Friday, April 28, 2006

Kzoo Update

K'zoo Update

By the way, all, I thought I'd let you know that I have not actually fallen off the face of the earth, but it will seem like it for the next week or so!

I'm almost done with my handouts for the big K'zoo paper. And I've had two people give me edits. DV said that the paper would not embarrass me, and another blogger friend said that, although on the dry side, the paper sounded TRUE -- which is about the best thing I can think of! I've read it out loud twice, and the hard words were not the ones I stumbled over. But even with stumbling, I came in at 19 minutes. And yes, I read this to someone else, who said that I did not sound rushed. Yay for that. Now to fix the parts where it reads well for print, but sounds very awkward out loud.

About that round table? er ... It'll be done.

But I may be gone while I'm getting it done!

If not before, I'll see some of you at the 'zoo -- which will be kind of interesting, since few of us have actually met!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Monday Memeage

Monday Memeage

Nicked from New Kid

Accent: Pretty much Left Coast, with lots of regional dialect and European usage influence. Apparently, it's mild enough that I don't have an American accent when speaking 'foreign'
Booze: Hell, yes. Depending on my mood, single malt, beer, or wine. On a bad day? I'll take some tequila with that beer, please. Nothing Blue, nothing blended.
Chore I Hate: hairball and other animal accident clean-up
Dog or Cat: Cats. I've got nothing against dogs, but just prefer the slightly less needy attitude of cats
Essential Electronics: Computer. Without a doubt.
Favorite Cologne(s): Amarige is what I usually wear, but Givenchy used to make something called Indecence which I really love.
Gold or Silver:no real preference, although I tend to wear more gold as I get older
Hometown: Divided between Beachy Town with movie stars and Pretty Big City that's home of some serious R&B and Funk stars and next door to Funky U-Town
Insomnia: More than I'd like, but not all that much
Job Title: Instructor; Assistant Professor in August
Kids: One 24-y-o step-daughter, still in almost daily contact
Living arrangements: Very cool rental house. Built 1917, three bedrooms and one of the world's smallest bathrooms. Needs some work, though that soggy place in the bathroom floor...
Most admirable trait: I honestly don't know. The best thing anyone ever said about me was that I had integrity. SOmeone else said I was really strong. said I was amazingly well-adjusted for someone who'd had my life. But honestly, I think I'm pretty average.
Number of sexual partners: Actual sex, as opposed to various kinds of fooling around? Not so many for someone who's spent most of her life single in the age of the Pill. But I'm single again, so I'm guessing the number may go up.
Overnight hospital stays: Two
Phobias: If phobias are irrational, none. Except maybe the 'sharks in swimming pools' thing. But stuff that makes my heart pound in a bad way? Crowds, taking off and landing in planes, small spaces, bridges and raised motorways (I've lived much of my life in earthquake country), public humiliation, high places, really big spiders, monkeys, parrots ... the usual
Quote: "Life is not a dress-rehearsal" or maybe, "I may be Love's Bitch, but I'm man enough to admit it"
Religion: None anymore, and aspects of many
Siblings: Sister, younger by almost exactly three years; Bella, younger by 12. There used to be a step-brother, but not anymore.
Time I wake up: As late as the cats will let me sleep! I try to be up by 5:30 most mornings, but generally hit the snooze button till about 6:15. Hence the not getting to the gym so much. 7:30 or 8 on the weekends.
Unusual talent or skill: I'm pretty good at learning languages and music. And I can imitate recipes without a cookbook. Not actually too talented, then.
Vegetable I refuse to eat: Candied yams and lima (or any similar) beans.
Worst habit: Some people say I worry too much. I like less the fact that I have to think about not being a slob (untidy, NOT dirty). And we won't go into the procrastination thing
X-rays: Teeth, chest, spine, foot, evil mammograms
Yummy foods I make: baked salmon with a mustard-dill sauce, dal, chili, apple crisp
Zodiac sign: Scorpio in western, Water Tiger in Chinese. Water Tiger seems more accurate, but who knows?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Procrastination ...

procrastination -- from Housecleaning

Yep -- not actually avoiding academic work (except for marking discussion boards and paper proposals). But I saw this at maggie may's and she says that luckybuzz says only the boys are doing it, so ...

Hey, it's a moral imperative (is that one on the list?)! I've bolded the ones I've seen, starred the ones I've loved.

"2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) Stanley Kubrick
"The 400 Blows" (1959) Francois Truffaut
"8 1/2" (1963) Federico Fellini
"Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (1972) Werner Herzog
"Alien" (1979) Ridley Scott*
"All About Eve" (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz*
"Annie Hall" (1977) Woody Allen
"Bambi" (1942) Disney
"Battleship Potemkin" (1925) Sergei Eisenstein
"The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946) William Wyler
"The Big Red One" (1980) Samuel Fuller
"The Bicycle Thief" (1949) Vittorio De Sica
"The Big Sleep" (1946) Howard Hawks
"Blade Runner" (1982) Ridley Scott*
"Blowup" (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni
"Blue Velvet" (1986) David Lynch
"Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) Arthur Penn
"Breathless" (1959) Jean-Luc Godard
"Bringing Up Baby" (1938) Howard Hawks
"Carrie" (1975) Brian DePalma
"Casablanca" (1942) Michael Curtiz
"Un Chien Andalou" (1928) Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali
"Children of Paradise" / "Les Enfants du Paradis" (1945) Marcel Carne
"Chinatown" (1974) Roman Polanski*
"Citizen Kane" (1941) Orson Welles
"A Clockwork Orange" (1971) Stanley Kubrick
"The Crying Game" (1992) Neil Jordan
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) Robert Wise*
"Days of Heaven" (1978) Terence Malick
"Dirty Harry" (1971) Don Siegel
"The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972) Luis Bunuel
"Do the Right Thing" (1989) Spike Lee
"La Dolce Vita" (1960) Federico Fellini
"Double Indemnity" (1944) Billy Wilder
"Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964) Stanley Kubrick*
"Duck Soup" (1933) Leo McCarey
"E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982) Steven Spielberg
"Easy Rider" (1969) Dennis Hopper
"The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) Irvin Kershner*
"The Exorcist" (1973) William Friedkin
"Fargo" (1995) Joel & Ethan Coen*
"Fight Club" (1999) David Fincher
"Frankenstein" (1931) James Whale
"The General" (1927) Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman
"The Godfather," "The Godfather, Part II" (1972, 1974) Francis Ford Coppola
"Gone With the Wind" (1939) Victor Fleming
"GoodFellas" (1990) Martin Scorsese
"The Graduate" (1967) Mike Nichols*
"Halloween" (1978) John Carpenter
"A Hard Day's Night" (1964) Richard Lester
"Intolerance" (1916) D.W. Griffith
"It's A Gift" (1934) Norman Z. McLeod
"It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) Frank Capra
"Jaws" (1975) Steven Spielberg*
"The Lady Eve" (1941) Preston Sturges
"Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) David Lean
"M" (1931) Fritz Lang
"Mad Max 2" / "The Road Warrior" (1981) George Miller
"The Maltese Falcon" (1941) John Huston
"The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) John Frankenheimer*
"Metropolis" (1926) Fritz Lang
"Modern Times" (1936) Charles Chaplin
"Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975) Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam*
"Nashville" (1975) Robert Altman
"The Night of the Hunter" (1955) Charles Laughton*
"Night of the Living Dead" (1968) George Romero
"North by Northwest" (1959) Alfred Hitchcock*
"Nosferatu" (1922) F.W. Murnau
"On the Waterfront" (1954) Elia Kazan
"Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968) Sergio Leone
"Out of the Past" (1947) Jacques Tournier
"Persona" (1966) Ingmar Bergman
"Pink Flamingos" (1972) John Waters
"Psycho" (1960) Alfred Hitchcock
"Pulp Fiction" (1994) Quentin Tarantino*
"Rashomon" (1950) Akira Kurosawa
"Rear Window" (1954) Alfred Hitchcock*
"Rebel Without a Cause" (1955) Nicholas Ray
"Red River" (1948) Howard Hawks
"Repulsion" (1965) Roman Polanski
"Rules of the Game" (1939) Jean Renoir
"Scarface" (1932) Howard Hawks
"The Scarlet Empress" (1934) Josef von Sternberg
"Schindler's List" (1993) Steven Spielberg
"The Searchers" (1956) John Ford
"The Seven Samurai" (1954) Akira Kurosawa
"Singin' in the Rain" (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly*
"Some Like It Hot" (1959) Billy Wilder*
"A Star Is Born" (1954) George Cukor
"A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) Elia Kazan*
"Sunset Boulevard" (1950) Billy Wilder
"Taxi Driver" (1976) Martin Scorsese
"The Third Man" (1949) Carol Reed
"Tokyo Story" (1953) Yasujiro Ozu
"Touch of Evil" (1958) Orson Welles
"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948) John Huston
"Trouble in Paradise" (1932) Ernst Lubitsch
"Vertigo" (1958) Alfred Hitchcock
"West Side Story" (1961) Jerome Robbins/Robert Wise
"The Wild Bunch" (1969) Sam Peckinpah
"The Wizard of Oz" (1939) Victor Fleming*

And no, I don't know who made up the list. There are films that I'd definitely add as "should sees".
update: It's Roger Ebert's list, apparently. That probably explains why The Princess Bride, His Girl Friday, Real Genius, nor anything with Fred Astaire, nor anything by Mel Brooks or Blake Edwards is on it ...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The conference is 13 days from today. I have completed a second and much-revised draft of my paper. I have not actually read it out loud yet, but think it's about right to hit the 20 minute mark -- about 3200 words. Anyone who knows me should probably be wondering what happened to the real ADM. I have never been this ahead of the game in my life. I kind of like it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Realization and a Question

A Realization and a Question

I fall behind in my Ancient/Medieval survey. Always. I just realized why. It's the Punic Wars. There is no good reason in a survey course to go into detail about them. The important things for the survey are that they help to solidify Rome's control over the Med and leave Rome with issues I need to talk about, like latifundia, the Gracchi and land reform, social upheaval, changes in the makeup of the army -- all that stuff. But ... Punic Wars, people!

How could I not talk about Punic Wars II: The Wrath of the Barcas?? How could I not talk about -- the war elephants??? How could I not talk about the brilliance of Rome's expanding through the quite sensible defense of her friends? How could I not talk about the political brilliance of granting proconsular imperium to P. Cornelius Scipio -- and the problems that tweaking the mos maiorum eventually causes??

Yes, it's a survey class. But you know, there should also be some good stories in history, because it's the stories that are part of the fun. Maybe it's because my research really is all about dry stuff and adding pieces to a puzzle -- intellectually, it's a challenge, and I find it satisfying. And I love teaching students to tease information out of primary sources. But although they will probably retain some of the skills I teach them, it's the stories that the non-majors will remember. So they should be good ones. I guess I should start planning time for the Punic Wars into my syllabus.

So I also have a question: Does anyone else find that there are some stories they just have to tell, even in a survey class?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Passing the Word

Passing the Word

According to Dr. Virago, there is some kind of 'blogger meet-up', whatever that is, planned for the Zoo. Details at her place, and everywhere. Depending on the timing of that evening, I may make it myself. Or maybe not, as I have a previous engagement that I can't miss. But whichever way, I hope to meet lots of you there, pseudonymously and not!



Perspectives article on contingent faculty pretty much sums it up.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Today's Lesson

Today's Lesson

It's possibly not the best idea to choose a family with a very difficult-to-pronounce name as the subject of a conference paper. You may now laugh at my discomfort. I will be practicing while re-writing.

ETA: And no, even if I Anglicize the name, it's not an easy one. Give me that Bavarian ducal family any time. Their name, I can pronounce.

Monday, April 17, 2006



Well, from my office, I can see both blue skies and bucketing down rain. Kind of a metaphor for my day. Finished a draft of the paper, got back comments with blinding speed. Apparently, I will now be doing some serious re-writes. Bugger. Oh well ... re-writing now makes for less craptastic embarrassment later.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Reasons Early Medieval is fun, pt 2

Reasons Early Medieval is Fun, part 2

Wheeee! I just got to write something about a guy whose name really was Ratbert. Scott Adams, eat your heart out!

Sometimes I crack myself up. And then I think are such a geek!

Oh -- but I'm not the only one. In my fun survey class the other day, I shared with my class a little TMI -- a student's description of Kreon made me think for some reason of James T. Kirk. One of my very cool students immediately picked up on it and she did a very effective and funny imitation of Bill Shatner as Kreon doing the speech where he asks Antigone if she is trying to unman him!

That is all. I've dismembered and rewritten the paper. Mostly.

Update: The paper is finished, in the sense of having an introduction, body with lots of nice primary source stuff, and a conclusion that refers back to the actual subject of the paper and offers an answer to a very small question. It is now in the, 'sent to smart people who don't want me to embarrass myself in public' stage. I'm going to go have food. And a beer.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Sometimes I despair

Sometimes I despair

OK -- that's a bit strong. I do despair, but not about this so much. But I do wonder if it's a good thing or a bad thing that I can't seem to write anything without returning to some of the same damned books and articles over and over. And yes, I know that KF Werner's "Bedeutende Adelsfamilie" is seminal and all, but sometimes, I wonder where the line between relying on the seminal works and stuck in a rut is. And at what point does prosopography and reconstructing families just become useless ... the point where you realize that all of these people were intermarried? Because, well, most of them were. So then the question (and this is not new -- Werner talks about it, Bouchard crings it up when using Werner's methodology, and anybody with sense considers the problem) is 'does being related -- or interrelated matter?' That is, can we count on the importance of family ties if we don't know how conscious people are of them? And how can we find evidence of that conscious connection? OK, the last part is not a mystery -- we look at naming patterns and if people are donating lands for each other, etc., for a start.

Still, I sometimes wonder if I'm the only damned medievalist who keeps finding myself being dragged back to the same places. I really hope not. Maybe it's a sign that I've internalized the secondary literature? ADM asked hopefully...

Thursday, April 13, 2006



In regards to my last post, I received the following comment:
I would like to clarify a few points regarding the article ‘First Knights Templar are discovered’ published by the Australian Daily Telegraph on 10 April 2006. The article was indeed an example of journalistic misrepresentation. I have never maintained that the human remains unearthed at Jacob’s Ford are ‘the first provable example of actual Knights Templar’. The castle of Jacob’s Ford was garrisoned by Templars when it fell in 1179, but it also contained many other soldiers, servants and builders. There is a strong possibility that one or more of the bodies discovered on site might be that of a Templar, but this could never be stated with absolute certainty. I am quoted in the article as stating that ‘never before has it been possible to trace their remains to such an exact time in history’, with the quote positioned to imply that ‘their remains’ refers to Templars, but, in fact, ‘their remains’ was a general reference to those engaged in the wider crusading endeavour of the twelfth century. Similarly, I am quoted as saying: ‘This discovery is the equivalent of the Holy Grail to archaeologists and historians. It is unparalleled’. When made, this statement did not relate to the supposed discovery of Templar remains, but to the discovery of the long lost castle of Jacob’s Ford. The story of this fortress is both fascinating and revelatory, but not for the reasons outlined in the Telegraph’s article.
Dr Thomas Asbridge
Senior Lecturer in Medieval History
Queen Mary, University of London

I think (or at least hope) most of my regular readers know that my complaints about the article were not about Dr. Asbridge, but rather about the amazingly inept presentation of the reporter and the ties to the Dan Brown/HBHG conspiracy theory nuts. And despite not having been asked for an apology for pointing out the stupidity of the article to which he was linked, I do apologise if my having done so put Dr. Asbridge in an awkward position. As I mentioned below, several colleagues said from the outset that he must have been badly misquoted, and I very much appreciate his having taken the time to write a clarification.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Er ... Not Really

Er ... Not Really

From the Daily Telegraph (Australia -- not the Torygraph):

British historian Tom Asbridge yesterday hailed the find as the first provable example of actual Knights Templar.

The remains were found beneath the ruined walls of Jacob's Ford, an overthrown

castle dating back to the Crusades, which had been lost for centuries.

They can be dated to the exact day -- August 29, 1179 -- that they were killed by Saladin, the feared Muslim leader who captured the fortress.

"Never before has it been possible to trace their remains to such an exact time in history,' Mr Asbridge said. "This discovery is the equivalent of the Holy Grail to archaeologists and historians. It is unparalleled."

Ok ... first, I thought we already knew that the Templars really existed. And second, No, it's not really like finding the Holy Grail at all. Because the only thing like finding the Holy Grail would be actually finding the Holy Grail. Which may or may not be the cup most appropriate for a simple carpenter and may or may not have been found in the 1940s in Petra by a sexy archaeologist and his father after many encounters with the Nazis. Because in this medievalist's world, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is every bit as plausible as the nonsense that Dan Brown writes, and far better because no one ever claimed it might be true. Sheesh.

Update: I've seen comments at other places from several colleagues that this is probably a case of an historian being horrendously misquoted. In terms of the coolness of the discovery, one of my Senior Colleagues points out that knowing an almost exact date for something might be a really good gauge for calibrating other, more traditional dating methods, and thus lead to more accurate dating for other sites -- and that is very cool. Just not pop-culture, Dan Brown, Michael Baigent conspiracy-theory cool.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Teacher ego

Teacher ego

Sorry folks, but its the class again. End of week two. And still, several students have not contributed to a single Blackboard discussion. I'm torn. I really want to take these students aside and just tell them to drop now, because they will likely not pass this class if they don't contribute -- it's just too big a part of their grade. But it's really too small a class to lose any students (am I a cynic because I'm pleased that, if they do drop, I still get credit for not having lost FTEs?). So I'm angry with them. And I feel terribly guilty that they won't do the work.

But they are supposed to be adults. They knowingly signed up for a class that has a significant online component. It's been made abundantly clear that this is not an optional part of the class. If they choose not to do the work, it is not my responsibility. So ... why do I feel so crappy about this?

Teacher ego.

I admit it. We all know far to much of my personal identity is wrapped up in my academic identity. Not that I'm different from a lot of us who have been fortunate enough to get to live the academic life. And you know, it's important to me that, even when students hate my class, they like me. I like the bit on the evaluations where the students say I'm always there to help, accessible -- all those mentor-y (and kind of traditional femme-y) qualities that seem to make a big difference even when they are complaining about the work load, etc. And when I can't get the students to play along, it feels like they don't like me.

I should worry more about whether they are learning, but it's hard. And if they aren't doing the work, are they learning? Hmph.

My other class, OTOH, is a joy. We've got a great conversation going on online (not as much participation there as should be, but far better) about ethnocentricm that I'm going to tweak into a conversation about presentism, since they are so closely related. It's a very oddly composed class -- one woman in her 30s, a bunch of much younger women, some wtill in high school, and four guys, two of whom are originally from (I think) East Africa and are probably Muslim (I'm going by the names). One question on sexuality in Classical Greece has provided so many good teaching moments, and I'm so impressed at how these students are willing and able to have what are clearly difficult conversations in such a gender-imbalanced, culturally imbalanced classroom. I feel no sense of success here -- the fact that they are good and involved and interested has nothing to do with me. So If I have no problem taking no credit for the good class, why is it so easy to take the blame for the bad class?

Teacher ego. I think. Maybe as I publish and present more, and broaden my own academic persona, these things will be more balanced, too. Something to think about.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Why do I bother?

Why do I bother?

I admit it. I am a compulsive overexplainer. My tendency towards TMI extends to my writing of syllabi and assignments. They are, in a word, wordy.

But here's the thing ...

the syllabus? It explains my expectations. It has a list of outcomes and how students will be assessed. It has (shock horror) a list of assigned readings and the dates on which they, as well as all the other assignments are due. It's kind of neat -- you can take the dates in the syllabus and transfer them to your own PDA or (if you are low-tech, like me) to your calendar!

So why is it that Amazingly Bright But Equally Clueless Student asked me today when assignment Y was due? I said, ABBEC, "it's in the syllabus." ABBEC said, "Oh, but I don't have that with me, so I thought I could just ask you." I said, "well, since we don't meet again this week, it's not this week -- which gives you time to look at your syllabus!"

My paper assignment? Includes a detailed description of the assignment and the questions the essay needs to answer. It's a review. The assignment sheet has outcomes listed in terms of what skills they will have mastered by doing the assignment. Stated clearly is my understanding that most students have never read a scholarly review, and instructions to go to the library (or JSTOR) and find a scholarly review from a particular journal, and to read that review first, so that they will have an idea of what their paper should look like when they are done. So why is it that a student asked me today if the assignment was to watch a film and summarize it????? "Have you read the assignment sheet all the way through?" "no" "Have you found an example of the kind of review you're writing and looked at it?" "no"

I did not ask why we were having this conversation, but I did wonder it. When I were a lad, professor told us to write paper. Not how, no specific instructions as to what was entailed in writing a good paper in a particular field. It could be a recipe for disaster. But why bother to articulate our expectations if students seem totally unaware that the instruction sheet is actually an instruction sheet?


I'll stop ranting and go do something useful now ...

But by the way ... I also tell them, orally and in writing, that most of their questions on how to do things can be answered by reading the assignment sheets and syllabus carefully.