Posts by Laurie Fendrich
May 6, 2010, 11:00 PM ET
I just got home from a fourth exhausting day of
university-related work in a row, to be followed by a fifth,
tomorrow—not unusual for a professor wrapping up a semester. It’s
now almost 11:30 p.m. Although being a college professor is
hardly going up on the beach at Anzio, for most of us, the work at
the end of the semester goes over the top—final papers, final
exams, final critiques, final meetings with faculty and students,
final chats with the chair, final everything, and on top of that,
multiple letters of recommendation. These days, I arrive home late,
eat a quickly heated burrito, and collapse into bed.
Yet the last days of a semester are also exhilarating. Now is the time when we professors harvest the fruits of our labor—when we see students who, starting from scratch, have produced a body of work over the course of a semester, and have learned new knowledge and new ways to...
May 5, 2010, 04:00 PM ET
In one of those strange coincidences, almost worthy of Borges,
but not quite, I was working on a lecture on Andy Warhol last
Friday evening when Irving Blum, the Los Angeles art dealer who
gave Warhol his first gallery exhibition at the Ferus Gallery, in
Los Angeles, in 1962—the one with the 32 Campbell’s soup can
paintings that MOMA now owns—called my home to speak to my husband.
I know him a little bit as well, from the days when my husband and
I were young artists living in L.A. So I said, “Irving, listen. I’m
working on a lecture on Warhol. Would you give me five minutes of
your time to recount for me how it came about that you showed
Warhol’s Campbell soup can paintings?” Irving said, “Sure!” and I
took notes while he talked.
Irving Blum’s Story:
In 1962, I went to Andy’s studio in New York to look at his work for the second time. On the floor were three paintings of Campbell’s...
April 27, 2010, 11:22 AM ET
Today I learned that there are moments when I see eye-to-eye
with the military. After General Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader
of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, viewed a near-nigh
incomprehensible slide of a diagram consisting of seemingly
countless swirling and overlapping thin, colored, arced lines—part
of a PowerPoint presentation designed to explain American strategy
in the region—he said, “When we understand that slide, we’ll have
won the war.” Having seen the
diagram reproduced in The New York Times today), I
realize that to comprehend it requires an advanced degree in
Superlogical Nuerophysiological Opticophysical Psychology, as well
as at least a decade of hands-on practice in The Art of Idiotic
When the PowerPoint program first came out in the late 80s, I laughed at its vapidity. Its charts looked like the stuff of 1950s communist meetings that would celebrate...
April 22, 2010, 09:26 AM ET
It looks as if South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have caved to the pressure of a radical American Islamic group that threatened (they say “warned”) them, on their Web site, that they would “probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh” (i.e., murdered) for making fun of the prophet Muhammad on a recent episode. The Guardian reports that in the follow-up episode (aired last night in Britain, tonight in the States) the writers “appeared to bow to threats of violence” from the American Muslim group. The show was labeled with the word “censored,” and the words “Prophet Muhammad” were beeped out. Muhammad dressed in a bear suit, which sparked the initial “warning,” morphed into Santa Claus in a bear suit.
As The Guardian points out, whether this is acquiescence or yet more mockery is hard to figure out. The nature of South Park is to be wickedly and cleverly degrading, profane, insulting...Read More
April 18, 2010, 01:37 PM ET
If you follow the news, you’d think that the volcanic eruption under Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier is nothing but a story about an enormous travel headache that happens to come with some nasty economic repercussions. Thousands of flights to and from cities all over Europe have been cancelled. Poor John Cleese, for example. Stranded in Norway because planes can’t fly in skies that have been made dangerous by spreading volcanic ash, Cleese managed to return to England by taking a $5,000 cab ride to Brussels, and then catching a train back to London.
In a letter to a friend written a few years after Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E., Pliny the Younger, who managed to escape Pompeii, recorded the terror of those days. He writes that on the second day of the disaster, "Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, an...Read More
April 12, 2010, 03:31 PM ET
I must take issue with Michael Ruse’s most recent post, “A Prof at 70: Having Fun, Feeling Guilty.” Forgive me if I sound intemperate, but since when has it been hunky-dory for philosophically inclined, erudite people (aka professors) to celebrate the rule of, “If it feels good, do it”? I’m not talking about sex, drugs, or rock and roll. I’m talking about hanging onto your teaching job past the normal retirement age—an action that prevents younger faculty from moving up the academic ladder. Professor Ruse is a 70-year-old philosophy professor, not some bashful bride marrying against her family’s wishes. When he confesses to feeling guilty, there’s probably something substantive there that he should feel guilty about.
This past fall, I did something that’s become not all that unusual at Hofstra: I signed an irrevocable retirement contract with the university whereby I promised to retire...Read More
April 8, 2010, 03:42 PM ET
It took a while, but certain American higher-ed factories are now outsourcing grading. In a story in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, we learn that Lori Whisenant, director of business law and ethics studies at the University of Houston, began outsourcing paper grading in her course on business law and ethics to a company whose employees are mostly in Asia.
Heck, why not? As the sassiest commenter responding to the article cleverly put it, “There is a certain ironic symmetry here. Many students are already buying their papers from term-paper factories located in India and other third world countries. Now we are sending those papers back there to be graded. I wonder how many people are both writing and grading student work, and whether, serendipitously, any of those people ever get the chance to grade their own writing.” The great learning loop of outcomes assessment is neatly “...Read More
April 6, 2010, 01:36 PM ET
The astonishing sight of Brittney Griner, the 19-year-old freshman Baylor basketball phenomenon who’s as tall as an evergreen (she’s 6’ 8” and growing) and, on the court, cleans the glass and dunks like a guy, leaves most people stupefied. Sports blogs, notoriously raunchy no matter what the topic, are clogged with brutes mashing one another over whether or not she’s really a woman. Others, stunned by the way Griner’s extraordinary talent is conjoined with her Amazon body and dignified, defined, almost implacably serene face, wonder if she might be part of a rapid but broad and seismic shift in Western culture’s idea of female beauty.
Or at least that’s the way The New York Times puts it in an article in the Style section (yes, you read that right—the Style, not the Sports, section) on whether or not Brittney Griner is part of a change in the standard of female beauty. Terry ...
April 1, 2010, 08:37 PM ET
In reading about Contested Will,
James Shapiro’s new book about who wrote Shakespeare (otherwise
known as the Shakespeare authorship debate), I thought about how
people who love Shakespeare desperately long to make his art a more
certain and stable business than it can ever be by establishing, as
if it were a matter of science, as much as they can about the
barely knowable artist behind the art. Many seem to think
that by fusing what’s left of the Romantic cult of the artist with
the contemporary cult of information, we can figure out the way
Shakespeare’s art “works” in the same way we’re now figuring out
how nature works.
Shakespeare is hardly the only literary figure who has very few facts attached to his name. What’s to know about Homer, for example, other than generalities about what life was like way back when? But Shakespeare is a baby compared to Homer—he walked and talked a...
March 29, 2010, 12:57 PM ET
Although I’m not Catholic, I’ve followed the sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church with a fair amount of interest. Reading Maureen Dowd’s column, “A Nope for Pope,” in yesterday’s New York Times, I was struck by the gap between the way of thinking within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the way of thinking in the modern world.
To the Church, the sex-abuse scandals that have emerged over the
past couple of decades are a temporary blight—a bad thing, to be
sure, but one that’s been blown way out of proportion by the media.
To Dowd, a modern woman brought up as a Catholic, the sex scandals
add up to something rotten in the state of the Vatican itself. In a
column that is both poignant and futile, Dowd offers a
pie-in-the-sky solution for Catholics: Elect a “Nope” (a darling
neologism meaning a “a nun who becomes a pope”).
If the Catholic Church consisted of monks living in...