Summer Reruns

While you semester folks are either finished or nearly finished with the term, I am slogging through week 7 of an 11 week quarter, with those damned miles to go before I, literally, sleep.  So still teaching, still grading, still advising, still committee-meeting, still interviewing candidates (yeah, late, I know, and I have oh so much to say about that—someday), still writing an essay due in 3 weeks, still training for my half marathon (which is the day after graduation—I believe it shall be my annual celebratory big run!).

So, while I’m scanning the blogosphere daily, and commenting when so moved and in between student conferences, this blog will be quiet for a bit. 

Feel free to read some old posts. If WordPress’s stats thingy is correct, the most popular ones are these:

Blogging as Performance Art

Tonight’s episode of House was of interest to bloggers:  the patient of the week is a “raw” blogger who believes that sharing the intimate details (well, most of them, BMs excluded it seems), of her life is a way to form connections.  Her boyfriend gets that, but also accuses her of forgetting the original reason she started her (somewhat?) popular blog: he claims, in the heat of an argument, that she is more into the performance before her “fans” than any connection she wanted to form.

My response was instantaneous and ahead of any rational thought: d’uh! Of course. Of course blogging is about performance as much as it is about connection.

Isn’t it?

World Enough and Time

If I had world enough and time, I’d be blogging about…

  • the exceptionally decent writing assignments I am spending my weekend reading, sporadically, commenting upon, and evaluating…Did I suddenly TEACH better, or are students just a bit more prepared? motivated? 
  • the odd trend in student e-mails that temper the usual excuses and “just to let you knows” with affirmations of my fabulousness, such as   “I’m going to be handing in my essay late because my computer died. And I want you to know that you’re awesome!” and “My essay will be late, just wanted to let you know. And I really LOVE your class.” What’s with that?
  • Joyce Carol Oates, whose novels, stories, interviews I’ve been immersed in for weeks. She’s a fascinating woman. I’m in the midst of reading what at least one reviewer called her “angry lesbian” novel, Solstice (published in 1985). I wonder why there were so many misreadings of this disturbing story about an odd friendship between women: an instinctive attack on a writer who disdains the “woman writer” label?
  • the early 1960s-dress up party I’m attending in a few weeks. I can’t decide if I want to dress like Jackie O, or one of her more bohemian peers. Luckily, there’s Rusty Zipper, a wonderfully rich site for inexpensive vintage clothes…or, should I do what my mother says and wear a cardigan sweater backwards, with pearls, and one of my new pencil skirts instead?
  • the hairdo that goes with the outfit: the Jackie O flip or the Babs poof (see below)? Or is Bab’s poof too late 60s? (Ah, another excuse to watch Mad Men!).Streisandhairdo
  • and, finally, the big one: the earliest damned snowfall since I’ve lived in this town (with downed trees, no electricity for hours this morning, and it’s STILL snowing)…

But, alas, I can’t blog about any of these potentially fruitful ideas right now. I need to shovel some snow, dig out the flashlight and candles before the next power outage (tree branches are literally cracking and falling throughout the neighborhood), and finish reading student essays.

Antidotes

1. To the odd recent overabundance of male midlife crisis novels: 

  • Spending by Mary Gordon. No longer a new novel, but the first one I’ve found in my stack that provided just what I needed. The Times reviewer concedes that the sex scenes are “prettily written” (!), but they are truly erotic. And the novel appeals not just to the physical, but to the emotional and psychic desires of a middle aged woman (writer, artist, intellectual)  reader, too. 

2. To the heat of the day:

  • 7am runs along the river (with, finally, a lightweight water bottle that is easy to carry).  I had no idea how much I see that early: interesting couples (who probably don’t want people to know they are couples); groups of mothers and strollers (try that on a single track trail); runners in their pjs (really–they are not in running clothes); lots of dogs (off leash of course); oh, yes, and deer, rabbits, fish, osprey….

3. To lugging the laptop to do work elsewhere:

  • A 10.1″ HP Netbook.  Ok, so some of my antidotes are a bit consumerist, but really, the netbook is light, fits in my purse, and at least the version I have has a keyboard that is 90% full sized, so I can really type on it.  I’m using Open Office on it, not storing anything important on it (so no Quicken), and it’s much faster than my 4 year old laptop.  It’s been a treat walking downtown to one of the many local coffee or tea houses; and I can’t wait to try flying with it once conference season begins this fall….

4. To a messy, dusty, disorganized, full of 10-year-old files,  office:

  • Being forced to pack everything for the big move (in 3 weeks!) to my NEW, larger office.  I’m going lite: trying to get rid of paper files that I rarely look at, and all those versions of the Norton and Heath anthologies that I have (because I don’t want to lose the NOTES I have in each version).  All being discarded.  My blue recycle bin overfloweth (much to the custodial staff’s displeasure).  New office: a bit further up the hill on campus, but it has THREE windows, on two walls.  Hanging plants may actually survive…(thus, this is also an antidote to claustrophobia and lack of oxygen during the school year).

5. To the high cost of student textbooks:

  • On the quarter system, we currently have 3 quarter-length required writing courses (soon to be downgraded to two, but that requires an entire blog whine to write about).  Students rarely take the same professor for all three courses since professors rarely get the same time block or teach all three courses fall, winter, spring.  As a result, students end up buying three textbooks for the year—and it’s nearly impossible for an instructor to make full use of an entire textbook in 10 weeks. So, this year I found 2 texts I”m using for Composition I and II: Faigley’s Backpack Writing 2nd, ed., (Longman, 2010)  and Graff/Birkenstein’s They Say, I Say (Norton 2006) (other instructors use both texts, so I am hoping that at least some students will benefit). Of course, I’m now totally revising my syllabi (or should be: see below).

6. To the need to balance solitude time with social time:

  • I don’t have an antidote to this, yet (unless I actually replace all social face to face contact with Facebook since most of my friends are there, too). I’m really quite social–I LIKE seeing friends regularly. I love when they drop in or call for a get together. But then, the next day after a long run (something I obsessively never give up) I regret the lost hours of reading and writing. 

7. To peri menopausal/hormonal sleep disorders:

  • I do NOT sleep well, and when I do, I toss and turn. I regularly get up after midnight and read on the futon.  This, as you all can imagine,is somewhat disruptive to our wedded bliss.  Hubby and I (who are not large people–sort of on the smaller size at 5’3″ and small framed for me  and thin despite the beer belly 5′ 10″ for him) are considering getting a king sized bed.  I have great reservations about this for a variety of reasons: a. our bedroom barely fits the Queen sized bed, so the dresser will probably have to go somewhere (where?) else, and b. the floor heating vent is in such an odd location that it would have to be moved to fit a king sized bed, and c. it seems so damned decadent. 
  • Does anyone else have a king sized bed? Wanna try to convince me that it’s going to actually allow us to sleep together all night long?  Or should I just wait another 5 years or so until menopause arrives and passes?

8. To life’s little things:

  • Blogging about them here or on FB.

Monday Meanderings

accessories_boa_80_redIs it summer yet?  The calendar says so, but the weather?  Not so much.

NPR essay submitted: now the wait to hear from the editor (I’ve been practicing my radio voice)

Summer school teaching online: new graduate students. Generally a pleasure to work with, although each June I must remember that they are only gradually realizing that they are once again students (John Irving reference anyone?).

Office move this August: I’ve started to go through my stuff.  I have a lot of books from the 90s (now in the hallway with a handcrafted “free” sign on them).  And several interesting finds:

  • A fuzzy red scarf, something that a 1920s stripper would wear (can’t be from a drunken faculty party since we are a “dry” campus, so from where?). 
  • Oooh, and a bumper sticker a colleague gave me years ago after I received a student evaluation that complained about my sarcasm (I’ve since learned to smile and let out a very short giggle after a sarcastic remark–it’s remarkably effective): “Sarcasm: Just One More Service I Offer”sarcasm
  • Dittos. Yes, I found actual dittoed handouts.  I think they still smell.

Multiple Blogiality Disorder

Last December I gave a lecture on Oprah’s Book Club, and based on my emphatically positive spin on the Oprah Effect, I was recruited by an eager colleague to assist in starting a faculty and staff blog: a public space for our rapidly growing institution to remind each other who we are and what we do.

We’ve been active for a few months now: our small blog task force has reached out to those faculty and staff members who we think might have something interesting to write about (and who might actually want to take time out of their busy daily lives to do so).

Based on the blog stats, people are reading these postings (with truly novel takes on subjects such as post- modernity, social networking,  soap and chemistry, and “generation me”).   One faculty member “outed” herself as an anonymous blogger of mostly mother and teaching related reflections when she agreed to cross post on our college blog. Another faculty member who posted is also a blogger, but not an anonymous one: she links to both blogs on Facebook, and enjoys the cross pollination of the various public forums.

This week, for the college blog, we are encouraging faculty and staff to submit their summer reading lists.  I am getting some interesting titles, but not as many as I’d hoped.

Despite a slow start, it’s been rewarding starting this new blog—which has yet to really find its footing.  Is the college blog a public relations tool of sorts (not that the PR folks are selling it in any way), or is it just another form of a “Water Cooler” that we have on our internal e-mail system? Right now, it seems to be the latter, but what is most interesting is that because I am one of the public faces of this new blog, I am often confused as the writer of many of the postings—folks stop by on campus to thank me for my interesting posts about Facebook or teaching, and I have to stop and remember that they mean my colleagues’ posts on the college blog (not Annie Em’s posts on those same subjects).

It’s a little unnerving.

This blog, too, is still trying to find its niche: partly educational, partly self reflection, partly a pastiche of links that amuse me.  But that’s ok.  I’ll keep writing and see where it goes.  While I don’t have the talent to write stories like TK,  or the charm to blog on life like Inky, or the wit of Acadamnit, I enjoy the process of writing a blog posting.  Tenured Radical (a rather well-known blogger) has a thoughtful recent 400th posting where she reflects upon her rather satisfying “career” as a blogger, a public intellectual of the 21st century.

That’s a marvelous goal, to be a public intellectual.

One of my students this term came to chat with me about that: he wants to be a public intellectual when he grows up (he’s 22) and asked me what he should major in!  I was truly at a loss. What would you have said?

Since he was sitting there in my soon to be small, old office, waiting for me to give him advice, I ultimately said something, though it probably sounded like a rambling list to the poor guy:  I said that it didn’t matter what he majored in, as long as he took a variety of classes, challenging classes, too.  I said it was probably more important that he write and participate in conversations as often as possible.  That he travel and become involved in the world around him. I gave him a list of titles of books by writers I consider to be public intellectuals, and encouraged him to take classes with professors on campus who I think would be possible mentors for him.

And then I said I hoped we could chat again someday after spring term when my brain was not quite as mushy.

I hope he does stop by to chat next week after he hands in his research paper (an approach on a topic that is, of course, original and challenging).  Maybe I’ll tell him to start a blog.

Summertime Blogging

The Academic Blogosphere (the blogging world in which I live) seems to go on semi-hiatus once classes end—or at least once they end for you semester system schools. We on the quarter system are still plugging away for 2 more weeks. Interestingly, I’ve found few community college instructors who are bloggers (as is also true with the academic novel—there are few that focus on community college faculty and students—another interesting gap to explore).

But I’m finding that the relatively light blog-reading the last few days has allowed me to get more done. I’m also less writerly these days myself: I have a list of blog ideas, but little time or inclination to pursue them right now. Instead I’m doing the usual end of term/start of summer chores:

  • Reading research paper drafts—in fact, this activity should take every waking moment of the next week despite the high attrition in those classes. Most intriguing fact from this term’s papers: I have THREE papers on “evil” and one intriguing paper on women who choose to be exotic dancers.
  • Reading my online literature class’s weekly postings—this week, they are on Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver, two of my favorite writers, so I’m looking forward to reading their postings. Yet, unlike the research paper classes, this class has no attrition, so I have 40 postings and responses to look forward to….so far, they seem to be getting O’Connor’s wicked sense of humor (and, as always, critiquing the hapless grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find”). So far, no one has taken me up on my prompt asking for an analysis of why “Everything That Rises Must Converge” appeared in the season finale of “Lost”.
  • Fine tuning the big speech I’m giving this weekend. I have the meat and bones nicely organized, but now I need to work on wording and delivery, and I should time myself, I suppose. Anyone know how long 1700 words should take to read in a New York-velocity accent?
  • Choosing textbooks for fall—yes, it’s ridiculously early to even think of such a thing, but I’m already a month late on my fall book orders.
  • Planning the summer vacation—this summer, it’s hubby’s turn to plan our vacation in August (itinerary, hotels, etc etc), but I suspect he’ll need a little pushing. Yes, I’m obviously the pushy one in this relationship….
  • Gearing up to teach two back to back online classes this summer—luckily, both are graduate level, small classes, focused on researched writing.
  • Training for two half ½ marathons in June
  • Assorted social gatherings every weekend for the next few weeks (funny how mostly introverted faculty start becoming social and extroverted as the term winds down). One gathering is a “Pure Romance” event: think Tupperware-type party with dildos and edible panties.
  • Still reading “light and uplifting” fiction each week in the endless task of finding a community read book. Has anyone read The Help by Kathryn Stockett? That was has been added to the list. Right now I’m reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout: a beautiful novel, not unlike Jewett’s The Country of Pointed Firs in terms of structure (each chapter focuses on a different character in this small Maine town), but so far, I wouldn’t call it “light” fiction.

I suspect in a few weeks, once the grades are submitted, the speech is done, and the gatherings are over that I will be able to do a few meaty blog postings. Till then, I’ll probably just do hit or miss links to interesting stories and sites, which I hope are at least mildly amusing (well, they are amusing to me, and perhaps that’s all that counts in the Daily Me world?).