A little ceiling leak's gonna slow things down? Nah. (Photo by Sam Ferrigno)
UConn President Susan Herbst’s recent article in the Huffington Post defending the role of full-time scholars and teachers was encouraging to those of us who work at the place where she’s the newÂ boss. Herbst seems like she’s doing a good job: The last time she met me she remembered my name. Pretty much that’s all it takes to be my best friend.
Apart from spending too much time–as does everyone else–talking about sportsÂ being UConn’s “front porch” (which seems to be losing several of its central pillars to the NBA draft, not that I’m bitter), to her credit Herbst has made a dedicated effort to meet the faculty. She’s been a presence on the campus and has pledged to support the hiring of new tenure-track faculty.
(If you haven’t seen the film, this version will give you the executive summary.)
Of course I discussed The Hunger Games in my classes this week, comparing it in its loathsomeness to Titanic. “You didn’t even like Titanic?!” yelled one outraged young woman from the back of the room. “How is that possible? Don’t you have any guilty pleasures?”
Let me explain my problems with Titanic, which just happened to be playing right next to The Hunger Games when I went to the multiplex last weekend thereby giving me a kind of filmic return-of-the-repressed experience:
(Prologue: Before we even get to the movie, let me tell you what bothered me about the title–did the writers believe that, by omitting the word “The” the dialogue would sound all English-y, and that by saying â€śWeâ€™re on Titanicâ€ť the way the Brits say â€śIâ€™m off to hospitalâ€ť we were meant to believe this…
Like many people, I often like to relax after work with a cool drink and a vice-presidential speech on the stereo.Â And these days, the album getting the heaviest rotation on my playlist is Spiro T. Agnew Speaks Out.Â Call me nostalgic; call me a prisoner of the 1970s; but for my money, a better compilation of vice-presidential speeches has never been made.
I discovered the Agnew album at Hymieâ€™s Vintage Records last week.Â It was in a bin marked â€śDifficult Listening,â€ť along with other neglected classics such as Jim and Tammy Bakker present the PTL Singers, Â Deutscher Humor and The Sounds of Welsh Rugby.Â Â For those too young to remember Agnew: he was the Maryland ex-governor and Nixon vice-president who was unjustly driven out of the White House in 1973 after a series of financial misunderstandings. Â Hunter S. Thompson once characterized Agnew as a â€śflat-out,…
Youâ€™re an average-aged person in a committed relationship but one day you suddenly discover youâ€™ve got a crush on somebody. Youâ€™re infatuated by a co-worker, a student, or evenâ€”why now?â€”an old friend. Life gets a little fizzy and a little fuzzy. Youâ€™re checking electronic devices for cute text-messages and searching for nuances in e-mails. You discover flirtatious implications whether or not theyâ€™re actually there; thatâ€™s the foolish part. Like the flu or a bout of colitis, the best thing to do is to sit tight and hope it passes quickly before too many people notice and before anybody else is infected.
What you are, of course, is infatuated. The word â€śinfatuatedâ€ť is derived from the Latin â€śfatuusâ€ť meaning â€śfoolishâ€ť or, as some linguists argue, â€śtoo heavy in the thigh area for an assignationâ€ť ( a term, by the way, closely related to the Greek word for â€…
As a professor, I am a professional slacker. After all, professors like me hardly work, are way over paid, and are the source of ever-increasing tuition at institutions of higher ed.
At least that is the conclusion of David C. Levy, a man who works for something called the Cambridge Information Group, does not list a single teaching position in his biography, and yet was somehow allowed to describe himself as “a career-long academic”Â in The Washington Postlast week as he exposed me and my slacker colleagues.
Levy’s argument is simple: unions and professors are bad. See what happened is that
With the 1970s advent of collective bargaining in higher education, this began to change. The result… senior faculty at most state universities and colleges now earn $80,000 to $150,000, roughly in line with the average incomes of others with advanced degrees.
The problem started with a phone call from the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.Â It was the winter of 2001, and the guy from the Loft was calling about an essay I had written called â€śHow to Be an Academic Failure: An Introduction for Beginners.â€ť That anyone had actually read that essay was a mild shock.Â I had written it in a moment of self-loathing while on sabbatical in New Zealand, and it had appeared in an obscure, now-dead magazine called The Ruminator Review.Â Â The greater shock, however, was what the Loft guy wanted to do with it.Â He planned to have a professional actor from the Guthrie Theater read my essay about personal failure on stage.
Although a quiet voice in my head was saying â€śHang up!â€ť the Loft guy was oddly persuasive.Â Â He explained that the event was a kind of literary experiment, and more reassuringly, that my essay would only be one of…
So, in terms of teaching high school English how would I, someone who’s been teaching upper-division English literature classes for 25 years and has won the major teaching award at my university, do?
As a first year high school English teacher from one of the great Western states–I’m calling myself Cat Ballou here, although the TFA calls me by another name–I can give you a few pointers.
Not so hot.
First of all, you didnâ€™t have a posted objective or demonstration of learningâ€¦. So that would put you in trouble right from the startâ€¦
Objective? Demonstration of learning? I donâ€™t even know what those things are.
An objective is basically a daily map for students to follow. Itâ€™s a goal for students to be able to accomplish by the end of class. Every day thereâ€™s a different goal and a new goal MUST be posted at the beginning of every…
Photo by Flickr CC user Joseph Gray; model, Sara Foust
So my friend Tim comes to visit. I don’t let just anybody into the office today because I am in official Grading Hell (all grades done, but not all comments completed–this is how I torture myself), but Tim is not just anybody. He’s the Knight in Shining Technical Armor. He’s the one who rescues everybody in my Department (but especially me) when strange intergalactic stuff enters my hard drive. Or whatever it is that happens when my computer stops working.
Anyhow, today Tim stops by not because I have called, miserable and cajoling or even calling with an offer of homemade food (which I do often use as an excuse to keep him happy and to grab his company) but because he wants to announce, with some bitterness, that it is Rokjesdage.
If Texas ever decides to secede from the Union, I’d be mighty tempted to go along. Lightnin’ Hopkins, Molly Ivins, Bob Wills, Kinky Friedman, the 1966 Texas Western basketball team: Without the Lone Star State, American life would look pretty anemic. When Steve Earle declared, â€śTownes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that,â€ť I nodded and said, â€śAmen.â€ť
Most of all, I like Texas crazy. There is no better value for your entertainment dollar. As a native South Carolinian, I claim some expertise in the topic.Â My brother says: What Mississippi is to the poverty index, South Carolina is to the index of crazy people. (Our unofficial state motto, provided by James L. Petigru in 1860: â€śSouth Carolina is too small to be a republic, and too large to be an insane asylum.â€ť) For many years …
1. You gave them exams and/or papers to complete right before spring break, didn’t you? Why? You know better. You do this every year, thinking that they’ll be especially motivated to do a good job right before they get some time off. You believe, too, that you’ll be able to read and assess their work in a thoughtful and meaningful manner, since you’ll have a week to yourself. You forget that they are motivated not to do a good job but to get their carry-ons as filled with sunscreen, cover-ups, sandals, sunglasses, Purell, and birth control of all sorts (even those not covered under the Limbaugh Plan) as possible. More importantly, you’ve forgotten that you will not have a week to yourself. You will have a week to clean the basement, change your bank accounts so that you are no longer with Bank of America because it’s just not working anymore, have breakfast, drinks, and dinner with the…
We live in a postracial America. NOT! But alas, this is what a large number of white Americans believe. In fact, polls consistently show that blacks and Latinos see discrimination in their daily lives even as whites deny such discrimination. For instance, in the U.S. over 80% of blacks experience “day to day discrimination.” Meanwhile 56% of whites say there is “too much attention paid to racial issues” and whites were 235 times more likely to rate blacks as “lazy” than they were whites.
Given the fact that white people don’t acknowledge continued discrimination against black and Latino Americans and instead hang lack of economic success on “laziness,” it is not too much to say that whites now live in a fantasy world. Part of the white fantasy is to actually believe that making racist jokes shows how NOT racist they are.
All we have to do is watchÂ Family Guy or South Park, which …
When we were very young and very snarky, my friends and I wore buttons on our ratty backpacks that said “Eat the Rich.” In retrospect, now that I am not young at all and far less snarky, this sort of dehumanizing behavior of an entire class of people seems indefensible. Unless, of course, we take science into account.
conducted by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley… people who are socially and financially better-off are more likely to lie, cheat, and otherwise behave unethically compared to individuals who occupy lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.
The Berkeley study used seven different experiments with more than a thousand subjects. Socioeconomic status was measured in a variety of ways, including income, education, and self-defined. But no matter how it was measured, those participants with higher levels of socioeconomic…
Hi there! I thought I’d introduce myself. You probably weren’t expecting me–so few do–and yet since I’ve been so often on your tongue in “Brainstorm” these past few days, I thought I’d just pop in.
Iâ€™m not a mystery once you get to know me–and I certainly hope you will.
Why am I here? I like a good time. When I know people are relaxing, having intimate conversations, really enjoying themselves both cheerfully and intensely, you’ll find that I’m drawn to the moment.
I don’t need a big party, a lot of decorations, too much to drink, or a whole lot of fuss; I don’t need a red carpet, so to speak, because I carry my own with me, all rolled up and tucked into place. I don’t need a big limo, either, or a Hummer. If I need to, I can walk and get to where I’m…
Hereâ€™s my new goal: I want to write a tell-all book and be widely celebrated for how well I keep secrets.
Thatâ€™s a trick Iâ€™d really love to a master, like sawing the last thin remnants of a reputation in half and having it appear whole.
Yes, of course, Iâ€™m talking about Screaming Mimi, the JFK intern who decided to wait until everybody was dead (guess daughters donâ€™t count, huh, Mimi?) and write a book with information nobody can prove but that fascinates us all. It doesnâ€™t say much for her, and, I suppose, it says even less about us.
Hereâ€™s an excerpt from The Daily Mail, one of the places to which she sold the rights.
Okay, okay, it says less about meâ€”Iâ€™ve been watching the whole thing with open-mouthed horror and fascination, but not as open-mouthed as Mimi was when she was in D.C., apparently.
What’s getting to me is that otherwise sensible people are…
Life isn’t always the kind of thing you can celebrate with greeting cards. Valentine’s Day, especially, often evades responsibility for the kinds of events crying out for attention on February 14th especially if they don’t include candy, balloons, and something with sparkles.
Even doggerelÂ should have its day, and we believe its day is February 14th.
For example, one of my brother’s best friends in the world is having surgery on Valentine’s Day. There’s no card for that. There’s nothing you can get where, let’s say, a unicorn is removing somebody’s gallbladder or a teddy-bear is inserting drug-releasing stents below the knee; there’s really nothing for that particular occasion, not even in your fancier stationary stores. So, being the poet he’s always been (under that JD and MBA), he wrote a series of what I believe to be well-crafted poems in celebration of his friend’s…
I can’t help but be fascinated by the bizarre nature of bad words and naughty gestures. Some words we can’t say because they’re just plain offensive, like the “n” word or now the “r” word. In my house, the “r” word is a point of contention between my daughters since one says it cannot be uttered while the other says it just to annoy her older sister and poke holes in her holier than thou attitude. Â As you can see, the whole situation is a slippery slope that makes us skate around painful histories and structures that imbue these insults with such power.
What words can be said and what can’t remains a thorny legal and cultural issue and Super Bowl Sunday clearly brought this to the surface. By now, everyone knows that MIA shot up her middle finger while dancing to Madonna’s “Give Me All Your Luvin’.” According to a BBC article,
The middle finger is documented to have expressed insult…
For years, everything I believed about American politics could be summed up in the following Gore Vidal bon mot:
America’s not the only one party system, but it’s the only one party system with two right wings.”
That more or less held true till the Dubbya years, when one of the wings went so far right it was no longer accurately described as a political party as much as a social movement fueled by Christian conservatism and funded by corporate interests.
Fortunately, another political aphorism arrived just in time for the 2008 presidential election, this one by humorist David Sedaris, who described people not committed to voting for Barack Obama thusly:
I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. â€śCan I interest you in the chicken?â€ť she asks. â€śOr would you prefer the platter of s#$t…
No more late-night movies or TV. Forget the fact that youâ€™re telling everybody else in your household that youâ€™re up working late, because we know the truth: no more half-movies once remembered being watched when you are supposed to be doing other things. The semester is starting and you need to get back to your regularly scheduled programming, literally and figuratively. Get your DVR ready, or TIVO, and do it now. If youâ€™re teaching at 8 a.m. or even 9 and do not have the privilege of being air-dropped directly onto your campus in a net bag, you need at least an hour to negotiate either public transport or to find parking. Doing the sleepy-time math, this means you need to get to sleep before midnight. If youâ€™re under 40, maybe you can get away with staying up until 1 a.m., but no later. Of course, if you are over…
TonightÂ atÂ aÂ marinaÂ holiday party, our neighbor and dear friend, Roger Thiel, treated us to his annual gift of a Christmas poem and reading. Roger has lived in our marina for more than 20 years and hasÂ entertained uncountable numbers of live aboards and visitors with song, oratory delights and, of course, his annual holiday poems. The shop of which Roger speaks in this poem is his own,Â and itÂ makes Santa’s workshop look pretty boring by comparison. In it he runs a professional printing business, writes novels, keeps his Winston Churchill collection, andÂ maintains his antique airplane. On Christmas Day, Roger will make his rounds visiting the ill, infirm, and less fortunate to spread holiday cheer andÂ make sure they know that someone cares. In other words, Roger is a one-of-a-kind Renaissance man who is a central figure in Gangplank Marina life! Since we enjoyed the poem so…