Monday, November 17, 2014

Kairos in Cowing

* From Wikipedia: Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. What is happening when referring to kairos depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature.

It's not like I'm home alone reading a class assignment and blogging in a cow suit. My cat Phoebe's here. This is one of those times in the ole Cow Suit Saturday blog when I wonder if I'm absolutely nuts. Do people who are truly crazy know they are crazy? Do they care? Tonight I don't really care because we've had the first big snow storm of the season and my house is freezing. The cow suit is warm and comfy. A cold pre-winter night is a perfectly suitable time to cow.

This is the last blogging assignment for my Topics in Professional Writing Class at ISU. Moo-ray! I've enjoyed the class and the new spin it's put on how we write and in what mediums nowadays, but I need to get back to the gym.

This chapter is titled "Story Development (Argument)." I detest arguing. I'm usually good for a few back-and-forths, and then I'm done. And, definitely when it starts to get personal, I'm out. But I do enjoy reading, hearing or seeing an argument developed in a good story with a blend of our textbook's touted logos, ethos, pathos and kairos.

Sometimes I like it when my mind gets changed. I love that sense of enlightenment even if it is fleeting, and I love having the hope that if I can change my mind, others can too.

To recap, logos means logic; ethos means credibility, pathos means emotion and kairos as noted above means timing. In taking this class, I hoped to expand my writing skills to become a better technical writer but that's not really been a focus of the class.  I've been able to apply a lot to blogging and column-writing, though, so I have high hopes of monumental self-improvement as these settle into my comprehension. It's been nice to take a class with improvement as a goal and not making a grade or keeping a scholarship.

This chapter discusses the use of explicit versus implicit arguments in not only writing, but in photographs, audio and visual media As part of this chapter, our assignment is to create a podcast with a couple classmates.

I'd forgotten the chore it can be to coordinate fellow students' schedules and ideas. Who takes the lead? Who defers? How are meeting times and topics chosen?

We had a couple email threads which could be summarized by...

- Hey, we are in a group together.
- Cool. Can we talk about a topic after we all turn in our last assignment?
- Sure.

Then I sent out the following email:

Well...since I've completely used this class self-servingly to help me with my blog, I'll just throw it out there... We could meet somewhere in my cow suits, have a cup of coffee, a bagel, just gather in the SUB, a pub or anywhere and then talk about just that experience: Wearing a cow suit in public in November and anything it does or doesn't evoke from others or from within. The blog is at in case you are even remotely interested. And truly--it's just an idea. Some people are up for cowing; some aren't. It's cool. 

As I wrote that email, I crafted my words carefully. I considered attaching a link to the video below that I assembled for our previous assignment to bolster my "argument" to discuss cowing in a podcast. I could break it down as follows:

Logos: I have suits. Topic would be simple, unique & determined.
Ethos:  *I* am an expert cow & wouldn't lead you astray. Look. I've done this. You can, too.
Pathos: Don't you want a topic nailed down? Look at the smiles! Listen to the music! Don't you wanna cow? Along with doing an assignment, you could have fun!
Kairos: Tick-tock. The assignment is due, so we better hurry & decide on something.

I didn't do that, though, because I really don't want to corral people into a cow suit if they'd hate it or think it's stupid. It's supposed to be fun. I really was just throwing the idea out there because cowing is often on my mind, and it  would be a simple and unique podcast.  I made a point NOT to try to sell something if they weren't in the market to buy, but I should have made a point to communicate that I would like to get a plan in place ASAP. (As an aside, we are going to talk about how winter is upon us and all that is entailed in the cold, driving and other adjustments to life with a changing season. And despite the temptation, I will not show up to our recording meeting in a cow suit. Most likely.)

In addition to heeding the four "rhetorical appeals" above, the chapter reminds us to pay attention to the message, audience, design, medium and genre in our argument/story development. And indeed. I've been considering them in almost all of my communication lately because I feel like I'm in a constant state of developing stories or presenting some form of argument.

Audience is tricky with the dual nature of a class assignment within a blog (this particular blog) and it feels impossible to speak to them all.
(1) I'm talking to myself in the journal-esque reasons and ways one blogs.
(2) I'm talking to readers in the way that blogs could be book chapters.
(3) I'm writing to my professor who's likely got a combination of wanting to ensure I did and understand the assignment along with wanting to get the $#@! grading done.

(1) and (2) above seem near impossible in this one but I hope the earlier use of bold and italics of chapter references along with the previous class discussion at least secure a lil partial credit in my pursuit of (3)

I have hash-tagged on Twitter #alwaystimetocow and while I experience that over and over, there's #neverenoughtimetowrite.  The kairos in my cowing is always better than in my writing. With more and more practice and training now and then, I hope I can better balance the two.

I'll get right on that after the semester. And after the gym. And after I watch this collection of fun just one more time...

Monday, November 3, 2014

He's an Urban Cow Now

So, I went to junior high and high school with this guy named Jim. Jim married this gal named Nicole. I became Facebook friends with Nicole after my 20 year high school reunion, and yes, this is exactly how I began a previous blog Cows say 'Cheese'.  Nicole has been buggin' me for three years to visit them for the Urban Cow Half Marathon because, well, you know...COWS!

This was our text exchange earlier this summer:

Nicole: The Urban Cow half marathon is October 5.
Me: Ooooh. Are you running?!
Nicole: Jim is running. I hope to be cowing.

Subtle. So subtle. I adore Nicole. She is witty and smart and I swear that we spent time together in another life and whaddaya know--the Urban Cow finally worked into my schedule!

I've really only gotten to know Nicole over social media and I didn't talk to Jim much in junior high because I didn't think he was a serious enough student. Good grief. What kind of kid thinks that about her peers? Yeah. This over achiever teacher's pet right here. I'm lucky that  Jim has grown into a kind, cool and mature man (That's right--I just called Jim Bowmer "mature" ) and he doesn't hold any of my middle & high school flippancy against me.

Jim was the nicest guy in all of my middle and high school years in lil ole Pocatello, Idaho. He grew up just a few blocks from me but we never played together because I was either playing sports or studying and I imagine he was doing whatever shenanigans might resemble Huck Finn or the Goonies. After high school he went on to the University of Idaho to earn a degree in forestry, and get this--he's now an office forester. Because he's a knowledgeable & personable extrovert, he was tapped to work in Washington DC and contribute to policy and planning. He was transferred to California a few years ago.

I've loved seeing Jim's and Nicole's pictures on Facebook. With shots of pints, pets, and their favorite sports teams (the Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys--COWboys. How fitting), theirs is an enviable lifestyle.

I was slated to be in Sacramento less than 48 hours. Jim picked me up from the airport in the 8th inning of a playoff game between the Nationals and the San Francisco Giants. Let's examine that for a second... Jim LEFT THE BAR and A NATIONALS GAME to come get me. This is just past kidney donation on Jim's list of selflessness. I'd had one of the crappiest weeks I'd had in a loooong time and the thought of having a few beers in a smokeless sports bar with some fabulous folks was going to be heaven.

I'd only had two Cliff bars to eat all day and by the 4th beer and 15th inning with no food, I was starting to get irritated that their stupid baseball team wasn't just getting it done. What we needed was some cow, so I left Jim & Nicole & went to my suit case to suit up.  I ran into these lovely folks in the parking lot. Apparently they don't see people throwing on cow suits in bar parking lots all that often, and after a couple questions, I extended a cheery invite for them to join me. They did!

New friends Dan & Alli

I have no idea when we finally got to Jim and Nicole's but it was after 18 (EIGHTEEN) innings and with a pizza under Jim's arm (thank God.)  We had to be up and at-em at 5:30. Mooooo!

The pictures below tell the story of Jim's Urban Cow Half Marathon race day...

The bib application is reminiscent of a prom corsage.
Jim is impressed with my desire to photo-document
his Urban Cow experience.

He relented for the photo op and is ready to run!

I was  trying to capture the porta-potty mayhem. Yowza.


ANOTHER BOUNCE HOUSE!  Notice the volunteers' skepticism here. they're willing to pose with the cow.

Nicole came over to join. We about went
rumproast-over-teakettle on this one.

If I were in college, this would be in my possession right now.

After Jim started his run, I had to find coffee, and
the rays of heaven shined down near a Starbucks.
(Note the National's hat.)

Waiting in line & playing with phones.

Nicole was soooo sweet making her way to the perfect spot at the finish line to get Jim's picture.
Once again he's earned the title...JIM'S AN URBAN COW!!

There he is! (For the record, his time was faster
han that because he was in the later wave.) 

Maybe I should run the Urban Cow so *I* can get a medal. Naaaaah!

If I were in college, this also might be in my possession now.
A couple who got engaged at the race last year.
Runners who wanted to pose with us. (This ALWAYS happens.)

I was posing to get the arch but I swear that Jim waited
until the scantly clad runner was there to snap the pic.
Jim gave me his bag! It's perfect for cowing!
(and for carrying food with me the next time
I watch a playoff game with them.)
Jim & Nicole were in a rush to get back to the bar for the Cowboys & Eagles games.
They brought their clothes with them and didn't tell me
we weren't going by the house to change.

Jim:  Whatever. The game's on.

Jim: No seriously. The game is on.
I've never been a Cowboy's fan. As soon as I learned about their cheerleaders when I was in elementary school, the lil feminist in me was like, "Nope." (Yes--I realize all NFL teams have cheerleaders, but I'm recounting the thoughts of a 10 year old here.)  I may just be a Cowboys fan now because (1) Jim likes them and I like Jim, (2) there is costume potential with their stars and my suits and (3) their stars remind me of Wonder Woman stars!  (There must be dumber reasons to like a sports team.)

As I consider a slow meandering path to becoming a fan of the Cowboys,  I consider the short, fast path to becoming a fan of Jim. It may sound trite, but I'm so proud of this guy and thrilled to know him. His journey from small city beginnings in Idaho to becoming a metropolitan professional is as quintessential American Awesome as his favorite Dallas Cowboys, ice cold beer and his (kickass) lady to love 'em both with.

Thanks to Jim for running and to Nicole for cowing... Cheers!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Not in the Mooood

I am not in the mooood to blog today. I'd like to throw on a cow suit and traipse around town with "moos" and "boos," but, in the spirit of going-through-the-motions and putting one hoof in front of the other, here is my next blogging assignment.

  • Read Chapter 11, Editing,  in this bad boy and summarize it.  Here goes...

I didn't have the oomph to throw on a suit,
so I threw the book in the bin.
This chapter discusses the editing process as it pertains to text, images and video. It's contradictory that the author, Sean Morey, titled the chapter "Editing" but then goes on to say, "Although you might lump terms such as proofreading, editing and revising into one group, the three activities are quite different and will be addressed separately..."  Um. OK. So those three are different, and editing is only part of it, but it's still all called editing. Sounds about like the Holy Trinity.

I've thought of these three in writing because I've had plenty of writing over the years. As I've written more blogs and columns recently, though, I've become reacquainted with the three in a slightly different context.   

I've had about fifty columns published since I started 18 months ago and I'd characterize my personal editing process as "dynamic." Not as in, "wow!" but as in "fluid and constantly changing."  The newspaper editor(s) don't edit my material. I'd like to think it's because my pieces are fantastic and editing is unnecessary, but it's more likely because they don't have time and the columns are a commentary any way.

I have a collection of friends that I call on for edits and proofing before I submit piece. The more political or opinion-focused something is, the more effort I put into making sure someone else's eyes see it before I send it. I have one due at 5:00 today and I haven't started yet. This is going to be a happy-go-lucky column because I've not left much time for the editing process, and I can't expect my friends to fit it in either. Good editing takes time.

I'm constantly working at becoming more adept at the revision process. My best columns and blogs have been ones that I've begun with a stream of consciousness flowing freely from my mind to the keyboard and then allowed myself time to go back and cut and rework. Trying to nail down the perfect and exact 600-800 words at  the onset rarely produces a great work. I've gotten lucky a time or two, however, but that's usually been when I'm filled with so much emotion about a topic that the piece practically writes itself. (This blog is not going to be one of those lucky times.)

In addition to discussing the process of editing text, the author extends his instruction to editing images and audio.  Now I'm learning somethin'. 

Sure, I've played with some bare-bones photo editing in Picasa and on my iPhone, but I've not even ever used photoshop. What I've done is considered part of the revision process or the proofreading step, but not necessarily editing. I thought it was interesting to learn that for journalistic purposes there are rules and standards for how much a photo can be edited while still maintaining "journalistic integrity."  I don't have the photo editing skills yet to produce images without journalistic integrity, but I'm learning!

We have an assignment due in a few weeks to produce a video essay. I have no idea how this is going to go , but I feel slightly better after reading this chapter and having a class discussion about it.  The key points I need to consider while editing are transitions, cuts, close-ups, and tempo, When I get to the proofreading step, continuity errors, factual errors, holes in the message, inadvertent reveals or visible equipment. So, not a selfie-style video? Damn.

I warned my professor that I would be really irritated if what we've discussed and what I'll learn in creating video media disrupts my enjoyment of Scandal when I finally find time for a date night with Kerry Washington and my DVR. I do not have enough of an interest in becoming a good videographer to ruin my enjoyment of what little TV and movies I watch. He assured me I'll be okay. I have an idea he's right, but by golly I'm not going to go above and beyond on this next assignment to risk it. 

I'm late in turning this assignment in and the bummer is--I actually read the chapter early. Work, school, life, exercise, writing...they're all getting in the way of each-udder and I hope I can wrangle my time better mooooving forward--not just for the video essay, but everything.  This chapter was a great reminder. It's not just editing. Good anything takes time and I need to be better at time before I can be better at anything.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cupcakes, Cancer and a Cow

I got to see some good today!  And I'm pretty sure--as in positive--that the cow suit is responsible for the opportunity. Hooray Cow Suit!

My friend Paula Ames runs Cake Creations. She is a masterful cake artist who creates the most beautiful and tasty cakes and cupcakes you'll ever experience. Truly. Her creations ARE an experience.

On her Facebook page on Mondays, she asks her fans for nominations for her Tasty Tuesdays surprise cupcake delivery. She picks a different theme each week, and since I've known her, she's recognized teachers, first responders, law enforcement officials, kids with courage, and cancer survivors to name a few. Throughout October (which is known as breast cancer awareness month) Paula is asking her fans each week to help her recognize people in any number of cancer's insidious circles. 

Today's nomination request read as follows:

I would like to recognize the people who SUPPORT the people who have this awful illness. Not the doctors and nurses, but the friends and family that are always there, that drive to treatments, that make meals, that provide a shoulder....

Paula was set to leave on vacation today, so my cow suit and I got to make the surprise deliveries for Tasty Tuesday! I was supposed to pick two, but I begged her to let me pick three. She obliged.

Eben Curtiss
My first delivery of the day was to Eben Curtiss at Hawthorne Middle school. I went to Hawthorne middle school as a kid. Today's walk up the steps, despite the cow suit, was comfortable and familiar. I asked one of the young boys raising the flags to open the door for me and he only snickered a little bit as he beat me to the entrance. I love it when kids are courteous to the cow.

I checked into the office, and the secretary led me to Eben's class.  This is what I wanted to say about Eben that appeared in a nomination from his mom Kim and sister Tenly.

He has been the best brother a little girl could ask for! He never left her side for a minute! He has gone to every doctor’s appointment and MRI, and CAT SCAN. He held her hand for many pokey needles and endured a few hospital stays and being away from home- ALOT! He empties puke buckets and has helped change sheets and clothes when she couldn't make to to the bucket. He is a bit of a worry wart. Sometimes I feel the poor kid takes a back seat when things with Tenley get crazy and he has never once complained!!

Cupcakes may be small little tokens but they can sure bring some sweet sunshine and happiness to people dealing with the mess that cancer makes. I was leading into it, I glanced up. I was afraid that I was going to make Eben too sad with all of those words, so I talked about how he shows courage and support and how embarrassed he must be to have a cow call him out in front of his friends. His class clapped and sighed and I encouraged them to show good to others like he has shown his sister.

A Hiccup for the Heifer
My second delivery wasn't home!!  I was so sad. I'm still so sad. Sad enough in fact, that I've written a card to the nominee (a cow card) and I'm going to tell her about my trek through Chubbuck, standing on her porch and ringing her doorbell in my cow suit while her neighbor was pulling out of his driveway. She has a child with cancer. 

As I was leaving her house full-handed with a dozen cupcakes, I was torn with what to do. I texted Paula--what are the rules? WHAT ARE THE RULES?  I'm a cow who sometimes struggles with freedoms outside the corral. She said, "do whatever you want."  I rolled my cow eyes at her.

As I was driving, names and faces of friends I've known for years flooded my mind. I was involved with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life for over seven years with our team Cows for a Cure and then Ryleigh's Herd.  I thought of my entire team and their individual stories of supporting their loved ones through treatments, battles and losses. I was overwhelmed and couldn't make a decision. I thought about Bob. He'd love them and then I wouldn't be stuck in the judge's seat. 
My dog Bob admiring the maple cakes the night before delivery.
Patricia Barnhill
But then--because of where I was in Chubbuck--it hit me!  My pal Pat Barnhill! She lives just blocks away from where I was, so I called her.  
Pat and I in our coordinating autumn attire
a couple years ago on her birthday.
"Hi, Pat. This is Billie. Hey, I know you've got a book group today. Would you like some cupcakes?"


"Well, actually. I'm two minutes from your house, so I'll be in your driveway shortly in a cow suit with some cupcakes for ya. I'll explain when I get there."

Thankfully Pat already knows about and accepts me for my cow suit shenanigans so this wasn't too weird. Although I thought she could "use" the cupcakes, Pat is exactly a testament to what Paula hoped to recognize today.

At 85 years old, Pat has seen a lot of cancer. She herself is a survivor and her husband Ken died more than a decade ago from lymphoma. She was absolutely Ken's support, but the thing about Pat that makes her so deserving of today's treat is how she reacts when she hears of people she knows going through treatment. 

Pat always cooks a meal or makes a cake and rallies the troops. She no longer drives, and as frustrated as she gets about how that affects her , I know she feels great frustration because it's affected her ability to help and serve others. She still cooks, though, and finds people to be her courier. She makes phone calls and writes letters (old school, real, handwritten letters) to help and comfort however she can. She is relentless in reaching out and so are the ladies in her book club. 

Pat is also humble as all get out and she's probably going to scold me for all of this, but hey--at least I didn't use the picture I have of her in cow horns.

When I got there, Pat was still getting ready for her day & preferred
not to have her picture taken, so I snapped the room
where all of her book club ladies will be in a few hours.
Dr. Michael Callaghan
My final delivery today was to Dr. Mike Callaghan at the Portneuf Medical Center Cancer Center. Dr. Callaghan championed the development of a guest house for patients who have to travel for treatment. 

Look how Dr. Callaghan holds the box
so the pink in my ears just pops! Bam!
Although Paula's instruction for today's nomination was intended to "steer" folks toward supporters outside of the medical profession and focus on friends and families, Dr. Callaghan's efforts facilitate precisely that. With a guest house close to the cancer center, families can be together at times when they need to be the most. A high level of emotional support is critical in cancer care, and thanks to Dr. Callaghan and PMC's new guest house, more people can be the kind of support their loved ones need.
As I was finding a parking place, I noticed the campers
that some families still use while loved ones are
going through treatment. Especially in the winter months,
a guest house is invaluable.
Paula and Cake Creations do Tasty Tuesday to encourage people to think about and see the good in people. The good around us. The good in life. I'm usually pretty good at seeing good, but I'm grateful to Paula for lending me her Tasty Tuesday lens to see good a little differently today.

You don't need a cow suit...Go see something good! Go be something good!
(ahem) One of the business cards I was supposed
to remember to hand out today with my delivery.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Cow Talks Comics

This is a second installment as an assignment for my Topics in Professional Writing class at Idaho State University. We read three comics (Boxers & Saints, Asterios Polyp and Logicomix) and are to discuss them in a blog.

I loved the Sunday comics. This is not about comics like that. Another term for the medium is "graphic novel."  I've confessed before that I’m not a much of a reader and this assignment has let me know that even when encased in comics, I still don’t love to read. Of the three comics we read, I found the experience of reading two of them to be pleasant. The third just stressed me out.
Maybe if I assumed the lounging &relaxed position,
in a cow suit, that's what I'd feel while reading.
Boxers & Saints by Geen Luen Yang

The first graphic novel I read is Boxers/Saints. I went into this prepared to hate it. I didn't. Win! From the Amazon description, Boxers & Saints are two companion graphic novel volumes set during China's Boxer Rebellion.

I read Boxers first & wonder how my impression
of the series would differ had I read it last.
I'll never know
The exercise in reading these two books was fun for a few reasons:

(1) It was quick. I often feel the stillness involved in reading is wasteful and maddening, but because these went quickly, reading didn't lead to any bouts of mad cow. The panels were succinct and laid out orderly to facilitate quick consumption. My kind of comic.

(2) The content was interesting.  The characters were surprisingly and quickly well-developed in the graphics and I was engaged in the story line immediately. 

(3) It was thought -provoking. I began with Boxers so I found myself much more sympathetic to their side in the Chinese rebellion rather than the side of the Christians or the "white devils" portrayed in Saints, but realizing my shifting or questioning attitudes as I progressed through the second book was great fodder for the mind. 

(4) I experienced something new and therefore learned a few new things about myself. On the rare occasion that I do read, I find myself thinking about characters and story lines. I did that here too, but I realized that my mind's images traversed between the comic characters and more lifelike inventions in my mind. 

Something still unresolved for me, however, is that there is considerably more color in Boxers than there is in Saints.  I brought this up in class and we wondered if this was the authors way of painting the Chinese in a more positive light than the Christians, but in researching him, he identifies as a Catholic so that wouldn't really make sense.

I spent a fair amount of time googling these books to see if I could find a reference to the colors and palate, but I haven't turned up anything yet.  I did learn, however, that the amount of information available on the internet relating to this series or anything else I may be assigned to read is astounding. 

The media with which we are creating and producing assignments has changed since I was last a student as has the setting for research. It would be easy to borrow or flat out steal content for these assignments, but I luckily, in addition to being a staunch rule-follower, I view that as self-defeating and classless.  And this cow's got class, darn it. (As the previous blog explained.)

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

I liked this book more as it went on, but it took a bit. It was busy and hard to follow until my eyes and mind were used to digesting the material.

Asterios Polyp is narrated by the main character's (Asterios') still born twin brother.  Yeah. That right there lets readers know they are in for a ride.

As the class embarked upon a discussion of this book, we flitted from talking about themes, plots, foreshadowing, character breakdowns and allusions to Greek mythology to the media itself. The graphics in a graphic novel add an entirely new dimension to analyze and dissect. I found myself grateful that this genre wasn't prolific during my youth because this extra dimension of analysis in any high school essay would have seriously encroached upon my social life.

[I'm torn and a little confused here with the directive "Discuss the readings." As this is a class on various media used to create professional writing, should I be focused more on the content here or the media? Oy.]

The story begins with a storm and lightening bolt graphic and then Asterios' disheveled apartment catching on fire. He flees and then the story features present day and flashbacks illustrating the rise and fall of his architecture teaching career and his marriage with brief commentary from his bitter, never-born twin, Ignazio. Ignazio loves Asterios and is rooting for him, but he does wonder why he had to be the one to die and Asterios lived. Asterios wonders the same thing.

Asterios Polyp is not delivered in neat, organized panels, but rather the comics are all over the place. Some pictures have a border, some don't. A rhythm in the design and delivery might appear for a few pages and then BAM! There'd be a highly detailed and scattered graphic that demanded I divert my focus from words and dialogue of the story and focus on the artistic content. I realize that this is part of the overall experience of this genre, but the stop and start reminiscent of a lurching amusement park ride did not amuse me.

Asterios is an arrogant jerk with whom I sympathized throughout the novel. That's likely due to his being drawn in vitro with that same baby-esque head that he maintained throughout the work. Children evoke empathy. Although, his round, baby head was contrasted with a stiff suit and collar and a cigarette, he is clearly just a kid trying to get by in spite of his own folly. (Aren't we all?)

 I was initially distracted by the number of fonts until I realized that each different font represented a different character. It seemed to add to the chaos of the material, but once I realized that differentiation, my mind could parse and accept it better.

I could write about the symbolism in the text and graphics of this book until the cows come home. Really. This book alone could be the topic of a single class with weeks on end.

We could take a week for color and color pairings. Font styles and character matching. he flowers on the inside cover. The content in and out of panels and frames. The angles and curves. The cat. The fat guy. (Cats and fat guys ALWAYS mean something.) The knick-knacks. The airplane that shows up in the clouds throughout the book. The allusion to numerous Greek classics. Asterios' watch, lighter and pocket knife that he saves in the fire. The lack of page numbers. (Who does that!?)  This would be a class I may or may not sign up for.

Fortunately this is supposed to be a blog and blogs are supposed to be short (ish), so until that class...thanks Asterios, Ignazio and David Mazzucchelli. It's been real. 

Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis,  Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos PapadatosAnnie Di Donna

I had such high hopes for this read.  I began it on the recumbent bike at the ISU gym—but not in a cow suit. After ten minutes on the bike, my overwhelming thought was,  "Holy cow! I'm out of shape because this book is heavy and my elbow creases are too sweaty to keep reading."  The book hardly snagged my focus as I was more focused on my physical  ineptitudes. I tried reading it at the gym, a coffee shop, in a hammock, during breakfast, in my lazy boy, and before bed. None of these places made this more readable for me.

Logicomix is a non-fiction graphic novel which details the life of Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, mathematician and logician. The present day authors show up every now and then--in comic form--to discuss their endeavor of writing a comic about ole Bertie.  In present day, "Bertie" would either be dirt poor and considered eccentric or teaching. Oh. Wait.

The book discusses the madness that many a philosopher and logician of the time was thought to suffer. Stories and accounts like this have me waffling between wishing for that same zest for knowledge encroaching madness and living the life of simpleton Forrest Gump. I'll settle somewhere in the middle as an engineer in a cow suit, thank you.

The present day authors' intrusion upon the story was exactly that. A distracting intrusion. I realized that I find present day philosophers and logicians pompus and irritating while there's much more romanticism surrounding those of old. Bertrand was likely just as much of a self-unaware jerk but he's got history to help soften the lens through which I see him. Enjoyed the old guys; resented the new ones.

Someone in our class discussion characterized the book as "dense." That really is the perfect word. The topic itself is dense and dizzying and the cartoons and dialogue telling the story were as well. Many of the page's panels broke the rule of of 20-25 words to a speech balloon and 30-25 words per panel. Dense is great for fudge; not for a graphic novel. (For me.)

I appreciated the color and the actual artwork and the page numbers of this work, but I honestly couldn't quite finish it. It spark barely enough interest in Betrand Russell for me to look him up on wikipedia and to wonder how I might respond to other works about his life and accomplishments, but that's about it. I only wondered.

Closing Thoughts

One of my lil calf buddies had his first gymnastics practice this week. He did great for the first 10 minutes during the jumping, tumbling and headstands, but when the coach corrected his form on a handstand, he cried and quit. He said it was too "hard."

This kid never sits still. He does headstands ANYWHERE and can boost himself into a pike position and hold it for over 20 seconds. He just fears the new and uncomfortable and it takes a few experiences before he realizes, "Hey. I like this."

That could be me and the comic genre. Could be.  I like to moooove almost as much as this kid though, so I probably won't be spending much spare time seeking out the latest and greatest graphic novel let alone talking about them. I'm intrigued at the possibility of incorporating a comic or two into some of my professional blogs, however. This cow might want to talk about those comics.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Cow's Got Class

Oh how I wish I were dolled up in mascara and pearls and sipping wine.

THAT would be a cow with class.

But nope. I’m taking Topics in Professional Writing at Idaho State University this semester. This blog is an assignment for class. And to get in the blog, there must be a cow suit.

The College Market.
I loved coconut lattes & Italian sodas here
20 years ago with my engineering books.
Now it's an almond milk latte with no flavoring.
I miss coconut & the ability to consume
700 calorie beverages without a second thought.
The assignment is to (in a blog) discuss Ch 3 and 9 from our text. 

Wait. So in a blog? Does that mean I get to disregard virtually all protocol for proper writing and citations? Can I lace the text with my inner most thoughts about anything at all that no one really wants to read on the Internet? Might I dip in and out of first and third person and offer opinions with zero data to back them up? I'm not sure how to merge a class assignment and a blog. This could be an udder disaster.

The New Media Writer
The class text is The New Media Writer by Sean Morey. My verdict is still out on the book, but my first thought is that the choice of green, yellow, and orange for the cover seems old fashioned. They remind me of the 70's avocado, rust and maize which seems misaligned with a text on the latest software and media to produce an array of professional writings. But then...most college students today have no schema for the colors of 70's appliances or shag carpet.

Reading books like this is best at coffee shop tables.
Chapter 3 "Reading Visual Arguments"

The best part of this chapter is the opening paragraph which reminds me what I'm doing with the darn book in the first place. I like reminders, reframing and recaps.

"As mentioned in the preface, this text's primary goal is to have you making your own images for your own rhetorical purposes. However, an understanding of how to 'read' or view other people's images from rhetorical perspectives can help make you a better designer and producer of new media texts."

Most of this chapter and subsequent class discussion reminded me of the marketing classes I took years ago. The content wasn't all that new, but it was blissfully full of reminders, reframing and recaps.

It seems like a lot of my educational content through the years has entailed either snazzy mnemonics or concepts conveyed with shapes.  For instance, I learned the ordering of the planets from the Sun with My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nachos corresponding to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. I also still visualize the checks and balances triangle representing the three branches of government. This text has followed nicely by introducing me to the rhetorical tetrahedron. (Sigh, I miss coaching the middle school math kids.)

Here's a little animated GIF that the author came up with to illustrate it.

The four faces include the following:
logos: the logic of an argument
pathos: an appeal to one's identity in which most people have an emotional investment
ethos: a writer's credibility
kairos: the timing of when a message is communicated

I was mildly disappointed that the GIF above doesn't include the edge labels that the author discusses in the book which are writer, audience, message, design, medium and genre, but it does offer a pleasant visual as we got started.

This entire chapter encourages the reader to assess visual arguments--ads, internet memes, illustrations, anything other than text that our eyes come across--and identify their elements corresponding to the rhetorical tetrahedron "edges and faces". After we are able to assess them, we'll be equipped to create good ones. Hopefully.

Chapter 9 "Scripts (Writing)"

The best line of this chapter comes on page 267:

"Writing in words has always been an important tool for writing in images, and this chapter will cover the ways that traditional writing can transfer to final outputs, which may not even contain words."

This is my first real look at screenplays. It makes sense to me as it pertains to movies or TV commercials, but our instructor asked us to specifically consider the content for directing or generating a comic, either a single panel or series of them. This was a little new for my cow brain.  I'm not artistic. I've never considered authoring or drawing any kind of comic since the "Design an Ad" contest I was forced to enter in elementary school. After this foray at learning something new, maybe I can try juggling on a unicycle in the homecoming parade.

I read about script formatting, dialogue, narration, storyboards, captions, and instructions as they pertain to movies, plays, commercials and shorts. The example movie script was from The Hangover. (OK. That's kinda fun.)  But, I'm still figuring out how to best apply all of this to a comic. Oh yeah. We have to make a comic. Luckily we'll get some time in class this week to discuss our comic and our scripts with classmates. Also lucky is that this professor touts revising as part of the writing process. I foresee a "Billie's Comic Script, Take 2" in my future.

I read most of this chapter AFTER turning in my comic script. Pft. The hard part in that assignment was choosing a piece of writing to adapt into a comics format, and harder yet, has now become turning off my cow brain to STOP imagining all of my weekly columns and cow blogs as comics. [FADE TO: cow on unicycle with pearls sipping wine.]

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cows Keepin' It Weird

Our California redwoods and Oregon coast vacation drew to a close with two nights in Portland. THIS is the picture I hoped to capture and these are a few thoughts on “weird.”

Located in downtown Portland across from the original Voo Doo Donuts.
I went to college in my home town.  Shortly after having dinner at my childhood home with my mom and me, one of my best friends in college told me that my mom was weird. That I grew up "weird." I thought she was weird for saying or even thinking that! My mom and my childhood weren't weird! Or were they?

Our house was full of color. The first thing you saw when you walked in was a set of bi-fold closet doors painted with bright blue, red, yellow and green squares. Mom had a wall with with chincey, plastic fish plates because she loved their whimsy and color. She framed brightly colored fabric all over the place. Our couch was red velvet and complementary red lamps hung from the ceiling. We talked and joked and laughed. A lot. None of this was weird to me, but maybe for my friend who simply grew up differently, it was. I’m sorry her home life wasn't more weird (fun).

These little guys are growing up with cow suits and cowing. Is it weird? Perhaps.  Is it unique and fun? Absolutely!
What's weirder? Their cow suits or that we let them eat McDonald's on this day?
It DID feel a little weird while we were getting suited up in our downtown Portland hotel room and the little guy was resistant to put on his cow costume. His older brother, mom and I proceeded to cajole and convince him that he wanted to cow.

While I was rinsing out a pair of shorts, I overheard the older brother after he'd gotten his shirt and hood on.
The weird part here may be that I'm only wearing one shoe.
I kept forgetting to rinse out the ocean-soaked shorts &
as soon as I remembered, I HAD TO DO IT NOW
Older calf: Come on, Man! You knew the deal. First we had a delicious breakfast. Then we took our sister to the airport. And NOW we are going cowing so we can go to Powell's Bookstore later and THEN take the train to the Spaghetti Factory. Come on! Don't you want to go to Powell's? We have to cow first. That was the deal. Besides--you know it's fun. (Their sister got to take her first solo trip to visit grandparents, so we wanted to make sure that these guys had fun stuff in store so they didn't feel like they were missing out. Boy, do we know how to have fun or what?)

As both their mom and I added words of encouragement (sigh) and threats of confiscating toys or withholding planned activities, I did wonder what in the heck we were doing. I didn't wonder for too long. Smiles, cartwheels and a sprint to the elevator to push the buttons convinced me that the last 7 minutes in their young lives probably hadn't ruined them. We set out on our adventure to find the "weird" mural.
We always guess which elevator will arrive first.
The calf on the right just finished a handstand.
Yeah--he's fine.

A NBA game was going on with the Portland Timbers &
a whole group of people wanted their pictures taken with us one-by-one.

With the lil calves jonesin' to get to Powell's Bookstore,
there was no way we were going to make them wait in line,
but I had to get a picture at Voo Doo Donuts!
He was so excited to find this little seat JUST for him.
Yep--that's us. Portland Prime!
There were dozens of Portland landmarks I considered tracking down for photo ops, but we'd achieved our original goal of hitting the mural. Every time these little guys dress up with us, I wonder when they'll decide that it IS weird and that they're too cool to cow. So far, it's not weird to them and it's still fun. My personal hope is that they don't ever think "weird" and "fun" have to be mootually exclusive. So often--espectially with cowing--they are one in the same.

On the way home, I asked this little guy what his favorite part of the trip was. He could choose from hiking in the redwoods, beach combing for shells, swimming in the ocean, visiting a cheese factory, scouting out star fish in tide pools, going on a whale watch tour, and visiting Portland. He loved Powell's Bookstore but said his favorite part of the entire trip was the Old Spaghetti Factory. Weirdo. [wink]
I got my "Weird" picture &
they got their Old Spaghetti Factory.