Friday, 13 March 2009

Intention to adopt!

Through the wonders of Google Reader's "recommended feed", I was reading Splotchy just now. And I therefore heard about a new worthy cause that is surely worth promoting, even in the face of stiff competition from today's Comic Relief. Splotchy encourages all bloggers to adopt-an-actor. While I was sad to see that Victor Garber (of Godspell and Legally Blonde fame) recently found his forever family and so I am unable to rehouse him here, I did spot another deserving candidate.

So I herein announce my intention to adopt Bradley Whitford

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Blogging award plea

I'm publicizing one of the candidates for Best UK Blog in the Weblog Awards, partly because the blog is doing an excellent service for creative types in Birmingham, partly because it's run by a friend of a friend, and partly because the main competitor in this category is a woman whose views (as aired on Radio 4's Moral Maze and in her journalism for papers including the Daily Mail and the Spectator) are anathema to me. All support would be welcome before voting closes on Tuesday.

Your help is needed! Created in Birmingham has been nominated for Best UK Blog 2008 in the 2008 Weblog Awards ( Your support would mean that a truly worthy blog gets the recognition it deserves for its work to promote the fantastic creative talent and related activities in Birmingham.

Voting takes just a couple of seconds – visit vote for Created in Birmingham. You can vote once every 24 hours per computer. Voting closes at 10pm GMT on Tuesday 13th January.

Please forward this email to any friends, colleagues or contacts! Thank you - your support is very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Griselda and Guantanamo

It's rare for me to find something I'm reading for PhD-type purposes to have obvious and hugely pertinent relevance to a situation in The Real World. But Agamben's Homo Sacer, published in Italian in 1995 and in English three years before 9/11, could have been written as a description of the men incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. I'm still reading the final section, in which Agamben applies his theory to the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis. In an interview with the German Law Journal, Agamben discusses the parallels much better than I could.

This book treats matters that are deeply serious. Consequently, I feel a bit of a fraud in opting to use it to think about the Clerk's Tale. People who have suffered terribly at the hands of those in power may not thank me for comparing them to a fourteenth-century poem. But Griselda's innocence and her vulnerability to subjection to her husband's abuse of power provoke such extreme reactions in readers from Petrarch (when he encountered the Decameron), his two friends, Chaucer's pilgrims, Vivaldi and hundreds of others through to me, perhaps there is some validity in allowing this tale to help me to understand the terrible problem of Guantanamo Bay.

Edited to add: the idea of applying Agamben to Griselda was not mine so I can't claim any originality here.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

location location location

A friend recently commented (tongue in cheek) that the quietness of the faculty building on a Sunday morning indicates that other grads are lazy. She was joking (at least in part) but the remark is indicative of a wider trend that measures a PhD by the hours put in in a certain and visible place. This seems to me to be slightly bizarre: is there any proof that reading a particular article is more effective in the library or a graduate study room than reading it on one's sofa? 

As someone who works better with a constant supply of hot tea and diet coke, I'm not one of the people who spends 8 hours in a single place each day. This means that I have to validate my productivity in other ways: do I believe that I've made some progress with my project? have I read some interesting articles? or primary texts?

And I have to be happy about that inside, rather than relying on the affirmation of being seen putting in enough hours in a public place.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

wood and trees

In a parents' consultation a couple of terms before I sat my A Levels, the wonderful Welsh maths teacher Mrs W told me (and of course my parents) that the only danger of me getting lower than a grade A in my maths A Levels derived from the fact that I frequently got simple numbers wrong. This may sound weird (surely if I couldn't count, I shouldn't have been in danger of getting an A, full stop) but I was actually operating on a topsy-turvy scenario wherein I loved all the complexities of algebraic formulae, statistical analysis, etc and subconsciously felt that adding numbers like 2 and 5 as part of the solution was sort of irrelevant: if the beauty of the working out was there, did it really matter if an odd detail was wrong?

I made sure I checked and double-checked the little numbers in the exams, and achieved my As. But I think that this habit of ignoring the small things still exists within me. For example, I frequently forget the names of critics (famously attributing the name Victor to V.A. Kolve) or calling Northampton Nottingham for the whole of my MPhil dissertation. Recently, when citing some Old French, I wrote 'bein' instead of 'bien', and continuously used the name of an author as it appeared in my head rather than how it appears in Real Life.

While it's funny in anecdote, I'm going to have to try to become more attentive to this kind of thing. There's no point producing beautiful maths formulae or interesting reading of texts if it's based on unforced errors. But how to change the habits of a lifetime? 

Sunday, 7 December 2008

2 carol services down...

The main oddity of the 8 week Michaelmas term is celebrating Christmas before November has finished. This year, the first advent carol service didn't feel *ridiculously* early because 30th November was, liturgically speaking, the first Sunday of advent. But having waved goodbye to all the undergrads, sung in two carol services and experienced the luxury of spare time (unknown here since October 1st), I've been so so so so bored today. This is partly because the end of term coincided with a paper that I had to give. On Weds night, when the seminar was over, I realised just how much mental energy I'd been using to prepare for it. Finishing it has left me unable to finish sentences for a few days and unable to concentrate of little except sleep and deciding who to send which Christmas card to.

However, I now have A Plan to get me motivated for December. It involves a new filing cabinet from Argos, some manila folders and an unprecedented level of Linda-organisation skills.

Of course, before these heights of administrative brilliance can be reached, I have to buy the cabinet and use my well-hidden DIY skills to construct it. Monday is going to be FUN. 

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Using, I discovered that this blog strongly indicates (77%) that it is written by a man. However my other blogger identity, in which I ramble about knitting has a very different set of results: "we have strong indicators that [otherblog] is written by a woman (91%)." 

Does this mean that discussing academic topics here gives the blog a masculine feel? I better look more closely at their methodology...