Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Rain It Raineth

It's the end of our two weeks of Shakespeare camp, and today was the scheduled first performance, outside in Big Bird Park, as part of the summer arts in the NorthWoods.

Except it rained really hard around 4:30, and then let up for a bit, but threatened further. So we moved to the alternate indoor venue, a cinderblock and linoleum room about one third the size of my junior high school's auditorium, with a tiny stage at one end, and folding chairs.

Having no more work to do with the production after yesterday morning, I'd gone out to dinner with some friends before the show, and was a little surprised to see that the room was almost full up; I folded out some more chairs, and we ended up in the second to last row from the back.

Picture this, if you will: there's a hubbub, and no houselights to speak of. The room gets stuffy quickly, and it's rainily humid. There's a toddler standing on the chair two rows in front of me and four seats over, making a good bit of noise, and a row in front of him, and right in front of me, a crying baby. It's every stereotype you can think of for a bad community theater experience.

I couldn't hear a thing when the play began. The toddler was entertaining himself loudly, responding every time the baby cried. The audience was restless.

Orsino whined about being in love, but it was hard to hear and harder to make out. Viola chatted with the Captain, and I could sort of hear her. The natives were restless.

Sir Toby joked around with Maria, and the toddler complained.

And then somehow, Sir Andrew pulled the audience in. It was amazing. He goofed his way to accost Maria, and the audience got it, and laughed at just the right moments.

It was like when you're watching The Music Man and the band is suddenly very good in people's imaginations, except the actors pulled the whole play off. It's like they were actually listening to each other, and paying attention, and responded to the audience.

I'm always surprised when these students put on these performances, because they never quite hit things in rehearsal, but hit them close enough to work in performance, and the audience wants them to succeed, so pulls for them. (Yes, there were blown lines, and a few awkward pauses, but really, they did so much better than they had in any rehearsal, and it actually worked as a play! And that's the test.)

But dang, what a goofy play.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good While it Lasted

I've been thinking a lot about Twelfth Night of late. The first record of its playing is 1602, which is a couple years after the great comedies for pairs of women roles (played by boy actors). If you look at A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, and Merchant of Venice, for example, there are two really nice women's parts (which would have been played by boy actors in the early modern theater).

Most Shakespeare folks think that there were two really strong boy actors who played these roles originally, and that Shakespeare wrote really good women's parts because he had actors who could pull them off. Later, he seems to have had one really incredible boy actor to write for (think Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, and so forth). But for a while, he had two.

That while probably started in the mid-1590s, so if the boys were, say, 12 or so when they started, they'd have been 19 or so when Twelfth Night gets onto stage.

I was thinking, did he still have these boy actors? Was part of the gender play with these two boy actors in having them play women playing men as they got closer to adulthood?

So then I started fantasizing that the younger of the two might play Viola, and the elder Sebastian (though it seems one was shorter and darker than the other). Wouldn't that have been cool? All the jokes about immaturity and not having a beard. Wouldn't those be even better?

But Sebastian is a minimal part, right? So then I started fantasizing that you could double Sebastian and Maria. ("Doubling" means the same actor plays two roles; it seems to have been pretty common in the early modern period in plays where a large cast of characters was played by a relatively small company of 18-25 or so. Usually an actor would double two small parts.)

There are rules of thumb about doubling parts, though. We think it took about 100 lines for an actor to go from one character, change costume, and reappear as another character, so in addition to the "doesn't appear together thing," an actor doubling as Sebastian and Maria would have to have a fair chunk of text separating their appearances.

Unfortunately, reality isn't nearly as cooperative as I'd hoped, and in Act 3, scene 4, Maria enters with Olivia on the heels of Sebastian's scene. Can you tell how excited I was getting as I looked through the entrances and exits before that, though, how much I wanted it to work out?

Stupid Shakespeare.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Every so often, I go out to the bike trail, ride just out of town (where it's less busy), and try to see how fast I can go for a given distance. Lately, the distance is 15 miles.

In May of 2007, I did it for 16 miles, and finished a few seconds over an hour, for a speed of just under 16 mph.

In August of 2007, I managed 17 mph for ten miles.

On my bike journal, it says I did 17mph for 18 miles on the trail in October of 2008. (And that I did 16.7 mph for 16 miles on a rolling hill road, which must have been a heck of a ride for me.)

Today I did 17.4 mph for 15 miles on the trail.

To put this in perspective, if you watched Alberto Contador attack up that really steep mountain to gain the yellow jersey in the Tour that day, they were riding up the hill at about 22 mph when he started his attack, so he went faster than that(according to what Versus was showing on the screen). (And that's up a steep mountain after riding probably 80 miles that day.)

Still, for me, this was a good ride.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Professor Ethics Question

Here's a question for thought and discussion:

There are several areas of study required here at NWU that students take placement tests, even though they may have a fair number of high school credits in the area. Imagine a foreign language, math, or English composition, for example.

A student tests into a fairly low level class, lower than one might expect based on his/her high school transcript. Nonetheless, the test places the student into that low level class.

The student signs up for the class; the syllabus for the class requires a small number of tests or essays (50%), class participation (10%), a small project (10%), homework (30%). (Usually the homework, project, and participation help students who are trying hard but having real difficulty with the material.) The student passes the tests, not excelling, but demonstrating that s/he understands the necessary concepts and can do work necessary for the next level. But the student doesn't complete the project or the homework, and participates minimally when present.

Mathematically, the student would fail the class, which is required for graduation. But, the student has demonstrated that s/he knows the material and can do the work necessary to go to the next level.

Should the professor give the student a minimal passing grade (because the class is really a hoop, and the student doesn't need to spend the time/credits retaking the class, and besides, it costs the school money for students to retake classes, especially these lower level classes that other students really need the class).

Or should the professor give the student the mathematically earned grade (because the syllabus is like a contract and the student didn't do the work required to pass).

What do you think, and why? (The why really interests me; you don't need to be in academics to answer.)

Does your answer change if you know that the student will be suspended if s/he doesn't pass? Or that there's a scholarship of some sort on the line?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Summer Camp Guessing Game

I was talking to one of the other adults involved in the summer camp, involved more with the administrative end than I. We were chatting about some of the problems, including the sexual content in that one answer I gave.

The students interrupt more, demand instant attention, even when people are busy with something else, chatter, can't sit still or do self-directed stuff (run lines). It's not all the students, of course. Some are just fantastic.

This year, it seems, we have a much larger proportion of kids who have just finished 8th grade, and yes, those are the kids who tend to be disruptive, chattering, interrupting. But not all of them.

It turns out most of the other students share an important trait. And that may explain some of the problems some of them have with interrupting, chattering, and such. This other adult said that about 80% of the students share this trait.

Anyone want to guess what it is?

Friday, July 24, 2009


One of the fun things about Shakespeare is that the stage directions are minimal, but there's lots that can happen in staging a play to really make it work. Modern playwrights tend to give pretty full stage directions, but Shakespeare is writing in a different tradition.

That means it's fun to think of staging business that makes the audience think about the play.

At the end of Twelfth Night, we have one of those scenes where pretty much everyone comes on stage at some point (which makes it an interesting scene to think about in terms of doubling parts. At 5.1.160, Sir Andrew enters, having been beaten up by Sebastian (though he thinks it was Cesario). A moment later, Sir Toby and Feste come on, Sir Toby also having been beaten up. They have about 20 lines, before Olivia says "Get [Sir Toby] to bed, and let his hurt be looked to" (5.1.192).

In F, there's no stage direction, but logically some folks need to leave. The New Cambridge edition (Ed. Elizabeth Story Donno) gives an exuent of Sir Toby, Feste, Fabian, and Sir Andrew, which makes sense.

The next we hear of Sir Toby, he's married to Maria (5.1.434).

The question is, how do you run the bit with the exits?

Do they just leave together, with Feste and Fabian helping the two injured characters?

Or can we play with it? Olivia's entrance says "Enter Olivia and Attendants" (5.1.85SD), but doesn't specify the attendants. If we have Maria in attendance (which makes sense in terms of Maria's "job" as her servant, then when Sir Toby comes on all injured, we could have Maria go to him, show concern, and help him off. That sets up Feste's information about them marrying.

What about Sir Andrew? Does he wander off alone? In a different direction? Does anyone bother to help him?

What happens if you take a waiting gentlewoman from Olivia's attendants (we have plenty of attendants, what with this being a high school camp and all) and have her start looking after Sir Andrew when he comes in wounded? Perhaps she can take off a scarf and wrap it around his arm or something. If she leaves with him, then there's another pairing, which makes for a nice little extra-scriptural moment.

Sir Andrew's an idiot, but he was adored once, and might be a little less idiotic if someone with a touch of sense were involved. And he's fairly rich, which makes him a potential marriage partner even if he's a total loser (and he's not, I don't think).

We still have Malvolio stomping off, but Orsino sends after him, because they need him, as we all need accountants and such. But Malvolio still stands out; we don't need Sir Andrew to play that role (Antonio stands out, too, of course, but differently).

I'm wondering if those of you who've seen different productions of the play have thoughts about Sir Toby's and Sir Andrew's exits?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Press Conference Today

How cool is it that we have an articulate, smart president?

Can you imagine Bush talking about a good friend who is a top scholar of African American lit and studies?

Oh, heck, can you imagine Bush talking about a good friend who's a top scholar of anything?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When Work Outweighs Reward

I was told today by the summer camp bosses that they'd gotten a complaint last night (someone called at night?) from a parent about the sexual content of the text stuff we did yesterday. Evidently, the student went home and talked to the parent about it, and the parent called the boss, and so I heard. I was asked to tone down the sexual content.

One of the bosses had been there when I'd made the comment, and it hadn't bothered him/her, but nonetheless, a parent complained, so...

I'd like to talk to the parent, but of course, no names were named, except mine.

I wonder if the parent realizes that Shakespeare's comedies are pretty sexual? I'd explained some aspect of the play, not in vulgar language, but in plain language so the students would understand.

The parent (I suspect) is paying for the student to attend the summer camp thing, but I wonder if they really realize what Shakespeare's doing with these comedies? Or did s/he just think that it's old, and since no one had sex before 1967, and Shakespeare is high culture, there'd be no mention of sex?

Anyway, it's frustrating because I'm really there to help students understand the language and contexts and such. And I work hard to do a good job; it takes more time to prep than to do my teaching. And so I was thinking, and did some math. If you count the prep time, I'm being paid about $6.00 an hour.

I'm obviously not in this to make big bucks, if I were, I could probably make more at McDonalds or something; in fact, I'm willing to pay to learn stuff plenty of times. So being minimally paid if there are other rewards is something I can accept.

Seriously, Shakespeare is a pretty good reward much of the time.

But I think I've hit the point where the work outweighs the reward, and I'm thinking I won't return for next year's camp.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Damn, Skippy

I just saw an article saying that Henry Louis Gates, Jr was arrested for breaking into his own home.

At my grad school, Gates did a visiting lecture thing; at the time, he was recovering from a hip replacement or something, and had to walk a bunch every day. But the local profs--including the really white guys--warned him not to walk near his hotel or he'd be followed by the police, because the police in that area really focused on Black men, and not in a good way. I guess my grad school has some little thing in common with Harvard after all, eh?

I wonder how the town/gown relations are between Harvard and Cambridge? In the NorthWoods, the local newspaper would LOVE for a prominent professor to get arrested for something, anything. And, unfortunately, a black man in this community is at risk of being stopped for DWB.

Racism--we need to end it better than we have so far.

Just That Good

I've spent the morning prepping, making out a worksheet for the Shakespeare camp. I get the students for an hour and a half, after lunch, so I need to get them thinking and moving and active, or it'll be nap time.

We're going to work through (in groups) the introductory stuff of Twelfth Night, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, and 2.1, each of the scenes that introduces (mostly) new characters. (We're skipping 1.4, where Cesario is in Orsino's court, and only doing 1-80 of 1.5 to start).

As I'm prepping, and thinking about staging stuff and all, I think about how else the play could work, and it makes me realize how stunningly tight and smart the opening sequence is.

We set up the problem, because we need to see Orsino first, before we learn that Viola's going to go there because she can't go to Olivia's, or that Sebastian will go there, or that Antonio can't go there. We also need to learn about Olivia's dead brother issue, and Orsino's goofy being in love with love thing.

Then we get Viola, and set her up to go hang out with Orsino in disguise.

So that plot set up is all in place, and we move to the subplot with Sir Toby, Maria, and Sir Andrew, and set them up as a problem in themselves, or several problems: Sir Toby and the household is out of control, and Olivia's being courted by an idiot, sponsored by her uncle, and so sort of in danger of being pressured to marry this idiot.

We make a quick turn, and oh, there's Viola as Cesario, new BBF of Orsino, being sent off to woo. (And yes, imagine how impossible this play would be with text messaging!)

Now it's time to meet Olivia, and we learn that she's smart and witty, and wise enough to allow Feste to speak openly; but we also learn that Feste's been out of the house, and that helps us know that the household isn't under good control (and in a heirarchical world, good control is important). And with that, we start the wooing sequence, and see the matching of wits that is Cesario and Olivia, both smart women. (And like all sit-coms, if just they'd talk to each other for real, the play would be very short and boring indeed!)

Quick cut away to Sebastian and Antonio, resisting the "twin shows up like deus ex machina at the end," and giving just enough time for the Malvolio chase with the ring to make sense. We set up the naughty pirate (because what's a play without a pirate!!), as a bonus.

So in a few short minutes, we learn an awful lot about the whole bunch of folks we'll care about, and get a good sense of their relationships; we know the gender confusion plot that's coming, and we're ready to enjoy the fun, AND we've already had some silly dancing. What could be better?

Nightmare on Shakespeare Street

In my dream early this morning, I was going to campus, a little later than usual, so about five minutes before my first class. Riding up the elevator with the chair and someone else, I realized that I'd missed the first day of class for the first year program (which usually happens around here on a Friday, with the full schedule starting the next week). In my surprise, I said something, and got a lecture from the chair about how if I were going to work with that program I really needed to go to the first day and all.

Then I walked through the department office, and realized I didn't have any syllabus stuff prepared for the first day of classes. And as I turned out of the back department door to go to my office, I saw that there were students sitting on the floor, waiting for me to arrive, a lot of students. Even more were waiting around the corner next to my office door, and all of them wanted to see me. And then I realized I was in a bikini, and turned around and pretended to run away for a sec to make them all laugh. But no one laughed. [See, I told you it was a nightmare!]

I think I need to prep a play a bit more, don't you? And maybe get my syllabus stuff done early?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Restarting All Over Again

Enough whining already!

I'm having a hard time getting restarted since the two weeks of guests and such.

I need to suck it up and just get going on my projects.

1) Choose play.
2) Revise essay.
3) Read up and see if an idea would work for an essay.
4) Prep syllabus for death class
5) Prep stuff for new common book

But first, I need to prep for two weeks of teaching high school students who are acting in a summer project!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009


I seem to remember after our trip in Japan last year telling myself that I would never subject myself to more than a couple days with my Mom. I need to remember that next time I feel guilty for being a horrible daughter who didn't have kids (no grandkids! And especially, no grandkids while my Mom was younger, because grandkids!) and doesn't live near enough to visit every week as do all the kids of her friends at the home for retired folks with better kids than me (yeah, I totally buy that when I'm feeling guilty).

Thanks for all the sympathetic suggestions, folks. I appreciate them. I'm relieved to know other folks need some alone time, too. Apparently, my Mom doesn't.

Can I just say, thank dog for my niece, and for my most wonderful in law, and for my nephew and sib. We went there this past weekend, taking my niece back, and I had moments of sanity. I got to ride my bike! That was my alone time, and I was very grateful. I watched movies with my most wonderful in law. She's fun to watch with, fun to hang out with.

Today, the two of us drove back to my place. Three hours. Three hours of almost non-stop talking. Three hours of running commentary starting with a sound dissing of my idea for Christmas presents for the kids. (I dropped it, because I don't want to spend the next four days hearing what a stupid idea I had, though the most wonderful in law thought it was good, and had ideas to make it better). Then I got to hear about what a lousy job I did cleaning the windshield when I gassed up the car. And it got better from there. Did I mention that I didn't provide grandkids? (Usually she's pretty good about not complaining about that, but today was... special.)

(Yes, I had a book on CD, but she'd said she was hurt by my having a book on CD and not wanting to talk, and guilt works oh so well on me.)

I had to come back tonight because I have my stupid effing bullshit "well woman" check tomorrow. Otherwise, I would have gladly stayed a couple more days and let my Mom bask in the wonderfulness that is her grandkids.

So, the well woman check in the morning...

I think there's a bottle of wine in the fridge from the fourth. It's probably sort of gross by now, but I think it's still there.

So here's the question: how much wine could I drink tonight without making the doctor tomorrow think I'm a total lush. (And no, I still haven't filled out the form...)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Alone Time

I live alone. I've lived alone for quite a while now; since I finished grad school (which is longer than most normal people have non-partner "roommates," I suppose). I'm set in my ways.

To go with another Cary Grant analogy, I'm Father Goose (but with less gin). (Because, of course, single women don't really exist in movies except as the object of male desire. And also, except, I sure hope I don't end up married with a bunch of kids... though Leslie Caron was lovely.)

The thing is, in my normal life, I get a lot of alone time. That would drive some people nuts, but it makes me pretty happy. I ponder and think, read, and so forth. I plot to take over the world with Shakespeare and bikes, but not much has come of it (perhaps I need a Pinky sidekick?).

With my Mom and niece here, I basically get alone time when I'm in the bathroom or when everyone else is in bed. But I want time to read and ponder, so I don't want to go to bed. And then I'd be tired in the morning, and be slow getting up, which would frustrate my Mom, and blah blah.

I need to figure out a way to get some alone time. I'd also like some bike time. Bike time counts as alone time, unless I'm riding with someone. But it would frustrate my Mom no end if I took off for an hour or two on my bike. Trust me on this.

Budget Madness

The state has mandated that we'll all do furloughs (except student workers). It's complicated because of all the different types of employees and employment we have. There will be a couple of days when the state will be officially "closed" for business, but mostly furlough days will be planned within units.

All this complexity means that the furlough system has to be explained. Luckily, the human resources folks have set up four meetings to do the explaining, including one late night (overtime for classified employees) and one where there will be a sign interpreter (an independent contractor). The email says there will be more meetings in the fall, since some folks aren't available now (and faculty have gone hither and yon).

How many hours of human resources workers' time do you think arranging this has taken? I bet there's a power point, and handouts; how many hours to design those? The meetings themselves will take half a day, just if one worker comes, and more if that person requires a tech person available and all.

If the meeting is one hour and everyone on campus is asked to go to one meeting, then whatever they could have been doing that was part of their job isn't going to get done. So in addition to losing 6-8 days (or 48-64 hours), we lose at least another hour of work.

We're really going to save the state a lot of money. /nod

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different

For all my complaining about my Mom, I have to say that I don't know many grandmas who are willing, able, and happy to go out kayaking with a grandkid. Here are Mom and my niece together, kayaking. Coolness, no?

Different Life Philosophies

My Mom was talking to my Niece, saying sometimes people tell you not to do something because you don't have the judgment to know you shouldn't do it.

I, naughtily, added that sometimes people tell you not to do something because they're scared, and that sometimes you need to try things even though they're scary.

My Mom was not thrilled. Evidently, I messed up the life lesson.

I don't have a kid. I love and like my niece and nephew, but I recognize that my feelings for them aren't in the same realm as a parent's (or grandparent's). But still, it seems like scaring a kid who's already pretty overprotected and timid is just wrong. I understand the impulse to be overprotective, but I really admire parents who balance letting their kids go run around and be kids with teaching them appropriate manners for when it's time not to run around and be kids.

I grew up being pretty overprotected (not compared to some kids today, though) and totally frustrated with it much of the time. My Mom's first impulse about everything was "no." I try to make my first impulse about everything "yes."


My Mom came to my room calling me this morning at 6:49. She wanted to make sure I knew I had an 8am meeting.

Apparently, she did such a bad job raising me that I'm habitually late for everything and can't hold a job, finish a degree, or anything else.

Of course, as a teenager, I was pretty habitually late getting up in the morning. But then I wasn't a teenager and I stopped being late. I guess my Mom missed that transition.

Friday, July 03, 2009


This afternoon, my sibling and the family are coming for the weekend.

I've invited some friends over for the fourth, to grill and eat in good company. I'm an anxious host, alas, but I invited good people, most of whom are also good cooks, and I'm going to just trust that so long as I provide snacks, drinks and such, all will go well. One of my friends who's coming has two kids about the same age as my niece and nephew, so I'm hoping they'll all run around together and have fun.

My nephew is in a bunch of little league things this summer, so he pretty much has games every weekend and practices during the weeks. In this day and age, that means a parent has to be at all the practices and games, and that pretty much means that the kid sister has to be there, too. My niece is understandably bored.

So my niece is staying with me when the rest of the family goes back for little league practice. I figure we'll have a good time. I hope so, anyway. So far, I've planned by renting a couple kayaks; we're also going to go visit the site of a famous children's author's childhood home and the nearby bakery. There will almost certainly be crafts involved, and camping out in the back yard.

On Tuesday, my Mom will fly in. And next weekend, we'll go visit my sibling's family so she can also see her grandson. Then we'll leave my niece there, and my Mom will stay here until Thursday.

I'm guessing I'll be keeping busy.

I went and did the blood test thing this morning (before coffee, which is just plain wrong!) because while my niece would be pleasant and patient, I really can't see doing it while she has to wait around. And waiting to the next week would mean my Mom would be all up in my face about OMG are you sick and what's wrong and you should do this with your life and what is this or that blood number and you need to lose weight...

I didn't sleep well last night because I was fretting, which is stupid. I woke up from a dream in which I was wandering all over the big clinic building trying to find where things were and nothing was marked. But I could go do the test thing at either the big clinic or the little clinic office, so I went to the little one, and I found where I needed to go quite easily, and getting the blood drawn took about 38 seconds, so all that fretting was really just stupid. I'm shockingly good at fretting, though it never does any good; you'd think I'd have learned by now not to even bother.

I've been cleaning the house. Really. Today, I have to put out the towels I've been freshly laundering, and do another load or two of winter sheets, so I can fold them up and put them out of the way. (I never in my life imagined that people have winter and not-winter sheets, or that I would.)

Here's the list for now:

1) Do the blood test thing
2) Laundry
3) Vacuum
4) Groceries (kids eat cereal and stuff, and milk) and friends drink beer (ewww)
5) Re-clean kitchen (because I clutter badly)
6) Bike ride (since when will I get another chance?)
7) Mow
8) Finish weeding (back yard; the front actually looks pretty good)
9) Water trees
10) Water neighbor's potted plants
11) Sweep the garage
12) Nap

As you can see, blogging isn't on the list. But I'm still catching up on my morning coffee, so I have an excuse.

So if you don't see me for a couple days, try not to fret. It's just not at all helpful; I promise.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


I'm in a cranky mood, and I'm afraid I'm just going to ride it til bedtime.

I got a form letter in the mail from the clinic saying that I need to go have some blood lab things done because the clinic just built a huge new wing and now they need to use the cool extra new stuff they bought so they can pay for it "your provider believes having these tests completed prior to your appointment will make your visit more valuable to you."

My visit would be most valuable to me if I could walk in, renew my birth control prescription, and walk out and not spend half a day waiting around and being poked and prodded. That's it. That's really all I want, my complete agenda. I don't want to be weighed, or have my blood pressure and pulse and temperature taken, or anything else.

If I die tomorrow, so long as I die without having pms to the point of wanting to rip everyone's throat out through their noses, that would be fine.

But, of course, there are hoops to jump, so to speak. Only these hoops are worse than teaching myself to read Italian to pass the grad school second foreign language test hoop. And unlike that hoop, you have to keep jumping these at different intervals. (OMG, can I just jump straight to menopause, please!) (And thank dog that I don't have to keep retaking the Italian test!)

There's also a form I'm supposed to fill out ahead of time.

Do you remember the Cary Grant movie where he's a French WWII soldier who's married a US officer and he wants to immigrate to the US but all the forms and stuff are totally for women? And there's this scene where he's frustrated, sitting with a male US NCO whose supposed to ask questions and then fill in the health form, and the NCO reads the form and asks if he has any female trouble, and the Cary Grant character says something like "nothing but" in the tone he could pull that just totally worked for him. If I could get that tone, I would.

Anyway, this form would probably be more useful if I weren't feeling well, but as is, it's just a form and doesn't address what I want anyway.

At the bottom of the first side is a question that asks, "What are you doing to have good health?"

And that's where my problems start, because if I could just achieve that Cary Grant tone, I could have all sorts of fun. I really want to write down something like:

I'm using way better quality heroine these days.

I quit cleaning my ears with my katana.

You can probably think of even better responses. But of course, I'm not Cary Grant in a movie. And you can't really get away with those answers in real life, because sometimes people take you seriously when really they shouldn't, especially in the upper midwest where no one seems to understand any humor that isn't Sven and Ollie jokes or physical comedy, and even then it pretty much has to involve a trampoline. Ufda.

What an infantalizing question. Seriously, are they going to give me a sticker if I answer something they really like? A little pat on the head to tell me what a good whatever I am?

Then I turn it over, and there's the other side.

How much alcohol do I consume each week? (Consume? as opposed to what, drinking? So this is going to catch the stuff I snort, too?) I want to crayon in: Not enough.

How many caffeinated beverages do I drink each day? (but not consume? so I'm not supposed to count the stuff I mainline?) And are we talking cups of coffee or 20 ounce quadruple espresso shot lattes? Again with my crayon: not enough.

How often do you wear seatbelts? Only in the car. I was going to put one on my bike, but I figured clipping in causes me enough problems--horizontal trackstand!

How often do you wear sunscreen? Half the year--the half when we actually SEE the sun.

Then we get to the work part.

What type of work do you do?

Don't you totally want to make something really good up for that one? I'm an internationally known blogger! I'm a spy! I'm the person who carries the things Keith Richards doesn't want to be caught carrying across customs.

Any major stresses in your life? The patriarchy.

Marital status? How is "dating" a marital status? And what difference does it make medically if I'm living with someone with or without a license?

I'm thinking that the people who check all the boxes are either really big winners or really sad losers.

How many children do I have? Oddly enough, on my first college ID, it said I had seven children. I don't know how I fit them all into my dorm room, but some of my friends named the eldest and made up a sort of life history for him.


The meeting went nicely. The student seems to have learned lots in the past year, and is ready to get into some interesting questions, I think. I suggested some contextual and theoretical stuff to read, and we'll see how he does with that.

One thing I worry about with a student here who wants to do an MA on earlier lit is that we have few grad classes in a given semester, usually one or two, and in the interests of "fairness" they rotate amongst everyone. So even though we have an MA in English lit, the creative writers and so on teach them. On one level this is fine, but it means that our MA in lit is weaker than it would be if there were more lit offerings. That's the long way of saying that this student is unlikely to be able to take a grad class in early modern lit, so if he wants to write on earlier stuff, he'll be doing a lot of independent reading.

Students doing late 20th century lit have a big advantage in knowing the culture and history at least somewhat already, and our course offerings are weighted more heavily towards their interests.

Thoughts about the Student from Porlock

I've been reading through this student's paper. It's a paper from his undergrad days, and now he's a grad student and talking about working on romance stuff. The paper is an okay undergrad paper. It quote mines, and doesn't think very theoretically about its questions, assumptions, or arguments, nor does it think about cultural contexts except in fairly simplistic ways, but it's okay. I can imagine a lot of classes where I would have been pretty happy to see a student write this paper.

I'm trying to think about how to explain to the student how different a grad level or publishable paper would look.

I'm hoping the student hasn't looked at the paper for a couple years and has become more theoretically sophisticated in the meantime.


I find a certain style of writing irritating; it's the "character X has to do Y because [insert big theoretical or social idea]" style. For example, "Ophelia has to commit suicide because she hasn't successfully transition to adult heterosexuality." (And yes, I've been guilty in more than one piece of writing.)

Now, on one level, of course a character "has to" do whatever the author makes it do, but that's because it's a character and not a person, and there's no free will or whatever here, just what worked for the writer at a given moment.

But I get irritated at the sense of inevitability, especially with things I'm not sure of. Yes, Ophelia is thought to have committed suicide by other characters, but we don't see it happen, nor do we see her say anything particularly suicidal. So shouldn't we hold onto at least the possibility of doubt about the other characters' interpretations of her death? (I have no doubts about Lucrece's suicide, but I do about Ophelia's and Lady Macbeth's.)

And haven't lots of folks not killed themselves despite not "successfully transition[ing]" to adult heterosexuality, even in very heteronormative societies?

I get even more cranky about the "what if only" style, as in, "what if only Othello had just talked to Desdemona and believed her?" To which I can only respond, we'd have the most boring play of marital bliss ever. Marital bliss makes for boring plays, good lives, but boring plays; conflict, death and destruction make for interesting plays but unhappy lives.

And so, interrupted in my revery (but not a really good laudanum-induced revery, alas... more a clorox bathroom cleaner induced revery) to go talk to my student.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

News of the Day

Late yesterday, when I remembered to check the mail, I got the form letter from the mammogram center: normal! So that's a relief, right?

Except I wouldn't have been all concerned if I hadn't gone anyway. It's not like I worry about my breasts, really, any more than my knees. As long as I feel good (knees or breasts), I tend not to worry. That changes if someone starts asking me if I'm worried, or something. I'd be worried about my knees if someone said I had to get my knees tested every year now that I'm middle-aged and blah blah.


I have a student who wants to talk to me about working on a paper. She started off wanting to work on the FQ. Okay, it's been a while, but okay. Then she emailed that she thinks there's too much written about Spenser and she wants to break new ground by writing about Tasso. Erm, I wonder how her Italian is, because mine sucks. And then I wonder if she thinks scholars of Italian lit haven't been working on Tasso all these years?

So now I should be rereading book V of the FQ, and reading the paper she sent me so we can talk tomorrow.

(I actually suggested she consider Urania if she wanted something not written lots about. At least I own a copy!)


My sibling and family are coming for the fourth! And then my niece will stay, and my Mom's coming. This all means that someone needs to clean the house thoroughly. Unfortunately, that someone seems to be me.

The kitchen and main "public" rooms are now sparkling clean for a change. Oddly, I really like it when they're all clean, but I hate making them that way.