Saturday, June 20, 2009

The New Blog

The new installments of our adventures can be found at Rabbits Ate My Homework. No, I don't know what that means. Ask Orion about his dissertation-eating habits.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009


While technically I graduated in December, there isn't a ceremony then. The advantage of the spring ceremony is, I suppose, that it doesn't conflict with winter holidays. Well, and admittedly the lilacs begin to bloom around graduation time, which is a fine thing. And several of my colleagues were also graduating in the spring (three of them actually attended the ceremony), as did a fair number of my students and my friends from gamelan.
My department does a very nice ceremony of its own on the morning of the big ceremony, but it has almost become too successful: the auditorium was packed with families and I hear that quite a few people had to stand in the hall outside because the aisles were filled. (We refrained from alerting the Fire Marshall.) While it is nice to combine the Studio, Architectural Studies, and Art History festivities, I suspect it won't be feasible to continue to do so. I was planning to take pictures at the event, but completely failed to.
Before long, it was time to race off to the main graduation, which undertakes to do everyone from every school in the university all in one long afternoon. As such things go, it was pretty standard, but despite the airconditioning in the stadium, those of us wearing caps and gowns were sweating profusely. I don't know how any wool can rightly be described as "tropical," but better tropical wool than the synthetics that most people had gotten. Synthetics feel hot in a nastier way than natural fibers, and I am not about to endure that if I have any choice. What I don't understand is why, given that academic regalia is generally worn in the spring or summer, it is not made mostly of linen. We are not living in medieval days, when academics wore heavy robes to keep warm through the winter.
Still, I think Kristen and I looked rather festive in our regalia.

Kristen and I standing around awaiting our parents.

Kristen's parents arrived first.

My family did manage to explore the campus a bit too.

I had intended for there to be quite a few photos of various people around the Fine Arts building, but that didn't end up happening.

I also meant to take photos at the wine-and-cheese party my (and Kristen's) advisor threw us, but that didn't happen either. Eventually we went home, where at least there are plenty of trees in bloom.

And that's all. It will probably be about all for this blog as well, as the blog was intended to keep people up to date on my life and research in Prague, which ended two years ago. Kristen has inquired whether Facebook has lured me away from blogging, and the answer is decidedly not; different online activities have different uses. But there are limits, after all, to how much I can say about my life these days--at least without being annoying. I like blogging, but it has to have some purpose, even if a fairly vaguely defined one.
So, if there is something to say that fits this blog, I might add it, but otherwise I think the reasonable thing would be to start a different blog. After all, this one was mostly about being a PhD student, and now the PhD is done.
Time for something new and exciting.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Calypso Spots at Seven

The blog has been lacking in new rabbit photos for much too long. The photos were taken awhile back, but getting around to doing anything with them was another matter.
Calypso Spots is now seven (we suppose her birthday was sometime in March) and she would like it known that she is nobody's Easter Bunny. When she is particularly relaxed, she likes to curl up in ridiculous naptime poses like this. Still, she likes to keep a watchful if sleepy eye on things. Someone might do something exciting, like bring out the chocolate.

Ms. Spots believes in encouraging her admirers to express their ecstatic love for her. Fortunately, Orion's tongue never gets tired.
The human in the household is ready to adopt this kind of life at a moment's notice, should the opportunity emerge.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

As the Semester Ends...

I've said it before, and my opinion hasn't changed: I've had very good students this semester. They write pretty well, most of them have some idea how to analyze what they're looking at, and all in all they've been a pleasure.
This does not, of course, alleviate the mingled pain and amusement that comes from the strange things I encounter on final exams. Even some of my best students have gotten certain things alarmingly wrong.
I am getting used to the fact that a certain number of people each semester come to the conclusion that René Magritte was a woman and that therefore I Do Not See the (Woman) Hidden in the Forest must be a feminist work.
I was not really expecting, however, to get an intelligent but wrong analysis of Sylvia Sleigh's Turkish Bath as being set in a gay bathhouse.
It is not okay to call collages, sculptures, and photographs "painting."
Frida Kahlo was not a Social Realist, and Alfred Stieglitz was not a member of the Harlem Renaissance. Surely I can cover more than one movement per week without this sort of confusion?
I am a bit disturbed at the number of people who have classified Vera Mukhina's Worker and Collective Farm Worker (they are holding hammer and sickle) as Nazi art. It appears that even many students who correctly identified it as a Soviet-made sculpture are not familiar with the symbolism of the hammer and sickle, despite the fact that I am sure I talked about this in class. Seeing the sickle referred to as a "chisel" was also rather surprising. I don't think today's youth are using enough hand tools. Even the hammer wasn't always correctly identified as such.
In somewhat the same vein, everyone does a pretty good job discussing Grant Wood's American Gothic, but please, can we call a pitchfork a pitchfork? If I keep reading about how the man holds his tool tightly or grips his tool firmly, I may be unable to continue grading.
I realize that by mentioning these things, I run the risk of making my students look bad, but in a class of about 40, the miracle is that there isn't really all that much to complain of. Overall, I think nearly all of them have learned a lot and I am sorry to say goodbye to them.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

The Return from Manchester and the AAH

The AAH conference was satisfactorily interesting, although as my session took up both days, I didn't feel as though I could roam around investigating papers on all sorts of topics as I normally do at conferences. The only time I ventured out of my own session was to hear a paper on Toyen's collaboration with Radovan Ivšić, which was quite interesting in its discussion of the relationship of image to text. Otherwise, I was ensconced in the surrealist and surrealist-legacy camp, where we had a fair amount of Toyen already. (But there can never be too much Toyen, or at least not unless she becomes a figure of adulation like Frida Kahlo, and it may be that Kahlo's astounding celebrity is passing, given how few of my students have heard of her.)
Manchester looks like a place worth visiting, especially given that I didn't really have time to look around the museums where the various receptions were held. The town hall, where we were welcomed by the Lord Mayor (who has bright green hair and exhorted us repeatedly to sample the local nightlife), is an impressive gothic-revival building with a fine set of murals by Ford Madox Brown. I was hoping to see his Work, given that I had just shown it in class, but that was elsewhere and I was too tired to hunt it down.
The Intro to Modern papers have been duly turned in (most of them) and I have begun grading them. Thus far they're excellent and I feel vastly pleased. No one has gotten less than an A. Of course, that will not hold true for the entire class, but it would be nice if only it could.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Papers and More Papers

As I prepare to leave town for the AAH conference in Manchester (that's the original British Manchester, not one of those upstart Manchesters that seem to exist in every eastern state here), my Intro to Modern students are in the throes of preparing their class papers.
They have the option of doing either an article comparison, which is intended to hone their analytical skills, or a research paper on a topic to be approved by me. The first time I taught this class, there were quite a few research papers, some of them remarkably good. Last semester there were not very many and some of those were evidently by students who needed further guidance on just what a research paper is, but there were also some outstanding papers. This semester the research papers will again be rather few, but I think they will be good. I will be getting one on Czech cubism, one on Croatian naive painting, one on the relationship of gay sexuality to the work of Rauschenberg, Johns, and Warhol, one on Picasso's Blue Period (this is an alluring topic for students, I have noticed), one on Magritte and philosophy, one on Magritte and Dali (I wait to see exactly where this goes), one on Abstract Expressionism, and one on Malevich and Suprematism.
A few papers will be coming in tomorrow to give me something to read on the plane, but most of them, I am sure, will be appearing in my box next Tuesday.
My Realism and Impressionism students have already done all their papers, while the Czech Modernism seminar has just turned in their rough drafts, which I have not had any time to examine. I suppose I might read those on the plane too.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Baudelaire and Clark

I may complain a bit from time to time about infelicitous things in my students' exams and the like, but really I do have a very satisfactory group (well, three groups since I teach three classes) this semester.
While the number of things I need to get done (prep, grading, journal articles, etc.) tends to prompt feelings of alarm and angst, actually sitting down to grade the second batch of Realism and Impressionism papers has been quite pleasant. Nearly the entire class writes pretty well, and nearly all of them think through the material with admirable ability. In fact, nobody is having any serious problems, although I daresay some of them would like to get a somewhat better grade than they are earning. Thus, while I was a bit perturbed to find that the first two papers I read (examining Baudelaire's "The Painting of Modern Life" in conjunction with two chapters by T. J. Clark) failed to mention Baudelaire at all, those papers were generally all right in other respects. And the best papers in the class are really enjoyable, combining well-chosen quotations from Baudelaire and Clark with pertinent images and supple analysis of art and texts.
This makes me feel, temporarily, content.

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