Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lazy Sunday with Pride and Prejudice

I should be grading book reviews from my children’s lit class (Walk two moons by Sharon Creech—overall my students liked this book better than the first two historical novels, Crispin by Avi and The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman). It’s actually quite good: a young girl’s journey across the US to, of all places, Pocatello with her grandparents. On the journey she tells the story of her friend, Phoebe, whose mother has taken off without explanation to her grandparents all the while coming to terms with the loss of her own mother…

I should be reading the chapter on fairy tales and a couple of short sections on archetypal and structure theories and writing up a quiz…

I should be reading Angle of Repose, my wife’s book club pick for this Friday—I’m unbelievably only on page 60…

Instead we are finishing up Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 Joe Wright version); it’s my 9 year old daughter’s second viewing this weekend. I like it “well enough I suppose;” certainly better than the mini series version from the 80s I watched when I was taking British lit at BYU. I have a surreal memory of watching the film with a fellow student. He lived close by so we watched it at his house. He was quite odd, very formal in his manner and speech, strange pauses and gestures. I don’t think he had many friends and since we were in the same class and in the same student ward, he had gotten quite excited about us watching it at his home. I didn’t feel I could decline, an appropriate response given what we were viewing. It was the longest three hours imaginable, forever leaving a sad piteous feeling conflating the event and the movie. Maybe now I have an alternate memory when thinking of P and P.

Misc movie observations:

5 year old son keeps saying “Mister Darcy” in an English accent.

Are we sure Mr. Darcy is all that shit? (he is agonizingly reserved—surely great subtle acting, but I can’t fully embrace the reserved-working-behind-the-scenes-generous character Austen creates.)

“You have bewitched me body and soul” is a great line but why is her face so made-up in this scene? She looks positively silly. And, as my wife observes, “we get nothing after all that” i.e. no kiss, only noses touching as my daughter adds.

Why did they choose skin colored pants for Darcy in the last scene? He looks like he’s in a nightty of some sort with no bottoms. But I guess we at last get our kiss.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Students’ rights to their own language: “Peer review sucks!”

introduction for presentation at TYCA (a conference about teaching writing)

Wendy Bishop pointed out years ago that the method of peer workshops “has been presented in glowing terms, [but] it can prove problematic in practice” (32, qtd in Ransdell). I think the term “problematic” may be the understatement of the decade in composition, one we repeat ad finitum to justify our poor “results.” Let’s face it: most peer review groups are a waste of time if the goal is to immediately improve student writing. Students rarely discuss each other’s work in any detail and often merely write, “This is great!! :)” or, at the other extreme, begin to cross out and amend every sentence, especially if the group is lucky enough to contain an ESL student to work over. During the last decade composition classes have spent far too much time lacksidaisically going through the motions of peer review merely because it is mandated as some sort of Expressivist, liberatory, democratic practice.

First and only claim: Don’t do peer review unless you are willing to give it significant and sustainable time in your curriculum and unless you truly believe, yes I said believe, in its potential to alter what counts as knowledge in the composition class.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Seeking a Stick of RAM or? "I love the smell of technology in the morning"

So I found myself in a Best Buy store yesterday. Haven’t really been in a big box electronics store for a couple of years—I bought my latest computer online and my wireless router at RadioShack. I was immediately confronted with a curious countertop of I-pods, the pang of desire, the realization of insufficient funds:

After ogling around for several minutes, touching several plastic enstrapped I-pods, my son and I make it back to the computer section. Lots of computers displayed on every isle but no Kingston gigabyte-PC 2700-184 pin-DDR-DIMM-333 speed-RAM (terminology spoonfed to me by techy brother-in-law) to be found. An associate guides us to a locked case with large chicken wire where he unlocks and quickly finds the $160 tiny “stick” of RAM. The clerk walks the delicate and potentially stolen RAM up to the checkout.

I look around a bit without any specific objective while son checks out latest album from the All-American Rejects, "Move Along," and the myriad of computer games like "Halo: Combat Evolved" (which son has been trying to convince me really shouldn't be rated M) and "World of Warcraft"--both the raison d'etre for gigabytes of RAM.

As we were leaving a girl or woman (I was so stunned by her words I never saw her face) just entering the store announces, “I love the smell of electronics.” Had I heard her correctly? As we walk to the car, I suggest to my son that the girl may have been making an ironic reference to Colonel Kilgore’s famous line in Apocalypse Now.

Son quickly disabuses me of this notion: “I doubt it; she was a teenager dad.” If so then her words perfectly crystallized the gulf which had creeped up between me and technology, and me and the next generations. They race ahead leaving me, but not completely; I feed off and around the frenzy, I look in, I want to be part of the new wave, the Way. Not finding traction whilst also dependent, I build up courage for annual forages into the unknown.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Latest celeb children's book: Little T. learns to share

I couldn't resist sharing this tid bit which came across my children's lit listserv. It takes a lot to get me to chuckle at 7:20 am on a Saturday when I'm grading student essays.


Dear friends, children's literature by celebrities has risen to a new low. One Terrell Owens, Dallas Cowboys football player, has "written" a children's book to be released in November. It's called Little T. Learns to Share. Now, more interesting in my mind than the titles of subsequent books to be included in the purported series (Little T. ODs? Little T. Throws a Temper Tantrum? Little T. Gets Kicked Off ANOTHER Team?) is the question of who wrote this book for him... Well, turns out, this is a children's book with a CO-AUTHOR. Gee, why am I not surprised?

I think your fearless reporter of this interesting information is gonna go throw up...

June Harris


Actually the subtitles of his upcoming books in his "Timeout series," according to a news story I read, are "Little T Learns What Not to Say," and "Little T Learns To Say I'm Sorry." And I have to say these titles are certainly more unbelievable than the ones listed by June Harris.