Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chasing Pop Culture

I'm reading more Brummett for the intro to our major class, and thinking about how frustrating the study of more or less current pop culture must be.  There's this constant chase after the newest, coolest (heck, that's probably just another sign of my outdatedness), whateverest pop culture phenomenon, but then, by the time the book's out, and used for a year or two, whatever was new then seems hopelessly outdated, even to me.

And five years, when you're working with an audience of 18-25 year olds, is a long time.   So whatever was cool when this book was published (2011), probably isn't cool now, and certainly won't be in three more years.  Is Lady Gaga still a thing?

In contrast, really old stuff never loses whatever appeal it has/had, because it's hopelessly old anyway.  So students may like it or not, but that liking level doesn't seem to change radically from year to year.

What the hell is with the whole "Sharknado" thing?  Did anyone actually see the movie, or is this just so out there that people pick up on it to laugh at?  (Chaucer doth tweet has it down, naturally.)

And vampires and zombies.  Bored.  Didn't we do vampires endlessly in the '70s?  (And zombies in the '50s?)

I have a colleague who tried to tell me, now some years ago, that rap was so wonderful and blah blah.  And while I certainly enjoy some rap, most of what I heard at that point was misogynistic and violent, and aimed a lot of violence at women.  So I said that, and then my colleague countered that I shouldn't listen to mainstream rap, but to these other artists.  But I don't want to have to go digging through a pile of misogyny to try to find something that's not endorsing violence against women.  Life's too short.

And for some reason, Shakespeare's misogyny bothers me less.  (And here "Shakespeare" stands for all of early modern and medieval lit and culture that I might teach.)  I suppose it's because I think we're more comfortable talking about the misogyny as misogyny?  We're more at ease being critical of that, while finding pleasures in the text(s) as well?

I'm going to have a birthday soon, and I think it's not too early to say I've turned into a fogey.  Now, you kids, get offa my lawn!

Sunday, July 28, 2013


A friend of mine on effbee linked this site (Nerd Fitness) to another friend, and being a nerd, I took a look.

The head nerd approaches things sort of in terms of gaming, and has this great list of life quests.

Some of the things on his list sound fun, some not so much, but they're his list, so he gets to choose.

It's like a bucket list, I guess, except with a nerd approach.  The idea is he has this list of goals, and each one accomplished counts at 20% of a level, with some counting a full 100% of a level.

Thinking for me, what would I put on a list?

What would you put on one?

(It seems like I've accomplished some things that could have been put on a list if I'd started at 22 or something.  But it seems unfair to put them on now, no?)

Anyway, on my list would certainly be:

Teach my new senior seminar iteration.
Publish the article I've been working on.
Do this Chaucer project.
Finish teaching all of Shakespeare's plays (two to go!)
Visit Machu Picchu.
Visit Antarctica.
Visit Alaska.
See a bear (not in a zoo).
See a river otter (not in a zoo).
Visit Glacier National Park.
Regain fluency in Spanish.
Read Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.
Reread War and Peace.
Reread Anna Karenina.
Reread The Brother's Karamazov.  (These are things I read as a teen, without any guidance, and I'm sure I'd understand them a whole lot better now.)

What else?

Zombie Argument

Here's a book review (well, not quite a book review, more a short commentary that mentions the book it's supposed to review?) about Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy, by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells (Cambridge UP, 2013).

I could take bets that this book won't convince anyone who's already totally convinced that Oxford did it.  In the study.  With a pen.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Bad Advisor


Not really, I hope.

I have this advisee who's trying to do a special programming thing, not unique, but not super common, either. 

The thing is, there are complications.

So zie has been emailing me this summer, not tons, but fairly regularly, asking for help with this or that.  These are the sorts of things I can advise on, but don't have power to change, and probably not the knowledge to make a decision to change.  So I've been emailing back, answering and so on, even though I'm not on contract, and should have just emailed right away that I'm not on contract so zie needs to contact the chair.

For example, zie wants to count a thing there for a requirement here.  The transfer office said no, it wasn't close enough to the same.  So zie emailed me, and I said, it sounds like the transfer office said no, so no.  Then zie emailed me again, couldn't I make it count anyway?  And I emailed my chair and so forth, because I don't have that authority. 

The mistake I made was that I didn't also email zie telling hir that I'd emailed the chair to ask for follow up.  And that was a mistake because zie got impatient and emailed the chair and so forth.  And the so forth answered, and said, no, because it wasn't close enough.

So now my advisee has totally given up on me, and has emailed various deanlings, asking for help resolving this problem.

And dutifully, the chair and the deanlings have been copying me on their responses.

At one point in this process, the student apparently emailed several faculty members, asking if they'd do on-line independent studies this coming semester, so that zie could do specific requirements while at this special program.  I don't know if zie got responses, but I'm guessing they either said no or didn't respond (because people are on vacation and out of town working on stuff, and so on).  So zie emailed me asking for help setting up independent studies.  And when I said, well, you can email faculty, but since we all feel pretty overworked, it's unlikely anyone will be able to take on the additional work of designing and organizing another class. 

So then the student emailed the chair basically asking hir for help with the independent studies.  And the chair responded pretty much as I had (and cc'd me in the response).

I'm sure from the student's point of view, we all look like obstructionist walls who don't want to help hir accomplish hir goals.  From the tone of the emails, zie sounds increasingly frustrated.

But from our point of view, things look different.  Zie is asking for special help with these requirements because zie hasn't previously completed the requirements.  There are a lot of reasons for that level of incompletion, but it isn't that the requirements were insane or suddenly imposed without warning.

The upshot, though, is that I look like a crappy advisor (because, hey, it's all about me!).  My advisee hasn't done some basic stuff we expect, stuff most students should have finished by this point in their careers here. 

And while I know that the chair and deanlings know that advisors can't force their students to do anything, I think they will still tend to think that I'm a crappy advisor because my student is emailing them with problems zie shouldn't be having, and that I should be able to solve somehow without them having to be bothered.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Micro Mini Success!

A storm was coming in this afternoon, so we changed our plans and did an indoor triathlon of sorts.  We swam 10 minutes, biked 15 minutes (we wanted to bike 25 minutes, but the person who was kind enough to let us sneak in and bike in the back of her spin class had to leave), and then ran 15 minutes.

I was happiest about my run, oddly enough, because I managed to run for the whole 15 minutes, and I went a mile and an eighth (I was hoping for a mile), and then we went out to dinner. 

It was way more fun than I would have thought.  We didn't rush through "transitions" or anything, which is totally unlike real triathlons. 

I have a massage scheduled for tomorrow, and I have a feeling I'll be very happy about that.

Anyway, it ended up I swam more than I'd planned for the micro mini outside, biked less (a lot less), and ran a bit more (my friends measured the run, and mine would have been under a mile outside).

So, success in a fun afternoon! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Micro Mini Triathalon

A couple of my more athletic friends are doing a friendly triathalon, and they've talked me into playing along.  Except while they do an Olympic length tri, I'll be doing a micro mini one, with 1/8 of a mile swimming (we'll all be in a pool where that's 4 laps), 15 miles biking (I think we're all riding road bikes), and about 3km running (along a trail; my turnback point is an underpass).  I expect to finish in about the same time they do. 

If I can't walk on Friday...

I haven't run in a LONG time.  I do bike fairly regularly and swim sometimes.  So I expect I'll be walking during the run part.

Wish me survival!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ready for College?

This post probably isn't about what you think it's about.  Oh well.

My niece/nephew is about a year away from going to college (well, I hope, we hope!) and has a birthday coming up.  And it's really hard to think of things for a birthday for this kid.  To be honest, that's great, because hir parents have enough money to provide the necessary stuff and more, and do.

So I'm thinking, what should a soon-to-be college student get for hir birthday?

I, too, have a summer birthday.  And between high school graduation and my summer birthday, I got some really great stuff for going away to college:

electric typewriter!  (Yeah, not so much now, but it was helpful then.)
stapler  (I still have it and use it in my home office.)
pencil sharpener (still have it, but mostly use mechanical pencils these days.)
luggage (well, a big steamer trunk.  My sibling got regular luggage, though.)
dictionary (again, still have it, and still works well for most dictionary tasks.)

Help with ideas, please!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Reading a Rhetoric Text

I'm reading the newest edition of Brummett's Rhetoric in Popular Culture, a text my department has pretty much used in one edition or another for our gateway to the major  class.  I haven't taught the class since about 2004, so I'm prepping with the newer edition we have in our rental system.

There's good stuff, and it explains things well.  And then it gets to this:
It probably used to be the case, many centuries ago, that any given person lived within one large, overarching culture.  Such a culture may have been complex, but it was not multiple.  If you had lived in Britain during the Dark Ages, for instance (say, around 900 C.E.), everything around you, everything you encountered during the day, probably everything you knew about, was part of the same system, the same group identification, and thus the same culture.  You saw and spoke only to others of your own group.  Different aspects of life, such as work, religion, or government, were all closely interrelated; they all manifested the same overarching culture to you.  The same situation may still be found in some tribal cultures around the world, where people are primarily enveloped in a small, single group of people and surrounded by the artifacts that represent that single group.  (24)

So, where to begin?

I'll let you at it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I just finished reading The Malcontent.  I'm thinking of teaching it in my comedy course this coming semester; it's in the anthology I've chosen.  But I don't know.

Has one of you taught it?  Thoughts?

I liked it better after I finished it than I did while I was reading, if that makes sense. 

I can see it pairing with Epicoene, in terms of the way disguise works, sort of.  And it's a very different sort of comedy from some, which would be good.

I'm still not sure, though.

I was bothered by the way scenes worked.  Maybe I'm too biased by Shakespeare's typical scenes? 

In Shakespeare, most scenes end when the stage empties.  In French plays (continental plays?) I'm familiar with, every new entrance marks a new scene. 

The Malcontent sort of had it both ways.  Often, when a new character entered, it marked a new scene.  (And it wasn't just the edition.  The copy text, the third printing, seemed to have the same scene divisions so far as I checked it, which wasn't far.)  But not always.  Some characters entered sometimes without making it a new scene.

Let me give you an example of why this bothered me.  In, say, Lear, the play opens with Gloucester, Kent, and Edmund chatting, setting up the Lear division of the kingdom bit.  And then other folks enter, and voila, you are in the midst of the play.

In The Malcontent, there were bits that just felt like vamping, but they were a full scene by themselves.  Sometimes, it seemed like there was a fairly important scene with Malvole (who spends a LOT of time on stage in this play), then the stage would empty, and a couple minor characters would come on, set the scene a bit, so that you'd know it's different, and then Malvole would enter.  But Malvole's entrance would be a new scene, so that little set the scene bit felt, in print, like it didn't need to be its own scene.  (I'm sure in playing it would work just fine.)

So, Marston's Malcontent, or no?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lunch with the New Hire

I just had lunch with a colleague who is leaving non-TT work with us for a TT position.

I'm so happy for hir!  The new job sounds good, and zie sounds happy, but realistic about the hard work ahead.

Last fall, our chair offered assistance with application letters and so forth to folks who wanted to move from non-TT here to TT somewhere else.  This colleague took the chair up on the offer.  And when zie got an interview (which turned into several interviews), folks in the department stepped up to do a mock research talk with hir and mock phone and campus visit interviews.

I feel good about how our department (and especially our chair) helped this person with job market preparation.

We also have someone who got their MA a while back, who's been adjuncting for us, who decided to move on to a PhD program.  And I know some folks were really helpful to hir in preparing letters of application as well.

The new hire and I chatted for a bit over the congratulatory lunch, and I learned what zie found most useful in our help (job letter help, mock interview, mock research presentation, and mock campus visit interview), and what zie could have used more help with (preparing for the teaching demo).

My question now is how to help folks prepare for a teaching demo?


That Sinking Feeling...

...when you realize you can't find the book you thought you had, and were going to work on the syllabus with.

And it's a third edition in the rental system, but now the fourth edition is out, so the publisher won't send you a third edition desk copy.

Maybe it's at home, right?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Guide For White Folks: How to End White Violence Against People of Color

As a white person, I know some of us white folks are worried.  And we should be worried.  White violence against people of color is out of control, and has been, at least in the US, since before the US was a US.  Some people say that we whites just can't help ourselves, that there's something deep down wrong with us and we aren't responsible for our actions.  But I don't like to think that.  I think we can be reasonable, intelligent people. So, in hopes of being a credit to my race, and to helping us white folks do better, I have a guide to help us end white violence against people of color.

1.  If you see a person of color, don't shoot them.

2.  If you see a person of color, even if you think they shouldn't be in your neighborhood, don't shoot them.

3.  If you see a person of color, even if you think they shouldn't walk around with a hoodie, don't shoot them.  (In fact, even if you don't like the fit of their pants, the color of their shoes, or whatever, don't shoot them.)

4.  If you're a police officer, and you see a person of color driving a car, don't pull them over for "driving while Black."  And don't shoot them.

5.  If you see a person of color, don't lynch them.  Also, don't put bombs in their houses or churches, or burn crosses near their yards.

6.  If you see a person of color, don't stalk them.  (You may, if appropriate, politely indicate your interest, introduce yourself, and ask them on a date.  But don't be a jerk about it if they say no.  And don't stalk them.  Don't shoot them, either.)

7.  If you see a person of color, don't send a drone after them with bombs.

8.  If you see a person of color, don't beat them up or harass them.

I think that pretty much covers it.

Some things, I just do not understand.  I am sorrowful today.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fill Out All the Forms

I've been working on a small internal grant, and just finished submitting it.

It's been frustrating.  Not because the project is frustrating, since it's not at that point.  And not because I've done some procrastination thing, since I haven't.

It's been frustrating because the forms are totally non-intuitive to me, and I don't use them well.  (Look, I already whined about the forms at the beginning.)

And it's been frustrating because the forms need to be "routed" electronically in certain ways, and the first way is through my chair (who is supportive and fine and all), and my chair is going out of town during the actual submission period, so I need to submit it early to get it through that step.

Anyway, I'd written the description and narrative stuff, and wanted to talk to my chair about it (since it's sort of her field, though not in a bad way).  But then zie was busy, and so couldn't see me until the next day.  The zie and I went through it, and zie liked it, but had a lot of good revision suggestions.  So I made those, and then went to talk to the writing center guy, and he did the same, and then I revised again.

And then I filled out all the budget stuffs, and finally, hit submit.

And nothing.

Now the form says that you should get an immediate email from the grant office and to let them know if you don't, but of course it was late afternoon, so the grant office was closed.

I sent them an email, and let my chair know.  And my chair sent an email to the grant headperson, but zie is on vacation.  (Which I knew, because someone had advised me to go ask hir to give me feedback on the grant, and I'd called to see if I could do that, but the admin assistant said zie wasn't available, and not to worry because it would be fine, blah blah blah.)

So this morning, I tried again to submit, and nothing but the computer busy thing.

So I called the admin assistant, and zie walked me through, and it turns out that if you click from the "work in progress" area, it doesn't work.  No, you have to click in from the "my work" area.

Doesn't that seem counterintuitive?  I want the work in progress, because I'm working on progressing.

And so finally, it worked.

Anyway, I'm excited about this project, and think it will be interesting.  I'll probably try to do it even without the grant, but the grant would pay for a student collaborator, and that would be good!  (It's a SOTL type thing, that grew out of a paper the student did.)

Cross your fingers for me!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Northwoods' Government Workers

At the end of spring, I got a notice from a Northwoods' state tax office about a mistake I made on a property tax thing.  They were right, I'd made a mistake, so I sent off a check.

Then yesterday, I got a second notice from the same office.  So I looked up, and sure enough the check had cleared, so this morning I called the office.

You know what I'm going to say, right?  I was put on hold for an hour, hung up on, had a surly government person, and so on.  Except you're wrong.

The person who answered the phone was the person whose name was on the letter.  She was courteous and pleasant, looked up the thing, made whatever correction was necessary, and reassured me that all was fine.  Then she suggested that I call the local county tax folks so that the same thing won't happen again.

And I did that, and the county person was just as pleasant, looked up my stuff, and made the adjustment.

Our governor trashes state workers, but the state workers I've encountered seem to do a good job and do it pleasantly.  (I've pretty much had pleasant experiences with people in government offices here, and that includes the drivers' license folks.)

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Dear Joss Whedon,

You know, there are a LOT more scripts where that one came from!  May I suggest Cymbeline?  Or perhaps Twelfth Night?

With happiness, Bardiac

So, while I was on my trip, I was in Madison, too, and saw the new Much Ado, and I was very happy!

What's not to like?  Okay, one little bit, perhaps, where it felt like Hero really wasn't quite hitting things.  But mostly, what fun!

The whole film felt a bit restrained and understated, and that really worked with the black and white.  The audience at the theater laughed in all the right places, and a few extras (body language things).

I usually hate the Dogberry stuff.  But this time, it worked.  The concept of playing off all those cop shows and security stuff, along with the understatedness of the physical comedy (there was some, but not tons), was delightful.

They cut a bit; the big one I noticed was where Antonio wants to fight with Claudio.  That cut felt right, and I bet most people didn't feel like anything was missing.

I enjoyed Conrad's casting.  They changed the pronoun gender, but not the name, and I liked thinking about Conrad in a different way.  It also made the overwhelming maleness of the Shakespeare stage a little less male (the same with the clerk).

That moment when Claudio says he'd even marry an "Ethiop":  he said it right in the face of a Black woman, and she gave him a look filled with daggers.  It took on the casual racism of the line, and made us think about it and deal with it, and that's much more interesting than cutting it or pretending it's not racist.  People in the audience where I was sort of gasped, and that's really good; they were confronted with the racism, and they reacted.

I usually find Leonato rejecting Hero supremely painful to read or watch.  But this film played it very restrained, and it was less uncomfortable for me.  It was also short, or felt short (did they cut some part?  or just do it quickly).  Leonato wasn't really violent towards her (as I recall), and that made me less uncomfortable.  I guess the question is, should I be happy being less uncomfortable, or is that discomfort really important?  I have a feeling it works better for a modern audience with the restraint.

The casting worked for me.  And the black and white filming, and cinematography made the actors' look like real people, not made up automatons or something.  I thought Beatrice was especially good, and Claudio.  He seemed appropriately immature and goofy in love, which makes his rejection come out of his inexperience.

One thing I didn't get: the opening with Beatrice and Benedict in bed.  I mean, yes, there's an implication that they've had some sort of relationship in the past, but that made it feel really odd to me that they'd fall in love (rather than just jumping into bed again).   It leaves me thinking about the problem of female chastity in the play, and how that has meaning (and does still today).  I'm finding that interesting to think more about, at any rate.

In conclusion, you should all go see it!  Let me know what you think, okay? 

(And if you don't like it, be comforted that someone else will film it again at some point, and someone else again will be producing it on stage.  That's part of the beauty of plays!)

And, seriously, which play would you like to see Joss Whedon do next?  (Because forget all the modern stuff, Shakespeare for the win!)

Birding Trip!

I took a birding trip to Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin!  And I saw birds!  I even took a couple of pictures. 

It was a really good time!  And now back to prepping for classes and working on my writing.

Forster's Tern

Black-Necked Stilt

Black-Necked Stilt (Black Terns behind)

Eastern Kingbird

Barn Swallows

Bank Swallow

Pied-Billed Grebe

Yellow-Headed Blackbird (female)