First Day of Classes Tuesday, Mar 31 2009 

Today marked the beginning of my spring quarter. I’m only teaching one class, a survey of British Literature to 1688. I have 50 students and a T.A. to do most of the grading, so I can’t complain too much.

I’ve only taught this class one before here at OU. That was the first time the course was offered here, so it was a much smaller class of only about 30 students. Because of the size, that time I was able to spend most of class time discussing the reading material rather than lecturing. It went well enough, but it wasn’t a class that I immediately wanted to teach again.

This time, I’m pretty much going to have to lecture during the two lecture days and then let the T.A. meet with the two discussion sections on Fridays. This means the bulk of my work this time will be in preparing the lectures, something I don’t regularly do in my other classes. It will be interesting to see how this goes. One motivating factor will be that I’m teaching the class again next winter, but that time it will be one of two classes I’m teaching. If I work hard this time (i.e., if I write great lectures now), it will mean less work in the winter.

So, I started class today with a lecture that surveyed some key issues from the three literary periods we will cover this quarter: the Medieval period, the Renaissance, and the Restoration. I decided to organize the presentation around three images. The first was an illustration from the Aberdeen Bestiary (which has a great website, by the way):

This image depicts Adam naming the animals. We talked a little about the way in which Adam is portrayed in this image — the fact that he’s clothed, that he resembles more familiar images of Christ, and the kinds of animals included in the naming. The point of our discussion of the image (and ultimately of Medieval literature) is the Christianization of pre-existing, non-Christian texts.

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Visiting the Black History Museum in Richmond Monday, Mar 30 2009 

While I was at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference in Richmond this past weekend, my friend James and I visited the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, which is a great little museum that focuses primarily on the historic Jackson Ward district of Richmond. Here’s what the museum looks like from the outside:

The museum has three floors of exhibits. The first floor comprises the museum’s primary collection, which in part tells the story of the Jackson Ward district. This was my favorite part of the museum. You start by watching a brief, 10-minute video about the Jackson ward. While the collection is relatively small, I like that the museum uses it to tell a specific story, the rise of the Jackson Ward as an important cultural center for African Americans and their businesses during the early twentieth century. Interestingly, these businesses were actually hurt by desegregation, since the community dispersed and the businesses has to complete with a wider range of competitors.

The basement houses an exhibit of designs from J. W. Robinson Horne fashion collections. It’s an interesting story, which you can read on the museum’s website; so interesting that I would have enjoyed more information about Horne and what became of him later.

The second floor contained a number of exhibits. My favorite was one on the African American Migration Experience. One thing that fascinated me about this exhibit was its exclusion of Ohio in all of its statistics and images. It made me wonder if Ohio just kept really bad records or the state just didn’t serve as a destination for as many African Americans as we sometimes like to think.

Overall, I thought that this small museum was really interesting and well worth a visit. It was walking distance from our hotel downtown. I’m glad we saw it.

SotW: The Man Who Can’t Be Moved by The Script Wednesday, Mar 25 2009 

I heard this song on Logo the other day and immediately fell in love with it. The Script‘s “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” is therefore my song of the week. Plus, the lead singer is cute! (Embedding has been disabled on YouTube for this video, but if you click on it twice the YouTube page should pop up.)

If there’s any justice in the world, this song will be at least as big as James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful.” It’s got a great lyric and the story it tells is sweet.

The Script is an Irish band. I downloaded their album from iTunes and have been listening to it ever since. If I had run across it when it first came out it might have been on my list of favorites from 2008. It’s definitely worth a listen.

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Rachel Getting Married: A Review Sunday, Mar 22 2009 

On Friday, PJ and I finally got to see Rachel Getting Married, which stars Anne Hathaway as Kym, a young woman just leaving rehab at the same time that her sister, Rachel, is getting married. Here’s the trailer:

Hathaway is such an endearing actress that her role as Kym is quite a departure for her — Kym is fairly unlikeable for much of the movie. Selfish, immature, and without appropriate boundaries, Kym is a total mess as she deals with her family during her sister’s wedding. We learn early on in the film that Kym has been a drug addict for most of her life and that her addiction had led to tragedy: she’s responsible for killing someone in an automobile accident while high. This tragedy — as well as Kym’s addiction — is something that her family doesn’t know how to deal with, making it all the more difficult for her to deal with it.

This lack of communication intermixed with recriminations, fighting, and emotional trauma makes Rachel Getting Married a relatively difficult film to watch. Some of the scenes go on forever, but very little happens in the way of plot: Kym comes home from rehab, gets into fights with all of her immediate family members, the rehearsal dinner takes place, and the next day Rachel gets married to Sidney, an African American musician. There’s also a car wreck and a woman-on-woman slapfest, but that’s about it.

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SotW: Dimmer by Bishop Allen Thursday, Mar 19 2009 

Bishop Allen’s new, Grrr, came out last week. I haven’t had much time to listen to it yet, but I do like the first single/video off the album, “Dimmer”:

Critics are faulting the album for being too “cutesy” and for its “peppy preciousness.” I haven’t listened attentively to the album yet, but I can see that some of it might be “cloying” on a first hearing. Once I’ve had more time with it, I’ll get a better sense of whether I agree.

What I like about “Dimmer” is its combination of juvenilia and the existential dilemma of maturity, the recognition that everyone doesn’t automatically see us, something we just assumed when we were younger.The song seems to be about growing up but wanting to hold on to the illusions of childhood.

At least that’s what I get out of it. I’ll post the lyrics after the break.

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Watchmen: A Review Tuesday, Mar 17 2009 

On Saturday, PJ and I went to see Watchmen with a couple of our friends. We’d been looking forward to seeing this movie since it was first announced. The graphic novel would seem almost unfilmable, so I was eager to see what Zack Snyder would do with it. Here’s the trailer:

Watchmen is based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It is set in an alternate universe in the 1980s, one in which Richard Nixon has used the Cold War to achieve reelection to the presidency several times. A group of citizens had donned costumes and begun to fight crime on their own, but eventually a law was passed to outlaw such vigilante activity, leaving these Watchmen little to do.

The movie starts with the assassination of The Comedian, one of the most controversial members of the Watchmen. Another member of the group, Rorschach, is convinced that someone is killing “masks” and tries to convince other members of the group to be on guard. All of their lives become increasingly complicated just as the world inches toward nuclear war. Only one member of the group, Dr. Manhattan, a scientist who’s molecular makeup had been transformed during an experiment, giving him god-like powers to manipulate time and space. The fate of the Watchmen and of the world seems to lie in his hands, but he is becoming increasingly detached from humanity.

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SotW: Wet Like Sweat Wednesday, Mar 11 2009 

I first heard this song, Naked Highway‘s “Wet Like Sweat,” on Muzophile, a queer music blog that I love. It’s a great source for music and entertainment news.

I don’t know much about Naked Highway, but I hope to learn more soon. “Wet Like Sweat” seems a good companion piece to last week’s song, Ida Maria’s “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked.”

I love the video for “Wet Like Sweat” — and it has a cameo by the lead singer of Telling on Trixie. I love one of their songs/videos too, “Halfway Back to Sane”:

The single of “Wet Like Sweat” has four different mixes. I love that two of them are “straight” and include the lines, “Gonna work that pussy, Gonna work that pussy, gonna work that pussy tonight,” while one of them seems designed a little more for the gay crowd. The latter one changes “pussy” to “booty”: “Gonna work that booty, gonna work that booty, gonna work that booty tonight.”

Needless to say, I like the “gay” versionĀ  best!

Update: Muzophile has added an interview with Sy Boccari, the vocalist for Naked Highway to his blog. Click on the image to read it.

Click here for the NAKED HIGHWAY Interview in the MUZOPHILE BLOG
Say hey to Naked Highway on MySpace
Visit MUZOPHILE on MySpace
Get this ad at the MUZOPHILE BLOG

HotM: Robert Walpole Tuesday, Mar 10 2009 

Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole, studio of Jean-Baptiste van Loo, 1740

Portrait of Sir Robert Walpole, studio of Jean-Baptiste van Loo, 1740

This month’s eighteenth-century hottie is Robert Walpole, England’s first prime minister. I taught John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera last month in my eighteenth-century literature class. Of course, you can’t teach that play without talking about Walpole.

Walpole was born in 1676, the same year that my favorite Restoration comedy, Sir George Etherege’s The Man of Mode premiered. In 1701, he was elected to Parliament as a member of the Whig party. In 1721 be became Lord of the Treasury. By 1730, he was the undisputed leader of the Whig party and, more importantly, the Prime Minister of the country. (He was also the first minister to reside at 10 Downing Street.)

Writers like Gay despised Walpole because he used a patronage system, giving MPs honors and positions based on their support for his policies. Today, this system doesn’t seem all that foreign or controversial, but in the 1730s it vehemently debated and criticized by writers like Gay, Alexander Pope, and Jonathan Swift.

These and other writers argued that this system was inherently corrupt, based on interest and greed rather than the good of the country. Criticism of Walpole’s administration was also publicized in what we now know as political cartoons, satiric prints that mocked Walpole, the patronage system, and his policies.

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SotW: I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked Thursday, Mar 5 2009 

This week’s song of the week is Ida Maria’s “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked:”

PJ was driving home from Columbus today when he heard this song on the radio. He gave me a quick call, since he knew that I would love it. And I did. It’s time for a fun song of the week! I’ll include the lyrics after the break.

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Cat Tuesday: Paisley’s Tree Tuesday, Mar 3 2009 

When she’s not killing things or laying on someone’s lap, Paisley’s favorite things to “do” is stare at her favorite tree, which stands in the backyard just outside our bedroom window. Here she is next to it:

Paisley can spend hours staring at her tree. This afternoon, despite the cold weather, she apparently needed some tree time, so she spent about an hour outside watching it, so I snapped these photos from inside our kitchen window. This is her usual staring pose:

I find this “activity” as fascinating as Paisley finds her tree. I think the tree staring started when our tree was infested with cocoons. Paisley loved watching the larvae wiggling around inside them. That was a couple years ago, so I’ve wondered for some time now why she still stares at it.

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