The two recent comments that have been sitting in the moderation queue for the last few days have been approved, too. Sorry about that, guys :/
Archive for September, 2010
Posted by Nick Milne on September 29, 2010
It’s no novelty that this blog hasn’t been updated in a while, but let me give you some sense of why that’s the case this time around.
Things to do this week (this includes stuff already done AND stuff still to be done):
- Meet with the English department’s Graduate Student’s Association (of which I am this year’s president) to discuss the recent meetings we had with the external reviewers from the Ontario Council of Graduate Studies (OCGS; I assume that’s what it stands for) in fulfillment of their once-every-seven-years evaluation of this department’s graduate program, and to discuss the implications of their report on same.
- Meet with the external evaluators coming in to do a similar review of this department’s undergraduate program. I’ll be meeting with them in my capacity as a part-time professor, though, rather than as a student or a council member.
- Attend the monthly meeting of the GSAED, the school’s council of graduate students; being president of the GSA makes me the English department’s delegate. This typically lasts at least two hours, has a great deal of French content, and will also typically be extended once the first time limit is reached because it’s never over by then. To give an example of how this often goes, tonight’s meeting saw us spend an hour in a state of frustrated confusion as we attempted to come to grips with the need to conduct elections that had not previously been our responsibility, of candidates who were not ready (or even knew they were candidates), for positions we did not wish to fill.
- Get in touch with the head(s) of the Arts Faculty’s council about seeing how to get locker space for our MA students in the adjoining building; space is constantly an issue for every department (U of O, being a downtown school, doesn’t have a lot of space into which it can expand), but our MA students find themselves in a situation wherein they have nowhere to easily meet with the undergraduate students for whom they’re TAs, study quietly or store their belongings. We’re working on getting a room for them to do the first two, in the near future, but in the meantime we might be able to address the third as well.
- Meet with the GSA’s outgoing and incoming finance officers to transfer the signing authority on our bank account.
- Meet with an ex-student who has asked me to tutor her pretty thoroughly over the next few weeks as she rushes to complete her medical school applications and get through some unfamiliar Arts courses.
- Prepare a lesson plan for sentence structure, paragraphs, and the function of the introductory paragraph in an academic essay. Then teach it.
- Reread this week’s course readings, prepare discussion points, and put together both the content quiz and the paragraph-writing exercise. Then do all this.
- Mark seventy thesis statement exercises.
- Update my attendance records; a tiresome and boring task.
- Provide updates for yet another blog, started earlier this month. I’ll do a post about that here shortly.
- Finish this year’s Ontario Graduate Scholarship application; this involves ensuring that my two referees have submitted their letters to the right place and on time (no worries there), ensuring that my documentation of my achievements, prior awards, etc. is up to date, crafting an entirely new research proposal in light of the dissertation topic upon which I’ve finally settled, and a few other bits of minor arcana. I ordered the transcripts early last week, so that’s one thing out of the way. This isn’t the only grant proposal I have to write this season, either; the next (and more substantial one) is due in late October. Note: Nowhere in the activities listed in this post will you find work on the actual dissertation itself. This is not exactly good.
- Finish the final draft of an article I’ve written about Stephen Leacock’s little-known “sequel” to his 1912 masterpiece, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. The original paper – delivered at the Canadian Literature Symposium in May – was very well-received, and I really hope I can get this longer version included in the book that’s coming out of the Symposium.
- Get over this blasted cold.
- Finally, friend-of-this-blog Godescalc will be leaving Ottawa at the end of the week, returning at long last to his native England. I’m trying to get in as much time with him as possible before he goes, which has been hard given everything above and our awkward schedules besides. He will be sorely missed; I had become happily used to our bull sessions, if they could be called that.
This coming Saturday is my birthday. I had hoped to do something with someone, somehow, but I haven’t even had time to think about it ;___;
Posted by Nick Milne on September 20, 2010
The guy who directed Dark City is going to be doing a big-budget adaptation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost! Alright then.
He also directed The Crow, I, Robot, and Knowing. Uh…
It’s being marketed as “an action vehicle that will include aerial warfare, possibly shot in 3D.” That’s, I…
It’s shooting a script originally written and polished by a squad of unknowns and then edited by the guy who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark! Well, if you put it that way…
Disturbingly, the Variety piece linked above makes no mention whatsoever of Adam or Eve – who are, I’m told, modestly important features of Paradise Lost.
Come on, Hollywood.
Posted by Nick Milne on September 20, 2010
Sky News is reporting that an upcoming meeting will likely see Kim Jong-un, the twenty-year-old son of notorious North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, named to some position of official leadership in the wake of his father’s recent (rumoured) health problems. This would, the article says, pave the way for a few years of father-son rule while Kim Jr. gains crucial experience doing whatever the hell it is those people do.
The article also helpfully predicts:
That would cement the family’s grip on power.
Posted by Nick Milne on September 18, 2010
This has been an inordinately busy week for all sorts of reasons. The first full week of teaching; lots of departmental politics; the once-in-seven-years external review of our graduate program; potential upcoming changes to the comprehensive exams process; thesis work in general; and so on.
I am no better now at keeping this blog up regularly than I ever have been, I guess, and I’ve got another one to keep up too, now, besides (more about that later). In the meantime, keep checking back, I guess; stuff will go up, even if it’s only short narratives about people I’ve been annoying.
Posted by Nick Milne on September 15, 2010
The scene is a bus flying through the dank Ottawa night. The day is this one. The time is now (or, more accurately, a few hours ago).
I stood there, lost in thought, taking the bus to spitefully get as much out of our new mandatory (and expensive) bus pass as possible. We stopped. Ten young girls (early undergraduates, it seemed) got on. All were dressed in crude and scanty approximations of the Toga. All were voluptuous. Pneumatic. “Hot to trot,” as they say. Homeric.
“I see,” I said. The bus went on.
Finding myself bored, I turned to the one sitting nearest to me. “Let me guess,” I said loudly, “you’re going to a… ballroom dance.”
“Ha ha, no,” she said, smiling.
“Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ party,” I suggested.
“No, guess again,” she said.
“Jane Austen renaissance faire?”
“No, it’s a toga party!”
Her friends became animated. “The horns” were thrown up (\nn/). All seemed pleased, fidgeting happily in anticipation of the debauchery to come.
“Oh,” I said, uncertainly; “so this is a cross-dressing party, then?”
“What,” she said. Not even interrogatively; just with a comma.
“A cross-dressing party. You see, Roman women didn’t wear togas. They wore a dress called the Stola, and I’m afraid it doesn’t look anything like what you’ve got there. So, if it’s a cross-dressing party, fine; that’s none of my business, modern times, twenty-first century, etc….”
“What,” she said again. The rest were glaring at me.
“I thought you knew about this,” I said, uncertainly.
“What,” once more. Another piped up: “It’s just what you wear to these parties. We just want to have a good time.”
“Well,” I said, hitting my stride, “the women of ancient Rome didn’t seem to have any trouble having fun while wearing the proper thing.”
“In fact,” I went on, really warming to my subject, “if you wanted to be really accurate, you’d be wearing Stolae that were practically transparent.”
The glaring, reiterated.
“Really! I’m sure you’ve all read Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History? Well, as you’ll remember, he notes in that text that one of the gravest crises of public morals in his time was the tendency of Roman women to wear dresses wrought of the excretions of the silkworm, which were generally about as concealing as a wet t-shirt without even having to be wet.”
“What,” again. They really liked saying this, apparently.
“I’m just trying to help,” I said, glumly.
“Are you retarded?” one of them asked.
“No,” I said, pulling the string for my stop; “I just think that people shouldn’t have to pretend they’re illiterate just to get drunk. That should come after.”
The bus drew to a halt. The door opened. Having done my duty for mankind, I walked cheerfully out into a better world.
Posted by Nick Milne on September 13, 2010
There’s a short and somewhat provocative article at NRO concerning the reading habits of the President(s) of the United States. It’s not great, to be sure, but it does point to an issue of considerable interest to those in the discipline in which I work: what do people in power read for pleasure? Or – more importantly – for personal edification and enlightenment?
There have been regrettably few major modern engagements with this issue, and I guess the power dynamics involved may account for that. The presidents and prime ministers and popes and so forth could potentially subject us to a census concerning our reading habits, if they wished; we have no authority by which to similarly examine them. The best we can do with living rulers is to snap up chance glimpses of books sitting on their desks or being carried by aides, or wring a morsel or two from a non-policy-oriented interview. It becomes somewhat easier, posthumously, as we can examine their personal papers, letters, notes, and so on, to develop a picture of just what (if anything) they were reading.
The article above notes that Obama recently mentioned he was reading Edmund Morris’ The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. And well he should! It’s terrific. It reminded me that I had been meaning to make a post about Roosevelt’s own reading habits – which were expansive, to say the least – but I simply don’t have the time to go into it in any depth just now. Those likely to be reading this blog will perhaps be gratified to discover that he greatly enjoyed Leacock’s Nonsense Novels, Chesterton’s Heretics (if I remember correctly), and various works of Kipling, with whom he also kept up a lively correspondence. They were sources of grim comfort to one another when their respective sons were killed in the Great War (John Kipling at the Battle of Loos in 1915; Quentin Roosevelt in action with the USAAF, shot down in 1918), and had certain sympathies on certain subjects besides.
More on that later, though.
Posted by Nick Milne on September 8, 2010
In a comment on the last post about the hapless Sir Bors and the tower of doom, Maureen noted the unbearably silly nature of such mental exercises in practical terms, and put them in their rightful place.
Alternately, dump Gatorade over whoever poses the question, and tell them that every time they pose such a question, you intend to cede them victory in exactly that fashion.
I draw special attention to this here because, oddly enough, I also once took that position on this issue, too (and still do). Well, not this issue, but on those associated with it; on what she calls “theoretical philosophy games.” I cannot now recover the venue in which the comment was made, but the basic jist of it was this:
Yes, one can engage in this kind of philosophical hypothesizing. “You say X,” one could begin, “but what if [highly improbable Y] were to occur? What then?” In doing so, as the common wisdom has it, one would be exploding a false idea by providing a situation in which that idea somehow breaks down. The trouble, though, is that these exceptional situations are so often ludicrous rather than compelling.
A dialogue in illustration:
Silvius: “Memnon, I heard you affirm, yesterday, that your friend Joachim was very strong.”
Memnon: “Correct, as ever, Silvius; Joachim is very strong.”
Silvius: “You say so, certainly, but consider: what if there were someone who could lift a million pounds? Joachim wouldn’t seem so strong by comparison, would he?”
Silvius: “And what if Joachim himself had to try to lift a million pounds? Why, his failure would be both spectacular and complete. Yeah, real strong.”
If I might attempt to synthesize all that’s been said, anyhow, I’d boil it down to this: in the normal course of events, actions ought to be subordinated to virtue. In the case of abnormal events, that virtue will very likely be tried – tried quite severely – but the subordination is still a necessary ideal. In the case of hilariously impossible events, though, you have my permission to do whatever you like — you’re very probably dreaming.
Posted by Nick Milne on September 6, 2010
Well, good thing this never had any serious consequences, right? Never broke up families, ruined lives, implicated innocent persons, created elaborate manias, drove people to suicide, etc. We can just move on in a spirit of placid amiability as the great self-correcting machine ticks over once more:
The idea that traumatised people, especially the victims of child sexual abuse, deliberately repress horrific memories goes all the way back to the 19th century and the theories of Sigmund Freud himself.
But now some experts are saying the evidence points the other way.
[. . .]
In a briefing to the US Supreme Court, Professor Richard McNally from Harvard University described the theory of repressed memory as “the most pernicious bit of folklore ever to infect psychology and psychiatry”.
Good to know.
Posted by Nick Milne on September 3, 2010
This week has seen the new batch of students arrive in our department (that is, the English department at the University of Ottawa), and, as both the incoming president of the Graduate Students’ Association and the imminent teacher of a section of ENG 1100 (Essay Writing), I’ve been somewhat bedeviled by things to do over the last few days. Friday, in fact, is the first day in the last six on which I haven’t been supremely busy. Posts will come – probably.
In the meantime, just sit tight. My attention is presently focused on getting the blog for my class set up properly (it begins on the coming Thursday), but there’ll be more to say about that once it’s complete, I promise you.