Saturday, May 31, 2008

Photo of the Day...

Check out this fascinating story and follow the link to the gallery of 18 years worth of daily pictures. It's amazing to see a man's life play out this way.

A bit too soon, I think...

Dollhouse fans have already started to campaign to save the show--before it's even aired. This seems like a misstep to me, since it only amplifies the show's vulnerability and makes it seem like a genre/cult show "ordinary" viewers should avoid. But you gotta love the heart Whedon fans show.

The world is bigger than our imagination...

I would have thought there were no more "uncontacted tribes" in the world, but check out this photograph and story from National Geographic.

Mind-blowing stuff--and a really cool picture.
UPDATE: Some more pictures and an explanation of what we are seeing in the first picture here and here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

I won't even try to be eloquent here...I'll just provide some links that have genuinely moved me this Memorial Day Weekend.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Alice Walker and her daughter...

I teach Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" in my ENG 204 class every semester. I've taught it in ENG 102, as well. It's always a crowd-pleaser, a story students love talking about, in part because of what it says about mothers and daughters. I could go on about Walker's other works about these themes, but it's enough to say that many people think about relationships between mothers and daughters when they think about Alice Walker.

So it's quite sad, I think, to read this article by Rebecca Walker, her daughter. I won't say much at all about the claims Rebecca makes about feminism--except to say that we see the personal price children pay when parents work for some larger cause. (I imagine politician's children sometimes feel this way, too.) Regardless of who is wrong or right here (and if it's "appropriate" for Rebecca to air her dirty laundry in this way), the fact that these two are so estranged is most unfortunate.

Indiana Jones and Five Million LEGOs

So these dudes built a huge boulder out of five million LEGOs and rolled it down a honor of Indiana Jones, of course. It's random and crazy and pointless and fun to watch.

Speaking of Indiana Jones, I saw the movie yesterday and thought it was pretty good: some really cool action sequences (the motorcycle stuff early on is neat, as is the longish jungle chase, and some other stuff I am forgetting), the story was interesting (if predictable), and that Shia Whatever kid wasn't half-bad. The best part, though, was seeing Indy again. Harrison Ford still looks darn good and Indiana Jones is a great character. (Although apparently, the Russians aren't amused. Go figure. Actually, I've been in academia too long, because as soon as I saw the part of the film this article references, I thought, "Ohhh...I bet some people are going to be upset about the historical inaccuracy of that!")

Part of me is torn about the entire existence of "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." It seems that "The Last Crusade" was a kind of perfect ending to the story of Indiana Jones. At least from our Western worldview, it doesn't get much bigger or much more epic than the Holy Grail. But this was a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

Oh yeah--how mad would you be if that was your car that the five-million piece LEGO boulder crashed into?

Dr. Horrible Has a Blog

"Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," the web musical Joss Whedon put together with Neil Patrick Harris (love him!) and Nathan Fillion (yummy!), has a blog. (Put together by fans, I think.) Can't wait for this one!

The Friendly Floatees

I love this story:

"On January 10 [1992], a container holding almost 29,000 plastic bath toys spills off a cargo ship into the middle of the Pacific Ocean and breaks open. The unsinkable toys, which were en route from Hong Kong to Tacoma (Washington), include a lot of iconic yellow rubber ducks that have since been caught up in the world’s ocean currents and continue turning up on the most improbable shores."

I want one!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Generation X vs. Millenials

A pretty funny essay on Generation X vs. the Millenials. Here's a choice excerpt:

"That's why the time has come for Generation X to unite. We need to call bullshit on these naive, self-important crybabies trying to rob us of what is rightly our own. Remember how the Baby Boomers all turned into self-serving, narcissistic assholes who deified Michael Douglas in the '80s? The time has come for us to turn into assholes, too, minus the Michael Douglas part."

And one more...

"Still, it's never been sexy to be a Gen Xer. And that's the problem. Maybe we're responsible for the Spin Doctors, but if you cut through the bullshit, you'll see that we're not merely sexy. We're fucking hot:

We were the first bloggers. We created rap music. Silicon Valley. McSweeney's. Indie rock.

And we are the Internet generation. We founded Google. Wikipedia. DailyKos. Gawker. Meet-Up. MySpace. Ebay. YouTube.

We're not slackers. We are Tiger Woods, Snoop Dogg, Parker Posey, Tina Fey, Johnny Depp, Michael Jordan, Dr. Dre and Lance Armstrong, to name a few."

It's an entertaining read, and best taken as a tongue-in-cheek piece, although it is true that kids these days (ouch--that makes me sound old!) can drive you up the wall. (And I am thinking specifically of the 17-23 year olds I see in the classroom, admittedly a limited sample.)

I should be working right now but...

Slate has a whole issue this month on procrastination, so appropriate since Slate is just the kind of site where people spend lots of time procrastinating. Anyway, here's an interesting little piece about computer Solitaire, something I've spent my fair share of time playing.

50 Worst Album Covers...

I stumbled across this link while perusing the website for Newsday, my old home-town paper. It's definitely worth going through the entire collection, but I've selected some of my favorites for you already. That's all I can say. And that's a whole lotta blue...

Nightmare material! You know how I feel about dummies. And how in the world would an album with a dummy be interesting? Isn't the whole appeal of ventriloquism visual?

A great record to pop in for your next party! Guaranteed to have lots of feel good songs.

Or maybe try this one at your next party. Because no one knows how to party like the Russians...

True story: Slim Goodbody came to my elementary school once and gave a presentation in the chapel. I still remember it. He scared the crap out of me then, and he still does today. That suit is all kinds of inappropriate, which I knew even at the age of six.

She really loves her drums. So many arms--she looks like a Hindu deity.

Well, sorry, but this one is just awesome.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"In the Basement of the Ivory Tower"

Take a look at this sobering but thoughtful article from the new Atlantic. I've been thinking about the issues Professor X discusses a lot lately, especially since I've been encountering some students who sound a lot like the ones he describes.

Now the obligatory quoted paragraphs:

"America, ever-idealistic, seems wary of the vocational-education track. We are not comfortable limiting anyone’s options. Telling someone that college is not for him seems harsh and classist and British, as though we were sentencing him to a life in the coal mines. I sympathize with this stance; I subscribe to the American ideal. Unfortunately, it is with me and my red pen that that ideal crashes and burns.

Sending everyone under the sun to college is a noble initiative. Academia is all for it, naturally. Industry is all for it; some companies even help with tuition costs. Government is all for it; the truly needy have lots of opportunities for financial aid. The media applauds it—try to imagine someone speaking out against the idea. To oppose such a scheme of inclusion would be positively churlish. But one piece of the puzzle hasn’t been figured into the equation, to use the sort of phrase I encounter in the papers submitted by my English 101 students. The zeitgeist of academic possibility is a great inverted pyramid, and its rather sharp point is poking, uncomfortably, a spot just about midway between my shoulder blades.

For I, who teach these low-level, must-pass, no-multiple-choice-test classes, am the one who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college."

LOL Manuscripts

A most geeky and enjoyable blog. One of my favorites is below...

More on Dollhouse

A couple links related to Dollhouse, which I first blogged about here.

  • First, a Q&A with Joss Whedon. And can I add that the internet musical they talk about sounds like a ton of fun?
  • Second, a (brief) photo essay on "The Women of Whedon" (actually a link I found on the first article).
  • Third, a brief clip from the show itself.

Can you tell I am excited for this one?

Science and literature...

If literary studies is a field in need of saving (and lots of people are making just that argument these days), then Jonathan Gottschall offers a solution: literary scholars need to become more like scientists.

His article is compelling and the kinds of projects he describes sound quite interesting, but I wonder how the rest of the field will respond to his ideas. Anyway, some key paragraphs from the end:

"The changes I'm recommending would constitute a paradigm shift. They would require deep alterations in what literature departments teach and how students are trained. Of course, graduate students would still take the familiar courses on Shakespeare, Victorian novels, and 20th-century poetry, but they would also take courses covering scientific research methods, the basics of statistics and probability, and current thinking in the sciences of the mind.

As the field developed, it would build a methodological tool kit that retained an honored place for the old skills of close reading and careful reasoning, but also included new scientific tools of study design and statistical testing. Literary scholars would keep their long shelves of books and their habits of good scholarship, but would also avail themselves of sophisticated text-analysis software, the psychology lab, and collaboration with researchers from scientific fields.

Above all, these changes would require looking with fresh eyes on the landscape of academic disciplines, and noticing something surprising: The great wall dividing the two cultures of the sciences and humanities has no substance. We can walk right through it.

If we literary scholars can summon the courage and humility to do so, the potential benefits will reverberate far beyond our field. We can generate more reliable and durable knowledge about art and culture. We can reawaken a long-dormant spirit of intellectual adventure. We can help spur a process whereby not just literature, but the larger field of the humanities recover some of the intellectual momentum and 'market share' they have lost to the sciences. And we can rejoin the oldest, and still the premier, quest of all the disciplines: to better understand human nature and its place in the universe."

A new must-read blog...

A blog devoted entirely to things that look like ducks. Awesome.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Narratives of Community

I got this book in the mail the other day.

What's the big deal, you might be asking? Well, check out chapter twelve, baby!

That's right--written by yours truly. I'm actually pretty proud of this piece. I wrote it last year while teaching new four classes and doing the whole job search thing. On the other hand, I didn't have much of a life outside of work last year, so there's that to consider. Anyway, I think it turned out to be a pretty decent essay.

Want a copy for yourself? Buy one here. (Yes, it's expensive! You have my permission to wait for the price to come down--or for a paperback edition.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Maybe she isn't cut out to be a teacher?

Threatening to sue your students because they disagree with you? Good grief. There are some days when I would love to have them disagree with me--because it means they are actually thinking. More here and here.

Monday, May 5, 2008


So is it too early to be excited for next season's new TV series? Well, not if we are talking about Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. Ausiello and the crew over at TV Guide have had lots of info about casting for the show, but here's a nice post (a bit old) about the pilot script. Can't wait!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Professors and Wikipedia

I've been thinking the same thing that this writer discusses here for a while, but he says it much better than I could:

"It is time for the academic world to recognize Wikipedia for what it has become: a global library open to anyone with an Internet connection and a pressing curiosity. The vision of its founders, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, has become reality, and the librarians were right: the world has not been the same since. If the Web is the greatest information delivery device ever, and Wikipedia is the largest coherent store of information and ideas, then we as teachers and scholars should have been on this train years ago for the benefit of our students, our professions, and that mystical pool of human knowledge."

His proposal that all academics with research interests become identifiable editors is interesting, too. I've never been confident enough to even consider it.


A fun gallery of people re-creating photos from their youth. Makes me want to find an old picture of me (when I was probably about two) happily sitting in a huge garbage can...

Sunday Morning Inspiration

Check out this video from this morning's CBS Sunday Morning. I have a loved one with MS, and although we've been very lucky that her illness hasn't progressed very far, it still hangs over our heads. Stories like this, though, give us lots of hope and inspiration.