Monday, May 15, 2006

End-of-harv-, er, semester round-up

Well. "Tomorrow"--see the post below--is now Monday. But I've read all the papers and assessed them and entered grades, and this evening I'm on my second Fat Tire (two beers is about my limit; that's me, in the white shirt and propped up against the tree. But hey--it's the end of the semester). The New Belgium beers--and, for that matter, the brewery itself--are worthy of their own blog post, but not tonight.

What follows are a few odds and ends and observations and such from the past few days that will probably be of interest only to me.

*The big news is that Mrs. Meridian has decided on a law school and is looking forward to the fall with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I am as well, especially seeing as I'm still not sure whether I'll find work that'll pay, um, enough to let me leave my job here. But she'll be only a couple of hours away, which is some compensation.

*I had real troubles with plagiarizers this semester: 3 in one class alone, 5 total, after a couple of years with none (that I'm aware of). One who strove for artfulness (he wrote the first paragraph-and-a-half of his paper, then cut and pasted from a much longer paper, changing some names here and there) meant for the last word before the cutting and pasting to be "like" . . . but instead he wrote "lie." How Freudian-slippery of him.

*Counterbalancing the plagiarizers, though, were the more-numerous-than-usual students who told me, in various ways, Thank you. This is my 13th year of teaching, and it still never fails to amaze me that what students are most grateful for are things THEY decided to learn more about, things that were just one of many options for them. One of them believed himself not to be much interested in art before this semester began, but my little talk about some paintings by Velázquez inspired him to try his hand at a critical essay on Vermeer as his research project. Though he found a site that was a sort of Vermeer-meets-The DaVinci Code kind of thing and he let that influence his arguments a bit overmuch, he chose as his subject 4 paintings that involve letter-reading or -writing, and he had some (to my mind) subtle and imaginative things to say about them. Anyway, he kept thanking me, and I kept telling him, You chose the topic, but you're welcome.

*And I have something to thank one of my students for: he burned me a copy of Tool's new album, 10,000 Days. Really. Thanking him, I mean. I confess it: I'm 44 years old. And I'm a Tool fan. Bang your head--but intelligently so.

*Along the river this afternoon, a homeless man, talking to himself/no one and performing various martial-arts moves, challenged Scruffy to a fight. The man adopted an aggressive pose, which Scruffy did not like. This is the first time in nine months of fairly-regular encounters with the homeless that anything like this has happened.

Happier things now:

*I just recently finished Alain Robbe-Grillet's most recent novel, Repetition, and a couple of nights ago I began Nicholson Baker's first novel, The Mezzanine. Though very different in their subject and manner, each indulges in a meticulousness of description that, I admit, I'm a sucker for. Robbe-Grillet is a favorite writer of mine from way back, and Repetition is reminiscent of his earlier work (one small complaint though: the "interrogation" of the nude 13-year-old girl was more than a little difficult for this father of two girls to take). Baker, though, is new to me, and in this novel he reminds me of a less-lexicorric David Foster Wallace. The Mezzanine is the longest escalator ride you'll ever take and, so far, I don't mind at all.

I know some smart people. Some links to some of them follow.

Over at Musings from the Hinterland, R. Sherman asks a simple question of those who want their kids to see more religion in schools: send your kids to religious schools.

To hear A.J. over at Bittersweet Life tell it, his and Lindsay's son Aidan has been all but offering trenchant critiques of C. S. Lewis ever since he made his appearance a wee bit before he was supposed to. Case in point: this Mother's Day interview Aidan graciously granted.

Fearful Syzygy of Delights for the Ingenious, in between bites of hummus and Deleuze, offers up Georg Büchner's take on the job of the poet.

Erin of Mannequin Hands gets crafty. Cool op-art pic, by the way.

Over at When Her Name You Write You Blot, Raminagrobis has posted excellent post after excellent post on such things as the idea of "empty rhetoric", a commentary on commentary, and a reading of Browning's The Ring and the Book that pulls the above concerns together.

Well. If you made it this far down, you have stamina or nothing better to do or something. But don't thank me for something you chose to do.


Winston said...

Stamina... Yeah, that's what it was... But it's easy when you're reading something of interest, which your stuff mostly is.

Congrats to Mrs. on the law school thing. Hope it all works out for the 2 of you, whether together or weekend commutes. In watching you wind down the school year I had been planning to ask what you're doing in the summer, but it sounds as if that is up in the air also.

John B. said...

Thanks, Winston.
The summer: for me, it entails a quick trip South to see my daughters, then summer school, then relocating, either to a smaller apartment here in town or to Topeka to be with the Mrs. (more likely the former). Oh--and probably a trip to Austin to see my mom. So, a busy summer ahead.

poco said...

At least you're a 44 y.o. Tool fan, and not a 44 y.o. tool!

R. Sherman said...

Hi John. Thanks for the plug and congrats to Mrs. M. and you for another semester. Re: Plagarism. Pre-law, I taught a German Civilization course at Mizzou. I had the audacity to give four versions of the mid-term to the 150 plus students. Wiped out 12 for cheating.


emawkc said...

So lemme get this straight: Plagarism is not okay, but accepting pirated copyrighted music is. Mmmkay.

Just kidding. Congrats on finishing up another semester.

John B. said...

emaw, my lawyer-to-be wife and I have already explored this little moral inconsistency. I told her I'll be buying the album . . . which, you may know, comes with cool magnifying glasses.
And jmb--thanks for the affirmation.

Ariel said...

Congrats on mopping up the papers. As I just finished writing my papers, it seems oddly surreal for me to be congratulating you on grading some... But then, my finals aren't quite over, so a variety of things seem oddly surreal. Welcome back to the "real" world that is the blogosphere. ;)

Raminagrobis said...

The Mezzanine is a brilliantly funny novel. I haven't read Robbe-Grillet's latest, but what I have read of his (Djinn, Les Gommes) hasn't struck me for its readability and enjoyableness. Maybe I'll give him another shot.

The Mezzanine was a life-changing book for me: the narrator's musing on the different methods of putting on one's socks made me re-evaluate my whole sock-putting-on routine, for the better.