Monday, February 23, 2009

Win Some, Lose Some?

I thought I was doing pretty well today: I met with most of my Czech Modernism students about their papers and the results were encouraging, and during lunch I made all the arrangements for going to AAH (the major British art history conference), where I'm giving a paper in April.
Then at the end of the day's gamelan rehearsal, I found out that our concerts will be earlier than usual this year. Precisely when I'll be in England giving my conference paper, in fact. I had been going on the assumption that the concerts would be at least a week later, as they normally are.
I am pretty unhappy about this. It is hard to say whether this or the beyond-bad job market is more annoying. Probably this, since despite the bad job market, I think it is likely I will have some sort of job next year. After all, if there are no teaching jobs, I can always go back to feeding photocopiers or being a factory worker or guarding a parking lot or doing some other thing out of my checkered past. Or even something I've never done before, like becoming a sewer inspector or performing artificial insemination on cattle. Yep, maybe I'm discounting the opportunities that lie before me. Settling into a comfy teaching position could be very bad for my fiction writing.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Experiments in Cooking

The cookbook Down to Earth: Great Recipes for Root Vegetables has been tempting me for some years with its Green Onion and Gruyere Bread Pudding recipe. Not that I ever particularly intended to make the recipe as presented, since that would be alien to my character, but the notion of doing something savory and useful with stale bread has always been appealing.
I finally got around to it, which makes sense given that I should have been working on my book proposal, preparing the midterms, or at least scouring the sink.
My result, which is not all that much like the original beyond being a savory bread pudding, proved edible. I'm not entirely sure what one does to make the pudding avoid the standard drowned-bread stickiness, but it's true I didn't follow the recipe's direction to squeeze the soaked bread "as dry as possible" since the recipe indicated that the bread would be re-inundated and I believe in cutting out unnecessary steps.
Basically, I did the following:
Submerged about 10 smallish slices of bread (which already had baked-in nuts and cheese bits) in about 2 cups of "milk." The recipe called for 4 cups, but all I had was some half-and-half and some vanilla soymilk, so I combined these with water and hoped 2 cups total was enough. It certainly was. I don't know what would have become of the other 2 cups of milk. Probably a deluge.
Meanwhile (as the oven heated to 375), I beat 3 eggs.
I then chopped up a smallish onion and threw the pieces into a buttered 9x12-ish pan.
Getting more adventurous, I added four leftover olives of various types (chopped), quite a few capers, about half a jalapeno (given the tame nature of Pennsylvania jalapenos, it could probably have been 2), some walnut pieces, quite a bit of Parmesan cheese, and the remains of some Swiss cheese and an unidentified soft smoked French cheese.
I mixed all of this stuff together with wild abandon in the baking dish and shoved it into the oven, where it baked for about 40 minutes until the knife came out clean from the center.
I think it could have had more olives and cheese, and perhaps a few capers fewer, but other than the inevitable semi-sogginess, it was pretty good.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

On the Positive Side...

Things aren't actually all gloom and overwork around here. My students are really good (I say, not having yet given the midterms) and nearly all participate enthusiastically in class discussion, especially in the two larger classes where there isn't quite so much pressure to speak up as in the seminar. I enjoy the teaching once I'm in the classroom and no longer obsessing over whether I've prepared sufficiently. And on the whole they seem to be enjoying the courses too, apart from some anxiety surfacing lately about exams. Which will occur when I am out of town at CAA! (I planned that on purpose. One lecture class gets an in-class exam and a film on Frank Lloyd Wright, the other gets a take-home exam, and the seminar has no exam because its focus is on writing the research paper.)

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Diligence Isn't Enough

I have mostly spent my weekend on things I didn't think I could put off much longer: Saturday I prepared a batch of job applications (at least in terms of writing the letters and doing some online applications) and Sunday I put together most of the Powerpoint for a talk I'll be giving soon on women artists and the male nude.
The topic of the talk is one I once researched in considerable detail, but unfortunately that was before scanners were really affordable, so I had almost no images at hand. On the plus side, several of the artists I'll talk about have put up websites of their own (see, for example, Sylvia Sleigh, Martha Edelheit, Eunice Golden, and Diana Kurz). On the minus side, quite a few artists are ridiculously hard to find. I thought Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney would be easy given that she did found a major museum, but evidently no one cares about her own sculptures. It's true she wasn't one of the 20th century's best sculptors, but she was quite competent and did her share of monuments and such.
It was this uncertainty about how easily I'd be able to find images that made me feel I could not possibly put this project off any longer despite the fact that there are other presentations I have to have done sooner. So, after spending awhile putting together material on the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition in London, I abandoned wondering just which Japanese art to add to my discussion of early Japonisme (Lotusgreen of Japonisme showed me some lovely books on the subject over the holidays but there remains work to do) and went hunting the nudes.
Just as I temporarily felt good about getting out some more job applications, for at least five minutes I felt good about getting most of the male-nude presentation done. Then the awareness of everything else returned. About ten more papers to grade. Two exams to prepare. Five Powerpoints to finish for the week's classes (they may be nearly ready but they are not done). A book proposal to complete. Why on earth did I waste time vacuuming the living room floor today? The fur was not quite covering the entire surface of the carpet yet...

Sylvia Sleigh, Imperial Nude: Paul Rosano, 1977

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Friday, February 13, 2009

You Can Rely on Malevich's Black Square...

... to prompt controversy in every Intro to Modern class. Students generally find Cubist, Fauvist, Expressionist, and Futurist works palatable, but the minute Black Square goes up, a sense of outrage inevitably erupts. How can a plain black square be art, several people always demand to know. What kind of perversity is this and what kind of drugs was Malevich taking that he gave up doing odd but somewhat intelligible paintings of peasants and knife grinders in favor of the Black Square?
That's not to say that there aren't always other students who think the Black Square is a perfectly reasonable thing to paint, or who at least express a curiosity about what Malevich was trying to get across. But the Black Square is invariably the work that prompts a period of confusion and dismay that generally continues with Duchamp's Fountain and does not dissipate when we move into Dada. Things usually calm down by the time we get to Jackson Pollock, whether because everyone is acclimated or because we've had a break in the form of Regionalism, Social and Socialist Realism, and Nazi art. Judy Chicago's Menstruation Bathroom, however, is usually good for stirring up the crowd again.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Princess Haiku inquires whether the academic life is agreeing with me as I reach full immersion. I think I can say that mostly it does. My three courses are mostly enjoyable to teach and thus far I have cause to be pleased with my students. (I even have three from last semester who decided they could tolerate a second semester of me, which is gratifying. One of them even wanted to do an independent study with me.)
On the other hand, while my time is not entirely eaten up with school, enough of it is that often I find myself just a little too brain-dead to do anything very mentally demanding. This means that instead of doing some of the things I ought to do, I do things like obsessively scan yet more Czech modernist art on the theory that it will somehow benefit my students and the ... um ... rest of humanity.
That being the case, I'm finding fun stuff like this 1913 architectural drawing by Petr Kropáček.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Things That Don't Work as Expected

Ah yes. Am I attracting undesirable magnetic or other forces? The phone ceased to work right around the time I expected that calls about job interviews might reasonably begin to come in (borrowed phone has not gotten any such calls, to be sure). The car first acted as though it was out of gas when I knew it had over a quarter of a tank, and now it additionally behaves as though it has a dead battery (it has not sat that long, surely). As of today, after some weeks of observation, I have concluded that certain Port Authority buses just don't run despite remaining on the schedule, meaning that one can stand around in the cold for nearly an hour wondering why none of the advertised buses have shown up. And now all of a sudden the laptop doesn't want to recognize that it's plugged in. It was happily plugged in upstairs in the library, but of course there the wifi wasn't working so I couldn't look up the bus schedule.
There had better not be anything wrong with the laptop cord. I have been strenuously keeping it away from Orion, but all it takes is the right test-bite.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Busy or Just Wasting Time?

Regular readers might be wondering whether I've become lazy, overwhelmed, or have been taken into computerless custody by irritated rabbits. I am not entirely sure which except that the rabbits have not actually gotten me away from the computer. In fact, at the moment they are comfortably reclining under a chair, having extracted extra petting because I spent the entire day at home.
But it's true I've been spending quite a bit of time doing this-that-and-the-other thing related to teaching, and one of those things has been the lengthy process of making what must be well over 2000 reproductions of Czech art readily available to my students and other interested persons. One of these pictures is in fact now illustrating a post over at A Journey Round My Skull, in case anyone wants to see an early (cubist) Otto Gutfreund sketch.
It has also been my intention, for the past several days, to post the list several of my colleagues have compiled relating to the things tables are used for, but I keep not having the list on me at the moments when I think about blogging. My apologies to Robert and Aaron for my sluggish ways, as no doubt they have been anxiously waiting for this to go online. Art historians have to occupy their minds with strange conceptual matters from time to time in order to prevent becoming too preoccupied with actual art objects.
And there you have it.

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