The producer Scott Rudin recalled that less than two weeks before her death, he had a long phone session with her from the hospital while she was undergoing treatment, going over notes for a pilot she was writing for a TV series about a bank compliance officer. Afterward she told him, “If I could just get a hairdresser in here, we could have a meeting.”
Ms. Ephron’s collection “I Remember Nothing” concludes with two lists, one of things she says she won’t miss and one of things she will. Among the “won’t miss” items are dry skin, Clarence Thomas, the sound of the vacuum cleaner, and panels on “Women in Film.” The other list, of the things she will miss, begins with “my kids” and “Nick” and ends this way: Continue Reading »
Archive for the 'unhappy endings' Category
In a very smart and measured editorial last Sunday in the Denver Post, Professor Lloyd Burton of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado, Denver, pointed out how language shapes our views of wildfires and forest management:
We have three problems with our narrative: First, it is an urban narrative applied to a mostly rural landscape; that is, it reports on [wildland-urban interface] wildfires as if they were urban fires. The initial focus is always on proximate causes (what ignited the fire), followed by a quest for fault-finding, usually around the issues of why the fire wasn’t immediately eradicated or why everyone may not have been moved out of harm’s way.
Applying the urban narrative to the WUI also stresses the necessity for the immediate and total suppression of all fires, whenever and wherever they arise. In the urban context, this is absolutely understandable. To do anything other than that would invite catastrophe in our densely populated cities. But applying this urban expectation to WUI wildfires is both futile and inappropriate.
A second problem is that the news media mindset and resulting language of its discourse is saturated in metaphors of war. We are treated daily to visuals of ex-military aircraft bombing fires and structures with toxic fire-retardant. We have strong, courageous, well-trained and well-disciplined “fighters” in the field being coordinated by a top-down incident command system; and we use many of the same communications technologies and terms to implement tactical field maneuvers. Continue Reading »
I’m about to fly off for my annual sojourn to the ancestral heartland, and while I was buried in the eighteenth century last week, it came to light that some time-traveling pols from the eighteenth century have joined the Michigan House of Representatives! Remarkable providences! I try to prevent my worlds from colliding, but the Michigan ledge just won’t let me. According to their thinking, vaginas should be the object of legislation, but people with vaginas should not be heard, and we sure don’t need to discuss the icky particulars.
I’ll be sure to ask every Michigander I meet if I’m truly welcome in their state. Will there be a border check, I wonder? Continue Reading »
Howdy, friends. Since I’ve been living in the long eighteenth century for the past week or so, at least in my own head, I haven’t been consuming either print or electronic news as I usually do. But several of you have written to ask my opinions on the unexpected and untimely cashiering of the President of the University of Virginia, Teresa A. Sullivan, last week. As many of you know much better than I, Sullivan had been prez for only two years, and was the first woman chosen to lead Mr. Jefferson’s university. This morning, I read something that several of you (in person and via e-mail) had already suggested to me, namely that forces on the university’s Board of Visitors against Sullivan were peeved at her resistance to online education. (Earlier this week, other reporting suggested that Sullivan was perceived as reluctant to cut low enrollment programs such as German and Classics.)
I’m really grateful to you readers for the e-mails and the prodding on this, but since I’m actually making some research and writing progress this week on my own irrelevant and self-indulgent intellectual work, I’d like to turn the conversation over to you. Some of you who have written to me have UVA connections, so feel free to discuss the Sullivan firing and its causes and consequences. Continue Reading »
Friends, as you know I’m conferencing this weekend, but I’m wondering if some of you can offer some helpful advice and assistance to our friend Flavia at Ferule and Fescue. As some of you may know, she’s enjoying a completely enviable summer in Rome, but that’s beside the point. Last week, someone peed in her negroni, big time:
As you may recall, I’d been working with this press for two years. They first sent the manuscript to one outside reviewer, who had stern but encouraging words, so I revised according to her suggestions. They sent it to her again, and she was very happy with my revisions and recommended publication. Then they sent it to a second reviewer, who read the entire MS in three weeks and was highly critical–but he also seemed confused about the basic parameters of my project; he made lots of suggestions, but most of them were, at best, tangential to my topic. I was asked to address “at least some of” his concerns, and I did so to the extent that I felt I could while maintaining the integrity of the project. I also told the press very clearly what I had done, what I had not done, and why.
So after winter break they sent it back to him. . . and after more than four months he submitted a one-paragraph review, most of it cut-and-pasted from his previous review, saying that I hadn’t engaged sufficiently with his criticisms.
And that means that’s it for that press. The editor was quite apologetic, but explained that such a negative review tied the press’s hands and would make it hard for the editor to make a case to the publication board–even if the editor were to find a warmly receptive third reader. Continue Reading »
Thanks for all of the concerned e-mails, but Famille Historiann and all of the animals are just fine. We live about 40 or so miles east of the High Park Fire that’s now tearing up the foothills west of Fort Collins. We’ve been seeing, and unfortunately smelling, the smoke even this far out. This is the second major fire outside of Fort Collins this year, and it’s only June.
This is the great advantage to living on the High Plains Desert rather than in the mountains: there’s no such thing as a forest fire down here! Because of course the only trees are the cottonwoods along the creeks and the landscaping in the sweet, quiet little towns like mine. Continue Reading »
In a recent conversation with a friend who’s teaching an online course for her university,* she commented that she’ll probably get really bad student evaluations again this summer, as she has in the two previous summers in which she’s taught online classes. “I’m not a body to them,” she said, and therefore she thinks that the students feel freer to rip into her in their evaluations. (Of course they may also be venting some frustration with the online course format itself, although they may not know enough about online classes and what they can expect from their instructors.)
It sure makes sense to me that much of the humor in the classroom–quotidian small talk before class starts, questions about a student’s health, expressions of concern for their well-being, banter about university politics or sports teams, asking for student opinion on a local issue, dumb jokes by the professor–well, all of that is pretty much drained out of online courses. I hadn’t really thought about this until my friend made her observation about how much lower she’s rated in her online courses versus her F2F courses, but I think much of this kind of communication between students and instructors, and vice-versa, and among the students themselves–all of this non-content related, non-subject relevant communication is going to have a major impact as to how a student experiences a class emotionally. Continue Reading »
Via the Denver Post, an outstanding example of the kind of person who believes he should hold governing authority over higher education in my state:
A Republican running to sit on the governing board at the University of Colorado has erroneously told voters he has a master’s degree in international economics from [Johns Hopkins University.]
Called on it by critics, Matt Arnold mocked advanced degrees Thursday, explaining he completed the coursework but not his thesis.
“I was more interested in getting on with my life than trying to, quite frankly, waste more time in pursuit of academic BS that no one cares about,” he said.
Right. “Academic BS that no one cares about” probably wouldn’t make it onto resumes and into campaign literature, then, right? But somehow, it did in your case, Matt. Arnold continued:
“I think that’s one of the big problems, quite frankly, with education these days. We’re graduating a bunch of people who hang letters after their names, but they have no useful skills.”
As opposed to people like you, who hang fraudulent and unearned letters after their names, and have no “useful skills!” Continue Reading »
Yegads. What is it with these door-to-door hucksters who think that 1) “No Solicitors” doesn’t apply to them, and 2) who argue with me about it instead of beating a hasty retreat? (Aside from being just plain irritating, do they really think they’re going to make the sale?)
I looked up the definition of “solicitor” last year, after being argued with by a religious nut who claimed that he wasn’t a solicitor because he wasn’t try to sell me anything. Here’s the first non-obsolete Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of solicitor: “One who entreats, equests, or petitions; one who solicits or begs favours; a pleader, intercessor, advocate.” Notice that this says nothing about sales–it suggests that anyone asking for my time in the service of any cause whatsoever (political, religious, or personal profit) without a personal invitation from me is in fact A SOLICITOR. Continue Reading »