Monday, 27 May 2013

Theme Songs

Below is "Don't Do Sadness" from the Spring Awakening musical -- my favourite.

I don't know if you are anything like me, in that you have "theme songs" that typify certain periods of your life, certain sections of a year, certain mental and / or emotional states. I do. Certain songs become stuck with me and I will listen to them over and over again as they somehow capture my emotional gestalt at a given moment.

At the moment, I feel that "Don't Do Sadness" (what an awesome song!) is lining itself up as my next theme song. My subconscious is predicting sadness (I might talk about it in a future post), and so it is gearing me up to get into the right frame of mind, one that do not do sadness.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Next Semester's Classes

This morning I received the list of classes that I will be teaching next semester. Some of the old, a little of the new:

  • Creative Writing [Senior students]
  • British & American Literary Criticism II (Contemporary Ideas) [Senior students]
  • English Presentation (Public Speaking) [Junior students]
  • Basic English Sentence Writing [Freshmen]
  • Basic Animation English [Freshmen]

The first three on this list I was also assigned last year, but the Literary Criticism class had few students so I gave it up and instead got assigned Advanced English Grammar, which I didn't care for much, especially because the textbook I was asked to use was terrible. Next semester we will try the Literary Criticism class again. The department chairperson is quite keen on this class, as am I, but students are less excited and since this is an elective class there really is no guarantee as to the number of students that will take it. If less than seven students enroll for it, it will be cancelled and I will teach only four modules. This may or may not be a good thing. It may be good in that it will free me up a bit, which is good as far as my personal studying goes--the PhD is taking quite a toll. But it is bad in that I won't be paid the overtime I am currently paid whenever I teach more than four modules. 

The two new classes which I will be teaching are both freshmen classes: Basic English Sentence Writing and Basic Animation English. As for the first, I chose the textbook for our department, so I guess it is only fair that I sample my own medicine, so to speak. It will be an easy class to teach (I know, because I chose a comprehensive textbook, which basically teaches itself). As for the other class, Basic Animation English, I really have no idea what the purpose of that class is. I'm assuming that it is some kind of language skills course--possibly, listening comprehension--using animated films. I haven't had the opportunity to look at last year's syllabus yet. Honestly, I think it is a peculiar class to have in an English department.

I won't be teaching 19th & 20th Century American Poetry next semester, something I am a little sad about. We have a new American faculty member who--being American--can possibly bring a more native perspective to the subject matter. While I am sad about not teaching it, it is a time consuming class to prepare for and grading essays also take a lot of time. The Literary Criticism class will take up enough of my time, so that I'm not overly sentimental about the poetry class. I also hope to refine my Creative Writing course and actually have in mind a textbook of sorts, focused on the creation and representation of characters. I can use this class as motivation to work on that.

This week is the 13th week of our 16-week semester. After the 16th week I just need to grade exam papers and then stick around for an extra week of admin, where after I'll have vacation. Looking forward to a well-deserved break!

Friday, 10 May 2013

"You only talk about the material"

"Professor," laments my student today, "you only talk about the material. Other professors sometimes talk about social events or personal things, but you only talk about our class work."

And here I was, thinking that I have been slacking off a little bit and should in fact refocus so that I can get my students their money's worth --- but it seems that is not what they want after all. What they want is a teacher that shares personal stories and make social musings about the latest Hollywood gossip or other unrelated topics.

It is untrue that I never share personal anecdotes as this student who is in two of my classes well know. I share much of myself with them, but only in so far as it is relevant to the subject material. But that is the point, isn't it. They don't want to be bothered with the subject material.

As the student continued: "I know it is good for us [that you always focus on the material], but sometimes we are tired and don't want to think too hard." Well, I feel tired too and would sometimes love to just sit back and talk about the weather or the latest movies in the cinemas. But that's not what I get paid to do. I'm curious how the contracts of other professors in my department read. Maybe they have a clause that says that we can sometimes talk about the weather and the latest movies in the cinemas.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Black Tulip

I live at a very nature-rich place, with flowers blooming wonderfully this time of year. Everywhere it is green again, with splashes of bright floral colours. There are many flowers that grow here; I particularly love the daffodils and tulips. Beside the path towards my apartment I saw this exquisite dark-maroon tulip, so dark it looks nearly black. I feel very blessed to experience such beauty.

A Dream about Misfits and Bullies

Image Source

I had a weird dream. Or should I just say that I dreamt, since all my dreams tend to be weird—I can't remember if I ever had a dream that was not somehow, somewhat abnormal.

In any case, with some fillers for it to make sense, here is what I dreamed:

I am somewhere in a public bathroom standing in front of a urinal and doing the things one do in front of urinals when about four or five boys, anything from twelve to sixteen years of age, enters and starts knocking on the door of one of the occupied toilet stalls. They obviously know who is in there—another boy—and calls him names, telling him to open the door and come out. Some of the boys even climb onto the partition and look over into the toilet stall, saying things like “the faggot is tossing” and the like.

I continue to the basin and start washing my hands, while looking at the action behind me in the reflection of the mirror. The kids seem not to be bothered by my presence. As I shake the water from my hands and start to dry them with some paper towels an adult steps in, at which one boy says excitedly, “Dad, the faggot is in here!” The man, with hair dishevelled and a beer belly, steps to the toilet door and calls to the kid inside, “Open up that door you little faggot!”

To my surprise the door actually clicks open and out steps a nerdy, somewhat goofy looking kid. Because he is a little plump and possibly big for his age it makes it a little difficult to guess his age, but I'd go with about eleven or twelve. “Now show this little faggot what we do to fucks like him,” says the adult, at which point I step forward and says, “So you're the adult coming to solve the kids' problem, are you?”

“Yes,” he answers. “Unless you are someone important who knows people in high places, you better stay out of it.”

“As a matter of fact,” replied I, “I am someone important and know many people in high places.” Even in the dream I had no idea why I considered myself important or who these people in high places are that I referred to, but nonetheless I said it without missing a beat. “Leave the kid alone.”

The guy clearly didn't like my attitude. “Fuck you,” he said, and swung at me, at which I guarded with one arm and stepped to his inside letting his fist pass me, and with my other arm I delivered two very quick elbow strikes to the side of the guys head. As his knees buckled I quickly stepped behind him, wrapped an arm around his neck into a choke-hold and pulled him backward so that he was off-balance.

“Get out,” I said sternly to the kids who started to scramble out off the room; and to the victimised boy I said, “Wait for me. I will walk with you.” I feared that the other kids might jump him outside once he is alone, so I wanted to make sure he got where he needed to get safely.

Then I turned my attention back to the guy I was holding. “Now you listen to me. If I ever hear you mistreat anybody that is somehow different from you, you better sleep very light, because I will find you and when I am finished with you, you will be the different one. Do you get me?” Nearly purple in the face, the guy nodded at which I let him go and he dropped to the floor gagging.

Touching the goofy kid on the shoulder, I led him outside.

That's the dream.

I guess my subconscious harbours some anger towards bullies.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

All things come to those who wait, or nag long enough

Since I started working at my current job I have been complaining about the slowness of my computer. Even though they gave me a new computer at the time (2008), it has been terribly slow. I've complained numerous times, only to hear that my computer is too new to be replaced. From the very started my solution had been to go work at home whenever I needed to really work on a functioning computer. While my home computer is not glitch-free, at least it is fast.

Last year I again complained to the IT-office about my slow computer and again they told me the same thing, the computer is not old enough to be replaced, but what they will do instead is install Windows 7. Imagine this, having an already slow computer and then adding a new operating system to it, designed for newer hardware. Since I thought that maybe the problem was with all the old network settings or whatever they customarily install and tweak for university computers I decided that maybe giving it a good format and re-installing everything afresh might just do the trick. But no, the problem is simply that the computer does not have enough RAM.

Finally this week I was so frustrated that I felt like punching something. I begged the the IT-office, telling them that I am willing to buy memory myself and install it, but I can't continue like this any longer. Surprise-surprise, this morning they came and replaced the 1GB RAM with a 2GB RAM.

Similarly my desk chair has been in a terrible state for months. I have complained about it in November last year already, sending them detailed photographs of the problem. Six months later, and after some more complaining, at last they replaced my chair a few days ago.

The boiler in my apartment has been giving me some problems too. I complained before and they sent out a technician but it didn't help much. Months later and after some more complaining another technician came today. At least this one seem to have found the cause of my boiler erratic behaviour which often causes my lovely, hot and relaxing shower to suddenly turn into a frightening encounter with the icy claws of death. The technician was supposed to return later today to replace some new parts, but he didn't show. So I guess I will have to resume my complaining tomorrow again.

There are more things in need of complaint, but I will do them one at a time. At least some of the things on my checklist are being addressed. Now, if I can only get my department to change those dreadful meetings at 8:30 on Wednesday morning life would indeed be taking a wonderful turn for the better.