Friday, March 21, 2008

this is getting ridiculous

I just got rickrolled by Sports Illustrated. Twice.

I did NOT get rickrolled by In fact, Glen installed a firefox extension on my laptop so that no matter what youtube link I clicked on, it would always show me Rick Astley. He is in SO much trouble.

Obviously I meant that Glen is in trouble, not that Rick Astley is in trouble. While I feel that Astley must take some responsibility for perpetrating his particular flavor of 80s pop music on the world at large, I'd like to think that rickrolling was not his idea.

Commenter elricky was kind enough to post a link to some audio clips of an LAT interview with Astley himself, but the link is too long for the whole thing to appear in the comments. Here's the link. Yeah, I could have linked to this, but I thought it would be too obvious.

ain't no party like a geeky corporate party

We had free tickets to see Collective Soul last Wednesday at an arena about an hour from our house. I've been to rock concerts before, but this one was different. It was held as part of a tech conference, so I wasn't expecting masses of unkempt teenage children to show up, but it was still ... yeah, different is a good word.

I made Glen change out of his geek clothes before we went, because, you know, rock concert. I needn't have troubled him. As we drove past the venue, looking for a place to park, I could see the conference participants approaching in full geek regalia. White tennis shoes abounded, and everyone's shirt was carefully tucked into his high-wasted jeans or khaki pants. I say "his" because as far as I could tell, there were only about six other women in the whole crowd.

The first odd thing about the show itself was that security was a bit less enthusiastic than I'm used to. Tons of people got cameras into the venue, as we discovered when the concert started. These weren't wimpy little cell phone cameras, either - they were full-on recent-model Nikons with video capability. Someone posted some hi-res photos to a Flickr stream, so the pix are courtesy of, um ... someone named a4gpa.

Anyway, we went inside the venue, and that's when I realized that I really wasn't in Kansas anymore. Normally I would expect to pay $3 for a plastic cup full of tap water at a concert, and if I wanted something to eat I would probably just wait until I got home rather than get scalped by the vendors. Here, we were greeted by buffet tables full of free food and beverages. It was standard conference fare, nothing special, but - free. There were video games and even a slot machine on the concourse.

When they opened the doors to the arena, everyone filed in and down the stairs in a completely orderly, unhurried manner, even though it was general admission. This was a nice change, but I was beginning to feel that my fellow concert-goers weren't really entering into the spirit of the thing. Our all-access passes got us onto the floor, where we found ourselves in the ninth row (I counted). This is undoubtedly the closest I will ever be to the stage at a concert, because even if I could afford floor seats, they all get bought up online by scalpers in the first twenty seconds that the tickets are on sale anyway, so I was pretty excited.

The opening act was a stand-up comic, which was unusual, but not necessarily bad, I guess. By that time they had let in some extra people - Collective Soul fans, presumably - who weren't conference attendees. There are about 20,000 seats in the arena, and it was probably two-thirds full. Anyway, the comedian did his bit, and then the band was announced by some sort of uber-geek who appeared to be in charge of the conference. We could hear rock-concert-appropriate screaming from the back of the arena, but most of the geeks just clapped enthusiastically. As the show got started, there was a surreal moment when I looked around at the audience and realized that I was in the ninth row, on the floor, at a rock concert, and I was the only one dancing. There was even a wee little mosh pit in front of the stage, but no one was moshing. A couple of heads bobbed up and down here and there, and that was about it. Behold the participants in the wee "mosh" pit:

Collective Soul were very cool, and they played a good show. They were professional and comfortable onstage, which I love, and they put a lot of energy into the performance.

They sounded good live. Not studio-perfect, but that's not what live concerts are for anyway. There were some scorching guitar solos, and at one point Ed Roland played the iconic guitar riff from AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" during the bridge in "Hollywood." Even the geeks got excited about that.

CS's set was only about an hour plus a one-song encore, but some of the geeks still left early. I'm not sure if it was past their bedtime, or if they just couldn't live one more minute without their wireless connection, or if - heaven forbid - they just weren't that excited about the show. Toward the end, more non-conference people started to filter down to the floor and fill up the aisles, which was nice, because I was no longer the only one jumping up and down and screaming.

After the encore the lights came up, and everyone filed out. I heard someone remark that the show had been really loud, which made me smile. It was one of the least-amplified shows I'd ever seen - my ears were barely ringing when I walked out. The security guys thought it was funny too.

I love geeks. I love their geeky clothes, their geeky jokes, and all their geeky ways. Yes, I'm mocking them, but it's Horatian mocking, not Juvenalian.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

anomaly in the student-teacher continuum

While I was in England, I graded the first written assignment from the Early Brit class. There was a predictable mixture of good, bad, mediocre, and even a few excellent assignments. The worst assignment of the lot was truly pathetic - instead of the required 4-6 pages, this one was barely 2 pages long; and instead of a book report, for which the student possessed detailed written instructions, she had written a book review. The student received a Very Bad Grade.

After I had handed all the assignments back, I got an email from the student with the Very Bad Grade. When I saw the sender's name and the subject line, I mentally prepared myself for something unpleasant. I've had emails from students with Very Bad Grades before, and even from students whose grades were not so bad, but still not what they wanted/needed/thought they deserved. Somehow, according to the students, it's always my fault that their grades are unsatisfactory. Such emails have never resulted in the sender receiving a revised, more satisfactory grade from me. Ultimately, the only results are that it probably makes the student feel better, and it usually makes me feel worse in some way. It's not as though I like giving them bad grades.

At any rate, this particular email was short and to the point: she thought the grade she had received was completely fair; she apologized for the poor quality (and quantity) of her work; she had had some personal problems at the time when she was working on the assignment and hadn't given it the effort it required; she would definitely do better next time.

Well. That's a first.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

more lols

Sunday, March 09, 2008


I only went on two excursions this time, but they were both wonderful, albeit in very different ways. The first was to Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts house. I don't think I have ever been in a place that gave me so much aesthetic pleasure. Everything about it was so simply yet perfectly designed, from the interior ornamentation to the placement of the trees on the grounds. The online tour really doesn't give an adequate idea of how truly attractive this house is. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures of the inside of the house for "copyright reasons." I have no idea what this means. Is the house somehow copyrighted? The designer is long since dead, so what exactly is under copyright, and who holds said copyright? I was irritated by this. In fact, I was tempted to take a couple of pictures anyway, but there were always so many people about that I didn't think I could do it without getting caught.

The other excursion I went on was "Molly's Mystery Tour," which apparently is a tradition at the Winter School. Here's how it works: everyone piles into a van, which Richard drives. Molly sits in the front seat, and tells Richard where to go. Everyone else hangs on for dear life. No one, including Richard, knows where the Tour is going to go until it gets there. This time it went up and down the fells, down various sketchy-looking lanes, and through several closed gates (which someone had to get out and open). Some of the terrain was very steep, very unpaved, and very lacking in guardrails. At one point, I remarked to the woman in the seat next to me that I supposed we were all going to die. I was sitting at the very back of the van, so I couldn't hear most of Molly's commentary, but she said something about "this is the route that Hartley Coleridge walked when he [something I didn't catch]."

Along the way, we stopped at St. John's in the Vale,

Castlerigg stone circle,

and a pub (not pictured). It was blowing a gale at Castlerigg, with lots of mist and rain on the fells - very Romantic.

When we finally came out somewhere in a village with paved roads, I looked back at the road we had just been on, and saw a sign next to it that proclaimed "unsuitable for motor vehicles."

the Winter School

The Winter School at Grasmere is very different from the Summer Conference. Several notable scholars spoke, but most of the attendees were older hobbyists. There were a couple of times when I found myself in the very odd position of being both the youngest and, apparently, the most educated person in the room. I'm not saying that to brag; Wordsworth is not my specialty, and I make no claim to be a Wordsworth scholar. But many of the other people there were, for lack of a better word, fanbois/fangirls. They neither knew nor cared about other poets or authors from the time period (although some of them admitted Coleridge to the discussion by virtue of his relationship with WW); they had come to bask in the glory of all things Wordsworth, and anything else they deemed superfluous at best.

The lectures were mostly aimed at a less scholarly audience, which made it easier to relax and enjoy them. Seamus Perry's lecture on Coleridge and women was a personal favorite, and may even end up helping me with my thesis research. Nick Roe's lecture comparing the Lucy poems to the work of modern poets like Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon was, I think, intentionally provocative. Some of the hobbyists seemed ... offended might be too strong, but certainly a little shocked.

there and back again

By the time I left England last summer, I had already decided that I wanted to go back to Grasmere this February. I knew I wouldn't be able to go to the next summer conference, but I wanted desperately to go back for something, which left the Winter School. It's shorter, and therefore slightly less expensive, and that seemed to me to be justification enough.

The trip over was much less bewildering this time. My flight into DFW was delayed a bit, which meant I had to hurry to catch my connecting flight to Gatwick, but that was as close as I came to having any kind of trouble. My luggage didn't even get lost.

I had a few hours to kill in London, so of course I went to the British Library again. Gawain and Chaucer were no longer on display, but they'd been replaced by the Beowulf manuscript (squee!). It was open to the part where Beowulf brings Grendel's head back to Heorot. I did notice a sign this time that said "no pictures," so ... no pictures. Sorry, Heidi. The Lindisfarne Gospels were also on display, open to one of the fabulous carpet pages.

Other stuff I was excited about: John Milton's "commonplace book," open to a page where he had made some notes about good and bad monarchies; one of Jane Austen's notebooks, with a dedication to her sister Cassandra; a manuscript copy of Jane Eyre, open to the page that says, "Reader - I married him"; a manuscript copy of Handel's Messiah, open to the Hallelujah Chorus; Lady Jane Grey's prayer book; manuscript copies of lyrics for the Beatles' "Yesterday" and "In My Life." It's overwhelming to walk through the exhibit and see so much history, literary and otherwise, in one place. You know you're not in Kansas any more when there's a whole section of the exhibit just for "Historical Documents: Tudors."

Old time is still a-flying

Is it March already? Huh. Well, here's what's happened in the past month: I got a haircut. I went to England again, and made some new friends. I came home, and got a kidney infection. I wrote an outline for my thesis. I got a really anomalous email from a student. I went to the dentist. I taught Dryden in the Early Brit class.

I'll write separate posts for some of those things, shall I?