Monday, November 10, 2008

RBOC of Let's Put Something Else at the Top of the Page

  • So I got an email today from some blog-ranking site that congratulated me for having a 7.8 out of 10 ranking for a personal blog. Because I'm an overachieving college professor, I feel like that makes my blog a C blog, which made me disgruntled. I'm not a C-level person! But then I realized that because my blog isn't actually a personal blog in a lot of ways that it's probably about right. And also, there are a gajillion blogs in the world, and if I'm being put into competition with a blog like Dooce (9.5), of course my blog is a C-level sort of blog. Whatevs. At least it ranks, and at least it's a C+ and not like a C- or D or something.
  • I met with two students today, and it looks like the Club for Nerds (as I affectionately think of it) that they're proposing will happen. I'm actually really excited. Because, like my students, I'm a Nerd. That said, I did advise them to broaden the scope a bit, to attract members aside from the people who have taken classes with me.
  • I've also been thinking a lot today about preparedness and how that translates (or doesn't) into writing ability - specifically, the ability to come up with a clear and precise thesis statement. Something specific in the blogosphere (I think) made me think about this but I'm not sure what so I can't link. At any rate, here's my theory of the relationship between preparedness/training and whether students can write a thesis statement: there isn't one. The longer that I've been teaching, and my teaching even within my field emphasizes writing, the more I believe that this whole "thesis statement" and "clear and precise argument" business has little to do with instructions and more to do with a student's personal readiness for getting what that means and what the value of that is. In other words, I really think that a student will reach a point, with reinforcement obviously, where something "clicks," but having one or more classes that emphasize this, or having this stuff emphasized in high school, doesn't necessarily produce that "click." And so if that's the case, my theory is that we can't depend on high school, or freshmen writing, or whatever, to produce students who can write. The thing is, students need to be writing all the time across a variety of courses in order to have the opportunity for clicking. And I think that clicking happens, in part, based on maturity, personal readiness, and life experience. I'm not sure it has all that much to do with the teacher (assuming the teacher is attempting to convey the necessary ideas about this stuff - obviously a teacher who isn't won't produce the desired result whatever the student's level of personal readiness, maturity, and life experience).
  • I'm in love with the band Kings of Leon. Seriously. Sure, I have a hard time figuring out what the fuck they're singing, in terms of the lyrics, but with this band, I don't actually care if I understand the lyrics. Any band that makes me feel that is one freaking awesome band. Rock and roll, my friends. Rock and roll.
  • FB.... He sometimes knows me better than I know myself. And is often really quite sensitive and insightful. Of course, he's smug about that fact, which makes him awfully annoying, but I feel the need to give him a shout-out for his awesomeness of late, because really, he's just... fantastic. Even if smug and annoying.
  • In other news, I finished reading the Twilight books. My verdict: I actually liked the most recent book best, mainly because I hated the narrator-protagonist Bella Swan for most of the first three of the four novels. Indeed, she reminded me why it's entirely awesome that I'm no longer in high school and no longer an obsessive, angst-ridden teen. It's because both of those identities are utterly tiresome - both for the person who inhabits them and for all who have to deal with that person. The last book, in contrast, leaves her narration for a good portion, and when we return to her head she's a vampire and doesn't suck nearly so hardcore. The series is troubling to me on many counts, all mainly to do with Bella, but reading it did take me out of my tenure-review-book-coming-out funk. Total cotton candy reading. And the last novel reminds me of Anne Rice in a good way, which the first three do not.
  • Speaking of cotton candy reading, I also just read the three books in Maria V. Snyder's "Study Series." Are these the best that American writing has to offer? No. Are they action-packed, with a strong heroine, and totally pleasureable to read? Indeed. And they're also not the worst books I've ever read in my life, and I've read some crappy freaking books for pleasure. Don't believe me? Think Judith Krantz, people.
  • The thing that makes this week especially hard for me is that it's what I often think of as the "Death, Sweet Death" week in two of the four classes. It's Veteran's Day tomorrow, and in two of the four classes, we're all about the WWI-related lit, which requires me to explain the horrors of trench warfare, to talk about the transience of human life, and about how little we know those whom we love and how we all die ALONE. Not ideal, given the current real-life goings on in my department. But, on the other hand, this literature provides a certain kind of solace. What happened this week is kind of the point of this kind of literature. It's just hard to be the person who's supposed to shepherd them through this emotional and existential landmine, particularly at this time.
  • But most of all, I'm thinking about the person that I (and so many others) lost, and I'm thinking about the fact that I'll never be able to listen to Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" without feeling a little bit sad. And that sucks, man. Because that's a happy and awesome fucking song. That said, I'll also feel happy, because I know how that person would rock it out to that song (on LP, no less), and how happily he'd do so.


k8 said...

Re: Twilight - You really didn't mind all of the abusive relationship aspects of it? The post-sex scene? Really? I think that's what keeps me from being able to classify those books as "cotton candy reading."

Dr. Crazy said...

Oh, it's a totally screwed up, controlling, ridiculously uncool relationship. And the post-sex stuff was.... disturbing. Where I say it's cotton candy reading, though, is just that it's garbage. It doesn't actually make me think, nor does it make me question what I think is appropriate or right or even interesting. I know I read stuff as vile as this when I was a teen (though I suppose I may just enjoy the vile stuff, or be used to it or something). But I think my resistances are why I felt like the last book was the best - at least in the last book, Bella's not this whiny weakling who did what she was told. And really, she is the most powerful of them all in the last book.

At the end of the day, though, do I think these books are "important"? No. Do I think they're even interesting? Not so much. This is what I mean by "cotton candy." So yes, parts are reprehensible, but since they are ultimately so boring? I can't think they actually matter.

k8 said...

ok - just checking. I've just heard way too many girls and adult women romanticize all of those parts of the novels. It is very disturbing. Not that I don't read fluff with troubling bits too, but that series (for some reason) just makes me cringe. Must be all of the discussions about it on Child-Lit and similar lists. That, and from what I've read about her and in her interviews, I don't think I like Meyers all that well.

k8 said...

Oh yeah, and then there is the racism and mis-appropriate on native culture throughout the series.

Good Enough Woman said...

Crazy, have you read "The Historian"? If you like vampire stuff, you might like that. A lot of people who try to read it get stuck in the slog that comes after the first half of the book, but I got to the end and thought it all worthwhile. But I am interested in both Dracula (esp. the pseudo-historical version) and epistolary novels, so maybe that's just me . . .

So sorry about the loss of the special person in your department.

Susan said...

I love the WWI poetry -- and I can imagine in some ways nothing better to read after a death in a department. It's a good reminder that this is not the first time it's happened. As you say, the point of this literature. I suspect you will be awesome at helping students through this stuff, as part of your general awesomeness. But I can imagine it being difficult too.
Good luck!