Sunday, January 30, 2005

Has it really been a week...

...since I last blogged? Well, almost a week. And it was a busy one. I just haven't had the time to collect my thoughts. I get home at night and veg watching TV (after we get the kids to bed). And everyone in the house, including me, got sick by the end of the week. My oldest had ear infections in both ears and was miserable for several days, and I've been hacking up a lung for the past twenty-four hours. Finally showing some improvement today.

Lawrence Kasdan once said that being a screenwriter is like having homework every night for the rest of your life. Meaning, there's always work to be done. And I've always agreed with him. I'm starting to think being a professor is a lot like being a screenwriter in that regard. There's always something I could or should be doing, and I never feel as prepared as I should or could.

To whit: while watching a movie today, I spent most of the two hours also working on a lecture for this week. And I'm stressing over trying to figure out how I'm going to fit six hours of material (which includes a 90-minute film screening) into two hours this week, because some departmental events are truncating my class. Give the students edited notes to read whatever we don't cover in class? Seems like a copout, but it may be my only choice. I have to get the screening in, and a quiz, so how am I going to do the lecture?

Avoiding work and with everyone sick, I decided to get caught up on my NetFlix movies...

Wimbledon: This was a pretty decent little romantic comedy/sports movie. I actually enjoyed it and couldn't imagine why it didn't find an audience. Maybe I just like British humor, or maybe I just like Paul Bettany, who stars as a journeyman tennis player about to play in his final Wimbledon before retiring from professional tennis. His ride to the top while falling in love with an American tennis star played by Kirsten Dunst pretty much follows the traditional stereotypes, but it's done with restraint and class, and I for one enjoyed the ride. It features some stylish touches to take us into his head during matches that I think worked pretty nicely.

(We interrupt this post for the following: why, even in a blog, do I find it hard to depart from grammatical rules? As a screenwriter, I frequently use choppy sentences and fragments to tell a story, but when I'm writing e-mails or blog posts, I often think people will think I just made a mistake... so weird and hopelessly neurotic.)

Also just watched The Bourne Supremacy. My review of this film should start with this: I started this blog post with about fifteen minutes left in the movie. Sigh. Action movies just get boring. A car chase is just a car chase. We've seen it a hundred times or more, and yes, you can make it interesting and cool, but if it lasts more than two or three minutes, you're just showing off and hiding the fact that there's very little story to tell here. The only film I've ever seen where the sheer visual spectacle of the car chases interested me was Ronin, and there the story was fascinating and the dialogue sparkled, almost as if they'd hired a surrealist playwright to write a movie thriller. The dialogue sometimes sounded like it was out of a Beckett play. So yes, I'm spending this review of Bourne writing about a completely different movie. Shows you what I thought of this one. Competent. Well acted. Technically well-executed. But soulless. Just nothing to it beyond pyrotechnics. I guess it's better than, say, a Jean Claude Van Damm movie, but it's nothing worth spending too much time on.

If I get back to the blog before next weekend, I'll count myself among the shocked and surprised. This is shaping up to be another crazy week...

Monday, January 24, 2005

Tenure Review is over

Glad that's done. It went very well. No criticisms (keep in mind this is only my first-year review). Several faculty went to great pains to discuss the amount of teaching I've had to do this year (3 courses each semester, plus several of those were not only new to me but new to the department, which seemed to impress them, not to mention my late arrival, having been hired in June and having only six weeks to move and get geared up for a new semester).

So, all in all, a positive experience, but I'm so shell-shocked from being anxious and nervous that I can't really evaluate it objectively now. The director of my departmental division said it went "excellent," and since he's a man not given to extravagant praise, I sense that was a good thing.

Edited to add: Whew, I feel like I am just now, three hours later, coming 'down' from the whole thing. I can't imagine what it'll be like when the review really counts (i.e., third year). Looking back with some objectivity, I think it went well, I think I have more friends than enemies in the room. Enemies isn't really the word. More friends than 'non-friends.' If anything, internal politics might make people not as thrilled with me (having to do with my hiring, long story that I don't want to go into here).

Only thing that got mentioned that was of ANY concern was when one of the rhetoric scholars (it's a communication department) asked if I was basing my entire case for tenure on creative works. So I'm thinking, "where is this going? That's what they told me when they hired me." When I answered "yes," his question became more clear. He only wanted to make sure that the department had a way of evaluating my "publications" in such a way that was equivalent to rating journals in which traditional academics publish. The department chair assured him it was in the departmental tenure document, so no worries there, I suppose.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Tenure Review, the first

Have my first annual tenure review Monday at 4pm. I know this first one won't be a big deal, but I am still nervous. I have class RIGHT up until that time, so I won't be able to prep beforehand (that might be a good thing).

If I have time tomorrow afternoon, I'll update. The real challenge I face is getting people to understand what I do and how hard it is. Making a feature length film is no easy task, and should be credited perhaps more than a book. Not sure they see it that way.

Sleeping in...

In one of my recent posts, I was talking about getting adequate weekend sleep time. So I thought I'd revisit the topic with some more detail.

I've never been a morning person. And now, as far as I've gotten in life, I'm convinced I never will be. I get up around 7am or before every morning, not because I want to or because I'm already awake, but because child #1 has to get to school, and since I am in my first year teaching, there is always stuff to be done anyway.

I got to thinking about the hours one can wake up, and what would be considered 'appropriate.'

  • Godawful Early: Anything in the sixes or sevens or earlier (i.e., 6am - 7:59am). A few months back, I actually had to get up at 4:30am to take a friend to the airport for an early flight. Why even bother going to bed? This is the hour (7am) I get up every morning, and by the end of the week, I could sleep for, well, a week.
  • Come Back Later: Anything in the eights (8:00-8:59am). I could get up, but I really don't want to yet, and I'll be tired and cranky if I do.
  • Appropriate Wake Time:The nines (9:00-9:59am). Yes, I've decided it's most appropriate to wake up somewhere in the nine o'clock hour.
  • A Little Indulgent: Sleeping into the tens seems immature now (note: yes, I crawled out of bed at 10:05am this morning -- I didn't say I wouldn't still do it if given the chance, just that it seems horribly indulgent to me.
  • Come On Now...: The elevens and beyond (11:00am-the rest of the day). In college and when I was first married, I would sleep til noon many Saturdays. If I do that now, I'm a mess the whole day. It's like having a sleep hangover. Too much sleep, and I just can't wake up properly. I feel like I've taken some heavy narcotics. (I also feel this way after naps, so I am obviously against those).

    That's my list. Optimal wake-up time: somewhere from 9am - 9:45am. Odds of me getting to wake up that time: 1 in 14 (expressed in terms of days in a week I might actually get to sleep in; Saturday is the only day available, and if I slept in one Saturday, it'll be my turn to get up with the kids the next week, so 1 out of 14 days, I'll get to sleep in.)

    That's depressing.

    On a separate note:

    GO FALCONS!!! Beat the Eagles!!

    We have what I would term a legitimate shot at going to the Super Bowl. Not saying we will. Just saying we CAN beat the Eagles. If we play consistently, which I admit we haven't done a lot this season. Nevertheless, I'm wearing my Vick jersey and putting the baby down for a nap when the game starts...

  • Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    Something Kind of Cool...

    Okay, little moments like this are nice. I was walking back to my office tonight from a dinner (ongoing series of New Faculty events, held monthly, which has been kind of nice). Anyway, walking back from that with another member of my department, having a discussion about tenure requirements, when out of the corner of my eye I see a group of students on the quad setting up lights for a video shoot. And I realize: those are my students, shooting an exercise I assigned. Here it is, a cold night -- not frigid, but pretty cold, especially for this part of the country -- and my students are out shooting their assignments.

    And I know this is silly, but it just struck -- a moment of, I don't know, perhaps leaning towards pride? It just felt nice knowing they were actually taking my assignment seriously. Not that I could know they were ACTUALLY taking it seriously, but it seemed like it, and they had all their video equipment, and well, it was just a moment.

    Now I'm embarrassed. But it made me feel good to be a teacher.

    Monday, January 17, 2005


  • Long weekend - Needed (don't know why it was needed so soon after the holiday, but it was. Maybe I'm confusing 'needed' with 'badly desired,' but the line is just too fine to bother with the debate).

  • Potential Sleeping In Days this weekend:
    Saturday (10am -- very good)
    Sunday (7:45am -- very bad, but church starts early)
    Monday (bonus holiday! 8:30am -- fair. Wanted to sleep later, but there were things to do).

  • Movies - Finally watched my NetFlix copies of (a) Garden State and (b) Collateral. (a) was very enjoyable, especially for a first film from an actor turned writer-director. I'm a big Scrubs fan, so I was not surprised that I liked this. I thought it was surprisingly visual for a first film, not to mention an independent (though that label means less and less with each passing day; the actors in this were hardly stars, save perhaps for Portman, but there were many 'faces' in the film). (b) was mesmerizing and terrifically well-acted. Mann has great confidence and ability when it comes to letting two good actors just talk. He really makes those scenes work (by staying out of the way). Though I liked it, I found myself ruminating on the plot machinations, the thought processes that lead Tom Cruise's Vincent character to require this one driver for the night, no matter the inconvenience... the fact that he doesn't kill him when he obviously should. The reasons given don't work. The film, as a whole, does, but those holes still bug me. Also, the coincidence of Vincent getting in the same cab as one of his future intended victims is, come on, a bit much.

    So Cruise is Vincent here, and he was Vincent in Scorsese's Color of Money. So I wonder if this is THAT Vincent years down the road, after he has finished hustling pool. That Vincent, Scorsese's Vincent, was too much of a goof to be this cold, calculating killer, but it's fun to think through these connections and see if they work.

    To be honest, my opinion of these movies was likely affected by my rush to watch them. I've had them from NetFlix for over a week, and I've been dying to watch them (with very little time to do so). So I had some time on Friday (Garden State, in my office) and some surprise time today (Collateral)... but with constant interruptions from the kiddies today and etc. I couldn't tell you the last time I watched a movie without interruption or without feeling rushed. Even when I get to the movies these days (most recently, to see The Life Acquatic), I always feel like I'm on the clock and have to return to whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing, whether it's parenting, working, etc. I'm dying to see The Aviator, Ocean's Twelve, and a few others, but who has the time?

  • Dinner - Mexican food. Good, greasy, Mexican food. I feel like the guy in that old Alka Seltzer commercial: "I like Mexican food, but it doesn't like me..."

  • Classes - Fairly easy day tomorrow, with a class I've already prepped for (still have to review my notes again) and another where I'm basically showing a film (for use as a discussion tool through several lectures, so I feel like it's justified).

  • Currently Watching...: 24. I love this show. Plot holes large enough to drive a truck through, on occasion, but it's terribly entertaining. Very few shows actually make me tense. So glad this is going to play out without repeats or multiple weeks off. I hated waiting this long for it to come back, but now that we're here in January, I'm going to enjoy the ride.

    Can't think of anything else at the moment. Honestly, I'm only writing today so I can get the little "<--" or "pop" next to my link on your blogrolls. I get jealous when I see everyone else "popping" and mine is just there. Poor little blog. No one will visit me unless I "pop." But really, who can keep up with Profgrrl and the Chutry Experiment. I'm not nearly as prolific, nor do I have anything half as interesting to say.

  • Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    Nerd Alert?

    This is the best I could do?

    I am nerdier than 35% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

    That surprised me. My wife thinks I am quite a nerd. Guess I'll have to argue the point now...

    That Student...

    Remember that student who complained about his grade with several profanities. He wrote to 'apologize.'

    I use quotes because (a) he was brought in for discipline and was thus probably advised or instructed to apologize; and (b) he also informed me that he would be formally protesting his grade and the way I "blew him off" and treated him unfairly.


    Friday, January 07, 2005

    Why Am I... lazy? Faced with massive internal stress over the start of classes next week, why am I reading blogs and avoiding work? True, I am fairly well prepped for next week and perhaps even the following week (or at least the first couple of days of week 2). But last semester (which was my first semester here and first semester teaching full-time), I prepped like a banshee in the two weeks prior to the start of classes, feeling like I was ready for the first three to four weeks. And I still felt stressed.

    Now, I am only ready for a week, two weeks tops, and I feel stressed but not frantic. I think part of my less-frantic feeling is that I am more accustomed to my abilities and to what I need to do to get prepped each week.

    But that doesn't change the fact that I should be prepping right now.

    I have three classes this semester. I am supposed to only be teaching two, but because of the departmental constraints with which we're currently working, I am teaching three (next year, I'll be 3/2). Of thosse three classes, one is a repeat from last semester. On that one (screenwriting), I learned a lot, and I really want to get better. But I don't feel like I have made adequate use of my time to do that. I made some adjustments (I taught last semester primarily from a colleague's syllabus and notes, with a few of my own additions).

    The other two courses are both entirely new to me. One of them is a production course that I'll be teaching again. The other is a history (of film) course that I likely won't be responsible for in the future (new colleague coming on board in the fall will probably be teaching it). That one is so comprehensive that I am intimidated by my own gaps in film history knowledge.

    Fortunately, the same generous colleague who provided me with screenwriting notes has also blessed me with all of his film history lectures (and PowerPoints). I had planned on doing more extensive prep for this course, but if I'm not teaching it in the future? Well, there's quality of life issues to consider. I could spend weeks prepping for just this course -- and when I say weeks, I mean doing that and nothing else, 9-5.

    I think I'll put more time into the courses I'll be teaching again and again. Of course, this raises the obvious question: why exactly am I wasting time reading your blogs and writing in mine?

    Which brings us round to where we started.

    Thursday, January 06, 2005

    A Whole Different Level of Evaluation

    I turned in my Tenure Notebook for my first-year tenure review. The tenured faculty in the department get to review it for a month, at their leisure, and then they meet with me to criticize (er, critique)...

    Truly, I'm not too worried about this. First year reviews, I am told, are done to set things in the right direction. People always get 'passed' to the second year unless there are gross incompetence issues, or other major problems.

    Nevertheless, turning in this tenure notebook, after having tried to compile stuff that I have been told to compile after only ONE semester here, was intimidating. Didn't help when the department chair made a sarcastic crack about how she color-coded hers. She was just trying to be funny, and it was funny, but I of course -- being the borderline OCD case that I am -- couldn't help but think how the thing could have been better.

    The whole exercise, for the first year review, as far as the notebook goes, is mostly about getting the notebook set up. So in subsequent years, all I have to do is add to it. The categories are all set up, so I don't have to organize the whole thing next year.

    It was still stressful, and I put more time on that than I did my spring classes (so far). Later this month, I'll update you on the tenure review meeting.

    Wednesday, January 05, 2005

    Evaluating Me

    I finally got my course eval summaries back today. They look pretty good. The two smaller senior level courses gave me great evals. The big required course with 50+ students, not as great (but not bad, I don't think).

    Thing is, I don't know how to read these things. I mean, what numbers should I be expecting? When they put my numbers next to a comparison group on a bar chart, how should I match up? If my numbers are better than those, is it significant? If they're lower, is it a problem? If they're lower in a required class that no one wants to take, is it expected (and thus ignored)?

    I wish I had a bit more information...

    Tuesday, January 04, 2005


    I'm not doing them this year. It's been too hectic, and I feel I've earned the right to just "be" this year, at least this semester. Daughter born earlier this year spent first couple of weeks of life in the hospital with an unexpected lung problem -- came pretty close (but not THAT close) to losing her. Very scary, took a lot out of us. Then as we were recovering from that, the job possibility came along out of the blue (invited to apply someplace I had previously interviewed and been rejected). I had a gut feeling it was gonna happen. And it did, so by June, we were preparing for a halfway-across-the-country move. I'm still tired.

    But in the interest of a sort of to-do list:

  • teach three courses this semester (teach them well)
  • manage my time better and surf the internet less (I hate that expression) during the day
  • Make feature film this summer (that's a big check)
  • Figure out some 'service' opportunities that will look good in my tenure notebook
  • Learn how to put items on reserve at library (seems so simple, but things like this irk me because every place has its way of doing things, and it's like some byzantine code you have to decipher)
  • Enjoy the fact that I am teaching and getting to make a movie this summer.

    So there it is. They're not resolutions. Just some things I'd like to accomplish. Oh, and one more thing...

  • Actually write a new script this year. It's been WAY too long since I started a script from scratch and wrote it to completion. I'm starting to worry I may not be capable of doing it. I'm starting to wonder how I ever did it. I certainly didn't have three kids the last time I started and finished one.
  • Sunday, January 02, 2005

    Long Time, No Post

    Clearly I am not going to be posting a lot when school is not in session (not that I did so much when it was...) I found my desire to post diminished significantly because I was spending time with my family. I also rarely have quiet "alone" time when I am at home (multiple kids, no designated 'home office' space), so I didn't feel like my thoughts were clear.

    They're not now either... but school starts back up in little more than a week, so I thought I'd get back on here. I'm of course not even near ready to start back, either emotionally or in terms of class prep... I have so much to do.

    Situation with foul-mouthed student is still unresolved, as the holiday break interrupted chances to deal with it. I will speak with the student affairs people next week and see what they say.

    I still feel tired -- I had hoped to feel rested. But it was good to have some 'settling in' time with my family, which we never got to have when we first moved here (I got to town weeks before classes started in the fall and never had time to get to know the area... it's all been 'on the go' since then).

    I still don't know the roads and the best ways to get places, and I've lived here since August. That will come with time, but it would have been nice to have a few weeks to do it before I had to start working. Some colleagues in other departments told me they moved here in June! I didn't even get the job until mid-June, for various political reasons within the department (the position was originally to be a two-year visiting job, but my department insisted they needed a tenure-track line filled... this argument stretched out beyond the original hiring deadlines and into May)...

    So, the holiday afforded me some time to relax with my family, get to know the area a little, and just feel more like this is our home now. It's just been such a crazy life since I got the job.

    So, now it begins again. My wife is dreading me being out of the house so much (I work best in my office rather than home, due to aforementioned children). I am dreading the exhaustion, which no doubt will take less time to set in this semester since I'm still tired. But I am still happy to be here. Just wish I wasn't teaching SO many courses this term. I'm supposed to be on a 3/2 load, but they're not starting that til next year because they just don't have enough faculty to offer required courses this year. We have hired someone for next fall, so things will be normal again (well, mostly normal)...

    Such a rambling post -- sorry. Will try to be more topic-oriented soon.