Wednesday, May 26, 2010

er, uhm, er, a song?

I sometimes write songs under the alias Biff Nerfurpleberger. They aren't among the more introspective, musically weird things I more often do. Instead, they're, well, they're like tonight's offering, "Sad."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

next year

Only 7 class sessions left in my academic year. I'll get there.

This has been one of the worst years of my career. From the start it looked terminal. By October I was told to look for employment elsewhere for 2010-11. I did, and found almost no teaching positions I could reasonably qualify for, and none I particularly wanted. But I applied, and received my rejection letters, and worried, and tried to keep doing my work.

Sometime in January I learned that a new possibility was arising that I would return next academic year. This is not because of the Governor's January budget request dissociative hallucination drug-crazed fit waste-of-time adding $305 million to the CSU budget. I don't believe the Governor has any intention of keeping his promises. I don't believe the Governor, no matter what he says. I can barely believe in the Governor, let alone the crapola he present to the public.

No, what I heard was that faculty in the department were finalists for other positions. They got them. So the department is shrinking by about 1/4 of its full-time faculty, and thus my job became 25% cut-proof. That's not to say I'm sure I'll have a job next year, again, despite the May release of the Governor's revised budget gambling addiction masquerade obscenity continuing to call for the $305 million additional for the CSU. Given the state of the state, the university's budget, the university's administration, and all the politics involved, I won't be entirely at rest until I not only have an appointment letter in hand, but have actually gone and taught my first classes in the Fall.

I can't wait to get the hell outta this place this Spring. This has been a terrible year. And now, weirdly, I can't wait to get back in the Fall to start the whole thing over again.

Oh yeah, and the collective bargaining agreement between CSU and CFA expires June 30th. We'll be in bargaining this Fall. So the fighting will simply continue, on more and other fronts. Can't wait for that, either.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

concert: Verdi's Requiem

Wow, that was amazing!

Verdi's Requiem is very dramatic choral Mass, with a lot of solo bits throughout - which makes sense considering Verdi's main line of work was opera.

Last night and again tonight, the Modesto Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performed/will perform this intense piece. The show last night was tremendous - the finest MSO chorus performance I've heard yet. The group kept a strong tone through some very difficult passages, all the while keeping the focus on the operatic drama of the Mass. The soloists were all excellent, in particular the alto and bass, both of whom had distinctive voices for their parts (really the alto is a mezzo-soprano and the bass is a baritone-bass, but whatevs). Terrific, terrific stuff that should have gotten a rave review in the Modesto Bee - but I didn't see one there, hence me putting on the music reviewer hat.

Go see it!

Friday, May 14, 2010

end-of-the-year blues

(The year, in this case, is the academic year. That's what a year is for me. I don't really follow, believe in, or understand how to use the 12-month calendar. I translate my quotidianity into your bizarre, papist, Gregorian template strictly for your convenience. And I do it fairly poorly, because I don't care very much about your convenience.)

I often get pretty down as the academic year closes. I enjoy the rituals of the spring General Faculty Meeting, and like emptying my email inbox and working my way through The Stack.* But mainly, I dwell on things that went wrong, that I didn't do well, or didn't get a chance to do.

There's almost always unfinished business. I'm not the kind of teacher who just never gets through all the course material, and certainly not the kind that rushes everything in in the last two weeks. Most of my courses I have scheduled out precisely enough. The unfinished business is the business of thinking, and there's never sufficient time for that.

Then there's the inevitable acts of academic dishonesty to deal with, and students who don't do sufficient work to earn a good grade, or who disappear without turning in final papers. Those acts of self-destruction really bother me. Part of it is my desire to see students succeed, but it's also vaguely insulting to me, especially when it feels like I've done far more work in the course than a given student has. Doubly insulting when the student then blames me for a poor grade or for the F earned for cheating. (And yes, that's actually happened, on several occasions.)

I kind of mourn over missed opportunities in classes. I feel ongoing shame and embarrassment over miscommunication or mistakes - sending email with the wrong tone, or misnaming a student, or not recognizing a former student.

Four more class days, ending a week from Monday, and the onslaught of final papers.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

yet another open letter to the President

Dear Mr. President,

Rumor has it that you're about to nominate a replacement for Justice Stevens on the US Supreme Court. Before you nominated Justice Sotomayor, as you recall, I applied for the position, even offering to take the job at a discounted salary. I didn't get the job, but I'm pretty sure I was a strong candidate for it. As the numerous rejection letters I've received from colleges and universities across the US and Canada always say, many highly qualified candidates have to be turned away.

In any event, I'm writing to apply once again to be a US Supreme Court Justice. From my previous application, you know I'm very well qualified and extremely willing. Allow me to provide more details about my qualifications that should demonstrate that no one could be a better US Supreme Court Justice.

The main thing a Justice does is make judgments. I'm a whiz at this. I can name several people who regard me as judgmental - although I have to admit that those people are intellectual cripples who wouldn't recognize judicial talent if it bitch-slapped them in the face.

I am also tremendously prejudiced against Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Flyers, whom I am glad to say are very likely to lose their playoff series to the Boston Bruins. I am also prejudiced against Atlanta (and the Atlanta Thrashers - stupid name for a hockey team, btw), Florida (and both the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning - and don't even get me started on what a stupid name that is for a hockey team), some parts of Texas (Dallas Stars), Orange County (Anaheim hockey-team-name-too-stupid-and-of-such-vile-and-repugnant-pedigree-that-it-shall-be-nameless), Phoenix (Coyotes), and other cities where there should not be an NHL team.

My point is this. Prejudice is all about prejudgment. Pre-judgment. That's like judging prior to the time of judgment. So, prejudgment is obviously much more time-efficient, and - get this - the more prejudging you do, the earlier you finish judging, the sooner the Court can close up shop for the summer, and all us Justices head for Rehobeth. That saves the country money. See?

(I'm mainly prejudiced about places in the US South and their hockey teams, but I am all about professional development, and I'm sure with some mentoring I can develop many more prejudices. In fact, I feel one coming on now. Srsly, what's the deal with poor people? Who told them they have rights? Hey, poor people, sit down and shut up! Or we'll take away your welfare and gummint cheese!)

Plus, you know what? When someone asks me what I want with my vodka, I say, "just ice." That can't be a coincidence.

Attached is my updated CV and notarized statement of fealty to corporations (I've added the suggested language on "ass-kissing"). I look forward to an interview shortly!

Doc Nagel