Thursday, June 30, 2005

Lagniappe: You decide, side by side...

I have no idea if this is old or has been reported on in the blogosphere, but this comparison of Nazi hate speech and current anti-gay hate speech is chilling, and oddly absorbing. (I can't remember where I found it, on one of the blogs Nick Burbules follows, it was a link on the page.)

Lagniappe: Tubal Irritant

Well, I know, just turn off the tube or walk away. But in the spirit of Brad Pitt's dictum, Destiny's Child - get off my television!, please, please, abate this dark haired woman in the Levitra ad who looks up toward the ceiling, rolling her eyeballs back in her head, talking about her man's erection. Help! What is she looking at?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

AOS: Psychiatry; AOC: Psychopharmacology

From Drudge, the transcript of Professor Cruise and Matt Lauer on The Today Show last week.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Lagniappe: Natalee 24/7

Lately, we have had the tube on in the background, due to interest in the Natalee Holloway disappearance in Aruba. The unfolding story is of interest to us because our daughter is roughly that age, and is going to LA for an internship in the biz, living with a group of other NU students. It is of extra interest to my wife, a fiction writer, who is keen to learn about motive, evidence, and narrative as unfolding in the case.

To follow this case most closely, Fox News provides the most "coverage." I hadn't watched this news much, having heard reports of its bias. Now I am convinced that the bias toward the right exists, but more noticeable to me is the utterly unreflective commentary on Fox about just about everything: Tom Cruise's appearances, the supposed guilty parties in the Holloway case, and many other topics. Some of these commentators say things that are, at best, appropriate to desultory banter among friends over a cup of coffee, not to a national newscast. Evidence for claims is often scant, and the language used is depressingly banal...but Greta Van Susteren sure knows how to dig and get interviews.

Amen, Phantom Prof!

Phantom Prof's heirs of entitlement entry, about today's teens and twenties heading for their quarter life crisis.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Lagniappe: Joe Dirt and the Two Johns

Hahaha, did some father-daughter bonding last night at Deer Creek in Noblesville (I prefer the older, evocative name over the newer, proper, but corporate name of "Verizon Wireless Music Center"), terrific concert, but had my fill for a while of summer crowds...and this guy who kept circling in front of's her AIM away message this morning...:

wow. if you ever need a confidence booster in the looks department, see a Mellencamp concert in Indiana. I mean, whoaaaaa, it HAS to be the most unhealthy state. Gastric bypass for like, 90% of the crowd a.s.a.p.
other than that - mellencamp is a genius. fogerty is a genius. old men with guitars and raspy voices rock my world.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Declining by Degrees

Just finished viewing "Declining by Degrees," the PBS show on higher education today, with John Merrow. I received the book a few weeks ago, and had read the critical essay in the CoHE that complained that the program was "whining." I disagree, but it is late, so I don't have time to discuss this now.

Right after the showing, I got on to write Merrow about it, and had three messages from one of my higher ed students, who pecked away enthusiastically during the showing. She had hoped that I was watching it...and provided these quotes (thanks, Kate!).

"What worries us is what happens when we look back 10 years from now. Will the higher education system have moved so far as to be something we don’t recognize, something that’s lost the public mission on which it was originally founded?"
Director of Research, The Futures Project: Policy for Higher Education in a Changing World

"You’ve got this mass of people—a substantial number—kind of sleepwalking through college. How can they do it?"
Director, Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

"With respect to college, people have thought that there were two important issues: first, getting in and being able to afford college, and second, to finish and have a degree. But very few people have asked the question, What happens in the four or five years in between those two points? And we’re beginning to find out that what’s going on in that black box called college is less than we had hoped; that maybe the ‘higher’ in higher education is lower than we think."
Former President, Trinity College (CT)

Lagniappe: Writing for a Penny a Word...

"I have killed a thousand men. In the dark alleys of small towns I have waylaid and slugged them; on foggy streets of sleeping cities I have clubbed and knifed them; in the dens of the tenderloin and the hideouts of gangsters I have shot them in cold blood; on the rolling pampas of the Argentine I have murdered them with my bola; on our own Western plains I have fanned them with my six-gun; aboard ships on every sea, in waterfront dives of every port, in tall city buildings and in quiet suburban homes, I have wrenched from my victims their last agonized cries, watched expressions of incredulity spread across their tortured faces. I have killed all these men in all these places -- for a penny a word...."

-- Opening lines from "A Penny A Word," a bitter confession published in the April 1936 issue of H. L. Mencken's American Mercury. The anonymous author is now thought to have been Anthony M. Rud, novelist turned pulp writer, and my grandfather.

"Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

-- L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Lagniappe: Batman Begins...

Father's Day treat yesterday was to see Batman Begins. Remarkable ... powerful...still digesting it. The director is English, the actors are Irish, Welsh, English...and oh, yes, Toledo-ish (Katie Holmes). The acting is terrific, especially Michael Caine as the butler, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, and Tom Wilkinson as Falcone. Oh, yes, Liam Neeson as Ducard, Rutger Hauer as Earle, and a creepy Dr. Crane played by a remarkable looking actor named Cillian Murphy. Catch it and let me know what you think...great early scenes in Iceland, in caves on the Wayne estate...and, a zowie Batmobile.

Now, must go see the Smiths, as daughter, a bona fide Brangelina fan, will pester me 'til I do.

Drepung Gomang Monks at Aquinas Student Center

My wife and I attended a meditation session at the Catholic student center led by Tibetan monks from the Drepung Gomang monastery in India. They are completing their week at my Moo U, starting a year long "Sacred Art" tour in North America. The monks did a series of meditative chants, followed by a Q and A session led by a Canadian woman who has worked with these monks for nearly a decade.

The first comment made was by a woman in her 60s who is locally known for her fundy Catholic views. She took my undergraduate course last summer; I believe she needed it to get certified, as the local Catholic schools had required her to do that, I seem to dimly recall.

She stated that the first commandment had been broken today, presumably because 1) the monks had chanted in the basement of the Catholic student center; and perhaps 2) someone took down the crucifix on the wall in front of everyone and behind the monks shortly before the ceremony started.

The Canadian woman who is hosting the tour, who subsequently led a wonderful conversation, easily shifting languages as she translated questions for the monks and their answers for us, calmly said "I won't translate that" and several in the audience agreed. The woman who posed the comment then walked out.

The synergy between the audience and the monks was palpable, and they truly appreciated the interest and fellow feeling, as we all did. But my wife and I buzzed later about the first comment, especially since I had this woman in my undergraduate history and philosophy of education class last summer.

I would be interested to know, as the year long tour progresses (they go to Chicago tomorrow, then Bloomington IN, and elsewhere into 2006) of the kind of reception and activities that accompany the Sacred Art tour of the Drepung Gomang monks. Their comments about the oppression of Tibet and the life of the monks in India as political refugees were fascinating.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Lagniappe: Font-astic

Another indication of the decline of civilization as we know it: the proliferation of sans-serif fonts! How dreadful, who in their right mind would read Gertrude Himmelfarb in such tawdry script! The horror...
(Via Nick Burbules).

Friday, June 17, 2005

Shrine to Shania

Surfing and catching a bit of CNN in the background...Larry King interviewing Shania Twain, which was lots of fun.

Reminded me of a fellow professor friend who constructed a Shania Shrine in his office. Funny when he tried to explain his obsession to a colleague, the kind of person who is impervious to popular culture (like that HS classmate of my daughter who didn't know who Michael Jordan was), and who arched his eyebrows to the stratosphere. Hahahaha, the Shania Shrine in the heart of Moo U.

Socrates with a backward baseball cap

"I also liked how (Socrates) approached people in conversation, got drunk, then argued. That is what many college students do every day."

--From a student journal in my summer class.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Lagniappe: Byatt on Potter

Terrific essay, "Harry Potter and the Childish Adult," by AS Byatt, via Maud Newton.

Invasion of the Blue Coats

Ah, June, it is usually hot and humid, good corn growing weather, here in Mooland. And June brings throngs of teens, all clad in blue corduroy coats with gold insignias on their backs, flanked by Indiana FFA and their chapter names. For those who have never seen such an invasion, it is annual here, as predictable as the state wide squabbles about whether or not to go to DST (that was just settled, btw, we now leave AZ and HI as the only states where one gets relief from the twice yearly ritual of clock changing).

The young men are in their (thick) blue coats, white shirts, black pants and ties. The young women, the same, though some have skirts up to there. FFA used to stand for "Future Farmers of America" but I have been told it stands for "nothing" now, as agriculture, agribusiness, take most FFA'ers to many other jobs than tilling the family plot. FFA is serious business in the cornbelt...where I grew up in western MA, it was vaguely acknowledged as a school club. Here the FFA state officers take a year off before college to meet their obligations.

Our "Ag Ed" faculty used to be housed in my college, but they lobbied successfully to alter their split formula with Agriculture, and now are primarily in that college, and moved their offices to that college too. Salaries are better in Agriculture too, though Ag Ed is pretty low on the totem pole there, as it is not considered a "science" like agronomy or biochemistry. Still, more money and a change of scenery. I miss seeing them around; their academic advisor gave us a rhubarb plant from northern Indiana that my wife prizes, and I always asked them tidbits of info about my surroundings here, such as what a "pole barn" is.

Well, this year, it has cooled off a bit, and is quite windy this week. Maybe the blue corduroy coat will come in handy!

Update, 6/28: Just watched Napoleon Dynamite last night, loved it, and FFA bluecoats figure in this funny, quirky film.

Instructional Blogging

I agree with Nick Burbules, this is cool. Thanks for sending this article about instructional blogging at the University of Arizona. The article gives a number of good ways that blogs used in classes can enhance learning.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Lagniappe: Jacko Aftermath

I needed some distraction today, after starting teaching again, working on house refi, planning a trip, and not doing a daily stint of book, before the lawn and a grocery run with Rita, we took in the Jackson verdict coverage on CNN. I thought we were back with the white Bronco, with the live helishots of the motorcade...alas, it was a black Escalade this time.

Michael Jackson is a sad case of arrested development, IMHO. From what I gather, his father was abusive to both Michael and to Michael's mother. Joe Jackson is very odd, gives me the creeps. The mother seems like a Stepford wife. Michael has retreated to emotional territory at Neverland that is safer.

But what angers me is the press coverage of the verdict, especially this venomous, barking woman named Nancy Grace. I had to turn off the tube, especially being offended by the way she bullied the jury foreman and others. I don't know much about Grace, and want to find out more. Where did she come from?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Is it like being an habitual offender?

Hmmmm....He can't help BEING an administrator, or he is addicted to administration? I think I want to dip into this new book, from Anker Publishers:

An Academic Survival Manual
Paul T. Bryant

Friday Celebrity Table Tennis Blogging

I guess one day I will graduate to the big leagues and do "Friday Cat Blogging" but for now this will have to suffice. Via Corax.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Court Jesters spouting pretentious jargon

Via Corax, from the Village Voice: An anarchist, David Graeber, gets canned at Yale. Love the last paragraph answer in response to why an anarchist would seek to work in a top down organization such as Yale in the first place.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Gimme my A or I will speed dial you to death!

Well, I haven't quite had these experiences with students wanting As in my courses, but I have had the odd experience of undergraduates retaking our required history and philosophy of education class, some more than twice, to raise their GPA in order to remain in the teacher ed program. Students retaking a class to get a better grade? I had never heard of it prior to coming to this Moo U. And, in the summer especially, I get the students who need to get an A in the retake in order to salvage their GPA. I ask, do I appear a fool? Surely these students know it is not only MY COURSE and MY GRADE that is responsible for their lower than needed GPA! Sheesh.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Century

Just amazing...I don't know what to say...but I am sure I can say something, just not right now. See this list. Since I edit a journal based on his work, numero 5 interested me, but the silliness of the paragraph just floors me. I guess I could spend lots of time arguing against such, but I have grown weary...time spent as an administrator at Dartmouth during the heyday of The Dartmouth Review, and now this sloppy, venomous stuff seems to be gaining some steam again...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Long, Relatively Clean, Hallway

Ah summer. Here at Moo U., that means no trash collection except on Friday. The custodians, some grudgingly, work outside, and the local teens don't get the weed pulling and lawnmowing jobs. State funds are still low, and who wants to pay for clean toilets and shiny floors? Still, my building, the largest classroom building on a campus of hulking brick behemoths, is relatively clean this summer.

Our custodian, Rigo, from Mexico via California, does a great job. I use to see him coming down the long extended U shape of my floor, and would greet him when he got to my office. He said he hates Indiana weather, prefers California. What is good for corn (hot and humid) is not good for many in the summer.

Fortunately, it has been quite cool so far. I haven't donned my sandals for teaching (which one of my undergraduates told me looked "unprofessional" with a sportcoat on an evaluation a year ago...too bad, I say, I am HOT!).

My office sits on the very end of one of our hallways, five floors up. When I was an administrator, six floors up (seven is the philosophy department, that much closer to the Platonic forms), I had a view of a fountain, the airport (second busiest in Indiana due to all the students taking off and landing) and the Eli Lilly plant where they churn out Prozac (pray for the wind to bring the fumes this way). Now, I overlook the oldest building on campus, home to the History department, and slated for demolition unless someone coughs up R&R funds to fix it. Poor historians...a few years ago, right after the Alamo Bowl committee selected high flying Kansas State to play our upstart team, a ferocious wind came out of Manhattan, KS and blew the roof and cupola off this old gem. Water gushed down and ruined many a historian's office. Who could blame them for their later curmudgeonly response to the university librarian who was keen on going digital? The historians wanted to be able to continue to touch dusty paper and smell the bindings, and besides, their computers still spewed water.

Since my office is at the end of a long hallway, I keep my door closed. No matter, many of my colleagues are hardly ever around, even during the AY. Some say the building has bad air, others meet over coffee at Panera. There is no social area to meet, no cluster of offices, just a long hallway on either side. What were the architects thinking when they designed the building? That we shouldn't get together and talk in between bouts with the flickering screen?