Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sunday Mixed Bag

I thought I had it bad. I'm in that circle of hell where teachers go to grade research papers. They get to leave the circle after a while, but must return to it a few months later. It's a cycle, like Lent. Well, the cycles are over for Terry Southard's father, whom she lost a few days ago. She tells the story here. She really loved him.

Puts me in mind of Emily Dickinson, who thought about these things on occasion:

The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies,—
Death is but one and comes but once,
And only nails the eyes.

I complain about having to grade those papers. But I'll bet I'd agree to a batch a month if it meant another year of drinking the good beer of life. This life. Lent is supposed to put us in mind of our last end, so I'm not very good with it. We complain about the cycles, but I wonder how many would be willing to let them go. If any are like me, they take little comfort in knowing that one day the choice will be taken from them. Life is Lent, and death is your last, and briefest, observance of it.

I guess. Frankly, I'd rather get off this train of thought.

While discussing a story in class the other day, I almost fell out of my chair. Literally. I have this habit of rocking back and forth, but had thought myself safe because the floor was carpeted and the chair mounted on a three-wheeled tripod. But somehow I managed to tip sideways, and in the midst of elucidating all the subtleties of James Joyce's "Araby", found myself suddenly gripping the desk in speechless desperation to keep from falling over. I was 45 degrees to the floor, doing a stationary wheelie, every muscle straining to win this battle against the foreseen outcome: utter humiliation. I righted myself, but now the conversation was interspersed with giggling. Especially from the girls. They love that kind of thing. But I couldn't blame them. A few years ago, in a classroom with no carpeting, and sitting in a chair with wire rims for legs, I tilted backwards just a little too far and simply disappeared from view. As if greased, the rims went out from under me and I was sitting on the floor. For the class, it must have been as if some vortex had sucked me from sight. They couldn't see me because of the metal skirting on the desk's front. All they could see above the desk were my fingers still gripping the back edge. I never regained control that day. Here I'm trying to teach them something important and they're sitting there trying to stifle giggles behind their hands. I told them to go home and play video games.

After the "Araby" class, I ran into a couple of the girls in front of the library, a pretty redhead and a pretty Puerto Rican who's already signed up to join the Air Force at semester's end.

"You're talking about me, aren't you?"

"Yeah!" Giggle, giggle.

"I'd have thought you'd admire the balancing act. After all, I didn't fall over."

"Almost though!"

"You're silly girls, you know that?"

"Yeah!" Peals of laughter.

Speaking of students, my wife had to chaperone a field trip to Sea World and managed a few photos:






She also visited Elizabeth, who's doing a guest turn with the QuadCities Ballet, and got a shot of her in a Rock Island laundromat.

And from me you get this excerpt from a TV documentary, just cuz I think these are one of the neatest creatures God made:

See it here.

Oh, and by the way - while we're on the subject of cycling through life - I should have posted something on the anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death (guess what I was doing), but the failure was not the result of forgetting. We're giving over some of the next issue of The Christendom Review to her cause, so please try to keep it in mind. It should be out within the month.

Well, the purpose of this post was to inform readers that I'm a bit taken up for now, and might not be posting for a while, just in case anyone who'd been checking in here and not seeing anything thought that might be about to change. I like the consistency of cycles. They let me know I'm still alive.

I suppose I ought to get into a semi-Sunday Thought frame of mind, since it's that day of the week. So here's a song for Terry. Maybe it'll lift her up a little.

And it's here.


MamaT said...

Thank you Bill. That is one of my favorite of JMT's songs, and it did lift me up, even if it made me cry first.

On another note, be glad that *I* am not in your class, because I wouldn't have giggled. I would have laughed out loud. And I laugh loudly.

And snort.

Blessings, my friend.

alaiyo said...

Oh, my. I have been raging over research essays the past few days. But these are from *English majors* who still drop quotations, don't bother to put sources in the works cited list, and -- after 4 weeks of class discussion -- still appear to think that the Romantic era is when poets wrote love poetry . . . The freshman papers come in on Wednesday, oh joy of joys. I actually think theirs might be better, from what I've seen so far.

I once sat down on the desktop of one of those student seats that has the chair and desk connected. I was in the middle of the classroom. Went right down backwards. Thank the Lord I was wearing slacks that day! The poor students didn't know what to do -- call 911 or fall on the floor themselves laughing. I don't think I accomplished a great deal in that class the rest of the semester . . . :) I did learn not to sit on those desks again, at least. Now I demand that a real desk be put in any room in which I teach. The operations folk love me.

Thanks for the pictures and videos. So much lovelier than those essays sitting at my right hand rebuking me with their silent stares . . .

At least this semester is moving toward its close -- after May, no more research papers till October!


Lydia McGrew said...

I've got, got to tell Tim those stories about your falling out of your chair, Bill. As a cautionary tale. I dislike it when people (who shall remain nameless) around my house sit back on only two legs of the beautiful oak dining room chairs. This obsession is probably the result of the fact that such a person once came down on my foot on one of the beautiful oak dining room chairs when I happened to be standing too close. So I'm constantly nagging, "Please put the chair down. Please don't tilt the chair back." But _now_ I have a new weapon: "You don't want to disappear like Bill, do you?"

wl said...

And snort.

There were some of those two, Terry.

The poor students didn't know what to do...

The poor students? I'd think that at least one or two of the boys would rush to your aid, seeing a woman in distress.

"You don't want to disappear like Bill, do you?"

You're just like all the other girls - you love this sort of thing. Well, I'm willing to be the butt of a joke if it works to someone's benefit.

wl said...

That should be "too" in my response to Terry. Godalmighty.

alaiyo said...

Don't worry about the "to"/"too" mistake, Bill -- you can just plead reading so much student writing that it's impossible to tell the difference anymore! That's *my* excuse and I'm stickin' to it.

The guys wanted to help, but I think they were a little afraid of, you know, *touching* the female teacher -- what if she'd gotten all huffy about it? (One of my colleagues once had a feminist go ballistic when he just opened a door for her; these kids know about that kind of stupidity.) They did help as soon as I started laughing and they saw they didn't need to call an ambulance . . .

alaiyo said...

"to"/"two" -- I can't read OR type!

wl said...

you can just plead reading so much student writing

That's exactly what I plead, because it's true.

There are plenty of stupid teachers, but not one of my female students has ever, as in never, complained that I held a door for her.

dylan said...

Talking about research papers: I remember a footnote in my senior paper for high school pointed the way to a vulgar quip of Dylan Thomas's. "For Thomas's vivid explanation of what the poem is about, see Ferris, p. 138" [or whatever it was].

Everyone knows that the Romantic era isn't when all the poets wrote love poetry; it is, in fact, when all the poets were gay. "A poet could not but be gay/ In such a jocund company."

Sorry. As one might expect from someone who dropped out of college as a sophomore, I am quite sophomoric. Which means that I probably would have guffawed at any professor who fell or lost his balance during a lecture!

alaiyo said...

Dylan, thanks for the laugh at the end of a rough day!

Bill, I've never known a female *student* to mind chivalry, either. Sadly, some of them will be taught to grow out of that natural acceptance. We're good about it here, though. Male professors will scold male students who don't practice the "old-fashioned" courtesies, and I've known them to be *very* rigorous in taking down a young man who dallies with a young woman's heart.

wl said...

Think of that line of Chesterton's, which I wonder if he'd write today were he still writing:

But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark. . .

So we've got a sophomore, Lydia and Beth the post-grads, and whatever Terry is - probably a bachelorette of some sort. You'd all make great freshmen.

I've known them to be *very* rigorous in taking down a young man who dallies with a young woman's heart.

That's good, and as it should be. But I was wondering if, when a girl does the same, she gets a free pass.

TS said...

They say humor is all about the juxtaposition of two unlike things, such as a distinguished looking, gray-haired professor falling over in his chair, or nearly so. (No credit, btw, for the athleticism necessary to abort the fall, unfortunately.)

On the picture of Eliz, we learn that the life of a ballerina is not all glamour.

wl said...

No it isn't. Only when they're onstage. Although her real glamour cannot be diminished by any surroundings.

alaiyo said...

me: I've known them to be *very* rigorous in taking down a young man who dallies with a young woman's heart.

Bill: That's good, and as it should be. But I was wondering if, when a girl does the same, she gets a free pass.

me: Oh, you would love to hear me with such young "ladies"! :) We really don't like a lot of what we see and we try to convey wisdom as often as we can, and as clearly as we can, and without possibility of doubt as to our meaning. "You cannot act this way and claim to be acting in the love of Christ."

wl said...

I knew I could count on you, Beth.