Archive for April, 2010

Playing Favorites

In the previous post, Jackie Stodnick stated that the most common question she’s asked is how she ended up working on what she works on. I’m rarely asked this question — probably because I work on American literature — and I’m American — and women’s writing — and I’m a woman. I think people presume that my identity perfectly explains my area of expertise — and there may be some truth to that.

Instead, the question I am more likely to be asked is, “Who is your favorite writer?”

This is a perplexing question and, I think most literary scholars or avid readers would agree, unanswerable. To use a food analogy: Being asked to choose one favorite writer is like being asked to pick one kind of food that you will eat at every meal and enjoy equally under any circumstance. What food could possibly satisfy those criteria? Even something as delectable as hot-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies — which are great under most circumstances — would become revolting if that is all you ever ate. Even something hearty and good-for-you like oatmeal — which I dutifully eat for breakfast every day — would not be satisfying as lunch and dinner. So too with literature: one needs a well-rounded diet with some vitamin-rich, intellectually stimulating fare, as well as some fun, sugary treats thrown in.

I have favorite authors and works in several categories:

FAVORITES TO TEACH: There are numerous works that I love to teach that are not necessarily works I would pick up and read for personal enjoyment. For example, I love teaching Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative. In fact, I’ve never met an American literature prof who didn’t enjoy teaching Rowlandson because her account of her captivity by Indians is so fascinating and rich, and enables the kinds of discussions about gender, race, religion, colonization, and self-construction that we teachers want our students to have. But, I can say I thoroughly enjoy teaching Rowlandson while simultaneously acknowledging that her prose is challenging and often dry, that I would never carry a copy of her narrative to the beach with me, and that I profoundly disagree with many of her value-laden conclusions about her experiences. Is she still a favorite? Absolutely.

FAVORITES TO WRITE ABOUT: There are works of literature that I write about and read scholarship on that, again, would not constitute pleasure reading for me. For example, I’ve written before about my current passion for the eighteenth-century American novelist Susanna Rowson. I’ve spent the past few years working on Rowson, reading a large number of her works, and the more I learn about her, the more fascinating and significant she seems to me. In this case, there is some overlap with the previous category, because I also love teaching Rowson — as many of my students can attest. But, there are other writers that I have published on (or will publish on) who I have never taught and probably will never teach — but they still constitute “favorite” topics for rumination and reflection.

FAVORITES TO READ FOR PLEASURE: Yes, I prefer some authors and books but, even here I would find it almost impossible to pick one — or even to pick one category. I read contemporary fiction, young adult fiction, sci-fi/fantasy novels, mysteries, graphic novels and comic books, blogs and online publications, and even some poetry. I enjoy all these genres for different reasons at different times — so “favorites” just doesn’t work for me.

Sometimes the “favorite writer” question is posed in the form of the desert island scenario: “If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take one book, what would it be?” This question conjures up terror in my heart — not just because I would be alone and likely starving to death on a desert island — but because of the prospect of ONLY ONE BOOK. All I can say is: I hope it would be long and complex, to keep me occupied as I waited for help to arrive.

How do you answer the “favorite author” question?

Published in:Desiree Henderson |on April 28th, 2010 |6 Comments »

The Making of a Medievalist (or rather an Anglo-Saxonist)

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I am frequently asked—I think more often than most English professors—why it is that I ended up doing what I do. There’s something about being an Anglo-Saxonist just freakish enough to require explanation. Or maybe it’s my palpable lack of a beard, which, as I have noted before on this blog, is practically a requirement of membership in the field. In any case, I have been thinking a lot recently about origins. I can’t help it; I’m reading Paradise Lost. And even the word of the day colludes with me in my topic–it is faculty, and, what do you know, it turns out to have a medieval origin.

The first time that I was asked about my reasons for being an Anglo-Saxonist, I immediately felt a deep anxiety about, well, not having good enough reasons. That is, not having a profound and meaningful origin story involving something like finding a long-lost twin or saving a person from a life-threatening disease. The real story involves a series of random, little events. When I began my undergraduate degree, Old English was a compulsory subject for all entering freshmen students specializing in English. As you can imagine, the complaining was legion. Everyone had to take it, and most people seemed to hate it. I was in the tutorial group of my university’s eminent Anglo-Saxonist, a man who had the unnerving habit of playing with a letter opener in the shape of a Celtic sword while he quizzed you about case endings. “Yes, but what case is handa?” he would twinkle, testing the dull point of the letter opener with his thumb as though ready to disembowel you for making a mistake in your parsing. All looked with searing intensity at their books, intently avoiding eye contact. Of course this strategy can only get you so far in an Old English class, because just about everybody teaches it by going around a circle and having each student translate a sentence or two at a time. Hence we would spend most of the class frantically calculating where our turn would land; counting sentences; adjusting for length and difficulty; assessing the probability that our professor would randomly ask someone else to do more or less than was usual; hoping against hope that we didn’t get that sentence that just made no sense at all, or the one that we were pretty sure we had mistranslated as being something to do with a three-legged dog and a slice of Wensleydale cheese.

Sitting next to me, I still remember, was an over-achieving student with large and incredibly expressive nostrils, which would flare to varying degrees depending on whether he was experiencing excitement or annoyance. Even though this student, let’s just call him Nostrils, was probably the best prepared in the class, I sensed that my teacher preferred self-deprecating vacillation above smug nasal hubris any day. Perhaps it was just that the nostrils were too much of a temptation to the letter opener. But whatever the reason, I immediately warmed to my professor for his refusal to respond to such humorless swotty-ness.

That being said, it’s not as though I understood everything that we were taught that first year. I should mention at this point, in the way of absolving myself, that teaching things did not involve quite the same level of explanation and activity in that time and place as it does here and now. Cases were taught as though to students who had taken several years of Latin and perhaps Greek, whereas we had all gone to comprehensive high schools (public schools, as they would be known here) where you couldn’t possibly take such subjects. Sound changes were taught as though we were already familiar with the notion of historical linguistics. I found the terms “i-mutation” and “restoration of a” (both important sound changes) quite diverting, but I was unable to do more than imagine them as Sesame Street songs.

Oddly enough, though, when I got back my exam for the first year of Introduction to Old English, I had scored an 81% (which, believe me, is about a 99% when translated to American grading). I was mystified, but I felt that this must be a sign. Truth be told, despite my willful blind spot toward sound changes and the fact that I once spelled the protagonist’s name wrong all the way through an essay on The Battle of Maldon, I wasn’t bad at literary analysis of Old English poetry, and this seemed good enough reason to carry on doing it.

And that was that. It feels like a quotidian set of events to found a career, but it’s not a decision I’ve ever regretted either.

So, what about you? What is your scholarly origin story? Please tell me it involves a long-lost twin, a shipwreck, amnesia, or a parallel universe…

–Jackie Stodnick

Published in:Jackie Stodnick |on April 23rd, 2010 |5 Comments »

What I Learned About Writers (and Writing) At the AWP Conference in Denver Last Week

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Last week, approximately ten million writers (or what felt like it, at least) descended upon the Hyatt Regency Hotel (we also took over the convention center across the street) in Downtown Denver for the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference. When I first started going to the conference, back in 1995 (it was in Pittsburgh that year) the conference registration fees were twenty bucks (this year? $185), there were about 500 people in attendance (this year? about three thousand. Easily), the journal room had about 20 tables (this year? The entire second floor of the Denver Convention Center), a somewhat manageable ten-page selection of panels spanning 3 days (this year? A giant phonebook size book-worth of about 500 panels, and readings, spanning 4 days). The sheer size of this conference is a testament to the burgeoning popularity of Creative Writing Programs at Universities across the country. Famous luminaries mingled with unknown writing teachers, graduate writing students, and first-time published novelists and poets handing out postcards promoting their newly-published tomes. The only way to enjoy this smorgasbord of writing is to put away your complimentary planner for the conference (given to you along with your giant conference panel book upon registration) and just allow yourself to wander in and out of reading rooms, panel discussions, bookfairs and happy hour celebrations. That’s what I did this year and I had a blast. I learned some things, too, about the writing world. Here are the top five things I took away from my three days in Denver:

1. Writers like to drink
I know it’s a cliche, but the bar at the Hyatt Regency was at capacity from the time it opened up at 9 AM until it closed down at 2 AM. On Saturday night, the night the conference ended, they had to open up 2 extra temporary bar carts to accommodate the drinkers. When my friend Jason went up to order his sidecar (I know, I know, but he’s a wonderful poet with 2 great books out. So he’s allowed to drink whatever he wants, in my opinion) the bartender mentioned that they were out of vodka, and almost out of rum, and most mixers. “Who are you people?” the bartender asked him. “What conference is this?” He’d been working that bar for five years, and had served conferences every weekend, and had never seen his bar go dry before.

2. Writers like their Apple products
It’s just a rough estimate, but I’d say 99.9 percent of conference papers were delivered using an IPAD. These IPADS (and accompanying I-Phones) were also happily deployed at happy hour gatherings, or at dinners, or book launch parties, for any number of reasons. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many Apple products in my life. Denver was one big Apple commercial.

3. There are way too many writing students who will be seriously disappointed when they don’t get tenure-track teaching jobs when they graduate this year
I found out from a friend of mine I graduated with that at Michigan (my MFA Alma Mater, which was recently ranked as the #2 MFA Program in the country, after Iowa, by Poets and Writers Magazine) they received 885 applicants this year for 12 fiction spots. There are now 150 MFA programs in the U.S. (and this isn’t counting low residency writing programs or MA and PHD writing programs). All of these programs are dumping out graduates each year onto an already over-saturated market. It seems the smart applicants are using MFA programs now (at least the top-ranked ones, like Iowa, Michigan and UVA) as paid internships to finish up writing their novels already under contract at major publishers. This is what Nami Mun (a fiction writer I’ve been in awe of since her debut novel came out a couple of years ago) told me she did when she went into the Michigan program a few years ago. Sure, you have to take a few classes while you’re there, but really the top programs have serious money to offer their students, and who else is going to pay you to finish up that novel?

4. Even big-name writers still get rejected
This is the bomb Sherman Alexie let drop at his reading for the Beloit Poetry Journal’s anniversary celebration. He gets tons of rejection slips (many without even any writing! just the standard blank rejection slip!) and has taken to calling them “spankings.” He admitted that he’s still a bit bruised when he gets the slips, but it’s proof that in the saturated writing world, when the top journals are getting a couple of hundred submissions every month, even the big names can’t count on automatic acceptance. (That’s a blurry cell phone picture of Alexie at his reading at the top of the page).

5. And Finally, Writers are Insecure
The lines are drawn at AWP. Between non-book people, one-book people, one-book people whose books have won awards, two-book people, and heavy-hitters like Michael Chabon (who gave the celebratory opening night talk) and George Saunders. At AWP, you quickly realize that there’s always someone more important above you on the totem pole of the writing world. So just go with it. Take those spankings you get from potential agents, editors and publishers in stride.

-Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick |on April 18th, 2010 |4 Comments »

Friday Cat-Blogging

Friday cat-blogging, as an Internet phenomenon, was invented by Kevin Drum, late of Calpundit and Washington Monthly, and currently of Mother Jones.

(As a pre-Internet phenomenon, cat blogging appears to have been invented by cave painters in Stone Age France

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though the Romans have a certain claim to being the first cat-bloggers

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and by the Middle Ages, the practice was firmly established.)

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Anyway, Kevin Drum, a center/left blogger who has long been my favorite for his noninflammatory style and views just to the right of mine (which means I can digest them easily and still feel self-importantly superior to him), abandons his short-form commentary on politics every Friday to post . . . pictures of his cats. With commentary on their lovable peculiarities.

On Fridays, about 98% of the globe’s bandwidth is consumed by cat-bloggers posting photos of Missy, Dropsy, Fandango, Elspeth, and Crinkles. The uninitiated may find this a little off-putting, not to say actively nauseating. Although dogs have pride of place in the literary world (from Albert Payson Terhune and Jack London to J.R. Ackerley and Willie Morris), and there has been the occasional high-verbal dog with a blog, cats are by far the electronic animal of choice.

And I mean, really, what would be the point of a Loldog? They would all look the same. I SEZ WALK ME NOW. This would be even more tiresome than lolcats themselves.

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Cats lend themselves to blogging because

  • they never do the same thing twice
  • they occasionally sit still enough while awake to be photographed
  • they are easily anthropomorphized
  • they can be ascribed human language in print, as well as given voice by their owners in falsetto broken English when we think there’s nobody else listening

So here goes. Now, I must admit to violating one of the cardinal rules of Friday cat-blogging: you are supposed to stop everything and take pictures of your cats on that very Friday. Well, this cannot be done. I have a job and a life – not much of a job, granted, but I can’t stay at home and snap the cats. I have baseball boxscores to check, Facebook news to ponder, and crossword puzzles to print, so I really have got to get into the office. So I present archival photos of the Cats, in typical poses:

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Gemma has no memory, short- or long-term, and is continually surprised to find that people and other cats exist. She is one of the few world cats who will not eat any kind of canned food, even Fancy Feast Appetizers, which frankly look a lot better than most of the stuff I eat. If you have found pawprints on a manuscript I have returned to you in the past year, they belong to Gemma.

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Brutie patrols the place from various vantage points, preferably flowerpots or the roofs of automobiles. He will not sit on your lap or come when called; instead he follows a vocation as guard cat.

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And Gobsy bats the others out of the way so she can sit on my lap. She can eat anything without throwing up and is anywhere from 10 to 12 years old. I wish to apologize publicly for stepping on her tail last summer “on accident,” as unlike Gemma she has a memory and has never quite forgiven me.

And what does this have to do with the discipline of English? Clearly, if you’re wondering that, you have not internalized the principles of cat-blogging. It is a completely hermetic phenomenon that has nothing to do with anything but itself – not unlike a cat.

Published in:Tim Morris |on April 16th, 2010 |5 Comments »

“Authors we’re a little in love with,” or “Why John Donne is my homeboy.”

It’s that week I’ve been waiting for all semester. What, the mythical time when I have finished all my reading for class and my grading, and still have hours leftover for guiltless gardening? No, it’s John Donne week in History of Brit Lit. Could life get any better?

Which brings me to the purpose of my post. Admit it, some authors you just have a little bit of a crush on. For me it’s John Donne. To begin with, I can’t help but love how he threw away his career to elope with his wife. The fact that he spent the next several years in penury, showed signs of despondency and bitterness (he wrote a tract in support of suicide at this time), and had twelve children is a little less romantic, I agree. He apparently once commented that if one of the children died he would at least have one less mouth to feed except that he would then not be able to afford the burial costs. Again, not quite so romantic. Also his wife, after enduring all those pregnancies along with other miscarriages, died only sixteen years after they married.

Donne’s poetry, though, seems to offer everything an academic could want. It is deliberately difficult, and so rewards repeated years of reading by making you feel super-smart. And he achieves all this with comparatively little allusion to other texts, especially those pesky classical and biblical texts that pop up unannounced all over the place in British literature. I hate to echo New Critical notions about metaphysical works, but Donne is a place where you can sit back and just get on with the poetry (assuming that you know enough about Early Modern language and literary conventions, that is). Frankly, I’m just a sucker for all the classic John Donne poetic moves: the vividly realized situation; the imagery; the sense of a speaking voice; the extended argument; the surprise of the conceit. This latter makes the reader work, and therein lies the pleasure of the Donne poem: it’s like a bicep curl for your brain.

And it’s Spring, and the reverdie tells us that in Spring thoughts turn to love. Who else but Donne could describe the solipsism of love so aptly, and show so concretely the ways that love makes “one little room an everywhere,” in which “Nothing else is.” Love is a phoenix; love is a flea; love is a candle; love is a hermitage; love is a pair of compasses; love is a John Donne poem.

So here is probably everyone’s favorite John Donne poem (I should also mention that Donne rocked the big floppy hat look).

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A Valediction Forbidding Mourning

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“Now his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, ’cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

So, on this spring day, which author are you a little in love with?

–Jackie Stodnick

Published in:Jackie Stodnick |on April 14th, 2010 |2 Comments »

News Flash! Neuro Lit Crit is IT!

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I’m always a little wary when the media declares the next new thing in literary criticism. After all, journalists have delighted in the past in telling us that 1) literature is dead and 2) literary theory is really dead. Most of the major newspapers enjoy regaling their readers with articles that mock the absurdities of contemporary literary criticism — for example, in their annual “Can you believe they crazy things that professors talk about?” coverage of the Modern Language Association conference.  The general tone of such articles is: since we already know that literature is out of touch with our fast-paced digital age, the study of literature is the epitome of arcane self-indulgence.

Now, the NY Times tells us that that the newest “new thing” in lit crit is … well, I’ll let the journalist describe it:

Why human beings are equipped with this capacity and what particular brain functions enable them to do it are questions that have occupied primarily cognitive psychologists.

Now English professors and graduate students are asking them too. They say they’re convinced science not only offers unexpected insights into individual texts, but that it may help to answer fundamental questions about literature’s very existence: Why do we read fiction? Why do we care so passionately about nonexistent characters? What underlying mental processes are activated when we read?

And, why have scholars of literature turned towards neurology and cognitive science as tools for literary analysis?

At a time when university literature departments are confronting painful budget cuts, a moribund job market and pointed scrutiny about the purpose and value of an education in the humanities, the cross-pollination of English and psychology is providing a revitalizing lift.

This is a rather cynical argument, in my opinion. While there may, in fact, be scholars seeking to tap into the untold wealth of the sciences, to view this as the primary motivator for “science studies” doesn’t do justice to the important avenues opened up by literary and cultural studies scholars who are engaging with the material, the bodily, the biological. (I’m thinking here of the brilliant work of our colleagues Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman in their Material Feminisms; they might be surprised to know that they are due a cut of the UTA Biology Department’s budget.)

Nor is everyone embracing the idea that Neuro Lit Crit is going to save the humanities. In a series of articles titled “Can ‘Neuro Lit Crit’ Save the Humanities?,” scholars from several disciplines weigh in on this new approach. Of course, many of the commentators take issue, as I do here, with the “one ring to rule them all” conceit of the question itself. I really hope that science is not “the” cure for the problems facing the humanities these days — because then it wouldn’t be the humanities, would it?

– Desiree Henderson

Published in:Desiree Henderson |on April 12th, 2010 |1 Comment »

So, What DO We Look For When We Read?

Recently, Tim Morris sent me the link to an editorial by James Woods in the New Yorker that explores, among other things, the predictability of the tropes many contemporary writers employ in their novels. Mr. Woods argues that tropes aren’t a recent development in novels (he points out that the 19th century novels relied on popular plot manipulators such as eavesdropping, or gossip, or evil wills that leave the protagonist destitute) and that perhaps the more contemporary tropes (his scathing critique of gestures used in language by contemporary writers is hilarious) are in fact reminiscent of ones used in the past, only tweaked in response to what readers of “realist” fiction in today’s world expect. Mr. Woods ends the editorial by taking to task the problems (as he sees them) in Chang-Rae Lee’s new novel Surrendered (which, as it turns out, I’ve read a couple of great reviews of. And these reviews praise exactly what Mr. Woods, it seems, finds problematic about the novel).

After reading the article I found myself agreeing, in many ways, with Mr. Woods. Lately I’ve found myself beginning novels and then abandoning them, leaving a stack of discards on my bedside table that blocks my alarm clock. And it seems that I give up on many of these novels for the same reason–I grow desperately bored with them. And it’s usually not due to the predictability of the plot (which is what Mr. Woods ultimately complains about with Surrendered) but rather the “writerly, MFA graduate” tropes that I’ve noticed lately in many much-ballyhooed novels. There’s the alternating first person point of view chapters (or, sometimes, the alternating third person limited point of view), the enigmatic alcoholic (or depressed, or heroin addicted) love interest for the protagonist, the broken families and wrecked marriages, the prose that wanders on for paragraphs describing exactly the way the sun looks as it sets over the cornfields (or the suburban mini-mart, or shopping mall). It seems to me that these are tricks we’re taught in writing programs (pay attention to those objective correlatives! Introduce a new problem for your protagonist as soon as the old problem is resolved!) and I’ve found myself growing bored to death with these writerly tricks (my most recent put-down? Let the Great World Spin, which won last Year’s National Book Award.  Why? Well, I didn’t really find the characters all that interesting, and there’s the alternating third person limited POV sections, but–most annoying for me–there’s the language that’s trying really hard to make the ugliness in our world seem beautiful, and to guilt the reader into feeling shame for the crime of wandering around, blissfully unaware of all of the suffering people around us.  But maybe the book gets better in the second half.  I’m too busy turning my head as I drive past those guys asking for change out on Division Street and so am currently stalled out in the middle of the second section of the book ).

All of this has me thinking about what it is that we look for when we read. What makes us stick with a book? What makes us put one down? There must be some universal “it-ness” that we’re looking for (or maybe that editors and agents are looking for) but what is this “it-ness”?

So what do you look for when you read? And what’s the latest book you’ve decided to put down (or one that you just kept on happily reading?)

-Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick |on April 5th, 2010 |2 Comments »

Tier One Comes to UTA

I got a phone call this morning from my friend Chaim Knott, Executive Associate Vice Provost for K-20 Initiatives here at UTA.

“Hey Tim,” said Chaim. “I really can’t talk right now.”

“You called me, Chaim. What’s up?” I said.

“Can I tell you something in confidence?” asked Chaim.

“Of course not,” I said. “I’m a blogger. Anything you tell me will be lunchtime reading across the globe later today.”

“Well, I guess I’ll just have to trust you,” said Chaim. “UTA is on the brink of a major new Tier One thrust. But the name is too simple, so I wanted to get some verbiage from you. We’re calling it Improving Education.”

“Way too simple,” I said. “Try Value-Added Intrapersonal Enhancement.”

“Man, you the wordsmith,” said Chaim. “That’s why I call you.”

“But what’s it all about, Chaim?” I asked.

“Well, keep this under your hat,” said Chaim. “But here’s the deal. First, we’re going to require a foreign language for every bachelor’s degree. Not just because of the global economy, but because being multilingual makes you a better world citizen and a more truly cultured human being. We have to pay more than lip service to the liberal arts if we want to be Tier One.”

“L’esprit est prompt, mais la chair est faible, Chaim.”

“Huh? No comprendo, dude-o. Anyway, next, we’re going to make class sizes a lot smaller.”

“What’s up with that, Chaim? Everyone from my Dean to the Chronicle of Higher Education tells me that bigger classes actually improve learning.”

“Uh-huh. Which is why they try to recruit kids to Dartmouth and Reed College and Bryn Mawr by advertising gigantic freshman sections? Listen, Tim. We’re going to cap basic literature, math, government, and history classes at 20 students, so the professor knows every student’s name and can give extra help on everything.”

“Sounds good. But that’s for F2F classes, right? You’ll still offer unlimited on-line sections.”

“No, we’re eliminating distance ed.”

“Eliminating it? But Chaim, distance ed is the vibrant new delivery system for the 21st century. It’s the way Generation Z has learned how to learn.”

“You believe that banana oil, Tim? Distance ed is about cutting costs, not about better instruction. I saw an on-line chemistry course the other day that was made up of Facebook Quizzes. You really think kids learn anything from “What Kind of Hydrocarbon Chain Are You?”

“You’re going to need a lot of new faculty to teach those sections, Chaim.”

“And we’ve got to pay them accordingly. What does UTA pay full-time Lecturers in English right now, Tim?”

“$22,500 a year. But Senior Lecturers with a Ph.D. plus ten years’ experience can make up to $38,000.”

“Let’s see, let’s see . . . Fort Worth ISD pays entry-level kindergarten teachers $46,570. I figure we should top that by 10%. How does $51,227 sound?”

“Sounds like what I was making when I got promoted to Full Professor.”

“Cool.”

“But how are you going to fund this, Chaim?”

“I thought you’d ask that. Number one, we’re going to cancel the annual redesign of the UTA logo. That’ll pick up $83K a year.”

“But there are so many ways to write the letter A that you haven’t tried out yet!”

“Funny. Next, we’re going to realize huge savings from sustainability initiatives.”

“But Chaim, UTA already has a sustainability program. We even have a sustainability blog.”

“Tim, blogs are for whiny, powerless losers. We’re talking actually doing something here. First, we’re going to xeriscape the campus, so we stop pumping water out of 10,000 sprinkler heads when the Shorthorn headline is TOO RAINY TO PLAY OOZEBALL. Then, we’re going to rip up the heat-trapping new blacktop in Lot 49 and replace it with a green-roofed parking garage. And we’re going to plaster the top of the new basketball stadium with solar panels so it can go off the grid.”

“You mean the new Events Center.”

“Events Shmevents. That place is for March Madness, baby. And since Texas Hall won’t be needed for hoops anymore, we’re going to turn it into an art-house movie theater, so you won’t need to drive to Dallas to watch something better than Paul Blart 2. And we are also going to follow up 40 years of empty talk by revitalizing downtown Arlington, maybe even attract a Seven-Eleven.”

“That’s going to need even more cash, Chaim.”

“We’ve got it covered. Jerry Jones is donating a drop of sweat shed by Roger Staubach in Super Bowl VI. Vials of that stuff have been going for seven figures on eBay. Hey, my Droid is freeping at me, sweetheart. TTYL.”

You read it here first.

Published in:Tim Morris |on April 1st, 2010 |2 Comments »