Another country heard from

It would appear that I shall never again escape the state of Ohio. Much like hell, once you're within the borders it takes the interference of the gods to return to the world of the living.

Also, I am damaged (the short version: I fell down in a parking lot and now my knee is...um...slightly messed up) and now I know why these things happen to me (and it's not quite the problem I expected, although the behavioral results are the same).

Yes, I do enjoy being cryptic. I'm trapped in the Midwest; I'm getting my amusement wherever I can these days. And there's nothing you can do to stop me, Loyal Reader, because, again, I'm in freakin' OHIO.


Oh, wait. Almost forgot this:

In the year 2007 I resolve to:
Become anti-social.

Get your resolution here.


"An original idea...The library must be full of them"*

While Gerald Ford and James Brown were dying, people were remembering the over 250,000 people who died two years ago in the South-east Asian tsunami, Ethiopia and Somalia were warring, England was getting soundly beaten once again and Saddam was readying himself for execution, I did what any non Christmas-celebrating person in this wonderful town of ours does—ate Asian food (Thai on Xmas eve and Chinese on Xmas) and watched films. It is one of these that is the subject of today’s post.

The History Boys takes Alan Bennet’s play about a group of young kids preparing for the entrance exam to Oxford and Cambridge and turns it into a marvellous afternoon movie, full of references to literature and philosophy. It’s a film about literature, growing up, love, the class-system, life and all those big things but it's fun.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot this semester, especially with the class I taught. Research methods in the social sciences are not something that people get excited about. It’s hard to care about bloody research when you’ve got math and stats and sociology staring at you. But, that’s not the point. The point, in any class I suppose, is whether you are going to be teaching and talking more about the subject itself (be it “World Politics” or “21st Century Terrorism”) or about a specific way of going about doing things. I, as I found out, have a preference for the latter.

Reading the final essays of my kids I realised that I don’t much care whether they got a specific research method (or not) but whether they could come up with good questions about their research topic, whether they showed if they had thought about it, whether they could argue and position themselves along the Great Methodological Divides. A bit of understanding and a lot of curiousity goes a long way. In other words, as I kept on telling them through the semester, “just talk to me, damn it!”. For someone (as E would tell you) who remained silent throughout an entire class (yes, I did manage to do that quite well), I find this emphasis I have on (other people) talking rather amusing. Oh, and I don’t mean just talking in class—talk to me wherever and whenever. Just talk.

The problem with this though is that it could lead to people wanting to go on (and on) about their own pet peeves. Who hasn’t been in a postgraduate class where a few people loved to talk and often dominated the discussion to the exclusion of all others? So, that’s where I think teaching something like research methodologies helps—talk and then let me or your peers push you on what implications your views have. Knowing about the different assumptions about knowledge production and communication helps in discussing whether you are looking for a picture of the world out there or discussing the (re)creation of worlds in and through language. A research topic becomes useful as a means to get at different ways of knowledge production and to discuss how we know things.

Examples help—as I had mostly seniors in my class, it was tough to get them to even start talking to me, far less arguing and pointing out that most of the stuff I was talking about may well be incomprehensible. Usually, at least in my case, I had examples from sports (rugby mainly or football!) or television shows. Or, even just general statements like “calling a spade a spade”. What does that mean? How such seemingly ordinary statements draw upon a background of cultural understandings in order to be understood. But, in general, getting the kids to talk about their views was challenging**.

So, what about the History Boys? I’d recommend it to anyone at uni—whether teacher, student or both. The theme about conflict between the older folks who teach “General studies” (which encompasses various snippets of poems, French songs and acting) and those who teach these (Northern) kids “polish” and flair so they can compete with the (Southern?) posh kids is pretty relevant, especially here to both of us at PTSD. I am not quite sure how academia requires me to behave and a class on training me for academia, like the one these kids had, would have been much appreciated. At times, I wished the film were longer—there’s a great scene about whether the Holocaust can be taught (or not) and though the arguments trotted out are nothing new (well, to us academics anyway), the actors go back and forth arguing for (and against), making one wish all classes would be like that. Arguments and a willingness to act the fool, on the parts of both the students and the teachers, are needed if anything useful is to be got out of the whole learning process.

So, go and spend some of your holiday time in seeing the History Boys. It’s not really about History (though there is an impassioned call for a less-gendered version of history to be taught) or about Boys (though there are only two women in the entire film) but about learning—both in terms of subject and in methods. It’s got great dialogue and quotations***, good acting and is one of those British films that manage to say a lot of things in a short amount of time. I’m not sure “general studies” is still relevant but the way the boys learn in that class and the institutionalised test-taking they have to go through to get into OxBridge is well depicted. The final scene—telling us what happens to the History Boys after they all grow up—makes one wonder whether there is any relevance to this whole “going to uni to get a good education and have a proper career” business. Watch it and think on it.

And, yes, talk to me about it, if yous like.

* by Stephen Fry

** So, if yous have any tips (and keep in mind my next class is at 8.30am for Spring 2007), pass them on, please.

*** Unlike LilSis2, who recognised all the literary references as they were from her O and A level literature classes. Not having taken O or A levels, the only ones I recognised were the Witty quotes. And, “Knee-Shaw” of course.


I said, "Do you speak my language?"

Apparently not. Not if you're Japanese and in Paris, anyway.

While Americans in Paris dance about and have romances, the Japanese get stressed out and faint.

According to the BBC,

A dozen or so Japanese tourists a year have to be repatriated from the French capital, after falling prey to what's become known as "Paris syndrome".

If you are wondering what this is, then

That is what some polite Japanese tourists suffer when they discover that Parisians can be rude or the city does not meet their expectations.

Parisians? Rude? Never!

The experience can apparently be too stressful for some and they suffer a psychiatric breakdown.

But, there's help:

The Japanese embassy has a 24-hour hotline for those suffering from severe culture shock, and can help find hospital treatment for anyone in need.

Essentialising cultures and all that...I really want to teach cross-cultural communication some time. Maybe the Japanese Embassy in France would like to hire me?


Site of the Month: December

Since E's away and I've finally logged in my grades for the semester*, I decided to take over PTSD and update the "Site of the Month" feature.

I guess it's not a surprise as to what I picked: The BBC Online web site, with a special shout out to BBC World Service Radio. I've had a radio since I was 7 and I've listened to the World Service, off and on, ever since.

For news, nostalgia, knowledge** and nonsense, you can't go anywhere better. These days, you can even get most of the shows online.*** The section I most recently spent time on? My Science-Fiction Life. Go while away your time there.

When are you going to employ me, BBC? I have no job, no money, no future, and not much of a life so I'd fit right in with the lifestyle of a roving reporter. Ideally, though, I'd like to be an indolent cricket commentator--sit around in the "Test Match Special Box" up in the stands and chat with Aggers and Boycott.**** In case any of you BBC folks are reading PTSD, I've always dreamed of being a commentator. Hire me!

* I went with the "remain harsh" option. I gave C's! I'll probably be kidnapped, staked to the ground and run over by a Humvee for that.

** Yes, I linked to the "Science" site for knowledge and "Comedy" for nonsense. I'm conforming to dominant depictions of the natural science as being "knowledge" and comedy as "nonsense". Want to argue about that?

*** Including Torchwood and Red Dwarf. Isn't that fantastic?

**** I know the names of all the positions and grew up in the shadow of the willow. Really, I did.

"Have you got anything with a happy ending?...nice people? or funny animals? "*

I presume E is off home (half of us gets to see their family every once in a while, you see) and will be popping in every once in a while. In the meantime, you will have to make do with me. After pulling an "all nighter", for grading of all things, I am too knackered to make much sense. Or, rather, I shall make even less sense than usual.

So, in unstructured form (but with handy quotations to guide your way), here yous go:

"Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable, let's prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all."

I have, finally, finished grading. Ah the joy. If you ever want help in "compartmentalising", talk to me. I've been working full-time (legally, of course), attempting to sleep and grading in between. My time is measured in chunks of "how much of X's paper will I be able to grade if I don't eat brekkie?" and "Can I forego lunch during my 'lunch hour' and grade?"**

"What really is the point of trying to teach anything to anybody?"

I have, however, not yet entered my grades as I am now contemplating them. One of my fellow students told me that to give a student a "B" was to consign them to the rubbish heap of undergraduates whose future will be ruined. Not having gone to uni here, I'm a bit worried now that I may have been rather harsh with my grading. To change or not to change, that is the question.

Too bad the days of rapping kids across their knuckles with a particularly sturdy ruler have gone.

"They were written to be impossible to reproduce in terms of cinema,... And if you are going to make them into films, please try to make them into better ones, than the ones I have been cursed with thus far."

If you are planning on going to the cinema this holiday, don't bother to watch Eragon. Instead, (re)watch LOTR and write a letter petitioning the Uptown cinema to have all three of the LOTR series back-to-back showing during the XMas and New Year season. It's not like there's much else for those of us non Xmas-celebrating, non-family visiting, fairly depressed types to do over the next few days.*** I may even miss grading.

"Life. Don't talk to me about life."

I bought a copy of Steamboy today to cheer me up. While I still think the ending's corny, the incongruity of anime and broad Northern accents is always good to watch. Next on the list--Serenity, Monkey Magic and a series of Hamish MacBeth.

"42 is a nice number that you can take home and introduce to your family"

LilSis2 is supposed to get here tomorrow. Or Saturday. I will know when she gets here, I suppose. Since neither of us has a phone that works, communication is always an experience that remains quite complicated rather than being the straightforward business it is for most people.

"Language comes first. It's not that language grows out of consciousness, if you haven't got language, you can't be conscious."

I, obviously, am not doing much of a job of being conscious today. Next time, a more substantial post, I promise. But, like many of our (PTSD-related) promises, it is more likely to be broken than kept.

* Yes, cheating again. It's a bit of dialogue from Death to the librarian bloke sometime towards the end of the Sandman series.

** the answers: 1/3 since grading long papers requires telling the kids, in great detail, where you wish they'd really thought things over before putting them down on paper. This, therefore, becomes a painfully slow process; if plan was to eat cereal, then 1/2 a paper, if plan was to make eggs and toast, then nearly one paper; if plan was to make baked beans on toast, then one paper as, for some reason, baked beans takes a while to warm up.

** Though I was reminded today that this comes out on Xmas Day. Clive Owen and Chiwetel Ejiofor. If I had done the casting myself, it wouldn't have been better (except I'd have added Ewan McGregor, perhaps? As an academic who offs himself sometime in the middle of the film? Then I realise Mr. M has played most of the roles I would have cast him in: drug addict, dole bludger, nightwatchman, writer, Jedi, odd musician, lonely writer, and so on. But, not an academic).


Good news week*

E gave you songs, I give you news stories.

First, we all knew it wouldn't last: The Maoists call for strikes to protest something or the other. I mean, if you can call for strikes (and have them occur), it'd be hard to give up that practice.

Then, how about this? There will be fewer females in the neighbouring country. But, wait, a lass even turns out to be a lad, cutting down the number even further. How do they test for gender, I wonder? And shouldn't that be "sex"? I do agree that after days of flunkie-ing and grading, I'm even more confused than usual but isn't gender socially constructed (and, hence, scientifically untestable)?

Good news sneaks in though: The Aussies (led by Ponting who, according to my Grandma, looks more like GWB each day) have taken back the Ashes.

But, it's not good news for everyone in Australia. This lot of refugees been turned away from "Australia's most friendly town". Really, this is a bit much-- I've been to Tamworth. If people are willing to come live there, dear city leaders, please invite them instead of sending them away.

Then, of course, there're the usual stories: people blow themselves (and others) up in Iraq, Tamil Tigers kidnap folks, Miss USA was nearly stripped of her title (but got to keep it due to the charity of the Donald), there may or may not be an early election in Palestine and you can go here to "have your say" about news stories.

Don't forget: we are in the midst of a "global struggle" beween the forces of moderation and extremism**. Wake up, world! (Where're the Wiggles when you need them?)

But, fear not. The Christmas episode (The Runaway Bride) of DW is next week, Torchwood has marginally improved (or, more likely, my standards have dropped and I'm willing to let Cardiff, Capt. Jack and the lilting Welsh accents stand in instead of wishing for some actual plot and coherent storylines).

Oh, and I'm off watch more episodes of Minoriteam. After all, I can't save the world and am not too keen on changing it. Surviving is enough for now.***

* We were supposed to talk about our favourites. I'm cheating again by referring to one of them in the title.

**It's almost like mixing Moulin Rouge/the Full Monty/Star Trek:TNG.
E, shall I provide further details?

***On that note, when does Life on Mars return?


A little light music...

I return to blogging with a gift, Loyal Reader. Strangely Christmas-centric, but hey, that’s what you get. Fifteen tracks, zipped into one shiny musical package. Complete with explanatory blognotes, and just in time for that long trip back to wherever you began.

Hosted at sendspace.

Copying the tracks seems to have messed up their arrangement; below you’ll find my preferred order for listening to this set. 65mb, 160k quality.

The contents:

“Fairytale of New York,” The Pogues

it was Christmas Eve, babe,
in the drunk tank.

This is, without question, my favorite Christmas song. I try not to think too hard about what that says about me. Still, at least it ends happily. Sort of.

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” U2

they’re singing deck the halls
but it’s not like Christmas at all

This is my only favorite song that survived a college stint working in the mall. Any song (and I do mean *any* song) becomes hated and evil if you hear it nine times a day for 36 days straight, while attempting to encourage the buying habits of middle-aged housewives seeking to spice up their marriages. The passage of time has mellowed me enough to enjoy it again. In small doses.

“Elf’s Lament,” BNL

you look at yourself you’re an elf
and the shelf is just filled with disappointing memories

Illegal doping, unionized elves, blackmail, and existential angst. All the best bits of the holidays, really.

“My Christmas List,” Simple Plan

I want a dvd, a big screen tv
just bring me things that I don’t need

What would happen if I gave in to my inner child? Something very much like this, I suspect. Plus, it’s catchy and has great harmonies. Don’t sing it while shopping, no matter how upbeat and fun. People will look at you funny.

“The Christmas Song,” Weezer

you told me you would be here by my side
warming my heart on this cold winter’s night
here I sit waiting beside the tree all by myself

Okay, yes, the pattern here demonstrates that I hate the holidays. That’s not true. I like the holidays, mostly. But I also love songs that admit that, sometimes, December sucks. They tend to have fewer jingling bells, a sound which I despise wholeheartedly. I had a bad experience with “Sleigh Ride.”

“Silent Night,” The Primitives

silent night, holy night
all is calm, all is bright

This was my favorite carol as a child. I don’t think we ever sang it this fast, but maybe we should have.

“2000 Miles,” The Pretenders

in these frozen and silent nights
sometimes in a dream you appear

Infinitely preferable to the Coldplay version, this is one Christmas song that I play all year. (The other is Fairytale of New York). That singing in the store thing? Even weirder in July.

“Just to Be with You,” Mighty Blue Kings

I’ll take Christmas in the spring and do without the cold
spend Christmas in a desert where it ain’t gonna snow

Look, we all know “White Christmas.” This is what would happen if the narrator in that were a little more enterprising and proactive. The nifty trumpet solo gets me every time. It’s got everything a jazzy party soundtrack needs.

“O Holy Night,” Tracy Chapman

the thrill of hope
the weary world rejoices

See? I enjoy carols as much as the next girl. Maybe more. Again, fantastic harmonies, and this is the version I listen to if I need to step back and take a deep breath. It’s kept me from choking to death many an annoying cousin or drunken coworker.

“Peace on Earth (Little Drummer Boy),” Bing Crosby and David Bowie

peace on earth, can it be
years from now perhaps we’ll see

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love this song. It’s the musical equivalent of the little black dress.

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” Frank Sinatra

and wild and sweet the words repeat
of peace on earth, goodwill to men

Who doesn’t want to listen to songs about peace and goodwill? Bad people, that’s who. And okay, maybe I take a little extra enjoyment out of the smackdown of Nietzsche. I'm entitled, because I'm a grad student.

“Christmas Day,” Jim White

where in the world did you come from my dear
did some mysterious voice tell you I’d still be here

So, if the narrator in “White Christmas” (remember him?) was a depressed emo singer with a dulcimer and a bus ticket? You’d get this. It’s good, though. I promise. Even the gradual collapse of the melody at the end works. This is the first of three tracks that came originally from other people. If I find the url for them, I'll add source info later.

“Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis,” Neko Case

I stopped taking dope and quit drinking whiskey
my old man plays trombone and works out at the track

Rosy cheeked shiny children don’t have a monopoly on hope and cheer at Christmas. If anything, happiness is clearer surrounded by heartache. Unfortunately, (and this is your warning) it all ends rather badly.

“Snow is Silver,” Lowlights

watched you naked danced around like a flame
was embarrassed for I could never act that way

This song is greater than the sum of its parts. I have a hard time explaining why I love it so much, but I do. The combination of regret and hope and fear and comfort pushes all my buttons.

“Ave Maria,” Harry Connick, Jr.

It’s in Italian. If you need the words, go look it up. This is like Tracy Chapman’s “O Holy Night” for me: a favorite rendition of something I’ve always loved.

“O Holy Night,” Studio 60 Soundtrack

This is instrumental, and the arrangement is fantastic. They cheated, because the French Horn you can hear in the harmony wasn’t in the shot, but I love it anyway. Melancholy + caroling + harmony = WIN.


get me one of these

In the midst of grading papers and wondering whether half my kids were in a different class to the other half, I ran into this.

It's the story of a man from York who has built himself a Dalek so he can "sit inside in a bid to frighten away teenage ne'er-do-wells".

Wait, it gets better. The man says:

"The best bit is just sitting in it and waiting for someone to approach. When someone comes up to touch you shout 'Exterminate!' and they jump out of their skin."

How do I get myself one? Imaging trundling along the pathways of TUWSNBN with it.


saturday morning blues

And this is why I have no "favourite thing" post. Thoughts on the week that just passed:

- Going to various (insert name of DC-based NGOs or think tank) is great fun*. I felt like David Attenborough in one of his many forays to foreign lands to discuss the mating habits of pink squid. My task? Eat and drink copiously and take the opportunity to (very quickly) make people change topics by announcing (to people discussing the plight of various parts of Central and South America) that one "does terrorism". Then adding "oh, but not on a practical level--yet".

- Hanging out at TUWSNBN with people who are in a much later cohort than mine and realising I've turned into that person--the one who used to hang out in the corner of the PhD office and look like they were actually doing work when they were not.

- Deciding to carry my (seemingly) 5-kilogram notebook with me so I can actually do some work during those hours I spend in the local BigNameBookstore.

- Saying farewell to Liverpool's chances of winning anything this season now that they've drawn Barca for the next round. Well done, Liverpool--I hope you realise you were the only thing keeping me from inhaling bad gases from the stove during this f...ing miserable "Holiday" season.

- Being told "you always seem so blase when talking about studies" by a law school acquaintance and deciding to take that as a compliment (which it surely wasn't--even I can tell that). Would being in a constant state of obsession help in writing? Surely not. Having more time would but that's something beyond my control at the moment. After all, one does have to eat and pay rents. If only "Holiday" parties were on all year.

-Grading. As of today, I've got to grade 30 15-page papers by this upcoming Thursday. Right now, I'm on paper no. 2 (and procrastinating by telling yous about it instead of getting to work on said paper).

Oh, and it's E's turn anyway to write about some of her favourite things.

* Why didn't I know of this before this year? People have parties at which they give out free foods and drinks and not many impoverished students take advantage of this? They should.


Friday Random Thirteen: the "You Gotta Be Best at Something" edition

“Chocolate” Snow Patrol (best song about bondage and candy)
“Somebody Stole My Gal” Benny Goodman (best song for last-minute editing of papers in the middle of the night)
“I Can I Will I Do” Barenaked Ladies (best song with a really crappy chorus)
“Bright Lights” Matchbox Twenty (best song about dumping a whiny emo singer for NYC)
“Honeybee” Tom Petty (best song made up almost entirely of stupid clichés and hackneyed phrases)
“The Gate” Sam Roberts (best song that recovers from a really long intro and a slightly disgusting metaphor in the first verse)
“Interiors” Manic Street Preachers (best song about a dutch painter)
“Then She Appeared” XTC (best song that I once thought was about veggies and beer)
“Fashion Zombies!” Aquabats (best song about zombies. Duh.)
“Put Your Hand in Mine” Mighty Blue Kings (best song for dancing after dinner)
“Sweet Emotion” Aerosmith (best song that’s really dumb but catchy)
“Konstantine” Something Corporate (best song about someone who isn’t ever coming back, and who maybe was never there in the first place)
“(Past-Due)” The Weakerthans (best song about being the one left at the end)
“The Boy with the Bubblegun” Tom McRae (best song about a comic book hero that makes me want to cry)

Sorry, kids, no statistics this week, because iTunes sucks.*

* Do I appreciate reorganizing my entire library because iTunes doesn’t like the old one? No, I do not. Am I happy that all of my playlists vanished? No, I am not. Did this happen days ago, and I’m still bitching about it? Yes, and yes. Deal.

The People's Front of Judea Wants You!

Thanks to this, I may well have my new icon--no terrorist types around here, please. People who hate our freedoms are barred from PTSD.

Btw, am I the only one who thinks the machine gun seems a bit wonky in design? And it's almost the same size as the terrorist himself. Strong lad (or lass), that one.


song for ten

The BBC, in order to make sure that those of us who hate the Christmas season* and are looking forward to Spring, has given us this--an Advent Calendar. It's got some fun stuff from the past two seasons of one of PTSD's favourite shows.

I'd recommend checking out "2--Secret Santa", "4--the song from the Christmas Invasion (very catchy)", "7--the jigsaw" and especially "11--the Monsters' Quiz".

ETA: Okay, no. 14 is the best so far-- "Save Earth! Shoot Santa!". Trust the Beeb to take a pretentious tagline and turn it into something funnier :-)

* It's a marvellous time to realise how little I've done all year, how miserable flunkie-ing is and wonder whether I'll ever finish dissertating. In Australia, Christmas used to be accompanied by 3-month long-summer vacations (I worked full time but it was still summer), cold salads in the mornings and swimming in the ocean in the arvos and bright, hot, sunshine. None of those here. Well, except maybe the cold salad.


Hey, take a break from grading.

To go read this.

Postgraduate Office
A lonely, narrow room, with desks arranged in rows that remind you of battery farming. Yellowing printouts of Piled Higher and Deeper peel from the walls, and in the distance you can hear the faint sound of undergraduate feet tramping into an exam room.

There is an endless stack of essays in front of you.

>pick up stack
You really don't want to do that.

>make coffee
You move towards the other end of the office, view the Thing growing out of the kettle, and scuttle back to the safety of your desk.

>look at stack
It's not getting any smaller.

>pick up essay
You lift one essay off the pile.

>read essay
With trepidation, you lift aside the cover sheet. Suddenly, the world around you seems to melt away...

You are in a maze of twisty little paragraphs, all alike. The path ahead of you is littered with sentence fragments, left broken and twitching at your feet as their pathetic spaniel eyes implore you to put them out of their misery. Dangling modifiers loop happily through the branches overhead. In the distance, that sound of undergraduate feet has turned into a heavy, erratic thwump - swoop - THWUMP you recognise immediately - it's a badly-indented long quotation, and it's coming closer.


(on) the trip of a lifetime

"I once spent centuries, faithfully cataloguing every species there, every organism from the smallest bacterium to the largest ichthyosaur. But as soon as I'd finished, the whole world started changing."

"That's life."

And, so it is. I'm a bit too tired from a weekend spent avoiding people, being sick and watching Leo and Co. run around in Blood Diamond* to do this one of my favourites, Doctor Who, much justice but, since I'm days late, I'll give it a shot.

The gist: A time-travelling alien and his (its?) various companions wander through space and time, helping out (and sometimes messing up) as they go.

Things to watch for: Each Doctor reflects his time--the paternal first one, the Beatle-haired Hartnell, the slightly foppish Tom Baker, someone I can't remember right now and am too lazy to Google, the very foppish Colin, Peter Davison**, the Byronic Mr. McGann and, of course Nine and Ten. Both very 00's in their own way.

The TARDIS--Who could not like a telephone box as a high-tech time travelling machine, which has gotten cocked up and can't actually work properly? And the fact that, unlike almost all famous sci-fi/fantasy shows*** on TV, there is no actual ship involved. I have decided this translate to a lot less angst (Farscape, anyone? Or, Andromeda? and the leader of it all--the one which does "angst" and signposts it with blaring music of the "here comes serious angst" sort--BSG). Instead, there's the Doctor and his companions wandering around various dodgy sets and getting into mischief.

The message: Being a BBC children's show, the Doctor has always had some sort of public service message. Usually, it's of the "technology can be scary and bad" sort (cybermen, anyone?). Or, the "ensure you protect the environment" sort (Green Death, for one). Oh, and like E's Torchwood rec, Doctor Who never (and still doesn't--can I mention "bananas"?) took itself seriously.

The villains: A motley crew, this: The Master, Daleks, Cybermen, and even (more than once, from what I can remember) the Yeti. There are also mad priests, wicked Chinamen, evil monks and various hastily-cobbled-together in the Beeb's makeup department alien baddies. Marvellous.

The jokes (and, yes, E, there were some in the older versions!). I'll give a few examples:

Ace: "Master? Who's he?"
Doctor: "An evil genius. My oldest, deadliest of enemies."
Ace: "Do you know any nice people? You know, ordinary people? Not power- crazed nutters trying to take over the galaxy?"

Some bloke: "You're so smug and self-satisfied, Doctor."
Doctor: "I try."

Coppers: "His scarf killed Stimson!"
Doctor: "Arrest the scarf, then."

Shaun (from SotD, another favourite): Well, now you raise an interesting point. Is a slave a slave if they don't know they've been enslaved?
Doctor: Yes.
Shaun: Oh. I was hoping for a philosophical debate; is that all I'm gonna get? Yes?
Doctor: Yes.
Shaun: You're no fun.

But, he was. And he is. So, go watch it as soon as you can. It's on Sci-fi on Friday nights and also on various online sources, any time of the day.

Things to avoid: Umm...nothing, as far as I'm concerned. Well, the older series might be rather boring for some of yous (but, if you stick and watch it you'll realise they are actually much better than loads of tosh on the television these days). Nine and Ten are clearly enjoying themselves while sorting out the human race, the new series is filmed in one of my favourite cities in the world (Cardiff) and there's a new season coming up soon.

If you've not seen any of the Doctor yet, you should. As another of my (and E's I think) favourites wrote:

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.

And that's what the Doctor would say, as he got on with doing whatever it is that he's up to.

* Not half bad by the way, especially if you ignore the stupidly "Hollywood" last half hour. It's also beautifully filmed and, surprisingly, Sierra Leone looks just like back home. Somehow. It's probably XMas-related delusion creeping into my head.

** I always suspected Tristan was an alien and the Doctor proved me right.

*** My other favourite--Monkey Magic--doesn't have a ship either. It's still a tale of a bunch of misfits and a quest but there's no spaceship. There is, however, a magic staff. And a cannibal as one of our intrepid heroes. I avoided talking about it since it's not widely available to buy (or watch) . Wait--that's what I thought and then I found this. As the Doctor would say: Fantastic!


There are better things to say about this

Augusto Pinochet is dead. This is important in several ways, and I'm sure other people will talk about them. All I have to add is that, because of this event, large sections of the thesis I wrote in law school are rather pointless.

Not that they weren't already. But now they're *really* pointless, instead of just moderately ridiculous.


Reason #247 that sci-fi rocks.

Sci-fi shows have the best actors ever.

The short version: Fans pay to attend a convention. The company running it cancels the convention at the last minute. Fans show up anyway, because some of them were already in the air on the way to the hotel.

Other fans rally, the actors hear about what happened, and show up anyway. Fun is had by all, fandom is happy.

Firefly rocks.


Friday Random Thirteen: with bonus! useless content!

This week, straight off the iPod. Because I got lost in NW DC for an hour,* and didn't have time to make a list from iTunes.

1. Shoe Box – Barenaked Ladies
2. Lodestar – Sarah Harmer
3. Dignity and Money – Straylight Run
4. Rock & Roll America -- Gotohells
5. Supernatural – By Divine Right
6. Bone of Contention – Spirit of the West
7. Confessions of a Futon-Revolutionary -- Weakerthans
8. She Just Happened – Mighty Mighty Bosstones
9. Well on Your Way – Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir
10. Heart and Shoulder – Heather Nova
11. Pretty Little Thing – Fink
12. Come On – Headstones
13. Song for a Winter’s Night – Sarah McLachlan

Random Notes:

Canadian artists: 7
Hugh Dillon vocals: 2
Bought after a concert: 4
Listened to for more than five years: 6
Related to a television show or movie in some way: 5
Fast enough to headbang to: 3
Recommended to others: 9

* What? I was walking, I took a wrong turn, all those stupid overpriced brick houses look the same. Shut up.

This is totally non-academic but*...

The most-read (and "most emailed") story in both the BBC and Reuters today is this:

"Condoms 'too big' for Indian men"

The headline is pretty self explanatory. Apparently "more than half" Indian blokes are smaller than the international standards for condoms.

I'm sorry. I know it's not PTSD related. I know it's not academic. But, from an "essential Nepali" perspective, it's bloody hilarious!

Talk about "othering" eh? The big, scary neighbour down south is not actually big after all. Not in the sense that really matters.

* E, I'm blaming IntLaw for this. He also pointed out that telling someone that you did research of this nature (measuring penises "down to the last millimetre", as the Beeb story helpfully puts it) might not be the sort of thing you'd want to put on your resume.

Oh, and who volunteered for this gig, I wonder?

No matter, it's good to find the regional powerhouse is not as powerful (yes, yes, I shall stop!)

As we roam the English-language dial, we come, inevitably, to British television

My turn again, then. Even though Priya cheated by talking about YouTube (which is a medium, and not the sort of content-based thing we originally had in mind) I’m going to play along and talk about my guilty pleasure for the month: Torchwood.

Yes, the raunchy older brother of Doctor Who turns out to be pretty damn entertaining on its own. Billed as aliens for the 18-and-over crowd, Torchwood may not have the enduring legacy of the original, but it’s got better jokes. And Jack Harkness.

It’s not got the brilliant social commentary of BSG, although there’s plenty of social commentary to be found. Nor is there the witty banter of Farscape, despite the best efforts of a few of the writers. There aren’t even the convoluted storylines of Heroes.

But the actors are having fun, the characters are entertaining, and there are just enough plot twists that don’t scream “RTD got outvoted in a Doctor Who writer’s meeting” to keep my interest. Most of all, Torchwood has what’s missing from Studio 60: a sense that nobody involved takes any of this too seriously. It’s television, it’s fiction, and it’s supposed to be fun. And totally worth the hour or so a week it takes to watch.

Things to watch for: A new take on Harkness, and a brooding set of questions about how he got from omnisexual playboy to borderline-crazy secretive leader who keeps a hand in a jar. Ianto Jones, emo!receptionist and natty dresser. The problem of the week, which centers on sex, violence, or both. The Hub, one of my favorite sets of all time. Tosh, who has a stupid name but is sweet in an “if I had to pick a character to die painfully during sweeps week, I’d put money on this one” kind of way. And the zingy one-liners, some of which are really, really funny and some of which are so bad you have to laugh.

Things to avoid: Owen’s upper lip is mesmerizing yet terrifying. The Owen/Gwen relationship has a similar soul-sucking effect. Bisexuality, while fine enough on its own, is apparently required by the Torchwood HR department—something of which I’m not sure Queen Victoria would have approved, and something which hardly needs to be emphasized in half of the aired episodes. The show is eight episodes in, and only in the last three or so has the storytelling been consistent enough that I don’t cringe when telling friends to watch.

Overall, and I say this as a person who has watched some fantastic television art as well as some truly horrifyingly bad shows, Torchwood is considerably better than the detractors would have you believe, and only slightly worse than its diehard fans (and they do exist) claim it to be. British seasons are short—take the time while American ones are on hiatus to check out what you’re missing in this one.


Almost to the 12 days...

Not quite there yet but I thought I'd share this.

Probably hugely offensive to this half of PTSD's southern neighbours (and I have a sneaky feeling it was done by Australians--notice the call centre and the theme of the Bollywood movie) but it sets the scene (for now).

Thanks to an equally irreverent TUWSNBN student for the link.

Eye of the Tiger (near Dupont)

So, IntLaw was giving me a lift downtown earlier tonight* when we passed a major DC landmark.

We noticed lots of suited-up and posh-looking men and women milling about outside.

We noticed bright lights and silly grins.

We noticed a sign saying "Private Showing only: Rocky Nth**"

We decided it's not fair that postgraduate students have to scrimp and save (and get no funding) while Rocky no. N gets funded.

We thought about protesting the oppression of a system that promotes such dreadful allocation of resources.

But, no, dear reader, we did nothing. There were no revolutions from us two.

Though, if E had been there too, who knows what may have happened?

* I had to meet up with some of my people to buy a scarf. It's a long story, better left untold.

** Yes, well, I can't remember what number the latest one is.

video killed the radio star*

Yes, I'm a bit late. Oh, I'm also rather pissed off that my (rather brilliantly-crafted) post was mysteriously shut down by my (dodgy) version of Office. It had been about this show,** which began the same year I started uni. But, karma decreed it that post would remain unshared with the PTSD-reading public. Or it would have if karma could perform actions.

Anyway, here you have it: one of my favourite things is YouTube.***

It gave me Schoolhouse Rock, when I wanted to know what it was; it entertains me with loads of MP (and Fry and Laurie), when I feel down; Peter's exploits and Liverpool's latest goals.

But, best of all, it gave me this--A collection (and check out the comments for more) of great moments in some of my favourite sports (via the Guardian). The football ones, especially, are brilliant.

I'm not too sure how much longer YouTube can keep on doing what it does but, for now, it's fantastic.

* Here's the video. Off YouTube, of course.

** And not just for its casting of Asian people doing regular, run-of-the-mill things. That is, without excessively obssessing about their ethnicities but getting along with obssessing about other things--jobs, sex, living situations, and so on. This was pretty new stuff for the mid-1990s.

***The Beeb is still my first and ongoing love. I would like to state that right now before I start talking about other things.


Highlights from the past few months

Before I do my bit for the planned "Things we like" segment, here're some of the memorable moments from my TUWSNBN class:

1. Getting an email apologising for always falling asleep in class (and also reassuring me that "it's not you Professor, but the temperature of the room)

2. Kids apologising for handing things in late but then continuing to do so. I found this more amusing than I should because, each time, they were very apologetic and it was the same kids who didn't hand in their stuff in time every time.

3. Using the word "grown-up" heaps of times. I didn't take attendance (once I knew their names) and told them it was their own responsibility if they fancied coming to class (or not). Surprisingly enough, there was probably only one class (the Monday before the long Thanksgiving break) that had about 1/3 of my kids missing.

4. Having half my class laugh when we discussed "snowballing" (as a technique for ethnographic interviewing) and the rest of the class ask each other "but, why is that funny?" and then asking "Professor, why is that funny?" (I told them to go look online as I wasn't about to explain the slang version of "snowballing" in a bloody TUWSNBN class!)

5. Being called "Professor". Teehee.

6. Having a "Research tip of the week" each week, each named after a (famous-ish) sci-fi/fantasy TV show or book. My Doctor Who tip (about timelines and during the Genealogy class) was the most successful. My Douglas Adams tip was the most depressing. Why don't kids read DA these days? They should. I think I'd be more pleased if they ended up having read DA (after my little sermon on him) than actually getting research methods (which, we all know, is impossible to get)

7. Realising there's just too much going on in this class (and planning on reformatting it drastically for next semester). It's always better to have done it and found that out than to have presumed, in advance, I suppose. Hmm...

8. Realising all my "real world" examples were about football (Liverpool, mainly) or rugby and cricket. Rugby, especially the All Blacks, was a great teaching tool--using the example of the Haka to show how ethnographic and relational research differed.

9. Learning a lot about my kids' topics as well as about kids in general. Being pleasantly surprised as how responsible they all were and how much fun it was to talk to them. Though being told that "Oh, I overslept and thus didn't come to class" fell under the category of "things I'd rather not have known about" or "couldn't you think up a better excuse than that?".

10. Being asked why I was wearing a T-shirt with pickles on it (it was a T-shirt with Maori masks, brought back by LilSis2 from her summer trip to Kiwiland).

The best bit? Changing our social interaction style from having them run away (or, cross the path) when they saw me to actually having them come and talk to me when they saw me about. This took time--my exhortations of coming to talk to me worked less than my plonking myself down in the uni coffeeshop and yelling out "Oy! X, come here, will you?" when my kids walked past.

Most of them are leaving after this semester. Or, after the next semester. A few have had interviews for jobs and are getting advice about what to do after they finish. They ask me how I knew I wanted to do this (teach, I suppose, and research). I don't know how to tell them that, when I finished my Masters, I told my advisor (whom I met at last year's BigNameConference) that I never wanted to return to uni again. Apparently, I danced a jig* around his office and told him I would never "darken the doors of a university again".

And, look at me now--six years later**, slaving away at a flunkie-ing gig while I (try) to impart knowledge, facilitate discussions and write and despairing whether I shall ever finish. I'm hardly the poster child for academia.

* As E would tell you, this is not normal behaviour for me, by any means.

** I feel I should justify the passage of time by saying I actually worked in the "real world" for two years.


Cookies and cheesy television

Right. The plan (insofar as we ever have a plan around here) is to talk about some of our favorite things--television, film, music, and books. I've been volunteered to start off, and as I've spent the evening turning the Stickiest Dough in the Universe* into cookies** that no one can eat for three weeks,*** you're getting a show I talk about on Monday nights anyway, Studio 60.

There were huge amounts of publicity on this one--Aaron Sorkin's return to television, starring Bradley Whitford and that guy from Friends, and it was supposed to be the critical success of the season.

It's both failed to live up to its potential and turned into a show that's worth watching for the great lines and the occasional stellar performances. I'm a big fan of Sorkin's work, and I find myself continually disappointed by the writing and by several of the characters (Amanda Peet's character, in particular, is a painful one to watch. Both badly written and inconsistently performed, most of Jordan's storylines induce a strong desire to spork my eyes out), but I remain hopeful. He's done it twice before, and although West Wing was strong from the very first episode, Sports Night took a while to find its rhythm.

The recent addition of Mark McKinney has helped immensely, as has Timothy Busfield's character, Cal. It's not fabulous, plan-around-it television, but it is better than the lead-in, Heroes.

Things to watch for: Banter between Danny and Matt, the main characters. Stealth snark by Cal. The fairly consistent zingers that almost all the characters get to throw out at some point. Guest stars (including Felicity Huffman, John Goodman, and Christine Lahti) and musical guests. This week, the final musical number is fantastic, if you can ignore the horrible acting going on during it.

Things to avoid: Try to get up for popcorn whenever the regularly scheduled political and entertainment rants begin. They last about ninety seconds, contain no lines that will make you laugh or think, and are generally followed by a joke. Same rules apply for the sketches within the show. References to red states, religion, or the FCC are almost invariably negative.

* Molasses, corn syrup, brown sugar, and just enough flour to hold the spices in. Plus black walnuts, which I finally found at the corner store.

It's like baking with contact cement. I accidentally left a spoon in the bowl between batches, and it vanished beneath the surface like a mammoth with a one-way ticket to the Field Museum.

** I mixed up a quarter recipe, which comes out to about seven dozen cookies. My dad made a full batch, or enough to fill two and a half of those giant popcorn tins. His look like ovals; mine might charitably be said to resemble New Jersey. Or maybe Vermont. But they taste good.

*** Right now, anyone trying to bite into them would need some expensive dental work. Basically, there's a ten minute window while they're still warm, and then they have the consistency of window glass until Christmas. But once they soften, they're seriously addictive. Trust me on this.

how to recognise the living dead

In honour of the next few weeks, in which E and I will be sharing some of our well-remembered TV shows for your entertainment, here's a guide on how to recognise zombies.

From the Torchwood web site. Notice the date at the end.

Oh, and if you're feeling quite ambitious, notice similarities to how to recognise (and report) "suspicious activities" during the War on Terror.

Really. The Beeb is an endless source of amusement.



To the Florida fans who held up signs during the BCS selection reading "Buckeyes are Gator bait":

Buckeyes are poisonous. FYI.