Gone to Italy Sunday, Jun 21 2009 

PJ and I are celebrating his fortieth birthday by going to Italy for 10 days. We’ll be in Rome, Florence, and Venice. We get back on July 2nd. We plan to visit lots of museums, to eat incredibly well, and to soak in as much of Italy as we can.

My vision of Italy is largely (exclusively?) shaped by reading E.M. Forster’s novels and Shakespeare’s comedies (and watching film and t.v. adaptations of them). Forster’s heroines are always transformed by their visits to Italy. Maybe I will be too!

When we get back, I’ll be officially starting my job as dean, so this is also one last hurrah before I have to be at my desk full time (something faculty members don’t have to do). I look forward to starting a new chapter in my professional life. But first, Italy!

SotW: That’s Not My Name by the Ting Tings Thursday, Jun 18 2009 

My song of the week this week is the Ting Tings‘ “That’s Not My Name.” Here’s a live version I found on YouTube:

I first saw their video for this single on Vh1 last week. This British duo is another in the increasingly long list of British music acts that I love. The Ting Tings are from Manchester. Wikipedia has a nice little entry on them. I’ll include the lyrics after the break.


Visiting the Harvard Museum of Natural History Tuesday, Jun 16 2009 

While PJ and I were in Boston last month, I visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History. It’s attached to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, so I visited both museums while PJ was attending his conference, the American Literature Association.

Most of the museums I’ve visited in the past few years have been art or history museums. A few years ago I visited the Field Museum in Chicago, which was really impressive and interesting. I enjoyed that museum so much that I decided to check out these museums in Cambridge when I had a free morning to look around on my own.

The HMNH is similar to the Field Museum in that it has several rooms of taxidermied animals to look at. I generally feel a little weird about these displays. On the one hand, they offer a relatively up close look at animals we would otherwise never get to see. On the other hand, it feels like a lot of animals died for what amounts to little more than idle curiosity. Having two adorable cats has definitely changed my mind about the expendability of animal life.

The animals in this picture are hummingbirds. This case isn’t huge, but it’s the size of a large bookshelf. As you can see, there are rows and rows of hummingbirds of many different varieties. Being able to see these birds up close is really interesting. It’s hard to believe that there are this many species of hummingbirds in the world. One effect of a display like this is, ironically, to impress upon the viewer just how vast and diverse and full of life the world is. I left this museum feeling very small and insignificant in the vast scope of things.


SotW: Were the World Mine Friday, Jun 12 2009 

Last night, PJ and I watched the movie Were the World Mine, a queer take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Tom Gustafson and starring Tanner Cohen as Timothy, a gay high school student who uses the recipe in Shakespeare’s comedy to whip up a love potion to make the boy of his dreams fall in love with him. I’ll use this post to offer a brief review of the film, but first here’s the video of the title song from the movie, which is my song of the week:

I really like how the film makers use Shakespeare’s play to create what also stands as a great queer-affirming song. And Cohen does a great job singing the song. I’ll post the lyrics and more about the movie after the break.

The movie is a nice gay fantasy. Timothy is a student at a private school. He’s constantly abused by the school’s jocks, the members of the championship rugby team. When the school’s English teacher (luminously portrayed by Twin Peaks‘s Wendy Robie) stages Dream for the senior play, Timothy and the jocks have to work together on it. (Timothy is cast as Puck.)


A Career Change Is Gonna Come Monday, Jun 8 2009 

My university announced today that I have been appointed to serve as dean of our Honors College. It’s a huge step up and, needless to say, a great departure from what I’ve been doing as a faculty member for the past ten years. I’m deeply honored by this promotion and sobered by the responsibility with which I’ve been charged.

First, let me describe my new job, which starts next month. I will be moving from the Department of English to the Honors College, which resides in an old, converted house next to our president’s residence. This is a picture of my “new” building. My new office will be the one above the front porch. As a candidate for the position, I joked with the students during a forum to answer their questions that one of my goals to promote community within the college was to take up pipe smoking and sit out on the front porch and regale them with stories from great works of literature. In real life, I do fantasize about sitting on the front porch in the early morning with a cup of coffee and a newspaper. I hope I have time to do that from time to time!

The first announcement of my appointment was an informal introduction at the college’s potluck this past Friday, which is the day I formally accepted the job. I got the call from the provost on Thursday, which was about two weeks after I interviewed for the post. I had thought my interview went well. I think I made a few mistakes here and there, but nothing major. In fact, I really enjoyed the interview process. I had meetings with the college staff, the university president, the provost, and directors of some of the programs of study within the college. I also had dinner with some of the deans. I gave to short talks, one during an open forum for anyone who wanted to attend and one during a forum just for the college’s students. This is the first set of interviews I’ve had since getting my current job 10 years ago. I had forgotten how fun they are when everything seems to be going right.


SotW: Sick by Sam Sparro Wednesday, Jun 3 2009 

I’ve been listening to Sam Sparro‘s music off and on for a couple of weeks now. Earlier this week, I finally downloaded the new album, Sam Sparro, from iTunes. “Sam Sparro” is the stage name for Sam Falson, an Australian musician who also happens to be gay. Admittedly, it was knowing that he’s gay that first attracted me to his music — I’ve found that I’m more interested in finding good queer music (or good music by queers) lately. Sam Sparro definitely fits with my current mood.

There were actually a few songs that I considered as song of the week. At first, I really liked “Black & Gold,” which also has a fun video. Then I got into “21st Century Life,” which is also catchy. But my favorite song off the album is definitely “Sick:”

I like this song’s rhythm and sound. It reminds me of good, queer ’80s music. I browsed YouTube to see what videos there were for this track, since Sparro hasn’t made a real video for it yet. I found a couple that I like for one reason or another.


Visiting the Peabody Museum Monday, Jun 1 2009 

During our recent trip to Boston, I spent part of Saturday visiting the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography at Harvard University:

This museum was founded in 1866 and is one of the oldest anthropology museums in the world. I really enjoyed visiting it and thought that I would share some highlights here.

First let me say that I’m starting to really enjoy natural science and anthropology museums. I visited the Field Museum in Chicago a few years ago and really enjoyed it. The Peabody is attached to the Harvard Museum of Natural History, so I visited it too. I’ll try to blog about that soon too.