Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Before I get on with this, I ought to note a couple of things.  First, I worked on my dissertation today, reading five articles and incorporating four of them into the section I am working on.  Second, I am a casual fan of comic books generally and the Marvel universe specifically; I never got into collecting comics, but I do like to read them.


I watched the "motion comic" Astonishing X-Men: Gifted on Netflix today, and I must say that I was not impressed.  Despite being written by Whedon, I found the dialogue a bit stilted and jerky.  The voicing was not, in most cases, what it needed to be; Wolverine is not nearly surly (or Canadian) enough, for example, even if the stream of profanity he releases at one point is entirely in keeping with the character.  The art, although pretty while still, is uncomfortably jerky in motion, looking like nothing so much as cardboard cutouts on popsicle sticks.  And the unnecessary division into thirteen- or fourteen-minute "chapters" heightens the disjunction, interrupting the narrative uncomfortably and needlessly complicating what is an already...non-flowing presentation.

If it is a representative example of the "motion comic" genre, I want nothing to do with the whole damned thing.

I fully anticipate hate mail over this one.  It has been a while since I've really gotten good examples of it, so please, fire away.  Jerks.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


On May 19, 2011, AP writer Calvin Woodward reported in "Feds Must Stop Writing Gibberish under New Law" that President Obama signed into law the Plain Writing Act.  That act requires that "federal agencies must start writing plainly in all new or substantially revised documents produced for the public," although enforcement is limited.

The measure is, in effect, nothing more than a publicity stunt.  In theory, "each agency must have a senior official overseeing plain writing."  This will either mean that an already-existing official--one of the people putting out the "gibberish--will be promoted and tasked with being grammar police, or a number of new people will need to be hired to do the oversight--amidst clamors for reduced governmental spending.

Who would be qualified as "expert" in the area?  Journalists?  English professors?  Businesspeople?

What, really, is "plain English?"  Whose English?  And who actually speaks or writes it fully?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I returned to New York City from Kalamazoo, Michigan, yesterday.  I was in Kalamazoo to attend and present a paper at the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies.  As was the case last year, I found the conference illuminating, and I am quite glad for having gone, although I am certainly glad to be back home.

This year, I lodged in the dormitories at Western Michigan University, the site of the Congress.  The convenience of living on site was quite nice.  The lack of air conditioning was less so, particularly for the first couple of days of the conference.  Temperatures in the high 80s and humidity higher than that, along with a lack of ventilation, made for stifling times.  I have the impression, though, that there is method to the madness of that setup; the classrooms are air conditioned, so students are induced to get out of their rooms and use the school's facilities.  It is a clever tactic.

The first day of the conference, Wednesday, boasted a couple of events that piqued my interest some time ago.  The first was a particularly tasty buffet, which I had paid to attend.  The menu included quite a selection of fine neo-medieval food; I ate heartily and enjoyed the company of a few of my professional colleagues.

Following dinner, I attended a performance of Spamalot.  I am not normally a fan of musical productions, but I am quite fond of Monty Python, so it made sense for me to go.  My attendance--an action also taken by a number of the conference attendees--set a pleasant tone for the conference.

The next day, Thursday, saw me attend several sessions after opening up the exhibit hall and spending a fair amount of money buying books as well as picking up catalogs from publishers and a few bits of information from other vendors.  The panels I attended focused on the idea of the neo-medieval, which is the interpretation (and, not infrequently, misinterpretation) of the medieval in the current.  Difficulties in the digital medieval were discussed at great length, as was the fact that the medievals themselves did the kinds of things that current neo-medievalists do; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was advanced as one example of the phenomenon at work.  Also discussed was the use of the neo-medieval as a way to drive enrollment in medieval studies courses and thereby potentially protect them against administrators who see medieval coursework as expendable.

My own panel, the Rhetoric of Knighthood, followed.  As it turns out, I was the seniormost member of my panel, both in terms of age and of status in the field; my two fellow panelists were both master's students, and the presider had only recently earned her MA.  I found myself therefore in something of a mentoring position, which was unexpected but not unpleasant, and my presentation, "Knighthood Continued: The Endurance of the Chivalric in Early Stuart England" (which derives from a part of my dissertation), went over well.

Friday was a busy day.  I attended most of the Spenser at Kalamazoo events, including two panels and a dinner.  I bowed out of the afternoon session to take a nap; I had not gotten much sleep the previous two nights, and it told upon me.  Even so, I was able to enjoy prolonged discussions with the Spenserians at the Congress, to whom I had been introduced last year by my dissertation director, who is among their number.  I was also invited to attend the meeting of the International Sidney Society, where we had an open discussion of several coronas* written by Sidney and his associates; a fine time was had by all.

On Saturday, I attended a Sidney panel in the morning, finding it quite interesting.  That afternoon, I attended a panel put on by the International Arthurian Society/ North American Branch, finding it informative and entertaining.  Then came dinner with the Sidney folks, followed by a couple of social events that allowed Sunday to be a relatively dead day for me; the conference ended, and I went to see a movie in the afternoon.

As I noted, the experience was quite enjoyable.  I made a number of professional contacts and was able to glean a fair bit of knowledge from outside my field of focus.  Unlike last year, I was not able to directly parlay any of the material into my dissertation, but I think I ended up having a better time.

I look forward to next year.

*A corona in this sense is a cycle of poems in which the last line of one poem becomes the first line of the next.  The last line of the last poem is the same as the first line of the first poem.  The cycle therefore forms a sort of circle or crown, hence the name.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


"Twenty-nine" years ago today, on a Mothers' Day Sunday, my own mother was born.  That many years later, with me two years in Brooklyn, I wish her another happy birthday and have high hopes for many more.

Love the Momma.

Sunday, May 8, 2011



...Dissertating...'zat a word?...

...Oh, yeah.  Happy Mothers' Day!...


Thursday, May 5, 2011


So, just over a year after I began...

Once again, happy Cinco de Mayo!

Also, and more importantly, congratulations to my brother, who will be graduating from the University of Texas at San Antonio today.