Two Registers

Klara has two speech registers. One is the lofty “what is this cleaning up of which you speak, mommy?” that cracks me up and reliably gets her out of cleaning.

The second is the Southern accent of “Ahm freezin’ mah buhtt off” that also has me in stitches. We don’t know anybody with this accent, so I have no idea where it comes from.


I will now never be able to read his novels and short stories again:

Not because of any political disagreement. There’s nothing political in this statement. It’s pure performance art. But because the efforts I had to make to disregard this author’s extreme subservience to the spoiled rich brats he is trying to impress will now most certainly fail.

Birthday Plans

Today Klara had an in-class birthday party at school. Now we are going to Applebee’s. Tomorrow she has a day-long playdate in lieu of a birthday party. The actual party will take place at the park in summer, giving us an opportunity finally to have an open-air birthday.

My attitude to the day-long playdate is stoic. On the one hand, it’s good to be left alone as the kids entertain themselves. On the other, they mostly entertain themselves by playing dress up and conducting scientific experiments with my bath products. So you can imagine the mess. One of the birthday presents is a rocket stomper, so I’m hoping to shuffle them outside to rocket stomp in nature. Another present is a geological excavation kit. Which won’t be easy to use, given we actually have snow.

We are fortunate to know an unafraid family who wouldn’t be terrified to bring a kid over for a playdate.

School or Jail

This is how elementary schools in the state of New York are preparing to greet the return of the students:

I’d much rather the schools closed forever than have them open like this. What are the chances that the kids will be allowed to run together and play in groups at recess, if this is the attitude? I’m guessing, nil. And the only value of school is the recess and playing together.

You get more chances to socialize in the penitentiary than in this “school.” It’s obviously all about syphoning the public funds to some politician’s relative through the contract to manufacture these cages.

Good Choice

Remember when my university’s administration was choosing the most important diversity apparatchik on campus? The choice was between a nuanced thinker and an SJW harpy?

They chose the nuanced thinker! Thankfully, the administration is not suicidal and realized what a mistake it was going to be to hand over power to a witch hunt enthusiast.

The Dreaded Survey

People can’t think outside the box and suffer as a result.

Example. The dreaded survey course. Everybody starts the survey of Spanish literature with the jarchas (short medieval poems written in a mix of proto-Spanish and Arabic), then El Cid (the Spanish 13th-century Beowulf), then Celestina (the Spanish Romeo and Juliet but even more depressive and a pain to read).

We do it because “it’s always been done this way.” Language programs like to pretend that every graduate will do a PhD in literature. Even when not a single student wants to do that, we still keep teaching to these imaginary PhD seekers.

Students hate the survey course. Half of the readings are utterly incomprehensible to them, both linguistically and philosophically. Contrary to how a professor feels, “imagine, this was written a thousand years ago!” doesn’t excite them. It puts them to sleep.

When I was an undergrad, I loved the Cid, and Arcipreste de Hita, and Quevedo. The Celestina I always hated but whatever. But I was going to be a professor, so of course I did.

And it’s not just surveys. I ask somebody to prepare a syllabus on Mexican identity. She makes the syllabus and. . . it all ends with the Mexican Revolution! That happened a century ago! The syllabus is populated by movies from the 1950s. Has nothing happened in Mexico since then? Nothing at all? Can you imagine the existential tedium of a twenty-year-old asked to watch a Mexican movie about the 1920s filmed in 1952?

Or say a course on the Spanish Civil War novel. It always, always ends with Rodoreda’s Time of the Doves. It ended with Time of the Doves when I was an undergrad, twenty years ago. But you know what happened in those twenty years? The genre exploded into the stratosphere, then peaked. Do people stop reading upon graduation, or something?

I’m going to teach a survey of Latin American literature for the first time next Fall, and I will not be surveying historically. I will be surveying geographically. All of the readings will be from today. But from different places in Latin America.

I’m now Chair and I’m constantly fielding student complaints about the survey courses. These aren’t slackers. These are great students. But they aren’t mini-clones of the professors, that’s all.

So I came up with the geographically-oriented survey. That it will be mega-successful I know already. I’m seeing this in the course on the Latin American dictatorships where we are reading a novel published last year and talking about what’s happening right now.

“Students give bad evaluations because I’m a woman / an immigrant / have an accent.” Or maybe your syllabus sucks, have you considered that possibility?

The Accidental Award Update

So remember the best book award I was given that I discovered by accident?

I emailed several people in the leadership of the association, thanking them and gently wondering why I never heard from them about it. There’s got to be a certificate or a plaque. Or at least an email.

Everybody I wrote ignored me completely. It’s been a couple of weeks, so I’ve given up on hearing from them now.

In case this still sounds too strange, I have to clarify that this is a Canadian association. Canada is not a huge country. My field is so small and cozy that it’s become a mafia. Or actually, there are two mafias, the Argentinean and the Spanish, and they battle things out. Things are always weird.