Professor J's Place

31 October, 2007

Banning Books

As you might imagine, I'm agin it (as my mother would say). Pat Conroy wrote a lovely article for the Charleston Gazette in response to the banning of two of his novels at a Charleston school.

When I teach World Literature, I have one goal. Of course, it is important to me that the goals of my department are addressed in my class and how it is structured, but I really only want one thing. I want my students to enjoy one thing I teach. I want them to find one book or story or poem that moves them. I desire more than anything that a few of my students will remember an author's name and want to read more.

I once made the mistake of voicing that desire in a departmental meeting. The chair of the department looked at me with something like pity, something like disdain, and said, "You really are a romantic, aren't you?" I guess so.

But I love to read the words of this one former English student who went on to be a writer. I love his description of the affect great books have had on him. I, too, have had nightmares while reading Beloved.

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30 October, 2007


I saw this first on my friend Heidi's blog.


29 October, 2007

Political Statements

One of my students was wearing this tee-shirt today. Of course, I am thrilled that any of my students shows an interest in politics, but this was an odd rhetorical statement.

My student is a VERY white young man with the tousled blondish hair of a snow boarder (which he is). He is very sweet. I am glad that a young white boy from a privileged background can identify with Obama, but it also could be read as a bad thing. It plays right in to the "Obama's not black enough" camp. I don't know how serious a problem that is, but I worry about it. Why was that my first thought when seeing my student in the shirt?

No matter. I could have kissed his ruddy cheeks this morning--I am so tired of hearing my students say they don't care--it was great to see evidence of the opposite.


Tonight We're Going to Party Like it's 1699

My friend Mark threw a party Friday night--it was great fun.

Here are Mark and his lovely bride, Leigh.

Susan and I were the old women of the group--everyone else was in their twenties and thirties. Susan remembers one of the guests actually gasped when she mentioned she has a twenty-five year-old daughter. We dressed like aging hippies. The costumes may be a little brighter than our daily attire, but the label is fitting . . .
Susan wishes I were taller. She says that our pictures always look like she is saying, "And here is my little friend, Karen." I won't wear heels, but maybe next time I'll bring a little platform to stand on.

There were many fun costumes and interesting people. There was a capitalist pig--in a black suit with a Starbucks cup, a brief case, and a pink nose and ears--and a woman with babies of many nations pinned to her outfit (Angelina Jolie). But, of course, my favorite people at the party didn't have much to say.

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27 October, 2007

Okay, I know I said I'd refrain from dogs in clothing, but this is my sweet dog Dinah when she was a puppy. This year Dinah is quite a bit older and a little wider. She has finally become a really fine companion-- no more of the crazy lab puppy-ness. Of course, she is eight, so I guess it is about time. Here is a picture of her late older sister, the great "Saint" Ursula, whom I miss on a regular basis.


26 October, 2007

Writing about Writing

One of the neat elements of National Blog Posting Month is that you are able to join groups of like-minded bloggers. I have joined a group of teachers, one of feminists, one for writing prompt suggestions, and I just joined one for people who write about writing.

And then I realized, I don't write about writing very much at all, which is odd for a writing teacher. I suppose that I talk about writing all day long, and when it comes to blogging, I'd rather post photographs of dogs in clothing.

One of the reasons I joined NaBloPoMo is to give myself a reason to write everyday. I don't want to just post photos of dogs or links to photos of dogs (although you may find that I cheat occasionally). I want to use this as an opportunity to actually write something other than marginal notes on my students' essays.

And that is I what I want to think about today. Why is writing--something I think of as vitally important in my life--such a chore? Why do I have to give myself an assignment to fulfill in order to get anything done? Last year I tried to do the novel writing month, as I said in yesterday's post. When I quit, I told myself I'd finish writing my story on a "saner" schedule. Have I even looked at my story in the past year? No. I needed the "due date" to make me write.

My students swear that assigning reading and writing makes it odious and unpleasant. Well, I think assignments also make reading and writing possible. Some of us won't do it any other way.

My assignment for this weekend? See if I can find A Field Guide to Abby, and revise and add to it by at least a page.


25 October, 2007

National Blog Posting Month?

Okay, it may sound silly, but this is the lazy-woman's version of national novel writing month. It also may be a way to meet other bloggers out there and have some fun getting to know each other.
Last year I tried NaNoWriMo for about a week. It was a lot of fun, but then life interviened. I was too busy, lazy, cowardly, (fill in your own adjective) to make a go of it. But this I can do.

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22 October, 2007

And now for some cogent political discourse

GOP women are hotter than Dems? Seriously now, that's the best you can come up with?

Interesting that I don't see a picture of Condi Rice--she's a cutie.

I got this pic from feministing. It's worth a look (although I am an old school feminist, and I find their logo lacks some decorum).


grammar (errors) for everyone!

Okay, about this time of year, writing instructors start talking about errors. We'll say: "Listen to this!" and read a particularly egregious (or amusing) error for our officemates. We send emails with malapropisms around to each other. I have heard it argued that it is not okay for us to make fun of our students in such a way. But here's what I think. We are usually just as willing to make fun of our own errors (today I wrote to Susan about her palate when I was talking about the board she puts dabs of paint on--and I'm willing to own up to it), and we never mention names or make fun of anyone publicly. Does that make it okay? Probably not. But laughing at mistakes (not students) prevents us from doing what my friend Mark talked about today (stabbing people in the eye), so I think we're going to continue the practice.

Check out "Just for fun" in the right-hand column. I really enjoy the "unnecessary" quotations blog. I always get a kick out of that particular oddity in many writings.

I also like the over and misuse of apostrophes. Or is it apostrophe's?

What are some of the errors that make you grind your teeth?

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21 October, 2007

Okay, the story is sad, but the headline is pretty good!

Monkeys kill Delhi deputy mayor

The deputy mayor of the Indian capital Delhi died on Sunday after being attacked by a horde of wild monkeys.
SS Bajwa suffered serious head injuries when he fell from the first-floor terrace of his home on Saturday morning trying to fight off the monkeys.

The city has long struggled to counter its plague of monkeys, which invade government complexes and temples, snatch food and scare passers-by.

The High Court demanded the city find an answer to the problem last year.

Solution elusive

One approach has been to train bands of larger, more ferocious langur monkeys to go after the smaller groups of Rhesus macaques.

The city has also employed monkey catchers to round them up so they can be moved to forests.

But the problem has persisted.

Culling is seen as unacceptable to devout Hindus, who revere the monkeys as a manifestation of the monkey god Hanuman, and often feed them bananas and peanuts.

Urban development around the city has also been blamed for destroying the monkeys' natural habitat.

Mr Bajwa, a member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is survived by his wife and a son, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.


17 October, 2007

Thank God! There is a white male middle aged Jesus-trumpeting alternative!

Stephen Colbert is running for president! Or is he?


Here's a new way for you to learn too much about me

I used to keep a blog on Yahoo 360, but I dropped it a few months ago. I have decided to pick it up again so that I can chronicle my journey to health. It's called Professor Karen's Blog, and there is a link to it in my favorites. I hope to use the blog to also talk about the politics and health matters that surround the issue. But, it will probably be far more personal than this blog.

So--if you want to talk about weight loss, body image, health, diabetes, and exercise, come join me here.

15 October, 2007

Blog Action Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day
Well, today is blog action day. This means that thousands of people will be blogging for millions of readers about the same topic: the environment.

I'm a little bit intimidated by this topic: what could I possibly have to say that is new? As a writing teacher, I know that this is a ridiculous concern. I don't have anything new to say. Nobody has anything new to say. It is just that I write in my own voice to my own audience, and perhaps that will make a slight difference to one of us.

I was reading a blog this morning that suggested 50 ways to help improve the environment. As if to prove the last paragraph, there was very little new in this blog entry (turn off the lights, take shorter showers, walk instead of ride). But it occured to me that at least one of these ideas fits in with what we also know about taking care of ourselves--If we walk or bike short distances instead of driving and we take the stairs instead of the elevator (I don't think this was listed in the blog, but why not? It saves electricity!), we are improving our health as well as the planet's. Silly, I know. But I wonder how many things that are good for us are also good for our planet?

Eating fresh food that is grown locally and is in season is good for our bodies, no? It also saves fossil fuels and promotes small farms. Susan recently read Barbara Kingsolver's latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, and became quite interested in the concept of living locally. We tried to do some shopping of local growers, but the farmer's markets we attended were less than satisfactory. I ended up settling on Chico's Fruit Market, which is not all local, but it's easier to find local stuff there. Of course, it isn't close, so I got lazy and stopped going. Maybe today will help motivate me.

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14 October, 2007

I'm not a gay man--I just play one on the internet

Vatican priest 'pretended'

A Vatican official suspended after being caught on camera making advances to a young man said he only pretended to be gay as part of his work.

Monsignor Tommaso Stenico said he also frequented online gay chatrooms as part of his work as a psychoanalyst.

He said that he pretended to be gay in order to gather information about "those who damage the image of the Church with homosexual activity".


Warm-Up Exercises for Writing

These exercises are designed for the creative writer. More later about that designation, but I thought these were worth sharing.


12 October, 2007

She has a way with words

Doris Lessing's initial response to the news. . .


11 October, 2007

I guess it is time to reread The Golden Notebook

Dorris Lessing won the Nobel Prize. Huzzah for the old dame! Here is the NPR post. And here is the NYT article.


10 October, 2007

Evidently, he heard about the new Weight Watcher's menu

Boy, 6, tries to drive to Applebees

Hungry kid grabs car keys, booster seat, makes it about 75 feet in reverse

BROOMFIELD, Colo. - A 6-year-old boy was hungry and decided he'd go to Applebees. So he grabbed the car keys, took his booster seat from the back seat of his grandmother's car and placed it in the driver's seat, then made a go of driving himself to the restaurant Tuesday.

He made it about 75 feet. Unable to take the car out of reverse, he crossed the street and ran into a transformer and communication box, knocking out electricity and phone service to dozens of townhomes.

Nobody was injured and the boy, whose name was not released, got out of his car and told his grandmother what happened.

"He proceeded to start the car and started backing up," said Sgt. Colleen O'Connell of the Broomfield Police Department. "He went backward about 47 feet, hit the curb, then went backward another 29 feet."

Investigators couldn't figure out how the boy reached the accelerator.

No charges will be filed.

"I have five children of my own, so I know you cannot watch them every minute they're awake," said nearby resident Nancy Hollis, whose power was knocked out by the accident.


Link to Thomas Friedman Op-Ed

Okay, so he was wrong about the war (at first, anyway). Friedman does address some of the questions I have about my students. Many of them care about issues, but they suffer from thinking that nothing they do will have any affect on politicians or policies.

I don't know if I agree with Friedman entirely, though. I think that apathy is still a major problem. Idealism is there, but you really have to hunt for it sometimes. Nevertheless, his call for activism would be well heeded by my students and their peers. Somebody needs to do something.


08 October, 2007

another silly dog photo

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Link to Boston Globe

While we're at it, let's reform the K-12 system!


07 October, 2007

Alamo Gala

Here are Susan and I at the Alamo Gala. We were there because Susan painted the lovely painting on the left for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. It was a fun night. I really do enjoy history geeks.

There were two men in particular who were fun--a Texas History teacher named Kyle (pronounced Kal) from College Station, and the man who bought the painting at the auction: Bill. Now that was one cute man. I have never seen anybody so excited about a piece of art. He was as happy as a kid getting a bicycle for Christmas. He was especially excited because the painting contained Adina DeZavala and Clara Driscoll, the two women who saved the Alamo and founded the DRT. Theirs is a great story if you ever want to check it out. These women worked together, but Driscoll had some ideas about making the Alamo into a park (akin to Disney world?). DeZavala ended up camping out at the Alamo to block developers renting it! Despite its ending, theirs was an auspicious partnership, and I'm proud that Susan chose to bring them back into the picture (as it were)--reminding us all that two women are responsible for their being a building called the Alamo.

All in all, it was an exciting evening for Susan. The painting drew more money for the DRT than she had ever made on a painting, and she got a good deal of praise. Here's hoping that she made some important contacts, as well.


05 October, 2007

Adios Barbie

Here's a site that addresses body image. If I am going to write this personal stuff, I am at least going to try to contextualize it.

Oh, and speaking of personal stuff, I lost 5.25 pounds my first week on weight watchers. Susan asked me the other day why I had become convinced it was time to try again--it's because I felt lousy. It is all about health, guys. But it wouldn't hurt to feel that I looked better, too . . . God, I am a product of my culture.


Buying Clothes

What is it about shopping for clothes? I now feel poor, shabby, and overweight. Okay, I am overweight, but come on!

Tomorrow Susan and I are going to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas gala. They commissioned her to do a painting of the Alamo this year, so she needs to be at the gala signing posters and such. (Hence the shopping). The gala should be fun. I rather like being the artist's roadie.

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03 October, 2007


I have been furiously grading papers lately. Unfortunately, that adjective is stunningly appropriate these days. I caught another plagiarist yesterday or the day before. Hint to cheaters: freshmen writers rarely say things like "Prospero is an enigmatic protagonist" unless they are English majors. Of course, if it were only that sentence, I might not have caught it, but cheaters aren't the smartest people.

Another thing that gets me is the refusal to follow directions when writing a paper. I can't tell you how many papers I have read that are on a subject that does not come close to the assigned topic. I recently gave one student a 50 for putting words on a paper; but the fact that she did not write about the topic I assigned, did not use any kind of formatting (up to and including no name on the paper), and did not have a bibliography acted against her. Honestly--it's a little insulting.

Perhaps it's time for another walk in the woods.

Was I a more forgiving teacher when I ate chocolate everyday? (Probably not).

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01 October, 2007


It is obvious that I cannot help myself.

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I'm Sorry--Really, I'm Sorry

I could not resist this little guy.

Tomorrow we do some much needed upgrades to Susan's computer. I sing the body electric.

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