on a pallet.



That's One Trillion Dollars and the caption partly reads: "If you spent $1 million a day since Jesus was born, you would have not spent $1 trillion by now...but ~$700 billion- same amount the banks got during bailout." Those double stacked pallets would cover an entire football field.


That's 15 Trillion dollars . . . the amount of projected U.S. Debt by December 2011 at current rates.

"If you live in USA this is also your personal credit card bill; you are responsible along with everyone else to pay this back."

Visit USDebt.kleptocracy.us/ to see even more debt visuals including one of the U.S.'s unfunded liabilities.

U.S. National Debt Clock

Tables are a very common way to visuali…

Plagiarism and the College Classroom

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Cheating is rampant and not just in the college classroom.

Recent scandals include the Atlanta school district where hundreds (yes, hundreds) of teachers and administrators, NOT STUDENTS, changed answers on state wide tests in order for the district to look good (meaning get more money) on standardized tests.

You can blame "No Child Left Behind," for pushing up standards, but my response to those teachers who say the standardized test drove them to it: Didn't you always give tests in your classes? Of course, you did.

But I digress . . .

Great Neck, New York high school students paid to have their SAT tests taken by others with fake IDs and handwriting samples - tests that cost high schoolers $1 a point, meaning some paid more than $2000 for a good SAT score.

David Wangaard and Jason Stephens in the Winter 2011 edition of Excellence and Ethics posted the results of a three-year study of academic motivation and integrity. The two researchers "surveyed over 3,60…

Envisioning Information

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It's much easier to read large collections of data in a visual format and this type of graphic data presentation is a modern phenomenon (relatively speaking). Can you imagine reading all these data points as lists of numbers? Talk about information overload . . . but like all other information you receive visually, everything is done for a reason.
Read the above data points. What has been the trend for winter temperatures in England for the last 350 years? What projections can you make from this trend?

Here's another graph of 10,000 years of global temperatures from the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2.

What has been the trend for worldwide temperatures in the last 10,000 years? What projections can you make from this trend?

Here's a different presentation of the same information:

Why do you think the author highlighted certain segments of the data line? The green bars are labelled using periods of human civilization: Minoan warm period, Roman warm period, Medieval warm …

Dance + Comics = Personal Mythologies

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Art Speigelman, author of Maus a comic book about the Holocaust, collaborated with the Philobolus dance company on a project where Sunday strip characters were animated to create dancing comics.

These dancing comics resulted in a mash up of ancient and modern mythologies; where Pan and Medusa ran head on into the Sunday funnies, noir film, detective novels, and movie classics to create a personal mythology, or dream life, that presents a slightly skewed world view, all set to the tinny tunes of early jazz.

Speigelman calls this collaboration a new language, which he termed Still Moving in a short interview he gave about his collaboration with Philobolus.


In addition, Speigelman talks about stories, characters, and movies that resonate from his childhood, stories like The Wizard of Oz and characters like the early Hapless Hooligan from the Sunday funnies. What stories or characters made an impact on your childhood?

Highlights from the Philobolus world premier of Still Moving:


What …

And the Peeps just keep on coming . . .

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I went to an outdoor performance of Shakespeare's Macbeth--awesome production by the way--and it reminded me of another strangely awesome Shakespeare, or rather Shakespeep, production.

And without further ado, here's Peepeo and Juliet by Plain Jane.



>Click here for the rest of Peepeo and Juliet

A Short History of Visual Communication

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In argumentation, warrants or assumptions can be a tricky concept for readers and writers to grasp.

Claims are supported by evidence and warrants – those underlying beliefs or values taken for granted by bloggers, advertisers, politicians, and writers. Assumptions can come from cultural values, biological or scientific beliefs, intellectual (logical) tenets, or idiosyncratic viewpoints. In writing and visual communication some warrants (or assumptions) are explicit, but most are implied and your understanding of texts, both visual and written, relies heavily on your beliefs.

So having said all that - What does this strip remind you of?

What are some of the underlying warrants or assumptions of this strip?

Since comics often present information in a humorous way, what do you need to know in order to get the joke about visual communication? What is the joke?

The author seems to be making a prediction, what is it? Do you agree or disagree?

Is there anything, or any step, missing…

We'll be right back, after these messages . . .

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When your ethos is about to be destroyed, and you can only rely on your logic to avoid the pathos of your audience, it's time to retreat - or at least that seems to be the implication here.



SPOILER ALERT: In other words, when you admit that everything you've told your fiance is a lie, the only logical thing to do to avoid his or her emotional reaction is to climb into your Range Rover and cower behind the wheel.

Message: "You'll feel safe inside."

Hmmm, I always knew there was something wrong with people who drive Range Rovers. On the other hand, it is a pretty funny commercial and the advertisers were looking for the audience to laugh.

Look at other rhetorical clues, what else were the advertisers trying to tell the audience or saying about people who drive, or would purchase, Range Rovers?

Why I Shouldn't Blog About Politics . . .

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Political ideologues can whip trivial episodes and misstatements into a frenzy faster than a washing machine during a heavy duty spin cycle. They engage in all the fallacies we're told to avoid: false analogy (comparing health insurance to car insurance), circular arguments (terrorists don't want TSA screenings, so if you complain about airport screenings you're a terrorist), ad hominem attacks (President Obama is a fascist, socialist, etc.)--you get the idea.

Political pundits usually get everything half-right, or half-wrong, depending on which side of the aisle you sit . . . and just when you think someone is getting unduly chastised by a rabid politico along comes a politician who does something so incredibly idiotic that you just can't help wondering how they got elected in the first place.


Enter Michele Bachmann.

No, it wasn't something she said at a political rally, some over the top promise made to supporters, it was something she signed called The Marriag…

Alice in Peepland

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Alice in Peepland is the Chicago Tribune's 2011 (People's choice) winner. What a misnomer! Of course, this is the Peeple's choice winner!

This is the Dispeep version, there's no Johnny Peep as the Mallow Hatter to scare the goo out of you. We can clearly see Alice as she waits for the Queen of Carnuba to wax the groundpeep through the Jackrabbit of Spades.

Advertising and Visual Rhetoric

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These days we get most of our information via visuals--television media, magazines, the internet--even newspapers have gone cyber. Go to your local newsstand and you'll find papers featuring huge photographs above the fold. Tucked inside are various pics, graphics, and charts serving up information in a visual way that can be read just like any other text.

But the best servers of visual information (or at least the most creative) are advertisers.

There's a lot to learn about rhetoric by examining how advertisers are manipulating purchasers to buy a myriad of products we may or may not need. Recently, this ad found its way to my mailbox with the caption, "Can you guess the product before the end of the commercial?"



At first I thought it was some weird take on a new HGTV home redecorating show, but since YouTube so graciously provides the product in the header it's a bit of a giveaway.

Marketers know that when the audience feels familiar with something, …

Celebrate the Fourth with Another History Lesson

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Or Conservative Women – The Best Thing to Happen to American History?

Forget Sarah Palin.

Thank you Michele Bachmann.

Congresswoman Bachmann recently said John Quincy Adams and our other founding fathers “worked tirelessly” to end slavery. George Stephanopoulos reminded Bachman, and all of us, that slavery didn’t end until the Civil War, so the founding fathers couldn’t have been doing much to end that peculiar institution. Stephanopoulos also schooled Bachmann on the cast of founding fathers. John Adams, yes; John Quincy Adams, no.

John Quincy Adams was the son of a founding father and the sixth president of the United States, who, after his term as president was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He railed against slavery and successfully upheld the release of a group of slaves who mutinied on the Spanish slave ship, Amistad, arguing that the Africans had been illegally detained. But he was not a founding father.

When Bachmann asserted that once immigrants arri…

Sarah Palin: The Best Thing to Happen to American History?

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During the 2008 presidential election, I taught English at an institute of higher learning where the class focused on politics. What a great way for students to learn something about the presidential candidates, American history, and critical thinking. Throughout the quarter, we had lively and spirited conversations about the limitations on free speech and the press.

For the final, I asked students to analyze a political cartoon that spoofed The New York Times for releasing sensitive material. This Times was dated April 17, 1775 and displayed a drawing of the old north church with headlines that read “One if by land; two if by sea. Secret Lantern Signals of American Colonists Revealed.” The first couple of paragraphs stated that an anonymous source had revealed the “secret plan for tomorrow to warn Patriot Colonist Militia Forces of the route the English Regular Soldiers plan to take as they move their forces to Lexington and Concord.” Student essays were to focus on how politi…

Spider-Peep: Turn Off the Dark

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The 2011 Washington Post Peep Show only included one comic inspired entry - well, actually, an entry inspired by a play, inspired by a movie, inspired by a comic - Spider-Peep: Turn Off the Dark.

From Playpeep: "Star clusters opening night featured the silver-maned, former Presipeep, Bill Chickton, who signed autographs creating aisle congestion not seen since the mallow filled hallways of Dance With the Vamallows.

Other P-Listers included Marshmallow Walters and Jimmy Falpeep who kibitzed with with Fran Peepowitz about Peep-knows-what. The show's tunepeeps, Molo and The Edge were squished by applause." A pip of a night! Ooops. Peep of a night!

And the Bulwer-Lytton 2010 Winner is . . .

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The Bulwer-Lytton worst first line contest is always good for a laugh . . . and should remind writers that sometimes (most times) more is not better.

The 2010 winner is:

"For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil."
Molly Ringle
Seattle, WA


Other laughable entries are:

"When Hru-Kar, the alpha-ranking male of the silver-backed gorilla tribe finished unleashing simian hell on Lt. Cavendish, the once handsome young soldier from Her Majesty’s 47th Regiment resembled nothing so much as a crumpled up piece of khaki-colored construction paper that had been dipped in La Victoria chunky salsa."
Greg Homer
Placerville, CA


"As Holmes, who had a nose for danger, quietly fingered the bloody knife and eyed the various body pa…