28 May 2008

Lost to the Future

Someone has put together a clip show of all the flashforwards in this season in chronological order. If this montage is correct, then the trial starts Jack and Kate's off island relationship and Jack begins to crack up after they have been together awhile.

There's a good possibility I won't be able to watch the season finale when it airs tomorrow night, since we will be at my father's house and, hopefully, in downtown Knoxville watching Robert Earl Keen. I will probably have to wait until Sunday to watch it on-line.

27 May 2008

Monday on Tuesday

Since we had a three day weekend, today is the semi-traditional "what we've been up to" post.

The big weekend event was a surprise weekend getaway organized by Andre. I have to give big props to my brother for working so hard to make sure he, my father, and I still have quality time together (and, by "quality time" I don't mean splitting wood). Some time ago, he asked me what Saturday in May would be good for the Pope men to do something together. I told him the 24th. A few weeks later, I get an email telling me I am supposed to be at some random exit off I-40 at 9:30 in the morning and to bring the following items:

3 Toothpicks
Matches or a lighter
1 Trash bag
2 small sticks about 1in in diameter and at least 6 inches long
A change of clothes including socks and shoes
2 Plastic Drinking Cups
Digital Camera
3 Zip Lock Bags
1 12x18 Baking Sheet Pan
1 Pen
1 Notebook

I was very intrigued and a little scared. It turned out, however, that most of those things were just a smokescreen, as they were not needed for our actual activity -- whitewater rafting down the Pigeon River. We hooked up with Big Creek Expeditions and our guide Nick took dad, Andre and I down the Pigeon. (And I can't recommend those guys enough. They are a smaller outfit, so you get a little more attention and experienced guides).

I had never been rafting before and, after the orientation, I was a little nervous. I had visions of giant rapids knocking me out of the boat and being caught in some hydraulic which would force me under water and against a rock until I either drowned or was hauled out by my vest. It was actually much smoother than I thought. We ran though some class III and class IV rapids, but our guide really knew what he was doing and the river didn't seem all that rough. The clouds which had hung over us all morning broke after we had been on the river 2o minutes or so, providing some rays to warm us up when we got wet. The only thing that was slightly disappointing about the whole trip was we were one of thirty or forty rafts on the river Saturday, since it was the first real day of the season, a holiday weekend, and there are several companies that make that run. And that really didn't matter that much. It was good just to be on the water with my dad and my brother.

The next Pope Man Trip is already planned -- canoing down the Waccamaw River next March.

22 May 2008

What can social foundations educators contribute to teacher ed?

(that no one else can)

One of the things I am interested in on a personal and professional level is what SoFo brings to the teacher ed table that other perspectives do not. This is important for personal and professional reasons. Personally, it helps me to think about what I am doing with my students -- what do we do in my classes that are complementary to other courses? What do we do that they will not get anywhere else? Answering those questions helps me focus and give direction to what I am teaching. The professional reason that question is important is we SoFo people often need to justify our existence in ways that other teacher ed faculty do not. I don't like that situation, but it is often the case. By figuring out what we bring to the table, what value we add, we can better make our case for our academic worth.

There are lots of possible answers to that question. Dan Butin gives three -- liberal arts, cultural competence, and teacher retention. I am not sure the first two will work, at least at my institution (and, I think, at a lot of others) because they are easily covered by other disciplines or folks within the colleges of education. If you are at a liberal arts institution, or at least an institution with a hefty set of core requirements, then the liberal arts answer may not have much sway. That is, it is easy for folks to say teacher education students get that stuff (the critical thinking aspect, anyway) from all the other elements of the university, even other education courses, so there is no real need to have a course where that is the primary focus. Of course we want critical thinkers -- that's the point of a university in the first place -- so if that's SoFo's justification for existence within a college of education, then it's pretty thin. (Note: Butin's argument is much more robust here than I am giving him credit for; he makes an important point about educational issues being the focus of such thinking. And this argument assumes colleges are really interested in developing critical thinkers. While many may not actually be, most I think, say they are. Thus, saying your course alone brings critical thinking to the table isn't going to get you very far).

The other dimension of the liberal arts answer is actually the traditional SoFo approach -- the X of education. SoFo is typically thought of as a conglomeration of disciplines focused on education: the history of education, the philosophy of education, etc. Through these disciplinary lenses, one gains the critical perspective on education the liberal arts answer says SoFo brings to the teacher ed table. As much as I think this is a good answer, the issue brought up here is always relevance. How is the history of education relevant to good classroom teaching? While I think this answer is obvious, it has been and continues to be dismissed or ignored. I just don't see (most) administrators and teacher ed students suddenly coming to the realization that history or philosophy of education is a vital part of teacher education.

The cultural competence answer is also easily dismissed by other folks within Colleges of Education, because that answer is often framed as the "diversity" answer. SoFo cannot lay claim to preparing teachers to teach in diverse classrooms, because t every other course deals with that in some way. Our ed psych sequence, for example, discusses poverty, race, gender, and cultural background as influences on student efficacy. We have a course that deals with students with learning differences in mainstream classrooms. And those are just in the core, not in C&I. So claiming that SoFo brings diversity to the teacher ed table won't get us very far, either. (Of course, there are criticisms of these diversity approaches from a SoFo perspective. Namely, that they neglect the social dimensions of these issues and individualize difference. That is, they neglect system and structure. In other words, while those other faculty are talking about poverty and the issues students of poverty present for the classroom teacher, none of them are talking about Marx. Talking about Marx, however, is not a good way to get people to listen to you in a college of ed. I don't think my colleagues fall into this neglect of system and structure, however).

In the next post, I'll look at Butin's third answer and put forward my own idea about SoFo's role within teacher education.

19 May 2008

Monday is Daddy's Turn

Eleanor has been napping for over two hours. I know (and appreciate) this because, as of today, I take care of Eleanor on Mondays. Sarah took a part time job at Portrait Innovations, one of those photo places you see in shopping centers. All of the stores nationwide are closed Monday, so all calls get routed to their corporate center in Charlotte. Sarah, and a bunch of other people, spend 12 hours on Mondays answering those phone calls. They pay well and it gets Sarah out of the house one day per week so she can do something else.

This leaves me at home with Eleanor. This should be no problem for the summer, as my summer teaching is all on-line. It should work out okay for the fall as well, as I have no Monday classes. Beyond that, we will see.

I am excited (and, honestly, a little nervous) about being the house-husband one full day per week. Today I got up at my normal "go to work" time (5:50), showered, shaved, and started getting things ready in the kitchen while Sarah woke up and showered. Eleanor woke up shortly after I went into the kitchen, so I got her up, changed her, and started to get her dressed. We usually just put her in a little sleeper for the morning, then really get her dressed after her morning nap. I made Sarah a lunch and got us some breakfast ready. Sarah went off to work and Eleanor and I played around a bit until she got tired. Now, she's napping.

Eleanor has been pretty sick all weekend, with a fever -- which got pretty high at times -- a runny nose, and, last night, one vomiting episode. That (her first) scared the crap out of Sarah and I, but there has been no more vomiting even as the fever has stuck around. This morning's long nap is undoubtedly a product of Eleanor's feeling poorly and a rough night last night for everyone.

I am trying to be both be productive on my Mondays and enjoy the time with Eleanor. The trick for both, I think, will be modest expectations on the productive front. If I can get a few things completed, either while Eleanor is napping or with her "help", I will feel good about not being at work and can, thus, enjoy my time with my daughter. Today, for example, I was able to review 20 proposals for a conference. And that was in her normal nap time span. I hope to get some laundry done as well, and maybe a few other things around the house. If Eleanor is feeling up to it, we will run a few errands after lunch. If not, no worries.

Since Sarah won't get home until 9:00 or so, I'll end up feeding Eleanor all three meals (although Sarah did help with breakfast), bathing her and putting her to bed. It sounds a little daunting, but Sarah does that stuff all the time, so this gives me a sense of what her week is like.

This setup has a lot of potential to be positive for all three of us, so I hope it works out. Most of all, I hope Eleanor feels better soon.

16 May 2008

Lost 5/15 -- There's No Place Like Home pt 1

One of the consequences of a strike-shortened season are these fast paced episodes, where lots of things happen. You don't get as much character development or even mystery deepening, but the plot advances fairly rapidly.

If you want to consider this episode the first part of the finale, then I was kinda right with my prediction that this season would end with the six getting off the island. I thought the final scene would be the Oceanic 6 coming down the ramp of the cargo plane, but that's probably not dramatic or cliffhanger-y enough to end a season on. Perhaps next week we will see the six leaving in some other way as the Island disappears.

The central issue we are now faced with is how to the 6 get together and get off the Island. Jack is with Sawyer in the jungle. Hurley is with Locke at the Orchid. Sun and Aaron are on the freighter, and Sayid and Kate are now captured by the Others. Is everyone going to end up in the same place, with some giant confrontation, where some decide to leave and others stay? That would be very similar to the beginning of this season, where Locke and Jack fight it out to hide or meet the helicopter. My gut tells me it's more accidental. Desmond and Jin would not decide to stay. Nor is it clear Ben or Locke would want Hurley (or anyone else) to leave.

One thing I am liking about the temporally displaced flashforwards, in addition to the fact that the technique itself is likely a clue to a big Island secret, is that we often see consequences before causes, actions before reasons. In the flashfoward from last night, we see the early stages of Hurley's "madness" and the first sign that the Island hasn't really let the 6 go, with the numbers in the Camaro. We see the reason Jack didn't want to see Aaron after Kate's trial -- Aaron is the visible reminder of his father's infidelity. We also see Sayid's brief reunion with Nadia and know that her death pushed him into Ben's service.

We still need to learn how, exactly, the 6 get off the Island. But other questions remain as well:
  • What are the Others up to? Why were they are grubby looking? Are they hanging out at The Temple (wherever that is)?
  • Who was Ben signaling with the mirror? What happened to that person? (Nice quip about the crackers, btw).
  • What's under The Orchid? How (or does) Locke move the Island?
Who knows how many of these will get answered in two weeks? Just enough, I suppose.

15 May 2008

Who is a "qualified" social foundations teacher?

One of my (seemingly infinite) recent research interests is social foundations as a discipline -- what is it and what does it do? One of the points frequently made is that there are non-foundations faculty teaching foundations courses. That's generally thought of as bad. No one wants non-chemistry faculty teaching chemistry courses. One of the issues here, though, is the field has trouble defining itself, so it's difficult to determine who counts as a "qualified" social foundations faculty member and what counts as a social foundations class. If you have a Ph.D. in social foundations (that's what it says on my degree, anyway) and teach a course called "Social Foundations of Education" then that would count. But what about someone who has a degree in Reading with a research focus on reading and critical pedagogy and does other work on race/class/gender? If they teach a SoFo course, does that count? What if that same professor does not teach a social foundations course (perhaps one is not offered at her institution), yet teaches a reading course with a SoFo/critical pedagogy focus?

It could be that if we define SoFo broadly, then we are not doing as bad as we think we are. It also could be that if we define it that broadly, then it ceases to have meaning as a category.

12 May 2008

Sniffly Monday

My allergies have been KILLING me lately. All the medicine I take only helps a little. It seems I have tried everything over the counter. I may have to go back to the doctor for some help.

Despite the allergies, we had a great weekend. Friday I drove down to Columbia for John's graduation from law school. Due to a threat of rain, they held it in the Koger Center instead of on The Horseshoe, but it was still nice. I then drove back to Rock Hill, ate lunch, picked up Sarah, then we drove back to Columbia for the party. We dropped E off at a friends who has two young children for her first slumber party. She did well by all accounts, which let Sarah and I stay at the party until pretty late. We drove back to Rock Hill, arriving home at 1:15 AM! Just like the old days!

Saturday morning we collected Eleanor and said farewell to Cupps. The one bright hang out spot in Rock Hill closed, which disappoints us to no end. We then went for an Eleanor photo shoot at Glencarin Gardens, then to the Winthrop Softball game -- they ended up winning their conference tournament.

Sunday was church and a day of taking care of Sarah. I cooked some steaks, using a peppercorn sauce recipe I found on the Accidental Hedonist. It turned out fairly well, given that BiLo was out off almost every ingredient when I dropped by there to pick up some groceries. That's what I get for needing exotic spices like garlic.

We also watched two movies over the weekend. American Gangster and No County for Old Men. Both were good, the later was excellent -- it deserved every award it received. I will do my best to write up an entry about the film later.

09 May 2008

Lost 5/8 -- Cabin Fever

First, we get a Ben episode. Then, a Jack episode. Now, a Locke episode. This gives us the Island's Big Three and illustrates a passing of the torch. As Ben escalates his war with Whidmore, Locke becomes the Islands caretaker.

Honestly, I thought this episode was a little flat. Perhaps it was because John's reemergence as the Island's man of faith was accomplished by simply demonstrating that he was the chosen one all along, not through any significant action on his or the Island's part. There were also parts of the episode that confused me, and not in a "holy crap!" way. More like in a "I thought we had settled this" kind of way.

That confusion was actually caused by Abbadon's appearance to Locke in the hospital. Prior to this, his appearances had been harbingers of sorts. He shows up to question Hurley in the hospital, asking if "they are still alive". So maybe he works for Whidmore. This view is given further support when we learn he recruits Naomi and the others for the freighter. But now we see him "recruiting" Locke, telling him to head to Australia for a walkabout. This is after Richard has shown up to Locke at two different points in his life (looking the same in the 1950's as in the present), trying to recruit him, presumably for the Island.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Abbadon and Richard are both on the same side. Richard could be trying to recruit Locke for the Island, while Abbadon works for Whidmore. Both know Locke is special and are trying to get him to join their side. So maybe I just no-prized that little puzzle. Locke's status is certainly unclear, as shown by Richard's reaction when 10-year-old Locke picks the knife. (Nice bit in the principal's office too, with the "You Can't Tell Me What I Can't Do!" line again). Although, come to think of it, that's not a very fatalist sort of attitude. Sounds more like a Jack line.

Then there was the mayhem on the freighter, which gives us lots of questions:

  • What's that thing strapped to Keamy's arm? It can't be good, whatever it is.
  • What's the secondary protocol? I didn't notice it at first, but that symbol on the protocol was the same symbol Ben had on his jacket when he showed up in the desert. Presumably, it's some place on the Island we haven't seen yet.
  • What happens to Desmond? He isn't one of the Six, yet he swears never to go back to the Island.
  • Nice how Keamy's gun misfired when he tried to kill Michael. The Island won't let it happen.
  • What's up with Claire? Just chillin' in the cabin, leaving her baby in the woods.
  • I am interested in Jack's father's connection to the Island. It would be fun to go back and look at Jack's earlier flashbacks to see if we could pick up more info.
That's all I got for now. Like I said, a good episode, but not one of my favorites.

Of co

08 May 2008

Geek Blasphemy: On Lovecraft

Three weeks ago, at my Wednesday night D&D game at Above Board Games, I saw a new book in their RPG section. It looked neat, so I flipped through it while I waited for our game to begin. It was a new RPG based on the Gumshoe system called Trail of Cthulhu. I wanted some new gaming material and, suitable inspired as always by NC Game Day, I picked it up last week.

In the interim, I plucked a compilation of Lovecraft stories off the shelf and started reading them again, beginning at the back with "The Shadow Out of Time."

Here's the blasphemy: I don't think Lovecraft writes that well.

Yes, I said it, and I know that probably looses me all sorts of geek points. I know Cthulhu's Librarian is getting in his car right now to drive down here and kick my ass. Or, perhaps more appropriately, drive me to the brink of madness by exposing me to cyclopean tenebrous horrors which Man Was Not Meant to Know.

Those cyclopean and tenebrous horrors are the problem. To be specific, the problem is the fact that the horrors are cyclopean and tenebrous. Expressions are curious. Exchanges are loathsome. Adjectives and adverbs are everywhere. That's the horror. Let's look at a passage at random from "The Shadow Out of Time:"

"The far horizon was always steamy and indistinct, but I could see the great jungles of unknown tree ferns, Calamites, Lepidodendro, and Sigillaria lay outside the city, their fantastic frondage waving mockingly in the shifting vapors." (362)

First of all, Lovecraft tells us those ferns are "unknown" but then tells us what they are. Then there are all those adjectives. The horizon is "far," "steamy," and "indistinct." The jungles are "great." The frondage is "fantastic."(Also note that my online spellcheck does not think "frondage" is a word). It waves "mockingly" (yes, I know that's an adverb). The vapors are "shifting," less we forget that the horizon is steamy and indistinct. That's seven adjectives and one adverb in one sentence. Are all of those things necessary?

My sense is people like that sort of language in Lovecraft. It's somewhat archaic. It may compliment his themes. Fundamentally, I think Lovecraft is critiquing the modernist project. Science and progress mean nothing in a world where humans are a mote of dust in a hostile universe. He wants to both show the hostility of that universe and remind us of some pre-modernist sensibilities. His language is supposed to be a vehicle for that, I guess. I think his language, however, gets in the way of the narrative more than occasionally. Instead of wondering what is going on with the narrator and his madness, we are distracted by all this damn verbage.

The way to avoid this criticism would be to claim that Lovecraft's stories are not really about narrative. That is, they are not plot driven and, instead, about atmosphere. That's why he needs all those adjectives, because he's painting us a (iridescent, abyssal) picture. But the stories are clearly plot driven. We have a big "reveal" at the end of "The Shadow Out of Time," when the protagonist (here's the spoiler) finds a book he has written in an archaeological site that is thousands of years old! That's a *gasp* moment, even as the reader knows it's going to happen. Lovecraft's story structure is wonderful, giving us flashbacks and flashforwards, playing with our sense of time, telegraphing the state of the protagonist to the reader which allows us to know where the story is headed even as the protagonist denies it to himself. Thus, our sympathy for the poor bastard when he makes his realization. Clearly, the narrative is important. But all those descriptors get in the way.

Lest you think I am a Lovecraft hater, I'll share a great sentence, coming at the end of the story. The reader knows what's coming. The narrator knows the reader knows what's coming (again, a nice bit of structure), so he wants to give the reader the insight he's gained through his literal and figurative descent into darkness:

"If that abyss and what it held were real, then there is no hope. Then, all too truly, there lies upon this world of man a mocking and incredible shadow out of time."

That's good stuff. It's too bad we have to wade through monstrous towers of unknown and shadowy frondage that wave above the distant misty vague horizon to get there.

07 May 2008

Nazi's Invade!! From the Moon!!

This looks pretty cool. Hope it turns out well on what looks to be a small budget.

Webiste: Iron Sky

06 May 2008

It's What I Do

Whew. What a day. Today was supposed to be easy; I was giving an exam this morning and grading the rest of the day, hoping to finish most of my semester's grades and just wrap things up tomorrow morning. That didn't really happen. I had a student quasi-emergency.

I had typed up most of this student's story, using gender-neutral pronouns no-less to further obfuscate the student's identity, but just deleted it all. I am not sure how much detail I should go into.

Let's just say the student had the deck stacked against him, made some poor choices early on that made it worse, and is now trying to rectify the situation. I am doing my best to help. Some of that stacked deck was financial, and that situation had reared up again. It's made me realize how close some of my students are to just chucking it all and ending up in the same poverty trap that they are trying to get out of. They are one frustrating form, one less than sympathetic professor or financial aid officer, one more parent who is unable or unwilling to offer some support away from some dead-end job in some dead-end town. It frustrates the hell out of me, because college should be about liberation -- about getting out of the chains of circumstance that trap us. It hits me in the gut when I see some kid who has that possibility but is walking that razor line between freedom and failure and so much of what determines her direction she can do nothing about. I really, really want to help push them in the other direction.

So I've got a lot invested in this kid now. I just want to make sure he walks across the stage in a year or so with a degree. That's what I am here for.

05 May 2008

Case of the Mondays May 5th

Lots of random stuff flying around at the moment, so I thought I'd do a quick Monday update.

It's the last week here at Winthrop. I've got an exam this afternoon and another one tomorrow morning. My hope is to figure final grades and get it all done by Thursday. Thursday night is graduate graduation, which I will be attending. Undergraduate graduation is Saturday, which I will not be attending. Since it's on;y my third year, I don't really have many students or advisees who will be walking yet. Next year those students who started with me will be graduating, so I will definitely go to the undergrad ceremony.

I hosted my graduate students at a cookout Saturday. That was lots of fun; I really enjoy teaching the MAT students. Sarah and Eleanor went to the Pope family reunion just outside of Lake City, where Eleanor was the belle of the ball. Everyone loves the new baby!

Saturday night I went with my friend Jason to see Iron Man. Good, good stuff. Lots of fun, Downey Jr was great, the effects were perfect, etc. Maybe they will be able to pull together an Avengers film.

Speaking of movies, Indiana Jones in two weeks!!! Were I in college, I am sure we'd all be donning fedoras and heading out to see it opening night en masse. As it stands, I may not make it opening weekend, but rest assured I will see it.

Busy week this week, with the grading and all. Friday is John's graduation from law school and Amelia's graduation with her MBA. Big party Friday night we are looking forward to.

That about covers where I am at, except for the three books I am trying to read while doing all this other stuff. But those books deserve their own post.

02 May 2008

Lost 5/1 -- Something Nice Back Home

If last week's episode was about humanizing Ben through the loss of his daughter, this week was about demonizing Jack as he gains a son. Demonizing is perhaps too strong a word, but we certainly see a key section of Jack's descent into the drug addled paranoiac that ended last season.

Jack has been portrayed as the "man of science" to Locke's "man of faith". Jack's science isn't necessarily about understanding; it's about control. His point of hubris is he cannot fathom a situation where he, in some fashion, cannot control the outcome. He assumed the leadership role on the island in an effort to assert that control and, in many ways, he's an excellent leader because he is willing to assert control when others are paralyzed by fear. What he cannot do, what becomes his undoing, is give up control when necessary or acknowledge that there are some things that simply "are." We see the first clearly in the appendectomy. Jack doesn't want to admit it's necessary. Then Jack wants to have a hand it it's outcome, despite the pain. He cannot let go. He cannot put his life into someone else's hands. That's what makes him so bad in relationships. You can't base a relationship on that sort of belief in control. Sometimes, you just have to let things go.

Not that I don't understand his anger at Kate. While this was a Jack-centered episode, we do get another glimpse of Kate off the island. Kate seems to have regained some of the strength we saw from her early on in the series, yet is still stuck between Jack and Sawyer. That she is defined so much by her relationship with two men can be seen as a little disappointing, but understandable given the context. She and Jack both have "daddy issues."

Other bits:
  • I really, really wanted Sawyer to say a line to Miles after Miles asked him "Are you her big brother or something." Sawyer should have said "Brother. Friend. I'm the guy with the gun."
  • The big mystery, of course, it what happened to Claire. I got nothing here, but I won't be surprised if we simply don't see her for awhile.
  • Poor Hurley. I really felt bad for him. That scene between he and Jack was wonderfully done. Good lighting, again.
  • Another mystery was the thing Kate had to do for Sawyer. Anyone have any theories?
  • I am looking for a literary analogue for Jack -- someone obsessed with control, with thwarting fate. Oedipus? McBeth? Suggestions?
  • What makes one a candidate for island healing? Rose gets healed. Locke does too. But Jack does not, nor does Ben. Is it a faith thing?