Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Canon Question

I'll explain why later, but for now, I just have a question.  Interpreted broadly, what literature in English written between, say, 1475 and 1700 should every English major have read?

(I'd love to hear why you've chosen your choices, too!)

Three Days in Barcelona - #3: Casa Battlo

Our hostel was just a block or so from Casa Battlo, one of Gaudi's iconic building designs.  So on the third morning, I started there.  (The third day I took a lot of pictures, so I'll break it down a bit.)

This is the staircase up from the ground story entrance.  It has a sort of vertebrate feel to it.  But also smooth and rounded.
 Interior hall on the first floor (European style).  The windows really bring through light.
 As, it seems, is usual, light and color are big in Gaudi structures.
 Here's a little warming area with a place to sit.  So inviting!
 Looking out over Passeig de Gracia (one of the main streets in Barcelona).
 A closer look at the glass work.  Luscious!
 Ceiling light fixture.
 Gorgeous floors!
 Up the central part of the building is a light well.  It's tiled in blues, darker above, lighter below.  The upper windows are smaller, and the lower windows bigger, to let in appropriate light (and heat).
 An interior window.
 In the back "yard."  Mosaic work in tile.
 Looking up at the back of the building from the back yard area.
 Columns just inside the room in the picture above, seen closer.
 The light well as you go up.  (People still live in some of the apartments in this building!  Is it wrong that I want to live in a Gaudi building?)
 Near the top.
 On top of the building, there are service areas for workers to do laundry and such.  The spaces are rounded with these catenary arches (I think they are...)
 Laundry area.
 On the roof, the famous chimney tops!
 The light well from above.
 One of Gaudi's four armed crosses.
 More of the service area.  Note the swirl of venting in the door at the end of the hallway.
Casa Battlo was amazing.  One of my favorite places after Sagrada Familia, for sure.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Student Over-Activities

A break in the Barcelona postings to growl a bit.

Students here at the Abbey are pretty much burning the candle at both ends.  Most do a lot of traveling on the weekend, either school trips (such as the one I went with to Barcelona) or independently (often with other students).  To be honest, they tend to be either far more adventurous than I, or on a different budget, or choosing to spend their budget differently, because while I may go spend a day in York (and a lovely day at that) or a weekend reading at the Library, they go off to Prague or Amsterdam or Berlin or you get the idea.

It totally makes sense that they pay a lot of attention to traveling.

Then there are classes, and frankly, as an instructor, I tend to think students should pay good attention to classes, do good work for them, and study hard.

And then there are "student activities" arranged by the student life folks.  They've split the students here into "houses" (think Hogwarts) and do house competitions and such.  There are sports competitions, and singing competitions (karaoke), and baking competitions.  Students can also earn points for going to various activities (including some academic talks), and can lose points for not filling out forms or whatever in a timely manner (we all have to fill out a travel form to say where we're going each weekend, and whether we need meals at the Abbey).

On Halloween, the night before the before the big common course (6 credit course that every student here takes) exam, the student life folks held a Rocky Horror movie night, and showed the movie starting at 11 or something.

I've chatted with some other faculty, and there's a general, though not overwhelming sense, that the student life folks should be a bit more aware of academic stuffs.

Today, I brought it up at a meeting, and suggested that the student life folks might schedule ahead and let all the faculty know when big things will be, so that we can schedule exams accordingly (because we have to turn our schedules in months in advance of the semester) or should look at the schedules faculty have put up (public info) and schedule their activities so they don't pull students away from exam prep, papers, and so forth.

From the student life director's reaction, you would have thought I'd suggested beating up students on the back porch or something.

No, they said, they already tell students that they have to work on time management, so it's just students needing to work on time management.

And, Halloween is a "high risk" time, so the student life folks have to schedule something then.

You see the contradiction?  Students have to learn time management, but not managing their risky behavior (I'm guessing this is about alcohol consumption, which they do a lot of here anyway, it being legal at 18 and all).

Then they made the excuse that they already don't schedule things before the big common course exams, except they had to this one time.  Then they went on about how they have to get everything done in three or four days a week, so they really need to pack things in.

I do recognize that clubs and other students activities are massively important in student development.  Really, I do.  I saw it in my own college experience.  But I also still think that students go to college for the classes, for the education, for the degree, and not for most activities or clubs.  So giving students an easier time prioritizing classes seems like a reasonable idea, especially here where they're already spending so much time traveling, planning travels, and so on.

In two years, no one will care whether their house won the competition.  But they may care if they sank their GPA and can't get into grad school or whatever.  Or not.  (I don't think GPAs are a huge deal once one's gotten out and gotten a first position or grad program.)

I don't think they actually need to "pack things in" because I think most students would be fine with a few more days without scheduled activities.  Heck, they might even do a better job on their papers and exams.

Someone told me other colleges now put their students in "houses" (that aren't residence-based).  Is that really a thing?  Do students really need their hands held to that point in college?  Or is that sort of an attempt to appeal to the Hogwarts loving crowd?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Three Days In Barcelona - #2: Park Guell, Joan Miro, and Parc Monjuic

 Pictures from a pretty much perfect day in Barcelona, 10 November 2017.  I started with a morning visit to Park Guell, where I had tickets to the Gaudi House Museum and a Park tour.  But my morning started off with an exciting look at lots of Monk Parakeets.  They're evidently introduced in Barcelona, and have a thriving population.

This is The Gaudi House Museum.  Beautiful!  I'm so in love with Gaudi!
 Walking along the grounds, there are causeways you can walk on or under.

 I saw my first Eurasian Hoopoe!  So very cool!
 The structure is the central plaza of Park Guell, which is a sort of structure with a gorgeous windy bench along the outside edge.  You can see the back of the bench here.
 Under and to one side of that structure.
 Under the structure;  I was on a tour, so went back after to take another picture.  This is a gorgeous gathering place.  The structure also gathered rain water.
 The famous salamander!  It's in front of the plaza structure.
  Another view of the salamander.
 A better view of the ceiling under the plaza structure.
 A bit of the bench area.
 And that was my morning visit to Park Guell.  Then I got on a bus and then took the metro to Parc Montjuico, and took a cable car thing up to the Fundacion Joan Miro.  Miro is both playful and sometimes disturbing.  Here's playful.
 This is a HUGE tapestry Miro designed for the space.  (I went to a Miro exhibit at the Tate Modern in 2011.  And blogged about it!)
 The cable car!
 Dramatic sky over Barcelona!
 Looking over to the Mediterranean from above the port.
So that was day two of my visit to Barcelona!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Three Days in Barcelona - #1: Sagrada Familia

I'm woefully behind in putting up blog posts, not for lack of things to write about, but things have been busy!  I have less than a month to go before I should be home, and that seems both fine and incredible and short.

I'm realizing that while I've done a lot of new things in the UK this time, I haven't done much in the way of repeat things.  I haven't been to any of the same places in London, haven't gone to Norwich or many of the cities or places I went last time (I did go to York, and passed through Edinburgh, and went on the campus field trip to Lincoln).

Now, as time is drawing to a close, I have ten days in London at the end of the trip, primarily for working at the British Library (reading there has been the big, big difference, this time around).  But I'm thinking on the Sunday, at least, I won't be at the Library, so I should go somewhere else.  I'm thinking, Battle, to see what remains of Battle Abbey, and to visit the site of the Battle of Hastings and such.

Other suggestions?  How about things to do/see near/in London if I want an afternoon off?  (There are some art shows!)

And now, without further ado, Barcelona.  We left on Wednesday afternoon, and got in fairly late, took the Metro to a stop near our Hostel, and as we came up out of the Metro, we were just about right in front of Casa Battló.  There were 20 of us, and as we came up, each of us gasped at the sight.  It's just stunningly beautiful.

Then we walked about a block to our hostel, which was friendly, with a reasonably comfortable bed for me in a room with an en suite bathroom (the joy of life!).

I bought tickets ahead for a bunch of places I was pretty sure I wanted to see, and for the hop on hop off bus thing, and for riding the Metro.  The Metro was totally worth it.  The hop on hop off, not so much.

Here's Sagrada Familia, which I had a first thing Thursday morning ticket for.  The Basilica is laid out in a typical cruciform way, except that there's a cloister around the building that sort of masks the cruciformness of it.  The three short sides are the Birth/Nativity and Childhood (which is where you enter, and I think on the left if you were to stand facing the altar), the Glory (behind the altar), and the Passion.  The Glory one isn't done yet, I don't think.

You wait outside, and then enter through the Nativity façade, so here it is:

I love that there's a bassoonist playing (you can see her/him above, on the far side from the metal circle thing with the initials).
 I went up the Passion façade towers.  As you'll see below, you take an elevator up, and then walk down inside the tower.  And you can see out.
 If you look at the center of this picture, through the metal grating, you can see the figure of the risen Christ; he's near the top of the façade that you see from the outside, above the various scenes of abuse, crucifixion, and mourning.
 Here you can see how on the right, you go up the elevator shaft, then walk across, and you're where you can see the resurrected Christ.  Then you walk down inside another tower.
 Elevator shaft, looking down.
 Stairs, going down for a long, long time.
 In the main church, the different sides and areas have different colors of stained glass emphasized.  The result is that the light coming in changes over the day (so I was told, though I was only there for three hours).  Here you can see the morning light coming through blue and green.  It's overwhelmingly beautiful in person.
 The other side, where light would come in afternoons, would bathe everything in yellow and red light.
 So beautiful!
 The columns go up to branch out as tree shapes.  And they're different sorts of stone and different thicknesses.
 If the rest of the building was beautiful, the Passion façade was somehow the most mournful thing I've ever seen.  It's powerful.  I was in tears.
 The Pieta
 Judas' kiss.
 The snake.  I'm not sure if it's totally done or not.  There may still be work being done?
 Another view of the Pieta
 This is inside.  The idea is that there are chains, and then they hand little weights from them on strings, reflecting the various weights of load on the building.  So an architect could figure out the shape for load bearing.  And then in the upper part, you see the reflection, and you can see how it will look upside down, or, for the building, right side up.  The shapes end up being the catenary arches that Gaudi was so famous for using.  (Here's a Wikipedia link to show how catenary and parabolic arches are a little different.  So fascinating!)
More later, for Thursday afternoon in Barcelona!