What Is Modernism?

Before asking this question on a mini-quiz, I told students how much it annoys me when they start an answer with “it’s when.” I even wrote “it’s when” on the board and crossed it out.

“If I see anybody tell me that modernism “it’s when”, I will become rabid and bite you all,” I warned them.

Of course, on the mini-quiz, 4 students told me that modernism “it’s when.”

I thought that was bad until I saw that 2 students answered the question with “modernism is a person.”

I thought that was the worst possible answer until I saw that 1 student answered the question with “Modernism is a person called Juan.” That was it. The answer ended after “Juan.” Of course, I wondered why modernism’s name was Juan and not, say, Pedro or Josefina. But that will remain a mystery, I guess.

Another General Interest Question

I’m in a question mode today, it seems.

A colleague told me that the very first thing she does right after she opens her eyes in the morning is look in the mirror. The very first thing I do is grab my Kindle and open the WordPress app to look at the comments on the blog that accumulated during the night. Which, I admit, sounds quite neurotic.

In the past, I used to hit the snooze button for at least a couple of hours because the best sleep ever is, in my experience, the kind I get between alarm sounds. But since I started living with N, that habit had to be abandoned. After 2 weeks of this regimen, he told me he was going insane.

What is the very first thing you do after opening your eyes?

Blogging Question

I have a feeling people only read those posts that are published between 6 and 9 am. Is that true? Do people read blogs with their morning coffee and then move on to other things?

I’m usually asleep between 6 and 9 am but I can schedule for all posts to appear only between those hours if that helps.

Also, when do you normally wake up? Is it normal that I sleep until 10 am every day?

I Enjoy Making Students Cry

A student just wrote to me to say that the compliments I made about his writing had him “practically in tears.” He says he has been working very hard for years to find his own voice in writing and create a distinctive writing style. He loves the English language, he says, and wants the way he writes to reflect that love.

I really dig seeing students cry for joy.

The Most Important Person

Can you guess who the most important person at any academic department is? Right you are, it’s the secretary.

Our departmental secretary retired in June and we have worked – or tried to work – without a secretary since then. And I have to tell you, folks, it’s a frakking disaster. The Chair is trying to fulfill secretarial duties in addition to his own, and he makes an enormous effort to keep the department together, poor man. It got to the point where his health has begun to fail even though he continues to struggle valiantly.

Life without a secretary is very harsh. To give just one example, trying to go to a scholarly conference has become extremely time-consuming. Normally, I request funding, get the clearance, and ask the departmental secretary for the department credit card. She gives it to me and I use it to register and book an airplane ticket and a hotel. Easy-peasy.

Without the secretary, however, things become insurmountably complicated. I have to send an email to the Chair specifying the flight and the hotel I need. After that, he sends the information to the Dean’s office. The Dean’s secretary then proceeds to make reservations. And obviously, a huge confusion ensues. At this point, the Dean’s secretary paid the conference reservations twice but the hotel and the flight have not been booked. Now I have to go to the Chair again and tell him to tell the Dean’s secretary. . . After which she will tell him to tell me to tell the Graduate School. . . And so on.

And this is just one tiny thing among the multitude of issues that come up every single day. Whenever I go into the Chair’s office, he gives me a terrified persecuted look of a person who can’t bear the thought of having yet another task added to his agenda. The students in need of basic administrative information arrive in a steady stream. Professors keep asking for a fresh batch of printer paper, supplies, folders, etc. Lab workers are lost and confused.

I come to the Chair’s office and ask him to print out copies of a flyer. He looks at me and says vindictively, “One day you will be sitting in my chair.”

“Oh no,” I respond, “this does not look like an attractive chair, Chair.”

“There is a window here, though,” the Chair says, trying to find a positive spin. “To jump out of in desperation,” I suggest.

“You are reading my mind,” he says.

Cherish your secretaries, people. They do a very important job.

Sorry for the rant, but I’m in pain here.

A Sign That A Blog Will Soon Close

When a blogger starts posting things like, “I’m sorry I haven’t posted for a while, will be back soon!”, this is evidence that the blog is in its death throes. Yesterday, I traveled through a set of stranger blogs many of which were long abandoned. In the absolute majority of those abandoned blogs, the last 2 or 3 posts explained a long absence and promised a swift return to regular posting.

It is very sad to see blogs die and float around the Internet like sad ghosts of once vibrant and fun places.

Funny Fool

Melissa at Shakesville asks:

When was the last time you made a fool of yourself in a fun way?

My answer: last Saturday. After our visit to St. Charles, N. and I went to a grocery store. I’m the one who cooks in the family, so N. wandered off and I concentrated on getting everything I needed for the recipes I had planned for this week. Have you ever seen an autistic concentrate on  something? If not, you might find it hard to understand this story.

So I’m walking around with my shopping cart, concentrating on the food items. And I perceive an alien and obnoxious presence by my side. It feels like somebody is walking next to me and emitting sounds. I heavily dislike people walking close to me and generating noise, so I pick up the pace in an attempt to avoid the alien presence. For about 15 minutes, I try to lose this creature who keeps following me. In the meanwhile, strange items keep appearing in my cart and I throw them out as I move along. Still, the strange items keep reappearing.

Finally, I stop to select a bag of oranges and notice a very polite woman who looks at me with quiet desperation.

“I’m sorry, but this is my cart,” she tells me and grabs the cart.

This is when I realize that the weird shit that kept appearing in my cart is actually stuff that the woman was trying to put into her own cart. If this were a Russian-speaking woman, she wouldn’t have followed me around meekly and politely. She would have simply barked, “What the fuck are you doing you vile bitch go kill yourself against a wall and die now bitch!!!!!” the moment I touched her cart. This was an American woman, however, and instead of barking she attempted to establish a dialogue and explain to me verbally that this was her cart.

[On a side note and so that people don’t accuse me of being unkind to my fellow Russian-speakers, it is very understandable why a Russian-speaking woman would have yelled at anybody touching her cart. Just imagine yourself being a product of several generations of people who all had their food carts – and all their food, too – collectivized the hell away from them and you will understand the angst one experiences when one sees anybody mess with one’s groceries.]

Of course, the American woman would have abandoned the struggle for the cart a while before had it not been for the fact that she had left her handbag and her canvas totes lying in the shopping cart that I took away from her.

I apologized profusely and helped the woman gather her items into her cart. After that, I went outside and stood there in a parking lot for 10 minutes laughing so hard that tears streamed down my face.