Book Notes: Iban Zaldua’s The Homeland of all the Basques

Another Basque writer, as you already guessed from the title, and another novel that fucking blew my mind, folks. The fellow writes like he’s got a Shakespeare, a Milton, a Zola, a Galdós and a Dostoyevsky standing behind him in his literary tradition. But he doesn’t, and the whole novel is about him being very aware that he doesn’t. He writes like he’s got nothing to prove, and I’m loving it.

The novel’s protagonist is a professor of Basque philology who comes to Alaska to teach a course on the Basque culture. But Basque history is boring and the literature is non-existent, so he invents a history and a literature, taking a supreme piss out of the myths of the Basque nation-building. But the very fact that he can take the piss with such confidence and brilliance is the best proof that there is a fully viable nation there. I’m not explaining this very well because I just finished reading and I’m overcome with emotion. But this novel goes into my new book for sure.

The book has a Spanish translation but it won’t be as funny if you don’t know Basque history and literature.

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BB Grading Center

The only criticism of my teaching I get from the students is that I don’t place grades on Blackboard. So ok, I’m always in favor of granting reasonable requests. I looked up a YouTube video and learned how to use the Blackboard grading center.

Now I have two questions, and I’m hoping that those who are more familiar with the system can help.

1. Students only see their own grades, right? They don’t see everybody’s, do they?

2. It feels a little passive-aggressive instead of telling somebody in person “look, I need you to speak more in class because we have a high participation grade, and right now I don’t have much to go on to grade your participation” just to plop it into the system and hope that people take the hint. Am I worrying over nothing and this is just a new style of communication?

Biblical

A local religious organization is hosting an event where a hundred pounds of chocolate eggs will be dropped off a helicopter over the church area “for the Easter egg hunt of your lives.”

Some folks have expressed timid concerns that having a hundred pounds worth of shit fall on you from the skies might look more like the wrath of the Almighty right out of the Old Testament than anything else.

A Good Link on Tillerson

Finally, the hype has died down and thoughtful, intelligent pieces on the firing of Tillerson have appeared. I love this one. Not only because it explains what went wrong for Tillerson (which is a story that won’t be interesting for longer than a couple of weeks) but because it explains why my cherished dreams of at least some business practices being transplanted to academia are futile. It won’t happen. And what a pity.