Book of the Month

Doctor Cleveland's picture

Solving the Two-Body Problem

For years now, my spouse and I have had what academics call the "two-body problem": two careers at two universities in two places. It's a common problem for our professional generation, and we have an easier version of it than most. My spouse (the more accomplished blogger Flavia) works at a school about 250 miles away from mine. We maintain two homes and commute between them. We have been lucky that we are not farther apart, and that we can travel by car rather than plane. But like most of our generation, we have had no visible or easy solution for our problem. [Read more]

Ramona's picture

On Drunks and Skunks And Why It’s Good That Mickey Spillane Isn’t Here To See This

by 

You may or may not have heard about the new show on CMT called “Party Down South”(originally called “The Dirty South”, or so the rumors go), a purposely stupid, sexy, boozy 10-week series about a group of 20-something southern rednecks, strangers to one another, thrown together in a house near Myrtle Beach for a month just to see what happens.  The booze, provided by the production company, flows freely with no danger of running out, and the participants are encouraged (I hope that’s it) to out-dumb each other. The program is produced by the same folks who gave us the equally stupid, sexy, boozy–but popular– “Jersey Shore”. [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

Eating the Turkey Soup: A Christmas Story

One December when my brother and I were around ten and twelve years old, our mother enlisted us in a holiday good deed she was doing. She wouldn't tell us who we were doing it for, and after we got caught up in our task itself we stopped wondering. When we were finished, we went back to thinking about other things. But on the afternoon of Christmas Eve someone came by our house with a pot of turkey soup to thank our mother, and we realized who we'd been doing that small good deed for.
 [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

In Praise of the Late Term Paper

It's that time of year again, or actually one of the two times each year, when semesters end and bleary-eyed college professors scale mountains of ungraded papers and exams. One of my friends claims that he can track the academic calendar by the crescendo of professors griping on Facebook and Twitter about bad papers, worse excuses, and outrageous examples of student entitlement. Some of this is necessary foxhole camaraderie, some of it verges on the unprofessional, and some does a lot more than verge. Too many lame papers and excuses will put most people in an ugly mood. But I want to give two cheers to one group of students who never get any love at this time of year: the students whose papers are late because they take the assignments seriously.
 [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

Keeping Christmas at Home

Last Sunday was the first day of Advent, which means in the most traditional sense possible the beginning of the Christmas season. Of course, Retail Christmas Season began five minutes after Halloween ended, prompting me to some bleak reflections in my last post. But the truth is, I love Christmas, no matter how much this year's commercial display may be getting me down. Last Saturday I bought a wreath and a bunch of assorted greenery. My spouse made an Advent wreath from some of it, and decorations from the rest. Christmas lights frame our living room window, and I've got some nice holiday jazz on the stereo. I enjoy this holiday a lot. [Read more]

Ramona's picture

On the Day When Turkeys Refuse to Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Over the river and through the woods to grandson's house we go.  I wrote this last night, so if there's confusion about the time line, that's why.  Any Vegetarians in the crowd might want to skip this one.

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Ramona's picture

On That Day We Lost JFK

On that day I was up in my sewing room, away from the TV.  My four-year-old son was napping, and my 7-year-old daughter was in school. My husband was at work.   It was early afternoon.

I heard the back door open and before I could start to the stairs, I could hear my neighbor, Gwen, shouting something, sobbing. I thought something must have happened to her mother, who had been ailing.  By the time I got to her she could barely speak.  "They shot the president!  They shot Kennedy!"
 [Read more]

Ramona's picture

Run, Bambi, Run! Man Is In The Woods

Today marks the opening of hunting season here in Michigan’s north woods.  The schools are closed in most upper state communities, including ours.

Opening Day is an annual holiday for the kids, even though only a small percentage of them will be out in the woods with guns. For many of them, today will be their initiation in deer camp, and it’s a day they’ve been waiting for all year.   I don’t quite know when it started but I do know that up here it’s one of those holidays that is so sacrosanct nobody questions it.

  [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

Dead Man's Name Tag

I've been away at an academic conference for nearly a week, leaving blog posts unfinished, e-mail unanswered, and campus office untenanted. I had a wonderful time with a bunch of scholars and actors at the American Shakespeare Center's reproduction of Shakespeare's Blackfriars playhouse. (If you'd like to see some excellent theater, a trip to see the ASC's company in Staunton, Virginia, is a great idea.) But I also bumped up against a small problem that's began to follow me wherever I go professionally: the problem of my (real) name.
 [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

How Much Do You Need to Write to Stay Sane?

Flavia has a post about her writing process, with many thought-provoking comments from her readers, and Dame Eleanor Hull posts a great deal about the academic writing life. I find that I can't give a clear account of my writing process right now, if by "writing process" we mean my composition process. But I have learned, through difficult trial and error, that I need three things to keep my writing going well:

1. Something accepted but not yet in print.

2. Something submitted but not yet accepted.
 [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

My Neighborhood, Times Two

I was back in my old neighborhood a couple of weekends ago, walking toward the farmer's market, when I passed a little knot of people who were looking up and gesturing toward the dignified brick apartment buildings that line one of the boulevards. They were all clearly from somewhere else, and one of them was explaining the handsome buildings, which apparently struck them as odd, to the others:

"I think they're pretty dumpy on the inside, but they look good from out here," he said.
 [Read more]

Ramona's picture

I Called Elmore Leonard “Dutch” Once

I woke up to the sad news that Elmore Leonard, our most famous Detroit-based writer, has died.  He was 87 years old but I thought that guy would go on forever.  There was never anything old about him and I doubt I’m the only one who felt that way, but I admit I haven’t seen him in person for almost 20 years. [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

Stockpiling Books

I've been buying a lot of books this summer. That's not "a lot of books" by the usual standards, because I've always been a better-than-average bookstore customer. Lately I've been buying a lot of books even for me. But I haven't been buying them to read. I've been buying books to write.
 [Read more]

Ramona's picture

I probably should have tried Marijuana

 
In a daring raid in 1948, Robert Mitchum got caught smoking marijuana in Hollywood:
Sept. 1, 1948: Actor Robert Mitchum and starlet Lila Leeds were reportedly caught smoking marijuana during a police raid at the actress' Hollywood Hills home. Two others were also arrested.

Mitchum told police that he and another friend were in the neighborhood looking to buy a house when they stopped to visit Leeds and her roommate, dancer Vickie Evans.
 [Read more]
Doctor Cleveland's picture

The Other Thing College Is For (and Why It Matters)

If you ask anyone what colleges and universities are for, they'll give you more or less the same answer: to educate people.  That's a good answer. It's the one I give myself. But it's only half the truth. Colleges and universities actually fulfill two separate roles. We all know about both of them. We only talk about one of them. And because of that, we misunderstand almost everything about how higher education works and how it might be improved.
 [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

Blogging Like Chaucer

I love academic bloggers. Academic bloggers worry me sick. And the bloggers who keep me up at night are the ones who have adjunct or alt-ac jobs but are trying to move to the tenure track. Some of those people are using blogs and social media to advance their careers in ingenious ways which I would never have foreseen. But others seem, at least from my vantage, to expect or hope that their online work will help their career in specific ways that it will not and cannot. Being online can help an academic career. But it's important to be clear about what it can help and what it can't.
 [Read more]

Doctor Cleveland's picture

In Praise of the Writing Binge

When I got my first job, I also got a book of advice for new professors. It gave me some sensible-sounding advice about writing. Avoid binge writing, it said. Write at regularly scheduled hours and keep each session brief. Too many graduate students are used to writing in crazy binges, the authors said, rather than developing steady writing habits. Faculty had to learn to write all the time, and also had to learn to STOP writing even if things were going well. And I tried to take that advice seriously. I have always believed in good writing habits and deplored the way graduate school undermines those habits. I drank the no-binge Kool-Aid with a smile, in an appropriately moderate serving. But that advice is fundamentally wrong. [Read more]

Michael Maiello's picture

A Society Of Snoops and Tattletales

This afternoon, Reuters published an Op-Ed from me about the online investigations into the Boston bomb attack.  I am very concerned about the "if you see something, say something culture," and how it has mixed with technology to create something of a society full of amateur detectives and complainers.

Civil libertarians are most concerned about government surveilance power and that, of course, bothers me too.  But in a practical sense, a nosy neighbor is probably more of an imposition on my life than the government will ever choose to be.  These days, your nosy neighbor could be a stranger living thousands of miles away. [Read more]

Ramona's picture

Back in Michigan but not quite home

 

Just to let you know I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. We've been living out of suitcases for almost two weeks now as we worked our way north from our winter digs.  We're in the U.P finally, on the last leg home.  Should get there today and I'm hearing bad news about a snow mound that still needs digging out before we can get to our door.  Should be interesting.

Our nephew plowed out our driveway but put his back out before he could shovel the walk.  Don't know what we're going to do with him but rest assured he'll be punished for this.
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Doctor Cleveland's picture

Seeing the Headlights

Six years ago today, in the early morning hours of April 5, I hit a patch of highway ice while driving to the airport in an unexpected snowstorm and spun out sideways. My car was totaled, with all of the damage to the driver's side door. I survived unscathed. I did not get whiplash. I did not miss my plane.

My car turned around 180 degrees so that I was looking back at an 18-wheel truck coming toward me out of the snow while I was sliding sideways into its lane. There was nothing I could do in that long moment but watch the headlights coming toward me. Either I would slide in front of those headlights, and that would be the end, or I would slide just slowly enough to miss the truck.
 [Read more]

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