Thursday, October 31, 2013


A couple of my artichoke plants were absolutely thriving in the early fall, so I brought them inside.  And now I'm trying to figure out how to get them enough light to get them through winter.  Or, at least, get the one through to where the choke you can barely make out has time to grow a tad more before I eat it.  EAT IT!  (I love artichokes!)

You can see the choke developing on the left in this picture. 

Aren't they beautiful?  I think artichokes are just cool plants.  They're a differently beautiful green, with really interesting leaves and growth patterns.  (This picture is from the opposite angle of the first.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I donated blood today; when the Red Cross folks called to tell me I was okay to give blood (the 56 day wait was over) and they needed my very special blood (okay, they didn't say that my blood is special, but I'm saying it!), the Red Cross person said this donation would put me at 8 gallons (I'm guessing that's just through the Red Cross in this state, but it might also include a few donations at the Red Cross in the last state I lived in, I suppose).

So, 8 gallons.  That's a lot of blood.

It looks like I wrote about donating a couple years ago, when I had just passed the 5 gallon mark.

I still haven't gotten a wall marker, though.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Survey Says?

I've been working on a project this fall with a student, building off a project he did for a class last spring, which looks at how high school teachers do a specific sort of thing.

We're using a survey, and then following up with interviews if folks are willing.

You know what this means.  Yes, the IRB.  This is a computer survey, so we aren't even worried about possible paper cuts, but of course these things need to get done.  (And while I may sound flip, because I think the risk of harm from our survey is laughably small, I think it's vital that researchers treat human subjects well and with real respect.  The thing is, I think we're held to a higher standard than the people who make you sign a thing when you enter a clinic/hospital saying that they can do anything they like with whatever they find, and if you don't like it, they won't treat you at the clinic/hospital.  We HAVE to include a statement [and take it seriously] that our subjects can opt out without any coercion.)

The student has been doing most of the leg work, with me providing guidance, which is how it should be.  He's done background reading (much of which I found and read over the summer to figure out if such a project might be useful and interesting), done some searching in high school text books, did the IRB certification (I did a re-up on mine, too), and put together the survey.

And then we submitted it, and waited.  And the IRB folks sent it back with some suggested revisions.  So we made those, and resubmitted, and waited.  And then we got to do some more revisions (all of which were helpful), and clarifications.  Then we got the go-ahead.

But then the survey test email was a mess.  It turned out that the way it displayed letterhead made it seem like there was something really bad on the email, so it wouldn't download the letterhead, and therefore also the letter, without a special click.  And since no one is crazy enough to special click something they've received from crazy people at some university, we knew that wouldn't work.

Happily, the student worked with the IT folks here (who are wonderful in all sorts of ways, and great and helpful at solving problems), and voila, it worked, and now it's sent out.

So now we wait to find out!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Chewed Up

I'm feeling a bit chewed over by the semester.  I don't think I'm the only one, either.

I was chatting with a colleague this morning, someone who's been in our department fairly long.  We were both in by about 7:30, as is our wont, and he commented that it used to be that folks would come into the department by 7 am.  And he named a couple of the folks that used to show up early, and then said that they'd all go have coffee in the coffee room, and hang out.  And we realized that there are probably about the same numbers of people in early (though not at 7am) now, but that we all go to our offices and work there.

And the lunch room used to be a busy place at lunch, but now people go in to nuke something or get hot water or coffee, and then leave.

I think we've sort of collectively found that we have more work to do, and that the time we've found to do it used to be more relaxed social time.  So now, instead of going and having a cup of coffee with colleagues to start the day, we get the coffee and go work in our individual offices.  And we have lunch working at our desks instead of chatting in the lunch room.

I wonder how else the social life of the department has changed?

This is a department which had female chairs in the 60s, and a fair number of female colleagues since then, though we're now at a close to 50% balance.  So I don't think the gender numbers have changed drastically.  And I know that a lot of the women who were here then had families, and some didn't, so that hasn't changed.

I think most of the men then had wives who worked outside the home, as they do today.  But I think today and then the wives do most of the cooking and childcare (at least going by what both male and female colleagues and friends say about their lives).

Racially, I think we're a more diverse department than we were 15 or more years ago.

I think there are folks in the department who socialized outside the department (that is, at homes, in the evening or on weekends) about the same as before, but I think we socialize less within the department, less chatting over coffee in the mornings, or over lunch, or over coffee again later in the day.

I wonder, do people work from home more than they used to?  (That is, does someone not come in and have lunch here because they're at home until almost time for classes?)

I think we have about the same numbers of adjuncts as we had 15 or so years ago, though we have fewer TT faculty.  And partly we have even fewer TT faculty because we have a lot of people who are partially reassigned to administrative tasks.  Now, some of those administrative tasks are GREAT and way important, but it means that others have to do more work.  So, for example, we have two TT faculty who are more than 50% time as program leaders outside this department, so they don't serve on our personnel committee, which means we have fewer people to do the personnel work.  And greater "accountability" means that there's more personnel work to get done.

Friday, October 25, 2013


NWU has hired someone to come give some talks to students and such about career preparation and stuffs.  And that's fine. 

That same information is pretty much already available here, though.  The career services folks talk about this, and so do advisors (well, I do, anyway).  But we're paying this other person to come and talk.

The thing is, the faculty member who has responsibility for making sure the visitor's time is occupied is a friend of mine, and asked if I would be willing to have the visitor come talk to one of my classes (a core majors class) about career preparation stuff.  And so, I said yes.  And then the idea of the visitor also coming to my senior class for a few minutes came up, and that seemed okay.  Our seniors need to think about what comes next, for sure.

So the idea was that the person would come to the last 15 or so minutes of my core class, and then the first 15 or so minutes of my senior seminar.

You'll note the "was," right?

My friend (and I want to emphasize friend, because this is a super person in every way) emailed me saying that the visitor would be interested in sitting in on the classes and then talking to students at the end (the idea being, it seems, that the visitor would talk about the sorts of skills and such we're building in the career preparation stuffs).

So now I get to spend two and a half hours, at least half "on show."

This could be fine.  The visitor may be really great, and my students might be really interested.

Or it could be a "trash the instructor" session.  I don't think it will consciously be that, but I have a certain sense that someone who thinks they have so much to offer that they get paid to come around and talk about this stuff might feel that they need to make some points.

And then, of course, this is me doing a friend a favor to keep this visitor occupied because no one else jumped at the opportunity, and it's going to be cast by administrative types as: I'm a crappy teacher who wants someone to visit so that I don't have to teach, because my classes are empty crap (we all know administrators like that), and also going to be used to show how desperate we are for visitors like this so that we'll spend more of our money on visitors.  And not on, you know, people who show up and work semester in and semester out.

I should have backed out, shouldn't I!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Begin Again, Finnegan

There's a lot I enjoy about my job.  I get to teach great literature, work with wonderful people (students and colleagues), and always have new challenges.

But there are, of course, also frustrations.

We're just about at the midpoint of the semester, and that means that some of the students who've been getting by are beginning to take notice.  This happens in three waves, I find, roughly.

The first wave happens to a lot of first year students about the third week of classes, when they realize that the strategies they used to get As in high school aren't going to work in college.  And some of them get themselves in gear and work on figuring out what it takes to do well in college, usually better time management and a lot more self-discipline about learning on their own time.

This second wave comes with midterms, when students realize that they really aren't getting some work done, and now they want to, but it may be too late to totally catch up.

The third wave is yet to come, of course.  Those are the students who realize at the last minute that they're in desperate straits.

The good thing for the folks who are in the second wave is that there's mostly plenty of time to actually do pretty decently in a given class.  They may not be able to earn the A they were used to in high school, but they can probably pass, or even earn a B.  That's often not true for the third wavers.

The thing is, after the first few semesters, the student's sudden, new to them realization is just the same old thing, same as that last time, and the time before that.

And then there are the students who seem to have the same sudden realization every single semester, but who never quite carry the learning from one situation into the next.  And you're pretty sure that they've found this a useful strategy, and that other instructors have enabled it in the past, allowing them to turn in stuff way late, or do extra credit, or whatever.  No?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What to Say?

In a formal essay, in a section about Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, one of my students complained that Cleopatra is a "drama queen."

Well, um, yes.

Seriously, I don't think the student was even thinking about what s/he wrote.  What do you say?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Chairing Meetings

I spent a lot of time at meetings this week being frustrated by poor chairing.

Now, the stuff we were doing was important, and the people are all good folks, so it isn't that.  It's that the chairs weren't efficient or smooth.  And that, naturally, got me to thinking about what it takes to do a good job chairing an academic meeting.

The bad thing is, of course, that none of us gets a whole lot of education in how to run a meeting (we get little enough in how to run a class, sometimes), and academic meetings aren't like the meetings I went to as a lowly worker bee in a corporation, where I was expected to listen and act on what I was told.  Usually, in academic meetings, we're supposed to meet as more or less equals and make decisions about stuff that's more or less important.

At both of the meetings I was at this weekend, the chair had provided an agenda.  And at both of them, the chair went way off the agenda or into different orders.  Now it's fine for the chair to say that someone has recently requested that we consider X problem that's come up, and is urgent, and to introduce that.   There should be some metacommentary, not a lot, just enough to say, hey, we're going to suspend the agenda for a bit to deal with this urgent problem.  Here goes...

Chairs in at least some cases have a lot of power in setting the agenda.  They need to be aware of that.  And that may mean they need to not talk a lot in the meeting itself.  And certainly, they need to not complain about how hard it is to chair.  (A single comment about being overwhelmed is fine, and perfectly understandable, but don't spend 5 minutes of the committee hour complaining.)

Sometimes, as in the case of an urgent problem that needs to be addressed, the chair will need to explain some context.  But that either has to be fairly short (as in not super complex), or there's got to be time for the committee members to get up to speed on the question before making a decision.  If the chair's the only person who has time to think about the issue well ahead, then the chair's likely to have more influence on the question than is quite right.  And the sneaky stuff where the chair's prepared several people, and not informed others at all, that's probably more sneaky than should happen at a healthy institution.  (I think it happens a lot, though.  I just don't think it should.)

Speaking of the agenda.  It's there for a reason.  As chair, you get to set it, so set it thoughtfully, and only move from it with really good reason.  Don't vary because you forgot about X or Y.

If there are decisions to be made (and usually there are), try to keep everyone focused on gathering the information to make a good decision, sharing and discussing that so that the committee really understands the issue, and then making the decision.  Some decisions really do take some time.  Some don't take as much.  But if the committee is going to need some information, the chair needs to provide the information to start (or ask someone else to do so).  Stopping half way to run to your office to make copies because you didn't think about it reveals poor planning.  (Yes, it happens, but it shouldn't be habit.)

I really like when meetings start promptly and end on time.  I try to do the same with classes.  Yes, I understand that sometimes people will be late, and I can deal with that, especially when they're coming from class or across campus in the snow.  But I've found that when the chair of a committee sets a standard of starting on time, most people manage to get there on time.   (Now someone who knows me in meatspace is probably going to laugh at me for this.  Oh well.)

Now it's your turn.  What would you like from a committee chair?  What makes a chair effective?  What drives you nuts from a chair?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What about that Visiting Position?

Over in the department of Basketweaving, they're advertising for a Visiting Assistant Professor of Basketry.  Then one of my students asked what it means, a visiting assistant professor.

So, I thought I'd test the waters and ask about your experiences with VAP sorts of stuff.

Here's what I've seen myself.

Some are rotating positions, where the school has decided it doesn't have adequate funding for tenure line positions, but it's pretty sure it can fund a position for a couple years, and probably a couple years after that, and then they'll see, based on demand and such, and maybe continue.  For the administrators, this means a smaller paycheck, and probably smaller benefits.  (The health insurance will be the same, but there will be a lower cost for retirement benefits, if they're included, based on the VAP's salary being lower than a TT salary.  And so on.)  By doing a VAP thing, the school can bring someone on board with a terminal degree, who might not otherwise be available nearby.  (This is important for more rural schools, for sure.)

Some are sabbatical replacements, perhaps.  Those are usually advertised up front for one year.

Some are planned leave replacements.  For example, if a member of a small department has found a different job, but isn't sure they really want it, they might arrange a leave of absence for a year.  They go off to the new job, and if they don't like it, they return, and if they like it, they tell the department they won't be back.  If they come back, the VAP was a one year position.  If they don't come back, then it might be too late to do a full search by the time they inform the department, and the department might use a VAP for a second year.

Some are unplanned leave replacements.  NWU did this with a position for a year, when someone here got really sick.  The person was well liked and greatly respected, so no one wanted to hire a new person permanently for the position (even if they could have, legally).  But no one knew whether the person would have really successful medical treatment, or not.  Similarly, if someone who wouldn't be expected to leave takes a leave of absence because there's a family difficulty, a school might use a VAP to fill in.

What other situations do you see VAPs advertised to cover?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sometimes a Lousy Notion

We have a small MA program here, problematic for a bunch of reasons, but there we are.

Over the past three or so years, I've directed theses for some four MA students, each of whom has done their course work on campus, and then been pretty much absent while they write their thesis, usually working at some job so they can eat and have shelter.

We're lucky that technology helps us speed up some aspects of the work.  They can email me chapters, and I can email responses, and then pdf the notes I've written on the pages I printed out, and send them through email, too.

Hypothetically, these technological aids mean that things will go swimmingly.  But in practice, I find working with absent MA thesis students really difficult and trying.

The most important difficulty is that the students get busy with their lives, and the thesis isn't a big focus.  Until it is.  And then often enough, they really want my feedback fast.  And I understand the loss of focus, and it would be fine, except if they want me to attend to their work, it needs to be not crappy work, you know?

The second most important difficulty is that students either don't have real access, or don't use what access they do have to library resources. 

In combination, these two cause problems.  Seriously, I spent a good part of the morning reading what was supposed to be a chapter, but which was basically paragraphs doing close readings of bits of a play.  I know the student can write well, but I also know that zie has another job, and that the thesis isn't really a focus.  What I want to say to this student is that there's moral obligation to finish the MA, and that if zie wants to go on with hir life without it, zie probably won't miss it.

I think maybe it's easier to email a rushed, poorly written chapter than it would be to put it in my box in person, or especially to put it in my hand.  It's a lousy thing, though, and I'm coming to resent the time I spend responding to the student.  And I really don't want to resent my students, because that doesn't lead to my happiness, and it's all about my happiness!


Do you remember the ending of A Fish Called Wanda?  When the one "bad guy" (the Kevin Kline character) gets run over by a steamroller? 

Or all those Road Runner cartoons where poor Wile E. Coyote would get steamrolled by an Acme steamroller?

That's how the semester's feeling for me right now.  I keep reading about friends elsewhere on fall break, but we don't have a fall break (because the legislature has legislated that we can't start until after the tourist season so that public university students can work at tourist season jobs), so I just look jealous at their posts.

I could really use a four day weekend, just long enough to really sleep and take care of yard stuff that needs taken care of, and grade and prep and so on.  I've managed not to fall horribly behind, but I often feel that I'm on the edge of falling horribly behind.

And midterms soon!  Someone needs to write my midterms, and then grade them.

I have a long committee meeting this evening.

And then a committee job that was way busy in the first weeks of the semester, but which has since been quiet, is going to get wildly busy again.

Go go gadget Bardiac!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sins of Teaching

Actually, this is more a mistake of teaching, but "sin" sounds so much racier, doesn't it?

Here's my mistake of the semester, so far:  I gave my students an assignment that's good in many ways, but that I'm not quite sure how to grade.

It's not a huge assignment, but it's a bit complex to think how to grade.  So I've been procrastinating about grading, which has made it even worse, of course.  (Procrastination about grading is my prime teaching mistake, I think.)

I really, really need to just sit down with this and grade.

Hmmm, I wonder if I get a radio for the front part of my house... I should look at radios!  And maybe go out to buy one!  Yeah... because that will be a useful strategy, right?

Friday, October 11, 2013

The List

Each fall in my department, we get "the list."  Basically, the list puts down the whole array of courses the department expects to offer in the coming year, and asks us to choose our top choices in each of several categories.

There are the central courses, the ones that every major has to take.

And there are lower-division courses.

And there are upper-division courses.

And then there's composition courses.  We have several composition courses; the form asks us which we would "enjoy" teaching.  So I left that blank.  I don't "enjoy" composition courses.  I do them, and I try to do good work on them, because that's part of the job.  But "enjoy"?  Nope.

I've come to accept the fact that I'm lousy at cutting the special deals some people around here manage.  Usually the special deals have to do with not having to teach composition.  I have one colleague who plans never to teach composition; I don't know if that will work in the long term, but that's the plan (it worked for this year).  I have another colleague who's negotiated her way out of composition for two years for taking on a position that had included a course release, but not composition.

But I've never been good at negotiating these sorts of deals. 

The list is good, though, because it does give us some sense of agency, even though most of the agency comes through hiring.  So, for the lower division classes, I typically put Shakespeare, and an early modern class, and then poetry or drama.  Another Shakespeare person might put women's lit rather than the early modern class, or whatever.  But there are three people who pretty much put Shakespeare at the top of their list.  It only gets weird when someone decides that they really want to teach a course outside the area they were hired for.  So, if I decided that I really wanted to teach the American Ethnic lit courses, that would be weird.  And thus, the three people who will put Shakespeare first.  (Some courses are assigned by area committees, because there's no need to put linguistics courses on the list for everyone when we have few linguists, and they can figure those out between them.)

In a couple of weeks, the schedule committee will get together, and figure out who's going to teach what.  It's usually a pretty good system, though there are times I've found it frustrating.  (I didn't have a Shakespeare class for three semesters in a row, which made me extra cranky.)

Then, once they've done that, we get a piece of paper with our course assignments on it, and get to fill in a "here's the schedule I want" thing.  You get to choose preferred days/times for each of the courses, and preferred room configurations for some (do you want a computer lab?  individual chair/desks?  shared tables?  a circle or rows?).

I really love this aspect of how we assign schedules.  The committee spends pretty much all day going through and figuring out who wants what, when, and works through so that there's a spread of times and days for different courses.  The idea is that we don't teach a bunch of senior seminars all at the same time, so seniors can take several if they need to.  And we don't schedule all the intro creative writing courses at the same day/time, so the student who has a Tuesday/Thursday job schedule can find a section that works.  And the committee assigns our priority classrooms, so we keep them occupied from the start of the day until afternoon.  It's like a massive, multi-dimensional puzzle (people, courses, times, rooms, requirements), and yet after a whole day of work, the committee mostly manages to give us schedules that are pretty close to what we ask for.

(The committee also schedules IAS folks with their choices, to the extent it can, and tries to give humane schedules to the new hires we hope to make.)

All in all, it's a really good system, WAY better than systems where one person decides, based on what's been done for the past 20 years or on their own preconceptions.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


One of my students wears a political t-shirt fairly often.  Think the Che t-shirts, where you have to know it's Che Guevara to know it's political, or the "Who's John Galt?" t-shirts, where you have to know a miniscule bit of information to know it's political.

It seems to me, these shirts are a bit of wearing one's politics on one's sleeve.  Or chest, rather.  I'm happy for students to do it, but I don't feel comfortable doing so as an instructor, because of the power differential and such.

I tend to think that I'm not overtly partisan in my classes, but then I think, well, I bet the t-shirt student doesn't think zie's being overtly partisan, either, but I certainly read the shirt as a partisan statement.  So I wonder if, in fact, I'm more overt about my politics than I think.  (I think I'm pretty overt about some of my politics: I'm pretty overt about respecting people as people, including women as people, and I'm pretty overt about trying to fight racism.  And I'm pretty overt about LGBTQ rights.  Of course, to me, my positions about those things seem centrist and, well, moderate.)

Anyway, as I think about the political t-shirts I see on campus, it strikes me that they're mostly worn by white men.  Do white men think their politics need to be shared more than the rest of us?  Or do I just notice more?

And do I notice the Galt t-shirt more than I notice the Che t-shirt?  And does a more conservative person notice the Che t-shirt more than the Galt one?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Is it a Play, or is it Real Life?

I was prepping a play for today, and then had to look up some dates.  Guess which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Energy Saps

One of my colleagues is dealing with a plagiarism case, and we were talking the other day about how much energy it saps from you to deal with plagiarism.  There's plenty of time in tracking things down, making sure you're doing the process correctly, making sure you know the ins and outs of the rules, talking it through with the chair and contacting deanlings.  But beyond that, it just saps energy.

To a lesser extent, students who want to get all legalistic sap energy.  You know the ones, the ones who stop in to see why they "lost" a point and didn't get that B they really think they deserved, when they got what you (the instructor) sees as a generous C.  Just thinking about those students saps my energy.

I find the same sapping when deanlings want to come to meetings and talk at us about whatever it is they think is really important.  For example, we have one deanling who, whenever he's explaining anything about advising, wants to start with pre-admission test scores and HS class standing as indicators of college success.  And I just die inside, and want to get him to actually understand that we don't do admissions, so we don't care about those indicators; we care about the human being we're trying to teach or advise.  We teach and advise any student who enters our class or office, because that's the way the university is set up.

What work stuff saps your energy?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Fear and Loafing

There was a moderately big assignment due yesterday (Monday) in my senior seminar, but on Friday, after several panicked meetings, I emailed the class to give them an extension until this Friday.  And since then, I've had several more meetings, less panicked, but productive nonetheless.

It's like suddenly they realize that what they thought they could do in four or five hours is really much more time-consuming than that.  And now many of them are actually doing it, or trying to.  It's a lit review sort of assignment, though, and the ones who started too late to get books on interlibrary loan are sad right now.

The thing is, they're seniors, mostly, so if they haven't learned to start early on projects by now, they're probably not going to learn it in my class.  If they get decent jobs, they'll either learn it or not.  Meanwhile, senioritis hit a few.

That's not to say all, because I know a couple of the students were really on top of things.

And then there's the one who didn't bother to check his email all weekend and then complained to me that he hadn't gotten the message.  I must admit, I wasn't very sympathetic, but did offer to accept his assignment if he wanted to hand it in.  He didn't.  (This same person had asked on Friday if I'd answer questions by email, and I had.  Ha!)

In another class, we did a review thing yesterday with a small assignment they turned in, and I think it made them (as a whole) realize that they have a lot of studying to be prepared for the midterm.  What amused me is that one of the students came by before class (and thus before she'd seen the assignment) with a review grid prepared to help her study for the midterm.  So she, at least, is really on top of the learning curve.

The review thing we did asked them to basically be able to define some basic terms and be able to think about them with regard to a text, a text that doesn't fit literary conventions at all.  From the way they were working, I got the definite sense that some of them are just figuring out that college classes move fast and require a lot more than just doing the reading.  Better they get that sense now, a week and a half before the midterm, than while taking the midterm!

The good news, on two counts, is that they found the small assignment useful, and seemed to be taking the review thing seriously, and thus fount it useful, too.

I hope they all rock the midterm!

Monday, October 07, 2013

From the Other Side of the Divide

One of my friends from another department, let's call it Mathematical Forestry, called to vent.  It turns out one of our deanlings quit deaning and has returned to the ranks this year.  Naturally, the department welcomed him back with open arms, gave him a reduced schedule for a bit, and some prime classes, an intro Mathematical Forestry class, and an umbrella senior MF class for next semestser.  My friend is in the Pines sub-division of Mathematical Forestry, and the former deanling who studied tropical Evergreen (Spruces) MF way back in the day, but who was hired to teach statistical forestry, is now hot on teaching Evergreen MF again, because he was never that interested in the statistical stuff and never kept up, and now, with seniority and what not, has declared himself an Evergreen MFer.

But now, according to my friend, the former deanling is having an open panic attack in the hallway about teaching the umbrella senior MF class.  He was thinking about doing an Evergreen class, but he feels so far behind.  But he's assured my friend that he can do a Pines class, because he always did like Pines.  And he can't do Spruces, because he hasn't kept up in Spruces, and besides, students aren't interested in Spruces.

So my friend (who reads widely in Evergreens, because she has to teach lots of Evergreens all around), started imagining this amazing course that would tap into student interest in Spruces, which are amazing MF subjects.  And the former deanling was all sad and panicked because he would have to catch up on a lot of recent work that my friend mentioned.

He was also shocked that there was recent work in Spruces.  Who knew?  Spruces!

So maybe, he thought, he'll do a Pines class, because he knows all the Pines.  (And seems to think that there's been no work in Pines in the last 15 years or so.)

So all you Pine MFers, be aware, your last 15 years counts for naught in the eyes of the administrivials.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Television Makes Me Cranky

I happened to catch the BBC? PBS segment (it was 2H4) of the second tetralogy today.  It was okay.  I found it hard to understand some of the dialog, but that may have to do with my television set up.  And certainly, I'm not as good with British accents as most British folks probably are.

But then, there was the few minutes of director and actors talking about the production.

OMG, people! 

It was like they actually believed all the propaganda about how wonderful H5 was, and didn't notice any of the critical/questioning Shakespeare brings in.  Seriously, the glory of H5 is that it makes you squirm about H5, and thus about political speech and propaganda.

Did you not notice that Henry doesn't remember or care about any of the "unnamed" people who died at Agincourt?  Or that despite that speech, no one that I know of celebrates St. Crispin's Day in honor of the battle today?  (Okay, a few crazy Shakespeare folks, but really?  No one in Shakespeare's day did, either.) 

Did you not notice that final epilogue, which acknowledges that all those deaths weren't even successful at garnering French territory for England for very long, and that, indeed, Henry screwed up as king in the most fundamental way by dying before his son was old enough to be an effective ruler?

And finally, Jeremy Irons dissing non-professional live performances?  Sir, you're wrong!  (I declare it on the intertubes!)  Live performance is absolutely superior to introduce people to Shakespeare.

Okay, I'm done.

Did any of you see it?

And did you think the whole thing felt really dark?  (I have a less than big screen TV, so that may be part of my perception about darkness.)

Friday, October 04, 2013

Academic Job Seeking? Read This!

That is, read this post from Notorious, PhD. about writing statements of teaching philosophies.

I love when you read something and it helps you understand something that you'd been bothered by, but never quite understood.  Notorious does that in this post when she talks about the difference between a teaching philosophy and a teaching methodology.  The method is what you do, the philosophy is why.

And reading teaching philosophies for past search committees (and writing my own), I was dissatisfied, but I think that clarification by Notorious explains my frustration.  Thanks, Notorious!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

I Have a Cunning Plan!

It's the Text of the Day!

A fairly obvious one, probably.  And about time, I say!