Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ten Year Sleep: Re-reading Rip van Winkle

"Every change of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day, produces some change in the magical hues." --Washington Irving, "Rip van Winkle"

I remember reading Rip van Winkle as an undergrad. I remember liking it well enough. My mind still possesses the ethereal remnants of our in-class discussion about it. I also remember being underwhelmed. That's why I never thought to teach it in my own American Lit classes. Thinking back 10 yrs, I thought the story long and unwieldy. As a hinterland, preternatural tale, I preferred its younger cousin "Young Goodman Brown."

But after rereading Rip Van Winkle for my American Lit class, I admit I overlooked or disregarded its humor and depth. It's only taken 10 years for me to wake up to its greatness. One of my mentors told me that teaching literature is a good way to supplement my literature education. Luckily, it's not just for stories I haven't read, but those I've read and slept on.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The New College Dating Culture

"Yes, everything on earth, the race of man and beast, / Fish of the sea, and flocks, and gaily painted birds, / Rush into passionate flame." --Virgil

Here's an interesting New York Times article on the current dating culture at many 4 year colleges.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Quote of the Weekend: School is the New Chocolate

"Nick, I'm not a party girl. I don't spend a lot of money. I just want to go to school. That's my one guilty pleasure!"

A friend of mine said the preceding statement while asking my advice about getting her PhD. Very true....And I support her.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Does Dating Make You Weaker?

"Let attention be paid not to the matter, but to the shape I give it."
--Michel de Montaigne

This particular post has nothing to do with teaching.

The things that give you energy are astounding. in an attempt to reduce stress, I recently decided to take a hiatus from dating and women. And not only has life become simpler, I have more energy. I feel like George Costanza in the episode where his girlfriend quit having sex with him and he became smarter.

Suddenly, the mental energy I spent trying to impress girls is being saved or redistributed elsewhere. I've never been hooked to a B12 IV in my sleep, but apparently someone somewhere is doing that to me. Five Hour Energy promises "no crash," but they can't promise "mo' cash." Since my break, I've saved not just on going out but also on energy producers such as Zen tea and sweetened coffee.

The trouble, of course, is that girls have become more aggressive. Once I crossed the mental Rubicon of not dating, I suddenly had several girls wanting to hang out. Others have this experience, too. I'm no different. But the daily energy bar, that's different. Not everyone can claim that. I'm considering riding out this datelessness until Easter.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What to Do with 'Who Dat': the Economics of Language

"I'm glad the NFL finally realized that, even though it's the biggest animal in the jungle, it doesn't have to eat every other animal in the jungle."
--Michael Wilbon, ESPN's PTI

As you wash down the last bit of your cajun gumbo with your third beer of the night, you pump your fist and yell "who dat?" in a blend of syncopated rhythm as off beat yet musical as the language spoken in Louisiana's bayous. But as you celebrate your New Orleans Saints' trip to their first Super Bowl with the 2 word cheer that is part question, part phrase, another question is being formulated in the minds of men thousands of miles away: "can someone own a chant?"

The notion that one can copyright words, phrases, even whole sentences is not very foreign. And, to a certain degree, that makes sense. If a company produces a slogan that generates profits, it is unfair for another company to pirate that slogan for its profits. But how far does branding words for one's own use go?

Today the NFL agreed that they would allow vendors at the Super Bowl to sell products that have the New Orleans Saints' "Who dat?" slogan. How nice of the NFL to do that. My problem with them trying to prevent that at all is that the phrase did not come from NFL marketing execs brainstorming on how to increase profits. Nor did it originate with Saints management. The words came organically from the New Orleans fans.

In essence, groups of people started it, the phrase then gathered momentum, and it is now a marketable tool. And since it is used to market both the NFL and the Saints, I have no problem with either one making money from it. I take offense to the thought that only they should be able to do so. A vendor whose returns on his homemade t-shirts or mugs will be much less than anything the NFL produces should be able to use a phrase that, quite honestly, originated with a group of people who are much more like him both culturally and economically as opposed to the group of lawyers and execs who are much more likely to say "who dat?" in reference to the phrase itself than in reference to the team it was originally meant to support.

So as you celebrate this weekend with your crab legs and crawfish, french fries and fish, remember that winning is important. And making money is good. But the creativity of a community's collective comradery can be better.