Posts by Gina Barreca
September 21, 2010, 10:55 AM ET
I was thinking and talking about blogs for almost the entire day yesterday.
I should assure you that this is not typical of me, lest you worry and alert the authorities.
But blogging, you see, was the topic of a short interview Monday morning on one of our local radio stations.
Every Monday morning at 7:15 Pete Nicols of WILI-FM calls and tells me what we’ll be talking about in 20 minutes—he gives me time to grab a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun. Pete is incredibly smart, although sometimes as a radio jock he doesn’t get to show it, and one of the most erudite and funniest men in Connecticut. We’ve been doing this routine for years and it’s a hoot. As former New Yorkers around the same age, we get each other’s references and play well together for the 10 minutes we spend on the air. We’re also honest about everything and since no money changes hands, I can really say what I want a...Read More
September 16, 2010, 09:02 AM ET
I was relieved to see the suggestion made by Female Science Professor in her recent piece “I Did Not Slow Down Once I Got Tenure” (September 15) that “actual time we spend on teaching-related activities (not just the scheduled hours of class time) should be considered in discussions of how much professors work.”
I was relieved because I had one of those “good—it’s not just me” moments when I read it, having been worried for much of yesterday afternoon that I was getting cranky and disgruntled before my time. (When I say “my time” I mean “many years before retirement” rather than “several hours before cocktails” although the two are not unrelated.)
I’d just spent hours doing those tasks—paperwork, e-mailing, letter writing, file reviewing, photocopying, getting things ready to take to the mailroom, and organizing generally—that make our profession a real job.
When I started as an as...Read More
September 13, 2010, 12:00 AM ET
Tonight's episode of Mad Men dealt with the issue of humor, power, and sex in a way that very television programs have dared. I actually got out of my bed to write this because I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep unless I put something down in sentences, even at the risk of 1. Waking my spouse; 2. Writing bad sentences.
It seems worth it.
In an early scene Peggy is watching a bunch of art directors and copywriters shake and then actually pick up and shake a vending machine. "I feel like Margaret Mead" murmurs Peggy, as if these guys are part of an exotic and foreign tribe and she's the anthropologist.
And so they are. They are Men—or, no, no, I should correct that. To be more accurate, these are the Boys.
In fact, these are The Silly Boys and Not The Mad Men. The Silly Boys are their own tribe. And they are at war with the women in the office.
The boys make life miserable ...Read More
September 10, 2010, 04:33 PM ET
You’ve read about the study by Princeton researchers economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Right? [more details are available everywhere, including here. “When asked to assess the happy hours of the previous day—whether people had experienced a lot of enjoyment, laughter, smiling, anger, stress, worry—money mattered only up to about $75,000. After that, money didn't buy more (or less) happiness,” is what we now know.
Personally, I’ve always believed that money can make you happy. Most people who grew up without it will tell you the same thing.
The easiest way to prove that people are happier with more money than less is to go up to a person, pretty much any person will do, and offer the person, say, $200. After the person puts the money away, ask the person if he or she is happier with the $200 than without.
Once the person realizes that this is not a trick, a...Read More
September 8, 2010, 10:00 AM ET
You know how when you’re working a lot, not sleeping enough, and
50 things are swirling around your head as if somebody just flushed
your brain? That’s how I’m feeling right now because I have to
finish—really finish (not just pretend finish, which is what I’ve
been doing)—the projects I’ve been working on all summer.
And it’s probably because I’m slightly delirious with work that I started wondering in the middle of the night whether Amazon would find a way to connect with Terry Jones—the pastor in Florida who’s encouraging people to burn the Koran on September 11th—to see whether he might encourage his followers to burn their Kindles instead.
(I take nothing lightly when it comes to September 11th, 2001. I am from New York and even though I’ve lived in Connecticut for 23 years, I will always be from New York. On that day, my husband and I had most of our family in the city; we spent the ...
September 3, 2010, 04:28 PM ET
The world is divided into standers and sitters. Some stand behind podiums while others sit at desks. Some wander up and down the aisles while others never so much as shift from their position.
Which are you?
I used to be a desk-edge sitter, but that was when I first started teaching as an adjunct at Queens College back in 1982. I wore Laura Ashley dresses because I wanted to disguise my figure and look older—I was 25, and those were my goals.
The dresses themselves were pretty enough, but their peasant motif didn’t really suit me because they made me look, well, like a peasant. I looked like the lady on the Contadina can. All I was missing was a basket of plum tomatoes and a bandana. Also, I wore flat shoes because I was taking the F train home at 11 p.m. and needed to know I could move quickly. Plus, I carried huge bags of books and papers because I had no permanent place to leave ...Read More
August 30, 2010, 09:49 AM ET
Hello class. Hello former students who are willing to go another round in this ring, and welcome to the new folks—the ones who have no idea what this course will be like.
Let me tell you who’ve never taken a class with me before a little about what to expect. And please understand that while I’m delighted that you're here, I will also understand if you decide that you can’t work within the boundaries I’ve set up.
The points I’m talking about today are non-negotiable. That’s why I mention them up front. On a number of other issues, I can be flexible. Concerning the following, however, you will find me intractable:
1. No electronic devices. No laptops, no cell phone, no Blackberries, no pacemakers, nothing. If you have an electronic bracelet around your ankle monitored by your parole officer, you can leave that on. Everything else is switched off before you enter this classroom. You don’...Read More
August 25, 2010, 01:55 PM ET
OK, folks: I’m asking for your help on behalf of all those new faculty members, the ones who are roaming the halls trying to look as if they know where they belong but who really haven’t a clue. I have several friends who started out this year. Some have taught for years but are starting in new venues while others are embarking on their first full-academic positions. What I’d like to hear from you is this: What are five things you know now that you wish you’d known then?
I’ll start, having looked at my notebooks from 1987; that’s when I first began teaching at UConn—straight from having taught the summer session at Queens College (I desperately needed the money, as everybody does when beginning a new job in a new place). I had a 10-day break between jobs. It was a hot summer. I was 30.
What I wish I could tell that young woman is the following:
1. Don’t worry—it won’t be this bad...Read More
August 23, 2010, 12:00 AM ET
So I’m actually finishing this sex anthology—remember that I wrote about it earlier this summer?—and I can tell you one thing: compiling an anthology about sex is as complicated—almost, sort of—as having sex: You have to make choices, decide who’s in and who’s out, consider alternatives, and hope that enlightenment, pleasure, and perspective will follow.
The difference for me is that actual money is exchanged.
I know that will come as a shock to some.
I try not to take such remarks personally.
Here’s the scoop: The Great Books Foundation asked me to edit the first in their “Vital Ideas Series” which is described in their catalog as “a new series of compact, inexpensive anthologies they hope will be used in college composition and reading courses, as well as in developmental-level courses in two and four-year colleges.”
Allow me, please, to simplify my task and continue to quote from...Read More
August 19, 2010, 08:17 AM ET
I asked a number of friends to help me with this 17-syllable exercise, and since more people responded than I imagined might, I'm happy to throw everybody into one batch. I hope you'll consider adding your own.
Wake with teeth grinding
Broken printers in my dreams
Is it fall term yet?
The cheating kid sit beside
The foreign student.
Capture my fresh thought
Embrace the joy of learning
Oops! There is no place to park.
Why teach before dawn?
The schedule I have now
Might kill me outright.
Brilliant students come to learn!
Brooklyn Bridge for Sale!
Make empty nests of classrooms
No one fills the blanks.
See the patient desk
Where no writer sits today.
My boyfriend is back
But my new colleague is cute.
Fulbright time again?