For Those Not About to Rock

I’ve never been a big fan of the CCCC Friday night rock ‘n’ roll dance: for me, there’s almost always been an better time to be had elsewhere, with other similar-minded composition folks.

This year, for those of us with geeky inclinations (of whom I am admittedly one), there is an additional significant and compelling reason to find oneself elsewhere at 10 PM on April 4.

So the question would then seem to be: OK, who’s got the spacious suite with the big TV?

My Friday

I wake up to the 0600 NPR weather forecast, and sleepily mishear the announcer’s “four to eight inches” into “forty-eight inches.” Holy shit, I think, blearily, shaving, showering. It’s the blizzard of the new millennium. Student conferences at 0745, and I need to buy fruit juice and cat food before the deluge.

A cup of coffee and a post-shower second forecast listen help. It’s not the apocalypse. It’s four to eight inches. Student conferences go as well as they can, and I have to give a lunchtime presentation, and I’m maintaining the whole day through with aspirin and antitussives and decongestants, with as bad a case of the creeping crud as I’ve had in a long time; a case that my conferees tell me is sweeping through the corps, as well. Chest and throat cough; loss of voice; body aches like I’ve been stuffed in a bag and beaten with a stick. We get good things done, me and the cadets: they figure out smart things to do with their essays, and I do my best not to breathe on them. Regular application of hand sanitizer.

I come home and lie down on the couch. Coat’s a blanket, and that’s about all I have energy for. Church bells ring at 1800, and Tink and Zeugma know that means it’s time for dinner. They get fed, and I go back to bed, until I hear odd cat vocalizations. Tink and Zeugma, up on their hind legs, looking out one of the front windows at the snow coming down on the porch and front yard and sidewalk.

OK, I figure. I’ll indulge them. The front porch has only two exits — steps down to the front yard, and door back into the house — and I can easily herd my two indoor kitties back inside should they get too ambitious in their engagement with the big white snowy world.

I let them out onto the porch, and Tink is well-behaved, sniffing the bounds, examining the perimeters, making sure everything’s safe.

And Zeugma takes a blind leaping header out into the snow, four feet below.

She gambols and frolics up the side yard, intent on the bush where the birds she watches from the kitchen window rest, and it’s all I can do to eventually herd her back up in the front door, and that’ll be the last of her outdoor activities. The girl is far too bold for out of doors.

Versions and Upgrades

Upgrades for the new year: WordPress 2.3.2, Mac OS 10.5.1, Adium 1.2.1, GraphicConverter 6.0.2, Transmit 3.6.3.

Curtains 1.2.

Living room ceiling fan 2.0, with substantial advisory help from Dad, chisel work on the joist, and wire nuts by flashlight.

ceiling fan

As a relatively new homeowner, I’m always relieved and surprised when I do something to my house that doesn’t result in catastrophe. (And, frankly, always terrified by how bad things always are in their current state, said state being the one in which the last owner left them.) But I’m starting to see why people want to build their own homes: the chance to do it right, from the first time, the ground up.

Term’s End

188 cadet final exams graded. 65 student evaluations written and final grades assigned. One interview completed. Three webtexts edited.

I’m tired and done and in D.C. for the holidays right now, looking forward to spending time with family and the first Christmas with my brother in a long time.

And after that? Two syllabi to write. And with one early draft (with all citations intact) of a certain field manual received this very morning, I’ve also got an article on plagiarism to write.

In the meantime, though, happy holidays to you and yours. I’m in charge of the mashed potatoes and the Christmas pudding this year, and Dad’s doing geese.

Twelfth Knight

If there’s an EA-6B Prowler circling your campus on a Friday afternoon…

…there’s a chance Charm City may see your students dressed in gray tomorrow.

It’s been a busy week: on Tuesday, there were pairs of Apaches, Black Hawks, and Chinooks landing on the Plain at lunchtime, with appropriate pyro. Talk about a lot of JP8 for a pep rally. I won’t make it to the Army-Navy game at Ravens stadium, but my brother lives and works in Baltimore, and I hope he’ll be nice to the Army cadets he runs into.

I’ve got to admit, though: to this point, the squids have the West Point cadets beat with their spirit videos. What’s up with that, discipuli? Are you going to let that spirit video go unchallenged?

Beat Navy!

Time to Breathe

For various reasons, this semester has been even more ridiculously busy than last year’s, to the point where I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above the surface — and, well, sometimes sucking down a lungful of water. I completely blew a meeting today where a colleague needed my help making a case for a concern related to the staff syllabus; got caught up giving a cadet guidance on his essay after class, and I didn’t even realize I’d failed until I saw the other two people who’d been at the meeting coming down the hall. That’s the way it’s been going lately, and even the breaks — a pleasant, low-key Thanksgiving, taking the cadets in the opera club to the Met to see Aida, giving a good presentation at NCTE in NYC, celebrating my brother’s birthday with him for the first time in ten years — have felt like blurs.

When I find the time, I’ll offer a concluding post about the plagiarized field manual, but I think I’ll also take Clancy’s and Bradley’s advice and develop my reflections on the topic into a journal article — probably over winter break, when things slow down a bit. There’s a lot to be said there, I think, about genre and context, but also to build on the super-smart stuff Amy’s written about the relationship between affect and citation — and there are a whole range of affectual responses to the situation here, and I want to be respectful to that range.

For now, though, it’s back — back, I say! — to the house of pain stack of grading.

David and the Governor

If you know me and my writing, you may (or may not) know that my younger brother has served a prison sentence. He’s out now, doing good and doing well; gregarious, forthright, smart, altruistic, and dedicated. And I couldn’t not share this email from him, including a recent snapshot with the Governor at an Orioles game at Camden Yards:

Bumped into the Gov.
He said excuse me.

David and the Governor

I said Pardon me, please.


$16, Well Spent

I just picked up The Best American Poetry 2007, and I’ve had mixed feelings. There’s an interesting mix of really, really good stuff and stuff that seems to me silly, gimmicky, and simply self-indulgently bad. Stuff by prominent folks we all know (Louise Glück, Robert Pinsky); stuff by less prominent folks doing increasingly interesting work (Brian Turner, Joe Wenderoth); and stuff by former teachers and classmates, none of whom remember me, I’m certain, which is a good thing, because I’m disappointed by some of it, and genuinely amused by one comically pretentious and awful instance, but as it comes from someone who takes himself Very Very Seriously as a Poet and Artist and wanted to make sure all around him knew what a superior Poet and Artist he was, I can’t say I’m surprised.

But the primary reason I picked it up is the fact that former West Point Cadet (class of 2007) Marya Rosenberg has a cycle of haikus included that she wrote as an undergrad here. While some of them aren’t as strong as the rest (I got kind of an Andy Rooney in seventeen syllables feeling from a couple, if that makes any sense), there are also some that are as wonderful and brilliant as any haiku you’ve ever read, and perhaps even moreso in the ways they play with and press at the boundaries of the conventions of the genre. Among various fine examples, my favorite:

Springtime at West Point
boys in combat boots, slipping
on cherry blossoms

Overall, the book is an interesting and diverse collection. And I’m happy to see a Cadet’s poetry receiving public recognition as being at the level of our poet laureates. For me, that recognition of excellent writing — and those fine haiku — are sixteen bucks well spent.

I say check it out. Or write a haiku that nobody else but you could write. Or both.

The Section Marcher

You call attention,
report, breeze, windows wide, and
write — your fingers fly.

That dashed-off attempt isn’t very good, and not even close to being anywhere as good as any of Marya’s, of course. But there’s the breeze, windows, fly thing, and it’s what my section marchers do: they’re in charge of the class. They open windows strategically to make sure the air flows through the old classroom; they take attendance, call the section to attention, offer their reports — and then they do the written work of the class, as well. So: seeing the writing of a student from my school has got me doing more writing and thinking. That’s a good thing, and I look forward, hopefully, to meeting more students like the now-Lieutenant Rosenberg.