Wednesday, August 31, 2005


There's lots of stuff on the blogosphere about Katrina. I am glued to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, the web, and the blogosphere. I don't know what to say. I am speechless. Many academics know New Orleans through conferences often held there. It is so hard to comprehend the damage and the misery. I have contacted friends who are either from New Orleans or once lived there. It is so overwhelming.

There's a Katrina wiki, where help can be offered.

There's also a Times-Picayune breaking news blog.

And yes, sadly, we did know...

From Maud Newton, my fave lit blog:

Update: You knew this was coming, right? "God destroyed New Orleans because of the gays." (Thanks to GMB for the link.)

Katrina and Tulane

This, from a student in my Higher Ed in Film and Fiction class last spring:

Dr. Rud,
If you get a chance you should check out Tulane's website. In the wake of Katrina it has turned into a "blog" of sorts. I think you would find some interest in it.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

University Press Quip

This, in a letter from SUNY Press, with my munificent royalty statement (it with four smackers will get me a coffee at Starbucks):

...our core mission as a university press, which, as Yale University Press director Thomas Wilson once said, is "to publish as many good scholarly books as possible short of bankruptcy."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Lagniappe: Pet Rant

Here is an email sent to a colleague, Alan Beck, an internationally known authority on human-animal interaction.

Dr. Beck, are you blind? You actually think pets "love" us "unconditionally"? What a load!! It's all about the food! DUH! Dogs are subservient instinct driven animals that suck up to the food provider. And they can turn on us as well. What about the pit bulls that mauled a boy to death? Where was the looovve? You should be slamming the pet pampering fad, not be accepting of it. Children are starving in Niger, and Americans are pampering stupid dogs with designer clothing, human-grade food, spa treatment, massages, and vitamin-enhanced bottled water!! What a DISGRACE!! What a total waste of money. Do you turn a blind eye to human suffering? Do you even CARE about people in the Sudan or other parts of Africa? There is NO way to justify buying useless crap for pets. NO justification at all. You are a jack-ass if you think the animal deserves it because it gives "unconditional love". Most of these pet owners who pamper their dogs are self-centered snobs. "It's all about me and my dog" is their mentality. Losers. Another sap-ass who thought the "human animal" bond was real was that Treadwell guy who got mauled to death and eaten by a bear in Alaska. What an idiot. He thought the bears appreciated his love for them. I dare you to go up to a poverty-stricken person and look them in the eye and say "dogs deserve $29,000 jeweled collars and $700 designer sweaters and chef-prepared meals, and day care, and the best of everything." I DARE YOU, YOU PET FREAK.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Just reserve the table, class will meet on Friday during happy hour..

A few years ago, we had a faculty member in my college who moved to Las Vegas (far from midwest cornland, where I reside), and flew in to meet her classes periodically in local restaurants. Our dean got wind of this and put an end to such shenanigans. A few other faculty have gotten other offers, and attempted to stay on our payroll. Also squashed.

Then of course there are the faculty who live miles away. Not a few miles, mind you, but many. Such as the Windy City to the north, 'bout 130 miles. Or even the fair state of Wisconsin, several hundred miles of tundra to the north. These faculty come in for a few days, maybe staying at a Microtel or crashing in an apartment or a friend's house, but are not around otherwise.

How many of you have such stories of "roads" scholars?

On Second, Third, ...Thought...

In the past few years, several prospective hires at my university have been offered positions, signed contracts, visited and taken real estate tours, and sold their previous homes, only to decide at the last minute that they didn't want to move, often due to family reasons. In at least one case, the hire bought his previous home back, and his previous employer took him back.

I can't imagine going through this...can you? Any stories out there of searches gone sour in this way?

Friday, August 19, 2005

It's the Poverty, Stupid

New article by David Berliner, one of the most incisive thinkers about the current educational scene, on what he says we have all known but fail to acknowledge: that until we confront the effects of poverty upon schools, school reform, such as the much trumpeted and misguided No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, Nickleby...) will fail. We continue to go on looking for the wrong reasons for underachievement in schools, while poverty remains, as Berliner vividly puts it, the 600 pound gorilla in the classroom.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What's on the minds of America's youth today?

Note: I posted this back in July, but just found it listed under January. The time and date stamp on Blogger can change, and sometimes I don't notice before I post. I wondered what happened to this post!

Haven't read Vanity Fair much lately, used to subscribe to it. But picked up the August issue, and noticed on page 24 an ad for the 2005 Vanity Fair Essay Contest, with the above title. Here is the text of the ad:

More than 30 years ago, young people across the country staged sit-ins for civil rights, got up and protested against a misguided, undeclared war, and actually gave a damn if a president lied to them. Although a lot has changed since then, there are still racial divides, and America is once again mired in a largely controversial war. Back in the 1960s and 70s, a similar climate motivated great numbers of young people to act, organize, and take to the streets in defiance. Today it seems as if younger Americans are content to watch their MTV, fiddle with their game players, follow the love lives of Brad, Jen, Jessica, and Paris, and assume the hard work is being done for them by others. What has changed? Is it simply that we do not have motivating factors such as a draft or Kent State to bring us together, to anger us? What is going on inside the minds of American youth today?

I have been thinking about just these issues lately. Where is the protest over the disgraceful, unjustified war in Iraq? (Note: Now of course we have a growing protest movement, started on the dusty roads outside Crawford TX) Why are many youth obsessed with the reality show of Nick and Jessica, the soft core porn ads of Paris Hilton, or in inane summer movies like the Smiths? I have no brilliant ideas. Is it because we were attacked on 9/11, and thus most of us are OK with our military ventures? There is outrage at my university about current policies, but it is very muted. Everyone, including me, just goes about their business. Have boomer parents like me coddled and taken care of everything too much for our children, now college age? Any ideas?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Long Hallways to the Chancellor's Office...

...make me nervous too. A couple of quick reactions to Tommy Lee Goes to College, with two back to back episodes last night on NBC, and a few more coming up this month:

  • Reviews were wildly mixed, some finding the show not funny (I thought it was amusing), and others irritated at the unreality of a supposed reality show, such that Tommy did not live in a dorm at Nebraska during filming, though most of the first episode concerned his "choosing" a roommate (more on that) and then pimping out the room, and he wasn't really enrolled in classes. But as observations on university life, I found it intriguing.
  • His smorgasbord of classes, including chemistry, English, physics, really does mirror what most students go through at large universities. He tries to pay attention in a large lecture to formulae scratched on a whiteboard, and attempts to keep awake in a slow English discussion.
  • One reviewer remarked that it would have been more interesting if he had taken courses for which he was suited and engaged, such as music. Apparently he liked his hort class the best, which includes on the spot grilling by the professor at various trees on campus.
  • He is advised by his chemistry professor. I don't know about Nebraska, but this does not occur at this Moo U, and I doubt it happens in Lincoln. Undergraduates are advised by "academic advisers" who are administrative/professionals, except in certain small areas that pride themselves on faculty doing academic advising, such as agricultural education. Undergraduates and faculty can avoid one-on-one contact.
  • The sequence where Tommy chooses his roommate is of course false, but it enacts the fantasy of perhaps every freshman, to really find someone with whom one gets along, rather than being assigned based upon a questionnaire.
  • His only small discussion class is English, a literature class led by an earnest looking woman dressed quite plainly, who has never heard of Tommy Lee. His comments in discussion show flashes of inspiration.
  • Both Nebraska and Tommy hope to get something out of this venture. Nebraska, in spite of reservations by some, went ahead with the venture last fall as the chancellor did not want to turn down national prime time exposure. The university does look very attractive, in an idealized sort of way.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Same old, same old...

"The attempt to decide by law that the legends of a primitive Hebrew people regarding the genesis of man are more authoritative than the results of scientific inquiry might be cited as a typical example of the sort of thing which is bound to happen when the accepted doctrine is that a public organized for political purposes, rather than experts guided by specialized inquiry, is the final umpire and arbiter of issues."

--John Dewey, The Public and its Problems, published 1927 (LW 2: 313), cited in Raymond D. Boisvert, John Dewey: Rethinking our Time, page 80.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Lagniappe: Upscale Donation

Our daughter is out in CA on an (so called) internship with a major production company in Santa Monica. Part of the "internship" requires her to get lunch for several office mates. She recently got the wrong kind of sushi for someone, and as she feels sorry for the many panhandlers who accost her, she gave one of them the sushi. He looked at it in disbelief. Well, you go girl, you, and we, don't have the money for handouts, even though we know you have an enormous compassion gene!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

300 and counting...

There is something pretty remarkable going on over at Phantom Prof. She is starting a free online writing class this fall, that will "meet" on her blog T and Th, starting this week. She announced it a few weeks ago, no strings attached, no tuition. So far, 300 people have expressed interest in "taking" the class. PP writes really well, and has wanted to share her accumulated wisdom from teaching writing at universities, and this seems like a great idea.

New Posterior Simian

Full Disclosure: Whine ahead!

With daughter about to embark on her junior year, I was relieved that dealing with the infamous bicycle was over. Bought her a bike her freshman year, which she rode for one semester. It then stayed out in cold and snow, had seat stolen, which I replaced at home at more cost than I care to admit.

Then got bike reconditioned a bit (another trip to the bike shop) to take back for her sophomore year. Since she was now living on South Campus at NU, not on the distant North Campus (aka Wisconsin) where she had been her freshman year, she didn't ride the bike, nor did she move it all year. She lost the key to the U lock, so the campus police had to buzz saw it off (I arranged that, of course, need you ask?) in June. I took the bike home and put it up on the ceiling of our garage, and said, farewell, o Wal-Mart special, 'twas good to know you, good riddance!

But now, a new monkey on our backs, drum roll...the bed! Ah yes, the bed she bought for her new apartment. Left it up there in Evanston for the summer, where a former roommate slept on it. Neglected to tell us that it was a queen, so all the sheets Rita had bought for her future bed were too small.

Now, with her out in Los Angeles, how do we get the bed a mile south to her new apartment from the apartment her former roommate stayed in while taking the bazillion hour per week intensive premed course this summer? This must be done in a few weeks, before said daughter comes home.

So, we may have to rent a van, go up, get the bed, hope to put it in new apartment, but before the lease starts, or bring it all the way home, and then take it back a week later. Either that or find some football players to do it, and hope they don't bend the mattress like an opposing player.

So, the reasonably priced bed now guessed the bargain bike, like the private college tuition, a vacuum to my wallet.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Lagniappe: Primordial Encounter

Via Karl Forsgaard, a friend from Seattle, this article on Werner Herzog's new film, Grizzly Man. Several of Herzog's films, Aguirre the Wrath of God, and the Kaspar Hauser films, are among my all time favorites. I very much want to see this film! (Update: New Yorker and NYT reviews of Grizzly Man.)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Lagniappe: A Peptic Epstein

Spied on Arts and Letters Daily, an essay about film and culture, and Hollywood, by Joseph Epstein. Lately, I have found Epstein a mite dyspeptic, but he is right on here, back to his Aristides form in the good old American Scholar. I particularly like the way he confirms my current interests (navel gazing, aren't we bloggers?) in reading David Thomson. And his connecting of film-making with money, and the often inverse relationship between moneymaking in film and film as art are well rendered. After reading snatches of Thomson's The New Biographical Dictionary of Film while catching updates on the Natalee Holloway case on TV, I now want to subject Thomson's The Whole Equation to the same pattern.

I don't have just a professorial interest in this area, mind you. My daughter is now on a 7 week internship in Hollywood, and I seek to more fully understand. I also have a number of second cousins in the biz, the best known being Katey Sagal, of Married...with Children and the recently axed 8 Simple Rules (fame, notoriety, whatever).

Friday, August 05, 2005

Cultural Literacy

"He (School Commissioner Albrecht) was especially annoyed that I was unable to give him any accurate information about the way they beached the ships, as described by Homer, and as the other candidates knew very little more about it than I did, he denounced our ignorance as a serious defect in our culture." --Albert Schweitzer, Memoirs of Childhood and Youth.

Not Expected and Not Essential...

Another nugget from Neil Coughlan's book, Young John Dewey (U Chicago Press, 1975), page 67, on the young Dewey's Hegelianism:

"...a notion of philosophy as the expression and defense of an ethos and not merely as a way of dealing with the theoretical problems arising in a particular limited institutional setting, such as the laboratories of the sciences or the issue-oriented dialogues of modern academic philosophy and its journals. This is not to say that technical or academic philosophers do not occasionally take on such a universal task but rather that, objectively, it is not expected of them and, subjectively, it is not essential to their conception of themselves as philosophers. In Dewey's case it was, and not to have done it would have been, however subtly or pardonably, to default."

Here is what is said about the author:

Neil Coughlan taught history at Wesleyan University (Connecticut) from 1968 to 1974. He is now studying law at Yale Law School.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Pig Talk

Two porcine related items:
  • The auditorium at Purdue recently named after donor and former dean Earl Butz has been renamed the Deans of Agriculture auditorium, after protest regarding Butz's racist remark years ago that still haunts him.
  • On a lighter note, I enjoyed Rachel Toor's new book, The Pig and I. I have read Toor's CHE essays for a number of years. This book is a memoir, constructed mostly around her love of various men and animals in her life. Her pets are more interesting than her men, IMHO. Toor has funny things to say about academia, from vantage points of former jobs as university press editor and admissions officer. Rather scathing about ole she is talking about her father with the "Silver Fox," a professor with whom she shares a bed and little else: "Because he asked, because I was trying to be open, I told this successful academic, who went only to the fanciest schools, had taught only at the best places in the country, about my father, an unpublished foot soldier in the scholarly army who spent his career teaching students for whom he had mostly contempt."

"'twas bliss to be alive": The emergence of Hopkins...

Came across this by Josiah Royce, in Neil Coughlan's wonderful book Young John Dewey, page 48, about the emergence of Johns Hopkins in the 1880s:

The "conflict" between "classical" and "scientific" education was henceforth to be without significance for the graduate student...The beginning of the Johns Hopkins University was a dawn wherein "'twas bliss to be alive." The air was full of rumors of noteworthy work done by the older men of the place, and of hopes that one might find a way to get a little working power one's self...No, the academic life was something much more noble and serious than such "discipline" had been in its time. The University wanted its children to be, if possible, not merely well-informed, but productive. She preached to them the gospel of learning for wisdom's sake, and of acquisition for the sake of fruitfulness. One longed to be a doer of the word, and not a hearer only, a creator of his own infinitesimal fraction of a product, bound in God's name to produce it when the time came.

Coughlan sets out in dramatic fashion the two major influences on the young Dewey at Hopkins, the neo-Hegelianism of George Sylvester Morris, and the experimental psychology of G. Stanley Hall. Out of this intellectual conflict Dewey began to formulate his own thought.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

W on Intelligent Design in Schools

Via Nick Burbules, a report about how GW Bush is backing the teaching of intelligent design in schools. What is disturbing about the story is not that students shouldn't be exposed to various theories and ideas, but that the teaching of intelligent design is masked as science. Design arguments are best studied with an ear toward critique, as one would do in reading and discussing Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. I don't think this is what the Christian right has in mind when they insist upon placing intelligent design alongside evolutionary theory.