>Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions and encouragement in the posts below about my Chaucer class and my medieval lit. survey course. You’ve definitely convinced me that doing adaptations of Chaucer in a Chaucer course isn’t crazy, and you’ve given me lots of ideas for the medieval lit. class. After this year, I won’t be teaching either again for three years, since next year I have the Old and Middle English linguistics classes, the research methods class for the grad students, and a special topics honors seminar on the subject of my book, and then the year after that I hope to be on sabbatical for the whole year. But that just gives me plenty of time to plan for big changes.

Anyway, I suspect things are going to be a little quiet around here for awhile because of various end of the semester madness. But I’ll see y’all at your blogs. And hey, who’s going to be at MLA? Medieval Womanis organizing a get-together.

>RIP George Carlin, 1937-2008

>When I was in junior high, my best friend Maria and I used to sneak off to a corner of the playground to listen to a cassette tape (on an office tape recorder) of George Carlin’s then current HBO special, which her older brother had made with the same the recorder, microphone held up to the TV.

We would listen to that show over and over and over again. We loved it. It was the one where he expanded the 7 dirty words into a list of 100. We were fascinated by that list, partly because we weren’t even sure what some of those words meant, at least not in their dirty versions (I think “jellyroll” was on there). But mostly we just liked the sheer rhythmic, poetic quality of it, and its taboo qualities. We would chant parts of it on our Catholic school playground as if it were a jump-rope song, and our teachers never seemed to notice.

And that wasn’t the only bit we liked. We loved his screed against the word “nice” or his “football vs. baseball” bit (“Baseball is played on a diamond; football is played on a gridiron“). We loved his fascination with language, its oddities, and our odd attitudes about it. In many ways, I think George Carlin is responsible for my having becoming an English professor. I’m pretty sure he’s responsible for why I love the medieval play Mankind so much. And he definitely gets credit for my willingness to say “ShitPissFuckCuntCocksuckerMotherfuckerandTits” — onetwothreefourfive…just like that Jesus* — in class when I want to talk about issues of register. (Truthfully, I haven’t done the whole string in awhile…I usually stick to the first three, especially “fuck.” It’s enough.)

*OK, that bit between the dashes is from e e cummings, “Buffalo Bill’s defunct.” He’s also someone responsible for helping me, at an impressionable age, to hear poetry in ordinary speech and expletives.

In Carlin’s honor, I’m including a clip from about the same time as my introduction to him. It’s about the 7 dirty words, but they don’t make an appearance until the end. But it’s definitely about language and language taboos. And because of the end it’s NOT SAFE FOR WORK!

RIP, George Carlin. I hope no one is asking you to “Have a nice day” and no one is telling your mourning family that you’ve “gone to a better place.”

>Wuthering – wha?

>Via The Cranky Professor, here’s an interpretation of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” that is so very wrong it’s *hilarious*. (If you don’t know the original, you might want to watch it first — it’s below.)

This is another video posted in part for the Pastry Pirate. Back in college, she and I and another one of our friends had a love-hate relationship with this song. It gave us all the creeps. The Pirate could send shivers down my spine just by chanting in a high-pitched voice, “It’s meeeee, Catheeeee, let me in” (especially effective if she was knocking on my dorm room door) or saying she was “soooo cooooold” in chilly weather. Brrrrrr. Creepy.

Now, I’ll admit, the Puppini Sisters here are borrowing all their silly gestures straight from Kate Bush, but in the context of Andrews Sisters style close harmony (and those hair nets!) it seems all so much more cheery and full of imitation American can-do spirit (especially on “let me grab your soul”), much less spectral and melodramatic. For your further viewing pleasure, here’s Kate’s video for the song, with its own quality of camp creepiness and melodrama (not unlike the novel itself, actually):

And now for something completely different, the semaphore version of Wuthering Heights, by Monty Python:

Hmm…There seems to be a similarity of gestures here.

>Sometimes it’s hard to think

>I have a headache. I think it may be due to the sudden change in the weather. It’s much warmer and much more humid today that it has been yet this year. Those sorts of barometric and other meteorological changes always seem to give me headaches.

Anyway, it’s making it awfully hard to think about things like miscellaneity and mercantile masculinity — the kinds of things I’m thinking about these days. It’s especially hard to read articles and other texts with lots of manuscript descriptions and list of contents and lists of colorless and unmemorable manuscript numbers and other rather dry information. (You know, if I pursue the giant miscellaneous manuscript project that I’m thinking of pursuing — one that will take me across two centuries of miscellanies and commonplace books and god knows how many archives and libraries — I think I may start giving the manuscripts my own names. You know, like Fred. Or Rita. Or Gertrude.)

So I’m going to take some ibuprofen for the headache, and forge through some more note-taking for a another hour. And then I’m taking off early and joining “the girls” for a ridiculously frivolous girls’-night-out of pedicures, cocktails, and the Sex and the City Movie. I’m not even a big fan of Sex and the City, but I’m strangely looking forward to this — I’ve even got a good outfit to wear, though the pedicurist is going to be horrified by my marathoning feet. They always are. I definitely do not have Manolo-worthy feet.

OK, back to the scholarly stuff for now. And then, frippery and finery!

Yes, I have been more open about what I do in this post than usual. That’s the confidence of tenure talking there. That’s about as “out” as I ultimately decided to get on this blog.

>A silent epidemic

>It’s time we started a internet-wide conversation* about a silent epidemic that is killing productivity across the country — certainly at my university, and I presume at yours, too.

What is that silent killer of time? Reply-All [cue melodramatic music]

Seriously, when an administrator sends out to the entire university-wide faculty mailing list an invitation for a casual, drop-in coffee hour, do I really need to know if so-and-so from the business college is coming? Or even when the chair of a large committee sends out a message saying we need to meet, and asks which of the three following times works for the members, do I need to read everyone’s reply in order to make up my own mind? Does the chair need for every member to know every other member’s choice?

Ack! People! Stop hitting reply-all! I have enough e-mail and junk-mail to wade through as it is!

*The conversation isn’t really necessary. I feel better now that I’ve ranted. Feel free to rant in the comments.

>RBOS: Random Bullets of Summer


  • Hm. Random Bullets of Summer sounds like a gansta rap album title.
  • Thanks to everyone who offered congratulations and huzzahs and woo-hoos in the last post. And Karl, that David Wallace as anonymous blogger joke never gets old with you, does it?
  • I have made my summer UK travel plans. I will be at the NCS in Swansea — I have trains and planes arranged — then visiting a friend in Yorkshire for a few days, and perhaps catching up with a former student who will be completing her MA in Medieval Studies at York. And then I’ll be in London from the evening of July 27 just through the 30th (I leave the morning of the 31st) to look at a couple of manuscripts at the BL, and maybe out at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, too.
  • Get this: in order to get in to the library at St. George’s Chapel, I have to pay for admission to Windsor Castle. Hm. I haven’t been there since I was a kid — maybe I’ll do the touristy stuff, too, when I’m done with my manuscript.
  • For those who want to know, you can book train tickets through TheTrainline.com only if you have a UK mailing address to post them to. They’ll tell you you can’t use a non-UK credit card, but I did. (They also claim you can’t even register with a US address any more, and I seem to have done so. But then I remembered I already had an account from back in 2004, and logged in and purchased my tickets with that account.) The AmEx has been charged and my Yorkshire friend should be getting the tickets any day now.
  • I decided to stay at The Euro Hotel in London, partly on Mike Drout’s approval of it for what it is, and partly because it seemed to be the only cheap place available of the places really close to St. Pancras and the BL. I like the fact that it’s on a little crescent street and it’s relatively cheap for London — 55 GBP for a single with shared shower and toilet (the online reviews say the showers are very close, clean, and never busy). I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve stayed there — or even *while* I’m there, as they have free wireless (another attraction).
  • So I think I may fiddle with the blog design. It’s summer — I have time. JJC finds it too soothing after my old template’s screaming orange. (Though was it really that screaming? I always thought of it as an autumnal ’70s rust, and so went with a complementary color with the new design.) He also tsk-tsk’d the flowers at the bottom. OK, so it’s a little genteel and froofy, but I love English gardens (the picture was taken in Cumbria). But he has a point. It’s not very Virago-like. Any ideas?
  • Pippi is also getting ready for summer. I took her to the groomer today. It’s the first time since we’ve had her that I’ve handed her over to strangers and walked away. It was very traumatic for *me*. But for her? Nah. Her attitude was all “ooh! new people to love me! new scents! other doggies! let’s go!” Sigh.
  • So you know what I just realized now sucks about being tenured — aside from more service work? Now I only do a dossier every five years, so I have to be super-organized and save all the proof of what I’ve been up to in research, teaching, and service for five long years. D’oh.

>Puzzle addiction

>Morgan is an enabler. She’s gotten me totally addicted to an online word puzzle game called Funny Farm. It’s a word association game in which you try to guess all the words in a section of the puzzle, and when you get words that overlap the boundary of that section and another, the new section opens up. But not all the associations are literal or direct — that’s the maddening part.

For example, when you start, they give you the center section, which has the theme “on the farm.” So when I started, I entered things like “cow,” “pig,” and “chicken,” and they all appeared, along with blank boxes related to them. For chicken, three of those boxes were obvious: “rooster,” “hen,” and “egg.” But what the frak was the fourth, three-letter word. Turns out it wasn’t a word at all but an acronym: KFC. Ugh. And “pig” overlapped with the neighboring section on “religions,” so of course “pig” connected, ironically in a way, to “Judaism” and “Islam.” That was pretty obvious, but a couple of the other farm-religion connections were more groaners.

I pretty quickly hit a wall, but then I joined up my puzzle with other people’s puzzles, and got some answers and was able to proceed in the new sections and open up even more. But now I’m stymied again. Even Google and Google Sets aren’t helping now.

I dare you to play and not get addicted yourself. If you want to try it on your own, click the Funny Farm link above and give it a go. If you want to help out with my game in progress or join it up with yours later, use this link to get to my game. If you click on “Save Game” on your game, you get the unique URL for a game in progress. Past mine into yours or vice versa and you’ll have a combined game. As long as you have cookies operating on your browser, your computer will save your game after every guess and you’ll always come back to where you left off.

Anyone want to help me with my game in progress?

Update: If you get totally frustrated and just want all the answers, just google around and you’ll find discussion boards with hints and even total keys. (I found the latter at lazylaces.com.)

Or if you just want a few hints to get you going again, follow the link to Morgan’s blog and combine your game with some of the links there — they’re not too far along at that point. I’d post another link to my game in progress, but I’m nearing the end and it might spoil some of the fun.

Update 2: I have now finished the game. Yeah, I cheated a lot, but I also did a bunch myself. So if anyone just wants to get on with their work and stop obsessing — as I did — let me know and I’ll send you the link for the completed game. The meta-puzzle answer is a single word, btw, and if you type it in, the text at the top says you’ve completed the game. Not very exciting.

>For no particular reason…

>…I’d like to declare that “to wing” is now a strong verb. Thus: I am winging it in class today, yesterday I wang it, and by tomorrow I will have wung it.

Just because.


In case you’re wondering, yes I have gone mad. It may have something to do with the fact that my college is being ordered by the university administration to reallocate 10% of its budget to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields and other initiatives in the cockamamie newly designed strategic plan, which is all about, you guessed it, STEM fields.

This is how professors who have ceased to care are born.

They’re coming to take me away, ha ha, ho ho, hee hee…