Day 362: Teaching Strategies

You are an English teacher. You have to teach a class that introduces students to literary postmodernism in 75 minutes, using two short stories. The short stories have been selected, the lecture has been written out, and the general point that needs to come across is neatly packaged into small thought-experiments that tie together parts of the short stories and larger philosophical discussions regarding such things as language, narrativizing knowledge, reality, futurity, etc. The format of the class, as it stands, is a lecture with added interaction based on making students’ minds play with confusing and at times funny logical problems. If, however, you really wanted to impress someone with this lesson you are teaching, what else is there to do? This is a problem I am trying to work through this weekend.

Mind you, you only have this one class to impress someone. You do NOT know the students yet (i.e. you’re teaching someone else’s class and the students have been working on a different period all semester), it’s a large, rising/stadium-seated course (let’s say 40 to 50 students) with you behind a lectern at the bottom of the room. You therefore do not have the luxury of experimenting with things such as groupwork, taking the course beyond the classroom, using technology as an experimental teaching/learning tool, etc. Hence, what can you do to make the students say: “this was fun, very informative, and made me think–I want to know more; where can I sign up for the next class?” Yes, the lecture itself is the main concern here, but what else is there that distinguishes one from other teachers in such a situation. Not having access to my regular techniques, I am feeling somewhat limited in this regard. Any ideas?

Oh, and on a very different note: this week’s episode of Lost was finally a good one again. You can find a great little (comical) synopsis of its highlights on ELECTRA’s blog.

Day 310: Cloverfield

I need to see a different post than Day 306 when I get to this page. Hence, just quickly, here some info on a new movie that’s coming out in a little less than a month, which I am quite excited about (mainly because of the flurry of cultural, affective and marketing activity surrounding the release and the production of the film). It’s a new J.J. Abrams production that seems to be very much in the spirit of Lost. Here some basic background info. I also love the film’s aesthetics (of destruction) and the fact that it is entirely filmed with handheld cameras.


Day 216: Know Your Enemy…

… is a fantastic song. However, it has nothing to do with what follows. Or does it? No, no. Not really. I am a very friendly person. That is, if you are not…

ok, this may take too long 🙂

I have been tagged by anaj to answer 19 questions. Apparently, this is some new thing going around the blogosphere. I wonder: why 19? And who cares? (Do we actually care to find out something of substance about the people whose blog we read? Is this really an attempt to build a social community that has depth? Or is this purely an exercise in narcissism? I suspect it may be the latter. Seriously, Hardt and Negri aside, isn’t the social component of the internet less about finding and connecting with someone you find interesting than doing things so that lots of people will find you interesting–the desire to connect seems less democratic than purely flowing into one single direction [i.e. the enjoyment arising from building a community of virtual stalkers who stalk an ideally, digitally projected version of yourself?–i.e. is the the consentual, collective creation of social simulacra?]) In this spirit, here are my answers:

1. Pick out a scar you have, and explain how you got it.
I have LOTS of scars. I used to be both a very stupid child and a rather self-destructive teenager. There are also lots of weird medical or embarassing stories to tell here. Ask me if you really want to hear more. (Ok–one quick, harmless one: I have a big scar on my upper lip that is the result of a toilet door splitting my lip completely in the middle (vertically)–was hard to get back together but now it is not too noticeable) 

2. What does your phone look like? List your reasons to buy it?
It is black and silver. It is scratched and banged up. It allows me to communicate with people who are otherwise not visually or audibly accessible to me.

3. What is on the walls of your bedroom?
A Che flag and a painting/collection of quotes of Sacco and Vanzetti. Oh, and a Metropolis poster and prints of van Gogh’s Guernica and Man with Guitar.

4. What is your current desktop picture?
Yves Tanguy, Indefinite Divisibility

5. Do you believe in gay marriage?
I don’t believe in marriage, period. However, I also believe that craziness is not specific to gender or sexual orientation, so if a gay person is really crazy enough to want to get married, he/she should be allowed to express his/her craziness in the same way heterosexual people are allowed to do.

6. What do you want more than anything right now?
I want to be done with my dissertation and have a job lined up so I can concentrate on drinking and hiking through the desert/mountains by myself for a few months.

7 . What time were you born?
no idea

8. Are your parents still together?

9. Last person who made you cry?
Don’t want to say.

10. What is your favorite perfume / cologne?
Cool Water (that is what I use most frequently, at least)

11. What kind of hair/eye color do you like in the opposite sex?
Every combination, really (well, red and white is a little freaky but who am I to judge–I had a bunny once who could make that shit work!). I have to admit, however, that I do have a serious fetish for black hair and bright blue eyes.

12. What are you listening to? Why?
Wind in trees. My window is open.

13. Do you get scared of the dark?
If I do, I pretend to be Chuck Norris and then the dark gets scared of me. 

14. Do you like painkillers?

15. Are you too shy to ask someone out?
Yes. In fact, I have never done so.

16. If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?
Anything that would require outdoor fire/barbecue to be prepared, which in turn would require me drinking beer while preparing it, which would mean that I am done with writing for the next few days, because otherwise I would not have time to do this.

17. Who was the last person who made you mad?

18. List one habit you have that has the potential to annoy people?
I tend to isolate myself for long periods of time and unintentionally alienate people when I write (it is apparently quite annoying, bordering on the cruel).

19. Who was the last person who made you smile?
Someone in the street who gave me what seemed to be a really big, uninhibited and honest smile and said: “hi!” this morning when I got back from buying coffee. Isn’t that just the best beginning for a day?

I guess I also have to tag other people. Let’s see. I hereby tag: Joanna, Shannon, Red Crochet, Dejan, caveblogem and ELECTRA.

Day 215: Sam Shepard

A very late post today, I know. I did not have time to write earlier and I don’t really have the time now (trying to finish a chapter revision that needs to be sent out tomorrow). So, here briefly an excerpt of a Sam Shepard play that kept me smiling today:

ELLA: Why can’t you just cooperate?

EMMA: Because it’s deadly. It leads to dying.

ELLA: You’re not old enough to talk like that.

Day 210: Rambo 4 Trailer

Cerebraljetsam is experiencing cerebral overload.

too many insults

too many cynical jokes

too much disappointment

too many (frankly way too obvious, one would think) points of critique

here the trailer:

The trailer above might not work any more (copyright). If so, try this one instead:

Day 209: The Bank of Common Knowledge

Read about this in a Bruce Sterling piece. This is interesting and theoretically screwy in so many ways. Interesting concept, which, however, will once again illustrate the many similarities, yet the final political/practical differences between Hardt and Negri and viral marketing strategies. Let’s just call it “deliberative democratic capitalism.” What really happens to knowledge and its political “use-value” on the individual level if it is increasingly applied, disseminated and stored in a way that, as Lyotard suggests “externalizes knowledge with respect to the knower?” The very concept of “urban survival” becomes re-defined along the lines of this increasingly totalitarian form of alienation (of the knower from knowledge), transforming the networks of knowledge often thought to contain the possibility for creating democratic networks (directed at action) into alienated, exteriorized networks of knowledge, purely functional as a means of viral distribution, not connected to concepts of use as much as primarily and maybe singularly to the logic of exchange and reproduction. Take a look:

P.S.: “exchange and gift economy”–hee, hee! Yeah, as noble a transaction as the interaction between the knowledge-gift receiving person and the Astroturfer!

Day 208: Global Warming, DeVito and Beer

After Hollywood has successfully turned an important discussion (global warming) that required actual radical political changes, which needed to be founded upon ideological changes, into a mere fad that will most likely not lead to permanent transformations but will be forgotten by most in about a year or two (“anti-global warming was sooo 2006/07”–maybe it will come back like the 1960s concern with peace and the social bond that was turned into the Love Parade and its connected fashion industry), I am still hopeful when I see that serious (grassroots) organizations/campaigns still fight the good fight and try to popularize the discussion in good, i.e. effective (i.e. smarter than DiCaprio’s latest sorry attempt), ways. Here a Sierra Club program that really spoke to me: picking “green beer:”

Oh, and the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelpha (which, I must admit, has been amusing me to no end–really a form of comedy I appreciate–sorry!) worked with the Sierra Club as well. Here the ad:

The link to the Sierra Club homepage can be found in my blogroll–they do a lot of really great stuff. Also: subscribe to the “Daily Ray of Hope” service. Good thing to wake up to.

Day 206: Brian K. Vaughan…

… has been on the writing staff of Lost for over a year now (executive story editor!). Why does no one tell me these things? No wonder season three was better again than the slightly underperforming second season. (For the uninitiated: Vaughan is young, brilliant, handsome and responsible for, among other things, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina and The Pride of Baghdad. And now Lost. Very impressive.)

What else..hmmm.. let’s see. Labor Day weekend was slightly boring. I had to do a lot of work, I did not get to barbecue, which may have annoyed me even more than having to stay inside all day during this beautiful weather…oh, and labor in the US remained exploited–nothing new, thus. Last night I went rollerblading, realized that I need new wheels and bearings and was shocked to find out how expensive those are in the US. Damn! I may have to wait until next season to get them. I may just have to spend the few remaining warm days running–crap skating was the only speed-fix I was able to get here. Ok, gotta run to the coffee shop again and continue reading. Oh, I am currently re-reading the Preacher series before I sleep. He, he. Fantastic!

Day 201: Hipster Olympics

Laughed my ass off when I saw this. Not only is it so wunderfully accurate, it also precisely describes the ugly underbelly of neoliberal capitalist logic and its social support system as it manifests itself in mass culture, of which counterculture is only one of many facets (i.e. the “counter” is really what defines the diversity of the “mass,” which as traditional mass culture as “mainstream culture” no longer exists). I may use this for teaching purposes. Nothing is as part of the mainstream as not being part of the mainstream. But it sure is funnier than the mainstream–until one realizes that the mainstream has died, of course.

Day 198: New Semester

Today marks the beginning of a new semester and of what will (hopefully) be my last year at UIC. It is not that I don’t like teaching here but I am really looking forward to getting a job as an actual professor, which does not pay me dumping wages. No, it’s not all about the money. It’s just that starving is only fun for so long (even within a clearly bourgeois frame of mind where starving merely equates to “paying one’s dues” and not truly to starving, or a situation of permanent lower-class exploitative labor–but still: enough already). I do have a teaching gig here for the next two semesters but I will begin throwing myself on the job market beginning in late September and hope to have an actual job somewhere in the US (or somewhere in the world) come March/April. Initially, I was worried that the last year here would be bad for my teaching morale, as I expected that I would invest less time in it, be less enthusiastic and too distracted by the terrors of the job market and the insane amount of work left to do on my dissertation, but after having been on dissertation leave for a while I am actually really looking forward to teaching again. Hence, I put together what I personally think are two fun classes and I am quite excited to work through the assigned material with my students. Of course, this first-week excitement tends to fade quickly once one realizes that the intro class (which is one of the classes I will be teaching) is full of mechanical engineers and business majors who take it as a requirement and care fuck all about literature–but that is a given by now and I have developed some counter-interpellation strategies that tend to work pretty well. We’ll see how that goes this semester.

Consequently, this week I will begin by teaching some Raymond Williams and Fredric Jameson for theoretical context and we will begin to read Barthelme’s The Dead Father and Sam Shepard’s play “True West.” Should be a good first week–(famous last words).