Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cranky may live, but boy, er I mean grrrrl, she hasn't been posting at all. Bigbrightland is on hold. Projects overwhelm. Meanwhile, I've been lurking about and playing in the wild. At the risk of revealing myself via a favorite oasis, here we go:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Seriously ?

A benevolent creator ? I suppose I mean well. But after manipulating all the little slides to indicate that I am rebellious and have an inordinate lack of trust in institutions or the idea that people get what they deserve, I expected a different, er, cube. Times in Backwater have been trying; Bigbrightland still beckons. Cranky lives.

More of substance anon from that land called The Weekend.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Oh, Yes, Yes...

I had a post in mind called "Is TV Still Happening ?, " as the holidays brought into sharp relief the fact that I have not even turned mine on in several months (how did that happen ? When does 24 restart ? Has it already ? Did Jack Bauer live ? I have no idea). Meanwhile, though, I came across this. Since I am, always have been, but am ever strongly more of the opinion that public K- 12 schools destroy education and the desire to learn (making higher ed increasingly a kind of rescue and salvage operation), I bring you this, with Ken Robinson. I may be the last person on earth to have discovered this video, which, I believe, dates from 2006.

12.28.09: Okay, people: I should confess that this is facetious--- Robinson has the idea that K-12 schools aim to make every student a "university professor" (ROFL, folks), and the part about said creatures at the final night of a conference is, I hate to admit it, funny in that painful recognition sort of way. Of other people, of course. Now watch the video and have a good time. He had a serious point about creativity, but manages to skewer himself in the end. Also fun to watch. When, WHEN, did creativity suddenly become opposed to intellect ? I've been watching this new(ish) creativity movement develop with some amusement and, yes, well, disdain. One can find a plethora of articles on ERIC for example, that believe all of this is newly hatched. Steiner, anyone ? Montessori ? For a truly terrifying look at the uses and abuses of "play," read this and tremble.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Back: Lynx and Long Distance

The whole semester gone, and only now checking in. Too many conferences, too much writing, no place from which to safely blog, no excuses and not even a hello, and now tonight's riddle: you have found the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail cannot be moved; supposedly, you can be. You can be the tenured Fisher Queen of Backwater or the status uncertain Grail Maiden of Bigbrightland. You have always enjoyed being Queen, even if you knew your world was small. Are you the risk-taker you thought you were ? Discuss.

(Yes, the HG analogy is pushing it, but get over it.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

End of Semester and the Introverted Animal

Actually, compared to many of my colleagues, I am not that introverted. I am no party animal, either, and when the hour gets late and the music goes up, and people want to go to one more club, I'm in a cab, in the car, heading for those hills. Not that I've often been so witless as to be in that position in the first place. But May Madness has arrived. The title of this post might as well say "and the Exhausted Animal," because that may be the true reason behind the fact that I cannot. go. to. one. more. late afternoon-evening. "celebration." I'm not counting awards ceremonies, rubber chicken luncheons or the wine-in-little-plastic-cup trustee meet and greet. I am counting the retirements, congratulations, happy send off to foreign land, good-bye and good luck dinners, potlucks, alcoholic at-homes. Bleary eyed and massively underslept from grading and being sluiced through end of semester committee meetings, I stumble from one hors-d'oeuvre at colleague condo to the next night's barbeque at chair's lair, and on it goes. Not cooking and getting to take leftovers home: worth the price of admission (usually two wine bottles). Chance to talk with colleagues and to discover that we all really hate so-and-so: worth several aspirin. Number of bottles of wine purchased in May compared to number of bottles of wine purchased January-April, so far: 15/3. Opening fridge to look for something to eat and finding three pieces of cheesecake and a small tupperware container of potato salad: occupational hazard. The desire to bag it, go home, have a cup of tea, sit with the papers, the reading, the files, and the cats: the nature of the beast. Good night.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Not Your Cheney Kind of "Water Program," But Close

I don't know which is making me crankier, tenured Columbia professor Mark Taylor's Op-Ed piece in the Times grandstanding with his "abolish tenure" manoeuvre, or Erin O'Connor's applause:
I know it's hard for the folks who have tenure--or who hope to have tenure--to wrap their minds around the utterly vestigial character of an institution that has outlasted whatever limited purpose it might once have served to protect academic freedom in a different era, under different circumstances. But the time has really come for the people who are invested in tenure to conduct the thought experiment proposed by Taylor and others. If they can do that, they will have a fighting chance of preserving academic freedom and self-governance by other means -- and potentially of being part of a long overdue revitalization of the academy. If they don't, they will continue to be a shrinking, defensive, increasingly indefensible group with diminishing claims to authority, respect, autonomy, and, yes, academic freedom.
Taylor, as do a number of people tenured a long time, especially at higher-tiered places, takes as a given, one assumes, that he would fare well in this new system of seven year contracts he conjures up. The "thought experiment" is a fine idea, à la Rawls' veil of ignorance, but it is (why do I read Critical Mass, anyway ?), O'Connor's defeatism ("...preserving academic freedom and self-governance by other means...") that rankles, and, in fact, derives from academia-as-crumbling-fortress mentality she (and Taylor) take as a given. One wishes to take a step back, or many steps back, plague pole in hand. Academia is not the only world where advancement comes with some measure of security and freedom: lawyers make partner, all kinds of seniority and its privileges exist outside of academia, and I could go down this road suggesting other models vs. the current one, but that is precisely the trap one is being led into lately. It is the very smallness of this thinking that makes me CIA tonight indeed. Yes, there is laughable over-specialization, but that, as Taylor himself almost manages to point out, is a symptom and not a cause of some of the current malaise. Taylor is on the "problem-based" bandwagon, and suggests departments/discplines are the root of much of the evil, making this an end of spring semester piece for sure (when I arrived at his discussion of the "Water Progam," I thought I'd stumbled into satire. In fact, I imagine him in cozy New York digs strewn with oriental rugs laughing his leather loafers off...). Funny how interdisciplinarity and integrative programs are already gaining prominence. I give higher ed more credit: it is a smart animal and can transform itself without the pseudo-radical provocation from the likes of Prof. Taylor. It is here that institutions themselves must be more flexible, and open to the scholarship and kinds of classes they make possible; this may be generational, and seems to already be happening. Shi[f]t happens, and before Profs. O'Connor and Taylor and their ilk go scrambling in peri-apocalyptic survival mode, offering human sacrifices in hopes of appeasing forces over which they sense only minimal ---if any--- control, let's really get at that thought experiment: the larger questions that are diminished by the defensive mentality exhibited in Taylor's piece. The idea that only some radical reconfiguring will save us still has academia stranded on its on island, trying to build its own boat in order to land on the same shore. The larger and more compelling issues are the ones that become demonic forces in O&T species' mind (think of their initials as standing for "zero tenure"): in what kind of a society do we want to live ? If the academy becomes merely reactive instead of constructive, it will ---or has--- lost a great deal of its function in society. To be fair, I think Taylor gets at this via a jargon I can barely stomach; his piece is not a rant against tenure, and, in fact, I think we would agree that it is the role of the intellectual in the public landscape that must be expanded or re-righted to a position of prominence within public discourse. Yet this includes many areas that ought not to be subjected to the "problem-based" [spit] litmus test: do we not want a society where products of the imagination (literature, arts, new media) are valued and discussed for their own sake ? Where theoretical science may precede its application ? Taylor comes so close to a utilitarian stance without realizing it that I feel slightly ill. There are the complex questions; how to live, how to live well, what it means to be human and humane, that any decent thought experiment about academia should take on, and though a special promise of freedom of speech and practice (tenure) may seem redundant for some, it has done much to create conditions, in the best of circumstances, where creativity and intellect flourish and contribute to a better made world, better lived lives. Sometimes the bonds between the highly specialized and the clearly relevant are microfine, invisible threads, ---and, at a place like Columbia, Taylor evinces a deep sense of not being able to see the connections, even in his own department--- but one should not lose sight of the larger whole. I think Taylor would agree with this. What is not necessary, and is even quite dangerous, is a vision, a thought experiment, that opens with the view that the academy is a service industry, at least one modelled on fast food chains instead of Socrates' gadfly. I still do think that public intellectuals can exist, but they should not only or primarily be defined by their immediate use-value; and , yes, that without tenure, we lose, men and women both, a vital room of our own.

Friday, April 17, 2009

People Smarter Than I Have Figured This Out

To Hell with Photobucket. I don't know what their problem is. A great post at a blog called Eros Den (yes, I was afraid to click on the link, too, but it's okay), has an even easier way around them to do the whole animated gif thing. You use google docs. Here are the instructions from the blog. I plan to leave a comment saying how much he helped. Fair Warning: there is some Eros to be seen/read on Eros Den's main page, but I've linked to the specific post. G-Rated for all audiences.

How To (I did not recreate his hotlinks. Maybe later):

The second solution that I found doesn't require a third party hosting site. It's actually something new I'm trying. I'm using Google Docs! That's right.
1. Go to Google Docs. If you have a Blogger account, you have a Google account; that means you also have access to Google Docs. (Just look at the drop down menu on the Firefox homepage (the
Firefox search page ), then find Google Docs. )
2. Sign in. Click on
New menu and start new document. Type your post. You insert your gifs and pictures using the Insert menu. Once you're done with your post, Click on Save.
3. Go back to to Docs Home. Click on
More Actions menu, then choose Preview to see if your gifs are working.
4. Go back to Docs Home and click on
More Actions menu, then Click on Publish. You'll be taken to the Publish Document screen. Click on Publish to blog. Fill out the settings as appropriate. Then Click Ok and you're done! Go visit your blog and see how the post looks. You can make your adjustments there til you're happy.
I used Google Docs for this post. I'm pretty happy with the results. Not bad for a first try. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.