freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Class of 16 third-year students, and only two have seen the new Star Wars. The fuck? what's with the youth of today? the movie was huge and mainstream and seen by bazillions of people, but apparently senior Humanities students are not among them. I despair. Genre-shamed by my own students. Particularly because I'm trying to teach fanfic, and it transpires that I no longer have mainstream popular texts in common with my class. They grudgingly admit enough of a passing familiarity with Avengers or Sherlock that my burbling wasn't entirely opaque. I suppose it's not technically genre-shaming because they all watch Game of Thrones, but I refuse, basically on aesthetic grounds. I am unable to admire nasty people.

I am Disgruntled. Fortunately this amazing Tumblr conversation has just made me giggle outrageously for ten minutes, because Science! in the service of Dodginess is a lovesome thing, god wot. "I have no deeper explanation for why human females can dissolve rocks with our genitals. It simply is."

I am also in a horrible fatigue slump, and am perpetually exhausted, which is achieving new heights of horrible because I'm also insomniac like whoa and dammit, which means I stagger into bed, largely incapacitated with tired, at about 9pm and then stare at the ceiling for two hours. And when I sleep, apparently I hallucinate very small stained-glass knights with lances coming through the walls. Vividly. Contemplating firing my subconscious. Apart from anything else, it's giving rise, at extremely infrequent intervals, to particularly disjointed flow-of-consciousness blog posts.

(My subject line is Bowie's "Blackstar", from his last album, which is amazing and rapidly becoming one of my favourites. It is relevant only in the most lateral and tenuous of sleep-deprived fashions).
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's Spring! While this does tend to invoke my winter-fondling, Scroogelike, homicidal misanthropy, now with added sneezing, I still can't help rejoicing in the mad sprouting of my container garden (freesias!) and the way that the plane trees down the avenue are all leaping into that pale, misty, hopeful green. It's the first warm day in a while, and I've just walked down to the post office in front of the first spring outbreak of Jammie 101, i.e. scads of students whiling away free periods (or bunking lectures) by sunning themselves on the Jameson Hall steps.

I have fond memories of those steps. They were the site, in my second year of undergrad, of large tracts of my new, shiny, springlike social life, which I found with the roleplaying crowd after a first year composed entirely of being a mouselike girly swot. The roleplaying crowd used to colonise the bottom right-hand pillar thingy at the side of the steps, and sit there in a little gaggle of Gothy black which on a good day was clearly visible if you looked up the hill from Main Road. Since we were all pale Gothy types I'm amazed we didn't catch more horrendous sunburn than we actually did. Possibly Goth complexions actually repel light-waves.

The combination of spring-new and nostalgic was weirdly replicated in my lecture this morning, the first of the semester. This entailed the dubious privilege of 45 minutes on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein without benefit of slides, as someone had left the computer set up to a dual-monitor setting which produced nothing but exciting wibbly waves on the data projector screen, and I could not for the life of me find out how to reset it. (Even subsequent Googling for tech support is coming up empty. Someone's done something very weird to the set-up). Since I was talking very much about Frankenstein as myth and visual icon, this made it somewhat challenging to rewrite the lectures on the fly to encompass the complete lack of visual aids, but on the upside I can babble enthusiastically and reasonably intelligently about Gothic lit on no provocation whatsoever so it wasn't too hard. I did lament the opportunity to show pictures of Julius Malema with suggestions that he's Zuma's Frankenstein-creature, though.

One of the slides was of Goth types in costume, as a way of linking Gothic literature to something more visual and contemporary, and like Jammie steps, it made me horribly nostalgic for the above-mentioned undergrad days. If anything at all were to tempt me back into make-up (which it isn't going to), it would be the chance to do the full-on heavy-mascara exotic-eye thing, with curly bits, à la Gaiman's Death. Because make-up isn't quite the same signifier of cowed patriarchal identity if it's performance art.

I used to be a Goth, but I got better, but sometimes I still miss it. Even if - or possibly because - it's fundamentally incongruous in the context of spring.

(My subject line, incidentally, is e e cummings, because Spring has had the damned goat-footed balloon-man on my brain all day, although this isn't "{In Just]-", it's from Spring is like a perhaps hand, which is also beautiful. I love e e cummings. I acquired him at approximately the same time that I acquired Goth and a social life. That shit is hard-wired.)

the game's afoot

Thursday, 7 May 2015 04:26 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
My ridiculous body is officially ridiculous. I mean, seriously. It's not normal for the human form to damage itself or randomly disintegrate quite as readily as mine appears to, or to make mountains out of arbitrary medical mole-hills quite so dramatically. My current context looks something like this:



i.e. this post brought to you courtesy of typing awkwardly around Hobbit on an Ipad from the sofa. I am under strict doctor's orders to remain at home for two days with my feet up, which is actually considerably more boring and annoying than it sounds. This is the result, ultimately, of PMT. PMT makes me even more klutzy than I am normally, which is considerably. On Saturday afternoon I got out of my car incautiously without checking, and narrowly missed bashing my door into the car pulling in to the parking space next to me. In dodging, I dug the corner of the car door viciously into the calf of my left leg, producing a three-cornered tear which bled like a bugger. Being used to this sort of minor injury as the result of having the approximate grace and co-ordination of a drunken pet rock, I cleaned it up, patched it with the plaster I carry in my handbag for precisely this sort of occasion, and toddled off to enjoy tea with various lady friends.

By Monday evening my left ankle was somewhat red and swollen, and I thought, huh, all that standing around when teaching. By Tuesday evening it was imitating the action of the angry puffer-fish and was incidentally excruciatingly agonising when I stood up. Last night ditto. When I limped off to see my nice doctor this morning after a more than usually bedevilled lecture, she rolled her eyes (which she does at me a lot, I've noticed) and diagnosed a bacterial infection and cellulitis. I am imbibing antibiotics and anti-inflammatories in measured doses in addition to the enforced foot-elevation, and am forced to admit that, systemic response to infection being what it is, I'm actually feeling rather crappy. This is not assisted by the fact that the Screaming Agony Death Type Three which occurs every time I clamber off the sofa and stand up, is identical to that which I experienced under the dread DVT experience, and is giving me unpleasant flashbacks.

I think the Cosmic Wossnames are out to get me, frankly. This morning's bedevilled teaching experience went as follows:
1. Plan elegant and arresting lesson around powerpoint slides.
2. Arrive just before lecture to collect data projector from department office, to discover that it's locked and the nice secretary lady with whom I booked it is off at a meeting for the next hour.
3. Arrive in class having spent three flights of stairs mentally rewriting lesson plan so it doesn't rely on the powerpoint.
4. Realise on entering lecture venue that 16 out of 20 class members have a laptop in front of them. Hah! I can put the slide show on the course website and they can download it and follow along. Technology!
5. Realise that I have the slideshow on my Ipad, and there's no way of uploading to the website from an Ipad.
6. After much technical confabulation with various students, arrange for slideshow on my Google Drive to be accessible to student with normal laptop; he downloads it and, after I've logged into the course website as me, we upload the file.
7. As the students are starting to access the file, the lights go out, because loadshedding, and all their internet connections collectively die.
8. Hysterical giggling, because what else can you do. I opened the lecture with a quick dissection of all of the above in terms of (a) the themes of these lectures, which are along the lines of the power, accessibility and all-round sexiness of Teh Internets, and (b) the technical definition of irony.

I don't think it was actually a bad lecture in the end, even if we were all peering through the gloom. But my leg hurts.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I think I'm getting better at this, possibly because therapy. The student can tell me about her depression and anxiety as a result of her mother committing suicide at the end of last year, and I can be sympathetic and practical and hold off dissolving into tears about it until the poor child has actually left my office. The other student earlier this morning was about her brain-damaged mother and death of two brothers, and I also managed to not actually cry even though she was. Empathy makes me, in general, pretty good at this job, but it's a bugger.

There was a Teaching & Learning conference on campus yesterday, around which I wandered for most of the day, attending sessions which looked randomly interesting. It was all a bit surreal as I had approximately 3 hours of sleep on Sunday night, owing to (a) the inexplicable and unprovoked insomnia which prevented me from actually being able to get to sleep until 2am, and (b) the cat incursions at 5am which woke me rudely up from an already slightly fitful slumber. (Wake up to characteristic "thump thump thump ... THUMP" which means the drug hedgehog is being tossed around and killed inventively, with acrobatics. Listen for several minutes, thinking, damn, Hobbit, must you truly discover your inner kitten in the middle of the bloody night? Gradually realise that, in fact, Hobbit is sprawled along my shin, and has been since I woke up, which means the bloody neighbourhood tom has broken into the house in order to play with Hobbit's toys, which is frankly just rude. Particularly since he clearly ran off with it when I erupted out of bed to chase him away, I found the wretched thing in the back courtyard this morning and was impressed, despite myself, by the fact that he somehow managed to elevate himself through the bathroom window with the toy in his mouth without dropping it. I shall have to lock up the toys as well as the food when I go to bed).

At any rate, being sozzled on sleep deprivation is not a bad way to enjoy a conference of this nature, the subject doesn't call for dense theory so I could follow the good presentations and it was pleasingly easy to switch off for the bad ones. (I took my Ipad along, and whiled away the bad presentations reading porn. Fanfic is dashed useful as it looks like bland text on the page if anyone sneaks up behind you and looks over your shoulder.) I think the lack of mental energy was also good for subduing the angst levels, which tend to elevate somewhat in the presence of all these amazing, engaged, reflective teachers who are paid to do it properly and have time to theorise it instead of having to tack small remnants onto the back end of the admin job. Sigh.

My car music system has finished up the Belle & Sebastian and is merrily engaged with Crowded House, who have the inevitable side effect of making me sing along to about two-thirds of the tracks. Also, to regress mentally to my Masters years, when I shared the digs with Michelle and Dylan and the former addicted me to Crowdies. Still a slut for catchy. Also, music is absolutely and inescapably about memory and association. As stv would say, context!

antici ..... pation

Friday, 18 April 2014 09:46 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
My fanfic habit is at the hyperaddicted stage where I'm subscribed to a whole bunch of uncompleted fics on AO3. This means, I discover, that I have evolved a particularly happy little "ooh!" of delighted discovery when another email notification pops up in my inbox to say another chapter has been uploaded. Almost a mini-yodel, really. Like a response to unsolicited chocolate, or kittens. With the particular flavour of unexpected joy which comes from the fact that, unlike most of our other common experiences of serial fiction (TV shows, mainly), fanfic comes with no guarantee of regular posting, so every new chapter is a slightly unexpected gift.

And I was thinking that my willingness to wait without guarantee of reward is about love, in the sense of how much I love these texts and am willing to commit to ongoing and erratically delayed gratification, but it's also about the love the writers have for their text, and their willingness to commit time to it on a strictly amateur basis. Unlike a TV series, they have no support structure or financial incentive which allows them to guarantee regularity. My "ooh!" of a fine morning's notification is gratitude for their time, as much as anything else.

I face with a tolerable equanimity the prospect of a four-day Easter weekend, even though within its generous grasp I absolutely have to do some serious work on this damned African fairy tale paper. I'm going to have to man up and confront postcolonialism, and postcolonialism gives me hives. On the other hand, I am deriving some slightly perverse satisfaction from the awareness that the meat and tenor of the paper are in no way going to be a dutiful survey of African fairy tale film, because (a) there ain't much, (b) I lack the time, resources or desire to dig through the arcane minutae of the home film production of a dozen countries which would be required to offer any genuine sort of survey of the not much there is, and (c) I think my approach is more interesting, anyway. Pertinent case studies, that's the ticket.

I am also deriving some small comfort from my Tumblr feed's latest offering of random surreality. I have no idea why this tickles me as much as it does, but it really does.

yo yo ma

The source is a delirious little Tumblog calling itself TL;DR Wikipedia, whose adjacent definition of the Sphinx I also recommend. In bizarrely related news, yesterday's internet eroticism lecture featured a spirited discussion of the concept of tl;dr and its relationship to internet eroticism. Of such things is my life made.

Happy Easter, y'all. In the secular sense of "long weekend". This week's outbreak of unctuous His People billboards featuring "MAN GIVES LIFE FOR OTHERS" as a news headline is making me grind my teeth.

Subject Line Gloss: I am quoting, of course, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, because I can.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Hobbit has some dashed odd tastes, really. I mean, apart from his low predilection for plotting my death by occupying precisely the spot near my feet where I am least likely to see him and most likely to fall over him, he has recently evinced a tendency to consume, with every evidence of enthusiasm, (1) toothpaste (via drinking water out of my basin when I've just finished cleaning my teeth), and (b) lemongrass. There's a perfectly good catgrass bush planted in the herb garden, sporting that kind of spiky Einstein hairstyle which says the cats frequently graze it down, but Hobbit spurns it in favour of the lemongrass next door. I do not think he has Thai ancestry, and am concerned that the lemongrass leaves may slice his tongue, they're sharp.

I am, thank FSM, in the happy position of having just finished my marking obligations for the year, which means I face the prospect of a weekend absolutely uncolonised by other obligations except the usual research ones, which I have really rather a lot of experience in completely ignoring, but may toy with in a desultory fashion just because. It has also been something of a revelation to have a modicum of teaching and research attached to my actual job, which means I can sit in my office of an afternoon and merrily plot encyclopedia entries on Snow White films as an absolutely legit and integral part of my day. (This entry is only two months overdue, it's making me bizarrely reluctant, for some reason. I blame Kristen Stewart).

Hmmm, I should probably do my taxes. Is it odd that I really enjoy doing my taxes? Apart from the rather nicely designed and intuitive SA system, it tickles my Lawful Good.

Subject line, for no other reason than my MP3 player shuffled to it this morning in the car and made me happy, from "My Big Nurse" on the Brian Eno/David Byrne collaboration album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, which is a marvellous thing and you should have a listen. Also, apologies for the essentially random and inconsequential nature of this post. The moons of Saturn got in my eyes.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Several Things!

  1. I spent the weekend holed up in my study marking Honours and second-year essays, with the net result that when the EL bounded into the kitchen on Sunday morning with a cheery greeting he was the first person I'd actually spoken to since 9pm on Friday night. 36 hours in my own head, particularly my own head colonised by student effusions, is really rather a lot. You end up forgetting how to actually form sentences. Or was that the effect of all the student writing? Discuss.
  2. On Friday the sound system in my car had a psychotic episode and for some reason started playing through the albums on the MP3 player in reverse alphabetical order by artist, which means I unaccountably jumped from Arcade Fire to Velvet Underground. (Have become very addicted to The Suburbs, possibly in preparation for Reflektor, which is released today. New Arcade Fire! Score!). I haven't aired my Velvet Underground collection for a couple of years, so it was quite fun to play through Loaded and the one with Nico, which is my favourite. Then my Twitter feed exploded last night with the news of Lou Reed's death. It seems like an appropriate fortuity to an extent which is potentially slightly sinister. I am unable to escape the faint suspicion that in fact I was afflicted with a sort of anticipatory musical ghost. It seems like Lou Reed's style. Of which he had rather a lot. RIP on one hell of a life. (Lovely Neil Gaiman interview here, if you're into that sort of thing).
  3. On the subject of the Circle of Life and what have you, congrats to [livejournal.com profile] dicedcaret and his nice lady wife on their acquisition of sudden offspring of the female persuasion. Her name is Eva, she arrived safely on Friday via caesarian, all apparently well.
  4. A random text message arrived this morning purporting to be from the City of Cape Town's weather advisory service, and warning of "Severe storms with large hail" today. Insofar as (a) today is cloudless and hot and has quickly burned off the morning fog, and (b) I'm not actually subscribed to any weather advisory service, this also seems a bit sinister. I am inclining to the notion that I've somehow received a text from an alternate universe in another leg of the Trousers of Time. Or exceptionally lateral phishing spam.
  5. I could have lived very happily for the rest of my life without having encountered, in a student essay, the term "phallic fluids". She was writing about Dracula, but still. Not even the worst of fanfic does that sort of thing.

Subject line from Velvet Underground, natch. "Pale Blue Eyes". His lyrics tend to the oddly complex and evocative.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Oh, dear. I have just had to immediately apologise for telling the nice third-year student that her request for a waiver of the rule preventing a course load overload so she can graduate this year was a fucking stupid idea. It is a fucking stupid idea, but normally, when not stressed by ridiculous traffic on the way to work, an unexpected Presidential cavalcade in the middle of rush hour (causing Zimbabwe flashbacks, so not fun), a wrestle with audio-visual equipment in my lecture (although, bonus Mass Effect burbling!) and a continuous string of plaintive students for an hour and a half without surcease, I'm usually able to phrase it more tactfully. Fortunately, my Zooborns twitter feed (and [livejournal.com profile] first_fallen's gratifying tendency to remind me of posts relevant to my interests if I miss them) neatly fills the "break glass for emergency wol" function. Wol babies are quite ridiculously cute. They have tree-trunk legs, and in this case an expression of "You said that. Of course you said that. Honestly." which is either deeply appropriate, or which I'm reading into it on account of expletive guilt.



In other, non-wol-related news, I have started burbling about the more randomly academic side of my life across on my own site, which is its own domain under my Real Life name. (First hit if you google my name). The posts are aimed at my students, but that's where I'll be doing any extended wittering about (currently) fan fiction, computer games and internet culture in general, and probably genre and Gothic in the second half of the year. There may be less elevated levels of blatant fangirling because professionalism, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I have been marking second-year English essays this weekend, and am pretty much at the stage of ritual suicide. I don't know if it's a particularly bad batch, or if the impending sinus infection is making me unduly pessimistic, or if I've been infected by the Gothic gloom of the topic, but I am genuinely beginning to despair. These are second-year English students. They should, surely, be capable of stringing together a coherent paragraph which presents something vaguely resembling an argument? If I have to deal with another instance of [vague, unsubstantiated and categorical statement] + [unrelated and unexplained quote from the story] presented with a triumphant flourish as though it actually proves something, there is going to be a small, localised space-time explosion and my brain will end up fetchingly festooned around my ears in a manoeuvre not unrelated to Grunthos the Flatulent's lower intestine strangling him in the interests of sanity. Also, these dear children are clearly infecting my sentences. Aargh.

I console myself with Joseph Gordon-Levitt dancing. Adorably. It's very consoling. Right up there with manatees.

intellectual hock

Monday, 1 October 2012 06:25 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
'Tis the first of the month. The regularity with which that happens, month after month, is simply distressing. Or reassuring. One or the other. Possibly both. I've been teaching seminars on vampires and gothic and marginal indeterminacy all afternoon (it's alive! it's dead! it's attractive! it's repulsive! it's real! it's not!), and may consequently be a little more vague than usual. While conversely being thoroughly buzzed from teaching, of course. (To a rather reduced class: warning, there seems to be a nasty gastric bug doing the rounds, at least four of my students were missing, following plaintive emails on the how Laid Low they were. Concerned citizens may wish to refrain from breathing for a bit.)

October is possibly allowed because it's the month in which Catherynne Valente's second Fairyland novel is released (hooray)! (You can catch the first five chapters on Tor.com, and I suggest you do). Be that as it may, the month is definitely here and I should pay my intellectual debts. In the merry month of September I have unceremoniously nicked quotes for subject lines as follows:

  • 3rd September: bittersweet leaving gestures from the Magnetic Fields, from "Sunset City", off The Charm of the Highway Strip, which I always think is my least favourite album of theirs until I actually listen to it again. I should also add for posterity that the song's wherever-I-lay-my-hat creed is absolutely antithetical to my personal philosophy, lifestyle choices and the depth of my Cape Town rootedness, and any coincidence was purely temporary and the result of maddened academic globe-trotting.
  • 5th September: as any fule kno, I am quoting T.S. Eliot, specifically The Waste Land, in a rare and futile gesture towards academic street cred. (I'm actually extremely enamoured of the poem, which is weird and elliptical and full to the brim with dodgy Grail imagery and also imprinted me extremely firmly in first-year English classes).
  • 8th September: this has passed into the proverbial, in a slightly cynical and world-weary usage I associate, for some reason, with the 1940s. Google has no idea. Sigh.
  • 11th September: Vogon poetry. The title of the multiple-book epic by Grunthos the Flatulent, who was, IIRC, the one whose own lower intestine strangled him rather than hear him recite.
  • 19th September: Tennyson, "Mariana", the lady who sits in her rotting moated grange with bats and tears and what have you, and bewails the non-arrival of someone or other, and which is quite one of the most self-consciously Goth effusions of all time. It's incidentally also probably an extremely valid and literal depiction of depression. Also, I seem to be having a very poetic quote month.
  • 25th September: a lame pun for which I decline to apologise.
  • 26th September: the Bee Gees. Again, without shame.
  • 28th September: a lame pun on the title of the Everly Brothers song. If it's any consolation, I thereby thoroughly earwormed myself with the damned thing, which is still circling aimlessly through my cerebellum in an incomplete and fragmented state.
So now you know.

Hulk? smash!

Monday, 30 April 2012 11:51 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Ways in which The Avengers, seen yesterday at Cavendish, was precisely calculated to elicit outbreaks of geeky and fangirly glee:

  1. Trailer for The Hobbit. Squeee! (The dwarves singing still makes me cry.)
  2. Trailer for Prometheus. It looks both gritty and beautiful, and I will overcome my dislike of being scared in movies to actually see it.
  3. Trailer for Spiderman. I like Spidey, and anything has to be better than Tobey McGuire.
  4. Trailer for Men in Black III. Even if it's terrible, the essential good nature both of the movie and of its stars is likely to make it watchable. Also, aliens ftw. And, could the summer releases be any more geek-friendly? We've mainstreamed. Oo, er.
  5. The movie. Joss Whedon is my master now. That was a perfect balance of character development, humour, pathos and severely kick-butt action. Wheee. I shall probably dissect it at length anon, but I'm still cogitating.
Ways in which watching The Avengers in Cavendish was precisely calculated to eject me from the cinema growling and swearing and gnashing my teeth at passing kiddies:

  1. The 3-D. While this was nicely handled in the movie, I deeply and fundamentally object to the darkness of picture which inevitably results. Cavendish's light levels are always too low anyway, and there were tracts of this which were murky beyond belief. I will be delaying my re-watch until someone puts it on in 2-D.
  2. The ham-fisted and oblivious incompetence of the Cavendish projector team, who turned the lights on full halfway through the mid-credit scene, rendering it both illegible and inaudible as two-thirds of the audience immediately started talking and leaving. I also have no idea if there was the usual post-credits easter egg, as there was no point in waiting for a tantalising washed-out glimpse. The level of fury this has engendered in me is slightly worrying. They may as well have replaced the entire credits with a large sign reading "YOUR EXPERIENCE FAR LESS IMPORTANT THAN YOUR SPEEDY EJECTION IN FAVOUR OF THE NEXT LOT OF BUTTS ON SEATS".
  3. The inutterable twit who insisted on waiting for my parking place as I was leaving, blocking the road and forcing me to approach the ticket machine at right angles and necessitating a lot of backing and filling in the middle of a stream of cars. I'm afraid I shouted rude words at him.
It's actually bizarre how badly the lights-on thing wrecked my experience of the movie. The easter eggs are a sort of geeky in-joke, and staying for them is an expression both of insider knowledge and of investment in the text, both of which the unspeakably malignant cinema is obliviously slapping in the face. I swear, most of my future watching is going to be on the DVD version, and I hope Ster-Kinekor, its empty cinemas and all its bloody incompetent ilk sink gently into the sea.

On the other hand, mad props to the actual 6 students in my class this morning. There should be about 40, but on a Monday between public holidays I was expecting about 3, and I'll cheerfully settle for twice that.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Two random inscriptions made me happy on the way home from campus today. One was a Daily Voice billboard which simply read "MUGABE IS A LOSER". Why, yes. Yes, he is. One has to wonder why it's taken so long for the media to notice. The other was on the back of the car in front of me. Apparently it was a deliriously absurd model called an "telstargle". Mature reflection suggests that there's a missing space in there at a critical juncture, but the momentary amusement was worth it. More serious things should have "argle" in their names.

In other news, I badly need distraction on account of how I'm supervising a Masters student's dissertation on vampires in literature, including Twilight. I am thus halfway through a re-read of the series, which would be driving me to drink if my Warfarin levels allowed it. Gods, they're badly written. I'd forgotten how badly written, and how horribly immature their characters. It's not insignificant that the major literary intertexts are Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet. The former is about unbridled adolescent obsession with an undertone of violence, the latter about really bad and obsessive romantic decisions made under the influence of adolescent lust and persecution complex. Sounds about right. However, aargh. The things I do for teaching.

you go, girl

Monday, 15 August 2011 10:18 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
There is no moment when I'm happier or more myself than when I'm prowling around a classroom, such as today, refereeing a spirited discussion of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" for 20 voluble and intelligent second-years. Lovely tut: I'm still buzzing. So we were dealing in some detail with the Victorian context, and the use of supernatural symbol to explore the desires and anxieties of the age, and in particular Stevenson's presentation of the classically Victorian dichotomies of "good" and "evil" through the figure of Hyde and Jekyll's complicity with him. At which point the discussion takes this sharp right turn:

CHATTY STUDENT (musingly): It's like when you're playing Mass Effect, and you score points for good or evil choices which affect the way your character is viewed, and the direction of events.

ME (surprised and pleased, but attempting to remain suave and professional): Why, yes. *inserts well-directed contextualisation contrasting Victorian views of morality with those of our contemporary age as reflected in computer games, avoiding, with consummate self-control, the word "postmodern"*

ANOTHER, EQUALLY CHATTY STUDENT: Actually, I think the Victorian view is more like Fable. Mass Effect has a lot of grey areas and points where the moral choice is not clear-cut.

ME (trying to repress flashbacks to the last few months of Dragon Age and related rants): Valid point, that's Bioware for you. Although I think that Stevenson is actually problematising the clear-cut dichotomies of Victorian morality... *reigns in and directs resulting melee of input without mentioning Dragon Age more than five times*

I should point out that my seminar, in a somewhat interesting intensification of the usual Humanities Demographic Effect, includes nineteen young ladies, one gentleman, and me. All gaming input up to this point has come from the young ladies.

SOLE GENT (raising hand hesitantly): Um, is this actually happening? I'm in a room full of women and they all game?

A quick poll suggests that they don't all game, but, in fact, seven of the nineteen do, indeed, game quite seriously. Eight if you count me. Subsequent discussions managed to remain bizarrely on the Jekyll and Hyde topic while simultaneously haring off in the direction of doubles, masks, the Hulk, superheroes generally, TwoFace, the doppelganger effect in The Vampire Diaries, and a brief and lateral attempt to get me to commit to whether playing computer games gives free reign to your Dark Side in the same way that taking a potion and releasing Hyde does. (For the record: no).

On the slightly disconcerting side, apparently Dragon Age is determined to colonise all areas of my life, however unlikely. On the upside, the gender balance of geekdom has changed radically in the last five or six years, is all I can say. And a good thing too.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Marking this latest batch of third-year essays on vampires and eroticism has vouchsafed me something of a revelation. Well, several revelations. Not that most of them are revelations, as two decades of university teaching without realising certain eternal verities would constitute a particularly slow-on-the-uptake response even for me. But I was struck anew by two things:

  • The fact that students don't read. Primarily they don't read the bloody question, which is a recurring whinge of mine, and which means that a lot of their otherwise interesting analyses and insights are simply irrelevant to the task at hand. This batch was particularly bad: I marked the first four, and then went back to check the class handouts and online stuff in the sudden sinking fear that the question I'd set them wasn't actually the question I thought it was. But it was. They just didn't read it. They have no excuse at all, I spent ten minutes in two different lectures patiently explaining how important topic-focus is in my personal marking scheme. I don't know if they don't care, or simply don't have the tools, but either is terrifying in a third-year student.

  • A new, striking revelation: what most of them actually lack is passion. The best essay in this batch was from a lovely child who is a fervent and dedicated fan of manga. She found an excellent set of selections from her favourite manga, and proceed to dissect them ruthlessly, in strict keeping with the demands of the topic, and with a highly sensitive and insightful awareness of genre and cultural contexts and their expressions in the text's rather complicated layering. It was a delight to read. What she has is identical to the fascinated passion I have for fairy tale, or science fiction, or pervy genre-fondling in general. It's the basis for all really good academic insight. I wish the rest of the class could summon a fraction of it. I also wish I knew what their actual passions are for, they're bright kids and I'd love to read what they're capable of when actually engaged.

I don't get to teach the vampire stuff next year, it'll be all internet sexuality, as really we don't have space to do justice to both halves. I'm going to miss it. Although I'm not going to miss having to mark mangled effusions about Twilight.
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Today I have:

  1. Interviewed 22 potential orientation leaders, most of whom were lovely and restore my faith in human nature at least partially;

  2. Given two lectures, comprising (a) a brisk discussion of the iniquities of Facebook, (b) a quick jaunt around the highly gendered socio-cultural resonances to the terms "slut" and "man-whore" and (c) a dissection, in fascinated detail, of the nasty chat-room-sex scene from Closer;

  3. Made four separate cups of tea, none of which I had time to finish before they went cold;

  4. Realised, midway through all of the above, that I completely omitted to post a Micfic last night, and didn't bring the damned thing up to campus so I can post it now;

  5. Done all of the above on slightly over four hours of sleep, as a result of a hideously insomniac night characterised by (a) a really odd dream waking me up at 1am so that I only got back to sleep around 2, (b) a persistent mosquito waking me up at 3am so that I only got back to sleep at around 5, and (c) the alarm waking me up at 7 with a distressing finality I can only feebly resent owing to concomitant lack of brain.

Tomorrow should be better; only 18 OLs to interview (unless more schedule before then, which they probably will), and one lecture. I shall face them on (a) more sleep, courtesy of those nice pills the nice doctor lady gave me, and (b) Red Bull, which I haven't had time to procure today.

Excelsior!
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Ooh, my Livjournal bar is all over a meteor shower. This makes me strangely happy. As, in fact, does the fact that yesterday we took Lucy out to Overture - or, rather, Lucy took us out to Overture, courtesy of British Air, who stuffed up her flights royally and gave her Monies in recompense. Overture was luvverly, although they've changed their pricing structures and are no longer quite as good value as they were. Gorgeous food and wine, however. Entrecot and mushrooms, and incredible trout terrine with magical pickled things done to cauliflowers. And deconstructed postmodern apple crumble, all exploded on the plate, with cardamom. Good food also makes me strangely happy.

This weekend I don't have a pile of marking to do. I feel about 30Kg lighter. Finishing the marking, it's an astral diet plan. The weekend is mine, mine, utterly mine, and I'm sleeping ten hours a night and bumming around doing not much with enormous enjoyment. My day job takes it out of me; I don't realise how much it takes it out of me until the pressure lets up a bit and it transpires I'm actually dead. Also, my eyelids are turning into a dragon's again, which is a sure sign of stress.

In fact, I lie: I have two essays to mark. They came in late, and are driving me bats because I can't work out if the writer is plagiarising or not. They're beautifully written, sophisticated, on topic, focused; mad googling doesn't turn up any of the phrases she's using. Either she's an undiscovered genius, or she's plagiarising with extreme cunning from very obscure sources. But it's horribly depressing, to actually start reading the one piece of excellent work in ten which I'm lucky to receive, and have my immediate response be not joy, but suspicion. It's a filthy time we live in, when basic honour is no longer an entrenched and accepted virtue. It makes one realise why the SCA exists.

Moral issues notwithstanding, I'm having a lovely weekend. I hope you are too.
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Oh, dear, it's a Red Bull day - or at least a V day, given that [livejournal.com profile] wolverine_nun introduced me to this rather more palatable equivalent, and there's still a can in my cupboard. I'm very stressed at the moment, and it's exacerbating my insomnia to new and baroque heights. Last night I became convinced that my bedroom smelled funny, with a sort of sharp, chemical pong, as though a local factory had suddenly ignored all pollution controls and was emitting something sulphuric and slightly charcoally. My throat closed, my eyes streamed, I coughed and sneezed, and sleep, laughing cruelly at the sleeping pills I fed it, eluded me quite. I wandered around the house for ten minutes trying to isolate the smell, and couldn't smell it anywhere else. When I went back into my bedroom, I couldn't smell it there, either. I think I may have dreamed it, in that half-asleep hypnagogic state which is all I achieve for about four hours at a time when insomniac, and my sinuses obligingly jumped on the bandwagon. I finally got to sleep around 3am. It was ugly. And I have to be enthusiastic and inspired about the Harry Potter movies for an hour and a half this afternoon. Aargh.

However, by way of consolation, Randall Munroe has updated the Map of Online Communities, which I would still give to my internet culture students if I thought they'd get a fraction of it. Sigh.

The V is making me feel rather more awake, but now my teeth are furry. Phooey.

smeared black ink

Saturday, 18 September 2010 03:08 pm
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Still wading through Frankenstein essays. Some of them aren't half bad. Others, however, are. Also, some are almost completely indecipherable.



Of such things are the nightmares of English lecturers made. The simple act of reading has left me cross-eyed, headachy and with a crick in my neck. Also, I cannot believe that that degree of lengthy flourish on the upstrokes is anything other than perfectly deliberate, which seems unnecessarily cruel.

By way of waywardly random linkery, I recommend to your attention the latest despairing political commentary from Fafblog. I can't work out if it's talking about the economy, the ecology or the current state of self-serving political doublethink - I suspect the answer may be "yes" - but regardless, despairing satirical awareness about cultural freefall has never been so enjoyably surreal.

Back to the Doom of Handwriting. Will slay these scripts this weekend, or perish in the attempt.

*perishes*
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My browser currently has an open tab entitled "When Hollywood Sucks, or, Hungry Girls, Lost Boys, and Vampirism in the Age of Reagan." Occasionally my life ain't 'alf bad. (Although that last student essay absolutely was. Apparently it's not enough to wantonly plagiarise most of your essay, in bizarrely fragmented bits, from a critical piece only vaguely related to the topic, you also have to randomly scatter it with entirely erroneous page references for a completely different article you don't seem to have read. Honestly).

Apparently all you lot don't also read my Twitter feed, which means the happy occasional link I fling out there for general delectation passes you sadly by. (By "all you lot" I possibly mean Jo, actually). I am absolutely going to sign up for Delicious one of these days, honest I am, but in the meantime, just for you, the latest random happenstance which has brought me linkery joy. (Ecited to add: "one of these days" apparently means right now. Who knew. Go me. Delicious link in left-hand sidebar, under "Extemporanea Elsewhere").

  • This is a rather seriously good discussion of relationships in Buffy, although by "seriously good" I may actually mean "Jennifer Crusie gets the Spike chivalric lover bit in the same terms I do." Whatever. Worth a read.

  • Space Nazis! No, seriously, Space Nazis. I really want this film to be made.

  • James Blue Cat has posted the first quarter of his kids' fantasy The Cabinet of Curiosities on his blog, further chapters to follow. It's a very happy-making piece of writing that pushes a lot of kids' fantasy geek buttons with wanton deliberation. [livejournal.com profile] pumeza, you may enjoy playing spot-the-reference. It's also very nicely written - tight, focused, pacey, quirky, should make kids as happy as geeks. By a bizarre freak of happenstance I'm currently reading Robin Jarvis's The Woven Path, a kids' fantasy also featuring a strange magical museum full of references, and Cabinet is making me realise how badly written Jarvis's is. Honestly, I suspect I'm going to chuck The Woven Path before finishing it, it has a line in staggeringly awful sentences and clumsily unnatural action which is reminding me forcibly of some of my students. (Which is sad, because I adored Deathscent). I shake my tiny fists impotently at the Cosmic Wossnames for the fact that some twit published Jarvis and no-one wants to publish James. Sigh.
I suddenly recollect that there are at least two parcels waiting for me at the post office, and by some miracle there aren't actually students scratching feebly at my door. *flees while the getting's good*
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I thought it was just the Return of the Revenge of Sid the Sinus Headache which is making me feel a bit fragile right now, but in fact it's probably also the gazelles. The end of term is always characterised by angst levels through the roof, and this year the crises seem particularly nasty and creative. In the last week I've seen two complete nervous breakdowns, three family deaths, the victim of a mugging and a student whose recovering heroin-addict boyfriend just had a relapse. I'm sure the issues weren't as baroque in my day. Oh, and there's also the interesting lad who made the fatal error of publishing a rather pointed attack on a rival university's rugby team in the student newspaper, creating an online furore which has subsequently gone viral, to the level of Facebook hate-pages and death threats. He's in hiding in Mpumalanga. You couldn't make this stuff up. I just wish he'd done it earlier in the term so I could have used him as an example in lectures. (Hmmm. Does this make me a bad person?)

In counterbalance to all this angst, we have, finally, after more put-offs and setbacks than one would have believed to be possible, a re-cabled house. The nice Telkom technician came back on Sunday morning and finished the rewiring. He then departed, whistling his merry cabling song, only for me to discover that he'd somehow managed to kill the ADSL connection with his fiddling. It refused to connect all day, and I finally phoned the nice Imaginet geekline late in the afternoon. They tinkered a bit, confirmed that the line was deader than the dodo and promised to log a call with Telkom. When we reeled home at 10ish from potjie and excessive booze with The Usual Suspects, the ADSL had quietly reconnected itself, suggesting that either (a) it simply needed an eight-hour run-up at it, (b) the vague fiddling by the nice Imaginet geek had dislodged some sort of blockage, or (c) the Imaginet black rituals included sacrificing a goat to the Telkom gods in order to make them actually do something in real rather than geological time. Either way, I'm not arguing, and I still want to know if my sweet Imaginet geeks are married.

Oh, and, nope, didn't finish marking the vampire papers. My gumption levels are very low at the moment. Also, my head hurts.

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