Ryan

Veep picks have become increasingly important and substantive, given the increase in the power of the vice-presidency. Still, it is important always for candidates to use the veep pick to move to the center. Ryan does not do this for Romney anymore than Palin did anything for McCain. Admittedly, there wasn’t much to pick from, given that Republican moderates are more or less a dead species, but I was expecting someone more palatable to independents/undecided. Ryan’s budget plan, being concrete, makes him really easy to attack and paint as extreme. I’m already seeing a flood of anti-Ryan prop and the announcement’s not a day old. The message is the same across the spectrum – extremist.

This ongoing negative strategy of the administration – really not negative so much as just holding the center -continues to look like a winner. That is not to say that I approve or agree with it – just that it seems to be working.

If I were in Romney’s shoes, and playing politics, I would have nominated a moderate woman – read not Palin – to address his consistent weakness in the polls with women voters. But there are so few GOP choices. There are no less than four GOP female governors, though.

So.

Lately I’ve been trying to wind down from vacation. We came back to find the AC in the house not working; it was so hot inside that we spent a night in a hotel until the AC was fixed.

Also, we need to move by the end of the month, so we started looking at other homes immediately. I think we found a decent one this week, but we’ll see if it happens.

This fall semester is a four-course, three-prep one, with one graduate course, one editing, and two composition. Fortunately, I’ve taught all the courses before, so it’s not as daunting as it was a few years ago. It is the first time I have taught two composition courses in many years, admittedly, but teaching one during the summer has eased me back in a certain frame of mind adequate to the task.

Luke/Acts

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the author of the gospel of Luke and the author of Acts are not the same person. Patrica Walters’s The Assumed Authorial Unity of Luke and Acts: A Reassessment of the Evidence has figured heavily in this mental movement of mine, but I’ve been wanting to write about the problems between the two texts, namely in regard to the ascension, for some time, at least since 2007 when I noticed some odd discrepancies. In short, the stylistic studies that “proved” common authorship a century ago seem flawed now, and I cannot accommodate the person who wrote Lk 1:1-4 with the one who supposedly wrote two versions of the ascension. I’m not prepared to give a full accounting of my thoughts here yet – still on vacation – but as I have a presentation on this to give in September, I will post what I have then here.

Lazy summer continues

Saw The Dark Knight Rises finally. Not as good as the last one, but very good all the same. Lots of nods to canon while feeling true to the last two movies. My favorite version of the Bat is still the one from Arkham Asylum and City, but the Bale version isn’t bad at all.

Been watching a lot of Olympics, too.

Haven’t posted much of anything lately. I suppose I should start slow. What about Jared Diamond complaining about Romney’s misuse of Guns, Germs, and Steel? Pretty funny. It would seem Romney, already quietly policy-free in the states, has no luck opening his mouth overseas, either. He’ll get a bounce from Tampa, and Obama will get a bounce from Charlotte, and these should cancel each other out.

John Carter, Ender

Watched John Carter the other day. Apparently it was a box office bomb, but I thought it was a pretty good movie, and respectful enough, based on what I know of Burroughs and the stories.

I suppose I can understand why it wouldn’t be a hit now, because people are so de-sensitized and de-mythologized by Star Wars and its ilk, which are in turn dependent on Burroughs and his ilk. What was fantastical in 1917 is old hat now. We’re too fussy about a scientific view of the solar system instead of a relatively idyllic view, for one, but I hadn’t thought we were over romances, even planetary ones such as JC. Swashbucklers do have a tough time these days, unless they have Johnny Depp in them.

On a slightly unrelated note, I think the upcoming Ender’s Game film will be a disaster if the big change discussed by Card here in 1998 is made. Don’t click on that if you haven’t read it. Talk about a quick way to completely kill a story dead.

Annoying capturing

I have been reading through the Cole & Pike novels by Robert Crais lately on my iPhone, and I have to say while they are generally enjoyable, I am tired of the capture scene. This is when our protagonist or protagonists are temporarily captured by the bad guys due to some momentary miscalculation.

I hate this trope. I just detest it. It requires the good guys be dumb enough to be captured and the bad guys to be stupid enough not to kill them immediately. I can understand its appeal – it’s dramatic to have the heroes in mortal peril, but when it happens OVER AND OVER AGAIN to no ill effect it becomes so progressively unbelievable that it spoils immersion.

For the interested, I finally became fed up after the ending of L.A. Requiem. Ok, that’s pretty deep into the series, but I have developed high pain tolerance. I’m not sure if I want to continue. I understand as series characters they can’t die, but if so, they can’t be put into artificial situations that they can’t possibly survive. I have other complaints about the series, but that’s the big one.

Tradition

Traditionally academics write in the summer to catch up after the business of the fall and spring semesters. I find that depressing, so I have refused to do that so far. I do all my writing between August and May, right in the thick of it. Then I teach summer classes in June, and take July and early August off completely.

To my ultimate sadness, however, the PC game publishing schedule is the reverse. Games tend to come out later in the year in prep for Xmas, which means there is typically a dearth of new games in the summer when I have the most time to play them. This is absolutely infuriating.

This summer is particularly bad. So far the notable releases are all sequels. Diablo 3, which is a retread of 2, hasn’t impressed me, pretty as it is. Max Payne 3 did – it’s a great game, if massacring over a thousand men singlehandedly can be called ‘great’ – but it didn’t last long. I’m waiting on an expansion to Crusader Kings 2 later this month, so I can’t start a new game in that yet, so… what’s left? I’m stalled in Dark Souls, disinterested in Skyrim, and plain baffled by a level in SpaceChem. Meanwhile, at least four games I want come out in October. Grrr.

TSIS again

Ok, now that the summer semester is half over, I can say with some certainty that using TSIS again has been a big benefit. The fruit is showing up in the early papers. I’ve been talking about the templates constantly, demonstrating how to use them, and pointing out instances of them in the essays we read, and this has trickled down into the papers. Usage problems aside, I’m seeing good engagement.

I’m not as enthused with Rereading America, but it is adequate. Many of the readings duplicate the same points, making discussion repetitive, and some are probably too long. I am only using 2/3 of the text, though, so I could assign different sections in the fall.

It is hard for me to believe that it is late June already. It seems like the semester just started. I suppose that’s a good sign, in that I’m not flaming out early.

Pre-teaching jitters

I always have jitters before I teach early in a semester, but in this summer session, they’ve been particularly bad. They didn’t start to go away until yesterday, which was the fourth day I’ve been teaching.

Cicero said that nervousness before a speech was a sign of a good speaker; namely, it means that you care about what you are going to say and therefore you possess the core of what makes for a good speech, i.e. authenticity. I’ve said some version of this to myself before going into class this week, but I think the real reason the jitters/butterflies have been less present is not increased self-confidence, but growing comfort with the students. It’s when the students are an unknown quantity that I start feeling nervous.

This summer session is also the first time I’ve taught freshman composition in over four years, so that may also be a cause of additional stress. It’s not that I fear teaching composition, but rather that I fear not remembering how to do it. The last four days have done a lot to reassure myself that I still have ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is. I certainly didn’t have ‘it’, at least completely, when I started teaching in ’04.

I’ve learned since that writing is not mastery of grammar/usage, it is not inspiration, and it is not even an expressed distillation of  reading, though those admittedly form supporting roles in a larger play. The leading roles for teaching writing are played by critical thinking and genre familiarity, i.e. style – or at least that’s what I think currently.

For freshman comp, I’ve gone back to a book I tried once halfheartedly – They Say/ I Say. It’s too early to report total success, but I feel I understand the purpose of the text more, and I can more easily wed its genre insights to a reader, which in this case is Rereading America. RA is more politically aggressive (some of the reviews on Amazon think it is pure leftist tripe) than I’m used to in a textbook, but there’s always reading against the text.

Reviewing

Recently, I received an essay to blind peer-review for a journal. This is a first for me. I’ve reviewed conference papers before, and edited a collection, but not a journal submission. This feels dangerous and exciting.

Given my past experiences with reviewers, I am very, very concerned about writing a scrupulously fair and quality review. So I’m going to take this slowly. I’ve already read it once and drafted comments, but I’m going to let it sit a few days, and think about it, then read it again and revise my comments, then give it a third and final read before settling on a judgment. I think that’s a fair amount of time to spend with it without obsessing over it.

I’m mostly worried I will overlook something, or not fully understand an idea that I should have, but I don’t really think those things will happen. I think the essay falls in my range of expertise and I’ll be perfectly fine. It’s just jitters.